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1000+ State Legislators Support Health Reform/ Far Outnumber Marginal Opposition by ALEC Legislators

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 7, 2009

CONTACT: Marisol Thomer, mthomer@progressivestates.org, (212) 680-3116 / (215) 279-1904

Nathan Newman, nnewman@progressivestates.org, (212) 680-3114 / (917) 854-0279

1000+ State Legislators Support Health Reform/
Far Outnumber Marginal Opposition by ALEC Legislators

NEW YORK, NY - This statement is in response to a press conference held Monday morning by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council in Washington DC, in association with the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), featuring a letter signed by 100 state legislators opposing the Senate health reform bill.

Said Nathan Newman, Director of the Progressive States Network, “This morning’s press conference of a handful of state legislators complaining about the Senate health reform bill was organized by the conservative corporate front-group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and does not reflect the majority-voice of state legislators.  Over 1000 state legislators from all fifty states, have signed letters in support of comprehensive national reform, including a public option. ALEC’s efforts are just corporate-spin ignoring the broad-based state legislative support for national reform.”

ALEC’s letter has been signed by only 100 state legislators who oppose the Senate bill.   Conversely, 1058 legislators have signed an open letter to President Obama and the Congress supporting health reform embodied in the Senate health care bill — 987 legislators from all 50 states signing PSN’s letter and an additional 71 legislators signing a similar letter in Connecticut.  (See a copy of the PSN letter and signatories below.)

Said Iowa State Sen. Jack Hatch, “This ALEC letter is nothing more than a corporate-executed prank on the media and the American people. ALEC is trying to suggest that state legislators do not want health reform, when the opposite is true.   With small businesses losing coverage and Americans denied health care because of pre-existing medical conditions, we need the Senate bill to help all Americans afford quality care.  If anything, the Senate bill doesn’t go far enough!”

In addition to the legislative letters supporting national reform, the National Conference of State Legislatures, which represents state legislatures across the country, supported a resolution supporting comprehensive national reform, including a public option, this past summer. Over ¾ of states supported the resolution for comprehensive national health care reform.

Said Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, “In contrast to the false message offered by ALEC, we need to be clear that states, in fact, need and support robust federal health reform and the Senate bill will help us get there.”

As discussed during their press conference, ALEC is getting anti-reform bills introduced in states that are modeled after its mis-titled “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act.”  Their bill would reduce choice and limit options for families and small businesses by strengthening the hand of private insurance.  It is an unconstitutional attempt to ignore federal regulations under the proposed federal law and to benefit special interest groups.

ALEC’s list of corporate donors runs long, and includes companies like Enron, Amoco, Chevron, Shell, Texaco, Coors Brewing, Koch Industries, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, National Energy Group, Philip Morris, and R. J. Reynolds, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife.  As reported by SourceWatch, ALEC’s corporate funders pay for essentially all of its expenses: “Corporate membership fees are reported to range between $5,000 and $50,000 with additional fees of $1,500 to $5,000 a year to participate in ALEC's various task forces.”

Said Maine State Rep. Sharon Treat, “ALEC represents big corporations, not state legislators.  Its agenda is corporate-financed and directed and does not represent the views of most
legislators."

LETTER TEXT

Dear President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Members of the 111th US Congress:

As leaders in state legislatures across the country, we urgently call on President Obama and the U.S. Congress to take up and pass comprehensive health care reform in 2009.

The serious problems with health care in America ”š ever-rising costs, limited access, inconsistent quality, and waste and inefficiency ”š converge in the states. The effects of these problems stress state budgets, exhaust family resources, result in lost worker productivity, stifle entrepreneurial spirit, and literally cause tens of thousands of deaths each year.

Our disjointed health care system has formed a choke-hold on our economy, limiting job growth and economic development. We cannot fix the economy without fixing health care.

Over the past decade, state legislatures have debated and implemented a myriad of reforms to bring affordability, quality and fairness to health care in America ”š designing solutions that reflect each state”š unique economic, social, and geographic features. States play a vital role in the health care for hundreds of millions of Americans, by administering and helping to fund public programs like Medicaid and SCHIP, enacting innovations to expand access to public and private coverage, and serving as watchdogs of health insurance companies and other players.

Yet, states cannot achieve guaranteed affordable health care for all without the investment, leadership and partnership of the federal government. Successful reform requires robust federal-state collaboration.

Key priorities for reform are reflected in recent state initiatives and public opinion polls which show that Americans want more choices and options for quality health care. Americans recognize that the private sector alone has proven incapable of creating a high-quality, fair, and accountable health care system that works for all families. Therefore, a key priority for reform is the choice of a public health insurance plan that is available to businesses, individuals, and families. Another key priority is strengthening and expanding the Medicaid program with the help of enhanced federal support so that it can serve all low-income Americans. Related priorities include: guaranteeing affordability for individuals and businesses; preserving consumer choice of doctors; eliminating racial, ethnic, gender, and rural health disparities; ensuring shared responsibility among employers, individuals and government in financing health care; and, cost containment strategies that eliminate waste and inefficiency and improve quality, especially for people with chronic illnesses.

Failure to pass national comprehensive health reform now will further jeopardize state and local budgets, undermining public services like education, public safety, and transportation infrastructure.The recently passed economic recovery package includes a number of positive health care measures, but these do not remove states from the critical list. Achieving a high-performing, affordable and quality health care system for all US residents is central to a sustainable economic recovery and to the health and financial security of all families, businesses, and governments.

We, the undersigned, call on President Obama and the Congress to enact bold and comprehensive health care reform this year ”šbased on these principles and a strong federal-state collaboration ”šand pledge our support as state legislators and allies in pursuit of guaranteed, high quality, affordable health care for all.

This letter was developed in consultation with national health care reform advocates, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Community Catalyst, Families USA, Herndon Alliance, National Women's Law Center, Northeast Action, SEIU, and Universal Health Care Action Network.

To see a full list of legislators who support comprehensive progressive federal health care reform, please visit www.progressivestates.org/statefedhealth/letter.

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