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Why I Voted for Health Care Reform

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By U.S. Rep. JIM COOPER

Cancer nearly killed me eight years ago. I know how crucial good health care is to each and every one of us in Wilson County. 

Our health care system is broken. Despite all the great work by our local physicians, nurses and University Medical Center, too many people can’t afford health insurance. The insurance we do buy can be rescinded when we need it most. Too many families go bankrupt because of high medical bills. Our very lives can be cut short due to insurance problems.

I voted for health care reform because we can, and must, fix these glitches in today’s medical system.

Did you know that area small businesses will get tax cuts this year so that they can afford to offer health insurance to their employees during this tough economy? Insurance companies will have to treat you better, not discriminate against you due to “pre-existing conditions” or yank your policy after you have paid decades of premiums. One lady was denied coverage for breast cancer recently simply because she’d had acne as a teenager. That’s outrageous.

Starting this year, your children can be covered under your policy until they turn 26. This is important because young adults are at the highest risk for car wrecks.

Did you know that, last year, Wilson County school nurses saw over 33,000 sick students? Our children, our most precious gift, have more health needs than many adults realize.

Preventive health care is very important. We need more personal responsibility as people make decisions about their diet, exercise, lifestyle, and other habits. There are some health risks like smoking that even the best doctor in the world can’t fix.

And we can do all this without breaking the bank. The reform legislation is not only paid for, but is estimated to save big money, as much as $1 trillion. It contains the biggest entitlement savings in history, over $600 billion. That’s a big improvement over legislation in recent years like the Medicare drug bill which the previous administration did not even attempt to pay for. That law put $7.8 trillion more on the national credit card.

I don’t like many parts of the legislation but starting over is not a realistic alternative. I’ve been working for many years in a completely bipartisan way to craft alternatives, but there is none today that could get more than a handful of votes. We’ve already had one of the longest, most public debates in American history. The cost of delaying reform is much higher than people realize: as much as $16 billion a day. The cost of arguing may well exceed the cost of solving these problems.

There are many people like myself who want Congress to be tougher on cutting spending. The best way to do that is to lock in these cuts and then go for more in follow-on legislation. Rejecting these cuts would just encourage the big spenders.

I am saddened that our nation is involved in a political dispute that involves partisanship, ambition, and money. The real issue is access to medical care for average American families. We all need it, but tens of millions of our families aren’t getting it. We can do that without busting anyone’s budget.

I voted FOR health reform because this year, healthier families will make a stronger, better America.

Editor’s Note: U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper represents the 5th Congressional District which includes part of Wilson County. For Cooper’s complete statement, visit www.cooper.house.gov.

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