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The Senate Finance Committee Will Vote on Public Option Amendments Today

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Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced public option (choice) amendments to the Max Baucus Health Reform Bill and have forced a public roll call vote for later today. Charles Schumer said last night in an interview, "Tomorrow is the opening day in the big fight". He went on to say, "It will be a big fight all the way down to the wire. The health-care bill that will be signed by the President will have a good, strong, robust public option."

More importantly the American public will get its first glimpse into which Senators are for the American public and which Senators will vote on the side of the Health Insurance CEOs who adamantly oppose the public option plan because it would force them to be more competitive and in turn reduce their record breaking profits and salaries over the past few years.

Despite the broad public support in opinion polls for the public option, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) clearly came down on the side of the for-profit Health Insurance companies and omitted it from the far-reaching proposal he put before the panel last week, saying he doesn't think it can pass the Senate.

The public option very simply allows consumers more choice and is the only portion of any health care reform that has so far been proposed that would create competition in many states such as Alabama where consumers have only one insurance company to choose from. Democrats who have compromised away the single-payer plan say the public option plan is the only remaining option to keep sky-rocketing health insurance premiums in check and prevent health insurance companies from continuing their double digit rate increases over the past few years.

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Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), author of one of today's two public option amendments, said a public plan would help keep costs down because it wouldn't need to make a profit or spend money on marketing. "That's going to force other companies to bring down costs over time," he said.

Charles Schumer (D-NY), author of the other public option amendment, said that in 40 states, two insurance companies have more than half the market share. "It's very, very important to have a competitor" for insurers, he said.

Republicans continue to say out of both sides of their mouths that the government can't do anything right and that a government-operated competitor to private insurance companies would drive many private insurance companies out of business. In actuality the Republicans and a number of Democrats have received millions upon millions of dollars from Health Insurance and Drug Company lobbyists and have been beholden to their best interests for years. Despite the fact that Senators enjoy government run health insurance themselves many apparently don't believe the American public is deserving of the same type of quality and affordable health insurance that they themselves enjoy.

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The Health Insurance industry is one of the least regulated industries in the United States and is one of only two businesses that has been exempted from anti-trust laws, major league baseball and for-profit health insurance. Despite all the corporate protections that the Health Insurance industry has enjoyed since 1945, premiums for health insurance continues to rise much faster than wages or income. More is spent per capita in the U.S on health care than in any other nation in the world. And yet our life expectancy is lower than many other nations, our infant mortality rates are higher and each year about 18,000 people die for lack of health care. The World Health Organization ranked the U.S. as the highest in cost, 37th in overall performance and 72nd in overall level of health among 191 member nations in the study. Even more disheartening than those statistics is the fact that the U.S. is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage. If we truly believe we are one of the wealthiest nations on earth why can't we find a way to have health care coverage for all our citizens?

Today's vote is the first of many in the now epic battle for comprehensive health care reform which has been raging on for decades. In last November's elections the American public demanded change and they have taken to the streets in the form of protests and more importantly they have begun to hold their elected officials accountable to the interest of their constituency and not just their big money donors and Washington lobbyists. The following Republican and Democratic senators will vote on the two public option plans today. Take note of who votes for the public option and the American people and who votes against the public option and for the Health Insurance CEOs and their big corporate donors.

Democratic Senators:

Max Baucus, MT - TEL: 800-332-6106
Jay Rockefeller, WV - TEL: 202-224-6472
Kent Conrad, ND - TEL: 202-224-7776
Jeff Bingaman, NM - TEL: 202-224-5521
John Kerry, MA - TEL: 202-224-2742
Blanche Lincoln, AR - TEL: 202-224-4843
Ron Wyden, OR - TEL: 202-224-5244
Charles Schumer, NY - TEL: 202-224-6542
Debbie Stabenow, MI - TEL: 202-224-4822
Maria Cantwell, WA - TEL: 202-224-3441
Bill Nelson, FL - TEL: 202-224-5274
Robert Menendez, NJ - TEL: 202-224-4744
Thomas Carper, DE - TEL: 202-224-2441

Republican Senators:

Chuck Grassley, IA - TEL: 202-224-3744
Orrin Hatch, UT - TEL: 202-224-5251
Olympia Snowe, ME - TEL: 202-224-5344
Jon Kyl, AZ - TEL: 202-224-4521
Jim Bunning, KY - TEL: 202-224-4343
Mike Crapo, ID - TEL: 202-224-6142
Pat Roberts, KS - TEL: 202-224-4774
John Ensign, NV - TEL: 202-224-6244
Mike Enzi, WY - TEL: 202-224-3424
John Cornyn, TX - TEL: 202-224-2934

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[UPDATE: 10:16 AM - Max Baucus has postponed the votes on the public option amendments until next Tuesday.]

Call your Senator up and ask them if they are going to vote for the American people or are they going to vote for the for-profit Health Insurance CEOs.


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Eric Nelson is freelance writer, an editor at OpEdNews, and a spiritual progressive from Minnesota who has become more politically active. The reasons for this should be obvious to most; rising poverty, a broken health care system, and a growing (more...)

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