Merkley: Health Care Gaining Momentum with Passage of Senate HELP Committee Plan

Washington, D.C.
– Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley joined a majority of his colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to approve groundbreaking health care legislation today.  The bill includes two provisions authored by Senator Merkley: one to increase options and lower health care costs for small businesses and the other to assist nursing mothers.

Americans are paying too much for a health care plan and too many families are just one pink-slip away from losing their coverage.  The HELP Committee bill sets forward a historic plan that will, for the first time in American history, give every American access to affordable health coverage, reduce costs, and increase choice, while ensuring that those who like their insurance get to keep it.  The legislation will make it illegal for insurance companies to charge more for sick people or turn anyone away because they have a pre-existing condition.  The HELP Committee bill also includes a public health insurance option that would further reduce costs and hold insurance companies accountable by providing an alternative to private insurance.

“The Senate HELP Committee bill is a once in a generation opportunity for affordable, accessible, quality health care,” Merkley said.  “The bill gives every citizen a full range of health insurance options, including a community health plan.  It is our best bet to heal a broken health system by increasing coverage, investing in prevention and decreasing costs.”

Merkley’s small businesses amendment will allow more small businesses to access affordable health care coverage for their employees by guaranteeing that businesses with 50 employees or fewer be able to participate in the newly created health insurance gateway.  These gateways are marketplaces where consumers can make apples-to-apples comparisons of health plans.  By allowing small business owners to buy into a larger risk pool and eliminating some administrative costs, the amendment will improve quality and reduce overall costs.

Find out more about the Small Business Choice Guarantee Amendment here.

Merkley’s breastfeeding promotion amendment will provide new mothers with privacy and flexible break times to pump milk at work for one year after the birth of their child.  Studies have repeatedly shown that breast milk is best for infants, particularly during the first six months.  Breastfeeding benefits brain development and children who are breastfed are less likely to be susceptible to a host of illnesses including asthma, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.

Find out more about the breastfeeding promotion amendment here.

“Today’s HELP Committee vote is a victory in the fight for a better health care system, but over the next few months we will begin to see special interests and those who favor the status quo striving to sink efforts for real reform.  It is my hope that my colleagues in Washington D.C. will continue this momentum, listen to the American people, and strive to construct a health care plan that provides choice, lowers costs, and expands access for working families,” Merkley said.