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Fudge: Americans Deserve Access to Affordable Health Care

It happens after community meetings, during telephone town halls and even in church: Northeast Ohioans ask me not to give up on making health care more affordable and accessible to all.

Hardworking Ohioans regularly tell me how they’re struggling to pay for health care and make ends meet in this troubled economy. They need assistance for health care as a way to reduce premium costs and make coverage more affordable. Americans who’ve already lost their jobs or who can find only part-time work need a solution.

The solution is clear. We need more competition for quality insurance. Ohioans with reasonably priced insurance also rally for competition and more affordable insurance. We need health care alternatives that will force private insurance companies to carefully re-evaluate their costs and quality of service. Making health care more available and affordable to the uninsured will also bring down insurance costs.

My Congressional district, which includes part of Cleveland, is home to approximately 86,000 uninsured residents. In 2008, Cleveland-area providers spent $417 million caring for the uninsured. That expense was shared by all taxpayers, including the insured, through higher premiums and local taxes. Reducing the number of uninsured Americans by ensuring access to affordable health coverage would result in decreased premiums for all.

Decreased premiums would be a solution for most Americans. For example, a father from my district pleaded with me to give his children a chance at decent medical care. Both sickle cell patients, these precious children were denied insurance coverage because of an illness they could not predict or control. Companies that could provide coverage offered him ridiculously expensive options. Because of the high premiums the insurance companies demanded, he was forced to choose between paying the families’ monthly bills and keeping his children healthy. Should any parent be forced to make such a choice? How many more families are forced to face financial ruin rather than see their children hurt or even dying — because Congress failed to act?

Congress must act in the interest of justice and ban the unfair discriminatory insurance practice of denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. I have been forever touched by Mrs. Jodie Miller, who publicly shared her story last fall. A Maryland mother who conceived triplets through in vitro fertilization, she and her husband were denied health care coverage because their insurance company declared they had pre-existing conditions: infertility and spousal infertility.

The current system is unsustainable. It defies common sense.

I am confident that, no matter what procedural process we choose, the 111th Congress will take its first step toward landmark health care coverage. Not voting on a health care reform bill and pretending we have time to start over is about as helpful as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The iceberg is not going away.

Rep. Marcia Fudge is a Democrat from Ohio.

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