March 21, 2010
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On House Passage of Historic Healthcare Reform Legislation
WASHINGTON—We applaud tonight’s action by the U.S. House of Representatives that brings us to the cusp of affordable and accessible healthcare and prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to millions of Americans. We urge the Senate to follow the House’s action so that President Obama can sign this historic legislation as soon as possible. Like the Social Security and Medicare legislation of earlier generations, healthcare reform helps create a safety net for the uninsured and curbs insurance company abuses affecting those with coverage.
Without the tenacious leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the opponents’ polarizing efforts to thwart any action at all might have succeeded.
The House package will allow 32 million more Americans to receive healthcare coverage. Seniors will be able to purchase affordable medications because the legislation eliminates the “doughnut hole” in coverage under the Medicare prescription drug program. And insurance companies will not be able to deny benefits because of pre-existing conditions or cancel policies because of illness.
While this is not a perfect bill—we were able to mitigate, but not permanently eliminate, the excise tax for all Americans and delay its start until 2018—it makes a significant start at getting costs under control and moves the nation toward the goal of affordable, high-quality healthcare for all Americans.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.