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Congresswoman Maxine Waters: Public Option is Essential to Meaningful Health Care Reform

October 6, 2009
Press Release
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) today issued the following statement on health care reform following the Senate Finance Committee's defeat of amendments offered by Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Schumer (D-NY) that would include a public option:

"I listened with great interest and pride as President Barack Obama spoke to members of Congress and a large audience at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's (CBCF) Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner this past weekend. Hearing the first African-American president speak in this venue was especially inspiring. 

"Expressing his vision for our country and the critical areas we need to focus on including education, the economy and health care to move America forward, President Obama said, ‘Now is the time to enact health insurance reform in the United States of America.  Now is the time to offer stability and security to Americans who have insurance.  Now is the time to make it affordable for those who don't have health insurance. Now is the time to slow the growth of health care costs for our families, and business, our government. That's the kind of reform that we need.  Now is the time.'

"I agree wholeheartedly with the President on the urgency of reforming our nation's health care system to expand access, maintain quality, reduce costs and ensure security. The fundamental question now is how we can accomplish these objectives.  I am concerned that making the wrong choice threatens any chance at meaningful health care reform. As I have stated repeatedly throughout this debate, I will not to vote for legislation that does not include an optional public insurance plan like Medicare to compete with profit-driven private insurance companies.  I continue to believe that the best way to achieve these goals is by creating a robust public option.

"I know that deep down the President also believes this, even if he is reluctant to say the words ‘public option' at this point. So it is incumbent upon the Congressional Black, Hispanic and Asian-Pacific American Caucuses, the Progressive Caucus and other Members of Congress to pick up the ball and carry it towards the end zone.

Although I am disappointed that the Senate Finance Committee did not approve amendments including the public option today, I remain committed to working to pass legislation that will achieve what the President, the majority of Congress and the majority of the American people want: high-quality, affordable, accessible and secure health care. The best way that we can do that is through ensuring that a strong public option is part of a final bill that reaches the President's desk.

"The insurance industry has run roughshod over the American people for years, denying coverage, rejecting claims, raising premiums and deductibles, making egregious profits and paying its top executives millions of dollars a year in salaries and bonuses. The private insurance companies cannot be trusted to reform themselves without government competition and reform.

"That is why a public option must be included in legislation passed out of the House and Senate to be signed by the President. I will continue to work with my colleagues, the White House and the American people to highlight its importance in meaningful health care reform."