North Country Democratic Congresman Bill Owens, who represents Oswego County, announced Saturday that he will vote in favor of the health care reform bill being debated in Congress.
Owens had voted in favor of health care reform earlier in the year.
The vote is close, with Republicans and some Democrats opposed to it.
Owens’ statement is below:
Statement of Congressman Bill Owens on Health Care Reform
WASHINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Congressman Bill Owens today released the following statement regarding H.R. 4872, the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“To reach a decision on one of the most important choices of my lifetime, I drew on numerous sources in order to gather all the information that I could. I read and studied the Senate legislation, the reconciliation bill, the nonpartisan financial findings from the Congressional Budget Office, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report on the cost of inaction. I spoke to several representatives of New York State and our immediate community, and met with Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the leading Republican opponents of these bills. I also held numerous meetings with Upstate New Yorkers from every walk of life Ã¢â‚¬â€œ from the AARP to working families, from labor unions to tea party members who came to my offices, from small business owners to CEOs of community hospitals. When I could not meet with constituents face-to-face, I held a telephone town hall with 3,700 people, during which a quarter of participants said that health care costs was the top concern, but 44 percent were more concerned with jobs. My staff was available in all five of my offices where thousands of calls were logged. The concerns I heard from constituents demonstrated both the need for health care reform to lower costs and to help our entrepreneurs create jobs.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The math is sound on this bill. Currently, our nation spends $45 billion each year in uncompensated care alone. It is estimated that premium costs will go up at least another $45 billion, costing our economy at least $90 billion annually. In short, while Americans spend almost $2.5 trillion annually on health care, this legislation makes fiscal sense. For those reasons and many others, I intend to vote in favor of health care reform when it comes before the House of Representatives this Sunday.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As I said during the decision-making process, I was not swayed by outside opinions, or misinformation campaigns from either side. I gathered all the available facts, and the correct decision was clear. In order to avoid astronomical rises in premiums, to improve our benefits, and to once again put our families Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not insurance companies – in charge of their own health care this bill is needed.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This legislation is necessary to once again return our nation to fiscal health and a robust economy. Should our nation continue down our current unsustainable path, we would be on track to spend one out of every five dollars our country earns on an ineffective health care system. This bill gives us the opportunity to provide health care to most uninsured Americans, and the opportunity to grow jobs in Upstate New York.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“After studying all the facts, I was presented with a simple choice: Do nothing and further burden our families and entrepreneurs, and allow our costs to spiral out of control, or take the first steps to reform our system in a way that will pay for itself and help America pull itself out of the recession.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I believe this moves our communities and America forward.Ã¢â‚¬Â
IMPACT ON THE NORTH COUNTRY
Earlier this week, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a report on the impact that H.R. 4872 is expected to have on New YorkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 23rd Congressional District. The committee found that approximately 405,000 North Country residents receive health care coverage. Under health care reform, these policyholders would be able to keep the insurance they have, pay less for preventative care, and no longer have to worry about being denied for a claim based on pre-existing conditions.
The legislation is also one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in history, as it provides families with incomes up to $88,000 for a family of four with tax credits to help pay for coverage. In Upstate New York, there are more than 177,000 households that would qualify for this tax cut. In addition to saving families money, the bill will also reduce the cost of uncompensated care for community hospitals and local health care providers by $67 million annually.
In his first few months in office, Rep. Owens has introduced and cosponsored legislation to help small business owners create jobs and put Upstate New Yorkers back to work. H.R. 4872 would allow local small businesses to pool together and benefit from group rate insurance and a greater choice of providers. Northern New York small businesses with 25 employees or less will qualify for tax credits of up to half of their insurance costs. This will apply to 12,600 Upstate small businesses. The legislation will also provide funding for 12 community health centers, creating jobs and spurring economic development in the process.
More than 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries will also see their coverage improve, as many in the community are subject to the Medicare Part D Ã¢â‚¬Å“donut holeÃ¢â‚¬Â coverage gap.
HISTORIC INVESTMENT IN EDUCATION
Passage of the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act is the largest investment in the history of our nation to help students and families pay for college Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and at no cost to taxpayers. The bill will reform the system of federal student loans and save the American taxpayer $61 billion while investing $51 billion to expand aid for college students. This initiative will cut the deficit by $10 billion over the next decade. Pell grants for students and competitive grants for community colleges are set to receive the largest benefit from this plan.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I consulted with college presidents in our community and they overwhelmingly support this legislation,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Owens. Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is a critical step toward rebuilding our economy, making sure young people have the ability to attend college or get career training, and that our work force remains to most highly skilled and effective in the world. This bill will help build a stronger, more competitive American economy for the future while saving taxpayers money.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Reforms of health care and education are fully paid and are compliant with the Ã¢â‚¬Å“pay-as-you-goÃ¢â‚¬Â system that Rep. Owens supported last month. PAYGO requires Congress to pay for the costs of tax cuts or increases in non-defense spending with savings elsewhere in the budget.