AFL-CIO: Senate Health Care Bill "Inadequate"

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Following emergency meetings yesterday to discuss the Senate health care bill, labor has finally weighed in.

After the Service Employees International Union issued a challenge to President Obama and lawmakers earlier today, the AFL-CIO has now released a statement calling the post-Lieberman-defection Senate bill "inadequate."

"The absolute refusal of Republicans in the Senate to support health care reform and the hijacking of the bill by defenders of the insurance industry have brought us a Senate bill that is inadequate:  It is too kind to the insurance industry," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement just released this afternoon.

"The House bill is the model for genuine health care reform.  Working people cannot accept anything less than real reform," Trumka said.

So labor has denounced the Senate bill, saying it will fight for changes. The AFL-CIO perhaps went a bit further than SEIU, in that it stated it "cannot accept" anything less than "real reform"--which is an indirect way of saying it "cannot accept" the Senate bill.

Labor is clearly displeased. It has, however, eschewed the tack of Howard Dean: it hasn't phrased its complaints as a call for Democrats to vote against the current bill.

See Trumka's full statement below:

The labor movement has been fighting for health care for nearly 100 years and we are not about to stop fighting now, when it really matters.

But for this health care bill to be worthy of the support of working men and women, substantial changes must be made.  The AFL-CIO intends to fight on behalf of all working families to make those changes and win health care reform that is deserving of the name. 

The absolute refusal of Republicans in the Senate to support health care reform and the hijacking of the bill by defenders of the insurance industry have brought us a Senate bill that is inadequate:  It is too kind to the insurance industry.

Genuine health care reform must bring down health costs, hold insurance companies accountable, assure that Americans can get the health care they need and be financed fairly. 

• That's why we are championing a public health insurance option:  It is the way to break the stranglehold of the insurance industry over consumers that has led to double digit premium increases virtually every year. 
 
• Employers must pay their fair share. 
 
• And the benefits of hard-working Americans cannot be taxed to pay for health care reform--that's no way to rein in insurance companies and it's the wrong way to pay for health care reform.    
 Those are the changes for which we will be fighting in the coming days.

The Senate bill does some good things:  It will provide health insurance to 30 million more Americans and provide subsidies to low income individuals and families.  Benefits will have to meet minimum standards and insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or impose lifetime or unreasonable annual limits.  The bill also includes some relief for plans with early retirees as well as delivery system reforms that may lead to lower costs over the long haul.  And Senate leaders have made a commitment to close the Medicare prescription drugs donut hole which is so costly to seniors.   

But because it bends toward the insurance industry, the Senate bill will not check costs in the short term, and its financing asks working people and the country to pay the price, even as benefits are cut.

The House bill is the model for genuine health care reform.  Working people cannot accept anything less than real reform.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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