Sixty-four years ago, President Harry S. Truman said: "Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection."
In the decades since, many presidents have proposed health-care reform with limited success. A generation has passed, yet still too many Americans lack the security and peace of mind that comes with health care. For those fortunate enough to be insured, rising costs are making it harder and harder to stay afloat.
On Saturday, the House of Representatives took the historic step toward providing all Americans with the protection President Truman called for in 1945. We passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, legislation that would make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. I have never been prouder to cast a vote.
The Affordable Health Care for America Act would drastically reduce the number of uninsured, increase competition and lower costs through a public option, reform the insurance industry so Americans don't see their coverage unfairly denied or dropped, and put more money in our seniors' pockets by closing the Medicare Part D doughnut hole, all while reducing the deficit by $104 billion over 10 years.
Over the last several months, our nation has been engaged in a passionate debate about the future of health care. During this time, I've held 18 health-care reform town hall meetings to listen to the views of my constituents, including two in the Quad-Cities. I've heard from supporters and opponents and understand that my decision to vote for this bill will not please everyone. But I can assure you that I did what I believed was best for the people I represent.
In the 17th District, 364,000 workers would see an improvement in their employer-based coverage, 39,000 uninsured residents would receive health care, and 119,000 seniors would see their Medicare benefits strengthened. In addition, the public option would create good old-fashioned competition with insurance companies, driving down premiums across the board.
Without reform, health-care costs are projected to increase $1,800 each year for the average family. Care and medication -already postponed by more than half of all Americans-will become more unaffordable. And Americans will face a 50 percent chance of losing their insurance in the next 10 years.
As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I helped craft this legislation from the very beginning. It is not perfect, but I believe it represents a giant step forward toward affordable insurance for all Americans. In addition to the features mentioned above, the Affordable Health Care for America Act puts insurance companies under federal anti-trust laws for the first time to prohibit price gouging, allows young people to remain on their parents' plans through age 26, and increases funding for Community Health Centers to allow for a doubling of the number of patients over the next five years.
President Truman probably never imagined that it would take more than half a century to finally provide affordable health care to our citizens. And while we are not there yet, reform is closer than ever. For the time being, that is something worth celebrating.
Phil Hare represents Illinois 17th House District, covering most of the Illinois Quad-City region. Contact him online through hare.house.gov.