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Rep. Bishop votes for health care reform

U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, D-Albany, voted in favor Sunday evening of the sweeping health care reform package, being one of 219 Democrats who helped pass the legislation.

“Today is an historic day in the history of our country. This evening I cast a vote that I believe will have a significant impact on improving the lives of Southwest Georgians now and into the future. I believe that when the dust of this vigorous debate settles, and people actually see and learn what is in this bill and how it affects their lives, there will be even more widespread support for it,” Bishop said in a news release.

The bill passed 219-212, with all the Republicans and 34 Democrats in the House voting against the bill.

The U.S. House passed the legislation that the U.S Senate had approved on Christmas Eve. After approving the bill, the House adopted a package of changes agreed to by the both houses of Congress and the White House that now goes to the Senate for action as soon as this week. The bill will then go to President Obama for his signature in order for it to become law.

U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans representing Georgia, voted against the bill in December.

Bishop said he decided to support the health reform legislation because it represents an historic opportunity to make health care more accessible and affordable.

“I base this decision not on what is popular, but on what I believe is in the best interest for Georgia’s Second Congressional District, both in the short and long-term.”

Bishop said his district, which encompasses all of Southwest Georgia including Decatur County, has more than 83,000 uninsured residents who will receive health insurance coverage under this bill.

“There are 14,500 uninsured individuals who have a pre-existing medical condition such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes and who will now no longer be denied affordable health insurance coverage. In addition, there are 12,100 small business owners in my district who will qualify for tax credits to help employees afford health care,” Bishop said.

“My district is also home to 96,000 senior citizens who will benefit from a stronger Medicare program whose solvency is extended to 2026. There are 6,600 Medicare beneficiaries who will now be able to afford their prescription drugs with the closure of the Part D ‘donut hole.’ And, through the health care reform bill, 181,000 households in Southwest Georgia could qualify for tax credits to purchase health insurance through Medicaid, employer-sponsored insurance or other acceptable coverage. For these people and for millions of Americans like them, I have decided to support the health care reform bill,” Bishop said.

Gov. Sonny Perdue said in a news released that he publicly implored Bishop “to vote no for the good of our state.”

Perdue said Georgia is in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression and that balancing the state budget has been a monumental task entailing great sacrifices.

And with Bishop’s support of the legislation, he has helped “further devastate our state’s budget.

“It will eventually result in an additional billion dollars of Medicaid costs per year.  The state simply cannot provide basic services such as education and public safety with another billion dollars in spending forced on us by Washington. We all know Congress thinks they have a national credit card with no limit, now they seem intent on roping the states into their spending rodeo,” Perdue said in the news release.

But Bishop points out the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report that the health care bill will reduce the deficit by $138 billion over the next 10 years and $1.2 trillion in the decade after that.

“It includes tough provisions attacking waste and fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including some proposed by Republicans. It will slow the growth in health care costs that are becoming an increasing burden on families, businesses and governments. And the legislation will benefit rural America by boosting mandatory funding for community health centers by $11 billion over five years and making significant investments in the training of primary care doctors,” Bishop said.

Perdue said Bishop’s support of the bill “will delay our state’s economic recovery.”

Bishop said the bill is not perfect.

“We cannot, however, let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Nor can we allow fear, misinformation, political motivation and partisanship to prevent us from taking the necessary steps to improve our health care system,” Bishop said. “I believe that we have a moral obligation to ensure that all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, geography or income, receive the health care they need to lead healthy and productive lives.”

Highlights of the bill

The following are some of the highlights that the bill would do over time.

 It would require most Americans to have health insurance.

 It would add 16 million people to the Medicaid rolls.

 It would subsidize private coverage for low- and middle-income people, at cost to the government of $938 billion over 10 years.

 It would require many employers to offer coverage to employees or pay a penalty.

 It would require each state to set up a marketplace where consumers without coverage could shop for insurance that meet federal standards.

 It would prohibit health insurers from denying coverage to children with medical problems or suddenly drop coverage for people who become ill.

 It would allow children to stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26.

It would allow small businesses to obtain tax credits in order to help them buy insurance.