Walz, Oberstar commit ‘Yes’ on health care after Medicare deal

WASHINGTON — Barring a last-second change of heart, Minnesota lawmakers will split 4-4 on the health care vote this evening, just as they did a few months ago on the House health care bill.

Tim Walz and Jim Oberstar committed to vote yes Saturday, after lawmakers reached a late-night deal on Medicare reimbursement rates.

Walz and Oberstar will be joined by Twin Cities Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum in voting yes, while Collin Peterson’s office said the Blue Dog Democrat will remain a no, alongside all three state Republicans.

Rep. John Kline today predicted that every Republican in the House will vote no on the measure, saying tonight’s vote comes down to “the Democratic leadership convincing members of their caucus who want to vote no to vote yet.”

Here are the statements by Oberstar and Walz. Oberstar first:

I have evaluated the issues of health care for 35 years and very intensively for this past year as Congress has worked on the major reform legislation. The fine points of this health care bill have now been defined, and in my judgment, the balance of benefits are in favor of this bill. That will benefit the people of the 8th congressional district and the American people.

This bill will assure that no one’s current health care can be dropped. No one will be forced out of their health care they now hold. No one will be denied because of a previously existing condition. No one can have their health insurance dropped because of lifetime caps or be denied when they need their health insurance the most. People will be able to retain health insurance if they change jobs.

For seniors, the legislation closes the doughnut hole that has existed for five years, which will save seniors thousands of dollars in prescription drug costs. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ policy until age 26.

This bill represents a massive step forward in quality health care for the people of the 8th congressional district. Included in this legislation is a major improvement in the Medicare reimbursement formula. The longstanding geographic disparity in Medicare has severely disadvantaged Northland health care providers, and the reimbursement gap will be closed as we move toward payment parity with the rest of the country.

Regarding the lingering issue of abortion, I am confident that abortion will not be funded in this legislation. Current law dating back to October 1979 (Public Law 96-86) has contained a federal prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortion in community health centers. Conscious clause protections that have existed in the past will remain in effect and in the future, and the legislation prohibits the use of federal tax credits and cost-sharing assistance to pay for abortion.

And Walz:

Middle class families in southern Minnesota want to visit their doctor and get the care they need without insurance company or government control. They want hassle free coverage they can count on and they want peace of mind knowing that if they get sick, they will not have to worry about insurance companies dropping them.

For the past three years, I have traveled around southern Minnesota hearing from folks about how we can improve our health care system. Those who have shared their stories with me are honest, hard working people. They do not want a handout or special treatment. They just want a fair deal. One of those folks is Sheila Wieser. When Sheila’s son, Michael, got sick with a rare liver disease, she just wanted to be able to get him the care he needed to get well. Michael was kicked off his parents insurance when he graduated college and because he had a pre-existing condition, no insurance company would give him coverage. By the time Sheila was able to get Michael any help at all, his disease was too advanced and he died. No mother should ever have to experience that and if this legislation had been passed years ago, Michael might still be with us today.

I also voted for this legislation because it is the fiscally responsible thing to do. Since first coming to Congress, I have actively worked to find ways to reduce the skyrocketing, long-term federal debt. Let me be clear: We cannot tackle our debt without addressing the out of control cost of health care and we cannot rebuild a strong, vibrant economy while businesses are strangled financially and forced to choose between cutting salaries or health insurance for their employees. I cannot in good conscience pass on a skyrocketing debt and a broken health care system for our children and our grandchildren to deal with, they deserve better than kicking the can down the road for another day.

I am particularly proud of the pay for results provisions we fought for in this legislation. This is a patient-centered provision that is about using a market-based, business solution to provide high quality, low cost health care. Every single day, Mayo Clinic is an example of how health care should be practiced in this country and I was proud of our efforts to ensure that doctors are paid for the quality of care that you get and not just the number of treatments and procedures you go through.

This legislation is not perfect. I have often said health care reform is a journey, not a destination. As we move forward, I will work closely with doctors, nurses, hospital, employers, small businesses and southern Minnesotans to ensure that this legislation is implemented in a fair, common sense way.

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