By MARJORIE KORN
The Dallas Morning News
June 18, 2009
WASHINGTON — State legislators urged Congress and the White House
on Wednesday to enact comprehensive health care legislation that
includes a public health insurance component by year's end.
Members of the Progressive States Network, a state government
coalition, met with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Health and Human
Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to lobby for a public insurance
option. They said that would answer Americans' call to provide health
care coverage for all.
"The real goal is to give everyone access to health care that is
affordable," said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, co-chairman of
the coalition. He said citizens should have three options for health
care coverage: individual, employer-offered and government-sponsored.
Just as Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program
are federal-state programs, so too will be a public health insurance
plan, meaning state support would be essential, Coleman said.
"The investor with the federal government in health coverage for
people are state governments," Coleman said. "That's the reason [state
support] makes a difference: because those costs are borne by state
taxpayers for insuring those with limited income."
Coleman argued that a public-insurance component would help the
country achieve universal health care, meaning no one would be forced
to go without health insurance because of cost, without going to a
system such as in Canada, where government is the only insurer.
Insurers and some Republicans have expressed fear that a government
option would ultimately crowd private insurers out of the market.
Harkin, a member of the Senate health committee, said a public
insurance plan would set a benchmark for coverage and reduce prices in
the private market.
"There are powerful forces at work to keep us from having a public plan," Harkin said.
The Progressive States Network gave Harkin a letter signed by more
than 700 state legislators from 47 states that outlines key priorities
for an overhaul. Twenty-three state representatives and one state
senator from Texas signed the letter.
Coleman will also be part of the newly formed State Legislators for
Health Reform, whose members will work to advance health care reform by
hosting public events, write opinion pieces and organize constituent