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Franken urges House to pass Senate health bill, and fix it later

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Saying he fears that it’s “now versus never” for health care reform, Sen. Al Franken today issued an impassioned call for the House to pass the Senate’s health-care bill if  senators agree to go back later and fix it using reconciliation — a process that only requires 51 votes.

“I know that there are elements of the Senate bill that are distasteful to many members of the House of Representatives,” Franken said.  “Believe me, there are a few elements in our bill that I’d like to see improved.

“But If we in the Senate pledge to fix those elements through reconciliation — a budget process that requires only 51 votes,  the House of Representatives should pass the Senate bill,” he said. “Big pieces of legislation often need to be fixed and improved after passage.  Health care would be no different.  But we have to stop letting the perfect — and everyone has different definitions of perfect — be the enemy of the very good. “

As he spoke to a FamiliesUSA conference of health care professionals and activists, Franken ticked off several reasons he supports the Senate’s plan, such as the inclusion of quality-of-care as a factor in Medicare reimbursement rates and his medical-loss ratio amendment that would require 85 percent of health insurance premiums be spent on health care costs.

“I’m tired of this ‘House vs. Senate’ debate,” Franken said. “This is health care we’re talking about.  It’s not House versus Senate.  It’s right versus wrong.  And I fear that it’s also now versus never.”

Franken’s remarks came the morning after President Obama’s first State of the Union speech, in which he called on Congress to finally pass heath care reform.

“Do not walk away from reform,” Obama said. “Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.”

Challenge in House

Passing the Senate’s bill through the House will be a difficult task at best. Rep. Collin Peterson estimated last week that perhaps 100 Democrats would vote in favor of the bill if it came before the House as is. Peterson, who has said he thinks the bill is too far reaching, didn’t vote for the House health care bill and said he won’t vote for the Senate’s either.

Rep. Keith Ellison last week posed the ultimate question that House members will have to answer if the Senate’s bill comes up for a vote:

"I really do hate the Senate bill," Ellison said. "The question is whether it's better than nothing."

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who spoke before Franken, did not speak to a methodology on health reform, but said it needs to happen — and soon.

“There is a lot of interest in keeping the status quo, because it suits some people really well,” Sebelius said. “We know that we need reform, because the current system is flawed, and even families with insurance are a step away... from being uninsured.”

Sebelius joked that under the current system, insurance is designed to be purchased, not used, because of the higher premiums that some providers assess the year after patients get sick.

“Everyone should have access to affordable health care,” Sebelius told the crowd, “and with your help, they will.”

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Comments (8)

Mr Franken also still doesn't get it, and probably never will. He is right there left leaning along with Pelosi and Reid. They are not concerned with what the voters have to say or think. This is their government now; not yours so butt out.

"But we have to stop letting the perfect - and everyone has different definitions of perfect - be the enemy of the very good."

Sorry, but I don't think this is like writing a sketch for SNL.

Oh for crying out loud, Jeff Kline, how is forcing the public to buy the products of private companies with few restraints on the private companies "left leaning"?

It sounds more fascist (close alliance between government and big business) than leftist to me.

A real leftist (which Obama, Reid, and Pelosi most certainly are not) would say, "Sorry, insurance companies, but we're going single payer or national health service next year. Time to dissolve."

Jeff Kline, the people (the voters) put the largest democratic majorities into Congress just one year ago. Passing some health care legislation is what people put them in office to do. One election in Massachusetts is one election and does not overturn the other 500 plus elections that gave us the Congress that is on office.

I wish Obama had challenged the house to go into session last night to pass the Senate version with him promising to sign the legislation immediately following. That would have been great and would have made people like you go crazy.

It is time for the GOP and the Tea Party to recognize facts. The facts are on health care that our system is very expensive with mediocre results compared to other countries with half our wealth. Their systems cover more people, are more concerned with prevention, and have better outcomes.

It is time for the Democrats to bring some facts into the discussion and keep hammering the naysayers with the facts. The GOP just makes stuff up - death panels, laying the bank bailout on Obama.

I was at a meeting today and an owner of a small business was complaining about the speech and how it won't help them. The issue was available credit for decent businesses. She described a need for an SBA program that was created by Clinton, was highly successful and then killed by Bush - the low documentation loan guarantee program. MN banks and businesses used this program aggressively through the 90's. Once again, let's bring some facts to the table. The only ones that made money in the 2000 decade were the crooks on Wall Street and Bush's oil and defense contractor buddies.

Good for Franken for speaking out for the middle class. There is a good reason 70% of USA citizens support a strong public option. As a medical practitioner in New England Journal of Medicine wrote, the great majority of American want all of our citizens to have access to quality, affordable health care and we want better stewardship of our health care resources. There is no reason we should pay twice as much for health care as other nations and have worse outcomes. There also is not reason our citizens should die because they cannot afford the premiums gouged by insurance corporations that have become near monopolies.

Jeff Kline, I am afraid you are out of touch with the great majority of Americans who support quality, universal, and affordable health care. But don't worry, everyone who disagrees with you on this issue will do everything humanly possible to help you should you ever need our help. Those are the values in which we believe.

Thank you Al Franken for speaking out!

Really, Mr. Franken?! Pass a healthcare bill now and fix it later?! I wonder, would Mr. Franken purchase a new car with a bad engine and transmission and fix it later?

Ok; here it comes. It is UNCONSTITUTIONAL for government to make a law requiring you to purchase health care, or be subject to imprisonment.

Sorry; Nice try. This is so liberal left it isn't funny.

Will the writer please name Bush's buddies that made money in the 2000 decade thus bringing the facts to the table.

I do hope that Mr. Franken and Ellison are successful in their push to pass the healthcare bill through reconciliation. We need term limits and this should do the trick.