Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Municipal Pensions Often Worse off than the State's in Being Under Funded, But Higher Risk May be the Answer

Think the State Pensions are a problem [ they are, and remain so ], then wait till you see the exploding debt bomb laying inside municipal pensions. Last year's study by the IL Municipal League show many communities around Illinois are woefully under funded, when looking at the future liabilities of their pensions.

One source notes one big problem in trying to get caught up, are the restrictions on what the pension funds can be invested in. With interest rates at such low levels currently, the overly conservative approach to pension investments is locking up money that could be earning much more in the markets. But instead of allowing the pension funds to grow on market returns, municipal retirement funds are frequently tied up earning paltry sums in CD type investments.

While market's have risk, recall that the 40-percent market fall of 2008, was followed by a 60-percent rise in 2009. Now, that 60% was from a lower base, so we're still not back to where we were in 2007. But one either believes in the long term future of America, or you don't. If we're to have any chance of catching up in funding pensions at the local level -- there's going to have to be some higher level of risk taking than sitting on extremely low rates of return.

In fact, by being overly cautious in trying to protect the amount originally invested, we're only guaranteeing a dismal rate of return, and a guaranteed failure to meet the future cost of the promised pension benefits.

And when the market returns don't help you catch up -- because the funds aren't in the market -- the only way to catch up is to continue to break city budgets by forcing higher and higher contributions from the communities general revenue funds. The result there is what we're seeing today -- broken budgets, cutbacks in services, layoffs, and no hope in sight of ever catching up.

Investing in markets is not the same as going to a casino, or betting on the horses. Just a bit higher risk, can also mean higher returns. It's one way to address our local pension under funding.

What's the Truth Behind Illinois' State Budget

Truth In Accounting's Shelia Weinberg, explains how Illiois State Budget is based on "Political Math"

Monday, March 29, 2010

House Republicans Offer Three Measures to Counter President's Healthcare Law

From the IL Policy Institutue

CHICAGO - The Illinois Policy Institute, a non-partisan free market think tank, applauds Illinois House Republicans for introducing three bills aimed at lessening the negative impact of President Obama's federal health care legislation. The Illinois measures include prohibiting enforcement of the mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance coverage, directing the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to examine the fiscal impact of federal health care reforms on the Illinois state budget, and legislation urging the Illinois Attorney General of to file suit challenging the law's constitutionality.

"We applaud House Republicans for introducing legislation aimed at mitigating the adverse impact of the deeply flawed health care law," said Kristina Rasmussen, Executive Vice President, Illinois Policy Institute. "At a time when Illinois is experiencing record unemployment and deficits, this new federal law will cause unnecessary harm to our economy. Illinois residents can thank Representatives Mitchell, Bellock, and Mathias for their swift response to the over-reaching, unaffordable federal health care takeover."

Details on Illinois House Republican Legislation:

Prohibition on Individual Mandate (HB 6842, Rep. Bill Mitchell) - The federal health care reform includes a mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance if they do not currently have coverage. The "Health Freedom from Individual Mandate" legislation seeks to amend the Illinois Insurance Code to prohibit the enforcement of an individual mandate providing this prohibition on requiring individuals to obtain or maintain insurance should not render an individual liable for any penalty, assessment, fee, or fine as a result of failure to procure or obtain health insurance coverage. This proposed legislation is based on current Virginia law.

Resolution on GOFA Analysis of Fiscal Impact of Health Reforms (HR 1074, Rep. Patti Bellock) - The federal health care reform expands the Medicaid program and makes numerous other reforms that may grossly impact the state budget. Governor Pat Quinn has publically stated the fiscal impact of these reforms is not yet known and the State has not determined a cost estimate. This resolution provides for the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) to conduct an examination of the fiscal impact of the federal health care reform on the Illinois state budget.

Resolution Urging Attorney General to Seek Relief from Federal Health Care Reform (HR 1075, Rep. Sid Mathias) - This resolution urges the Illinois Attorney General to file suit against the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Department of the Treasury and the United State Department of Labor, challenging the constitutionality of the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." The complaint alleges the Act represents an unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the States in protecting the freedom, public health and welfare of their citizens by mandating (1) massive increases in state Medicaid enrollments and by (2) impairing individual citizen's rights to make health care decisions, including the decision not to participate in any health care insurance program or scheme.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chart of Illinois State Government's Pension Obligations


Note We post this as a service to use relative to the built-in costs and challenges of balancing the state's budget in the years to come.

Rep. Art Turner's Statement on Not Being Selected as the Democratic Lt Gov Candidate

Dear Friends,

Today’s vote of the Democratic State Central Committee was a disappointment to you and to me both. It hurts to lose a race that we all feel should have been won. But I hope that you take many positive and valuable lessons from this experience, as I know that I have learned a great many things over this long campaign.

I learned that I am blessed with an incredible group of active, engaged and committed supporters that far surpasses any other. I am filled with great pride and am honored to have served you all for the past 30 years.

I learned that integrity and honesty are truly invaluable. The lessons and values that my parents taught me, and that I have tried to pass on to my children, are irreplaceable.

I also learned that before we take our message across the state again, we have a great deal of work to do closer to home. To those who’ve worked on my campaign and voted for me, I encourage you to not lose faith in the political process. On the contrary, we need every one of us to be even more engaged in public and civic dialogues so that we can be the masters of our own fate.

My fervent hope is that you join me to redouble our efforts with voter registration and the census. There will be more elections. There will be future races. There will be many more opportunities where we need to be counted, to be strong, to be even more committed to the ideas and values that we cherish.

The power to change the lives of millions is ultimately in the legislative and political arena. Life is not about what happens to you, but how you react to it. Don't be discouraged. Be proud of your engagement in the democratic process, and of your commitment to the American principles we hold dear.

Yours truly,

Art Turner

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Illinois' Bond Rating Remains Steady as State Prepares to Borrow $1 Billion in April

SPRINGFIELD – March 27, 2010. The Governor’s Office
of Management and Budget is pleased to announce that
both Moody’s and Standard & Poors have reaffirmed the
state’s long term bond rating. Moody’s remains at A
2 and Standard & Poors remains at A +.

“This rating is a positive indication that we can
move in the right direction to restoring fiscal
health to the state,” said David Vaught, Director of
the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

Director Vaught added that the Illinois General
Assembly’s recent passage of a major and
unprecedented public pension reform bill is proof
that lawmakers are willing to work with Governor
Quinn at finding solutions to Illinois’ fiscal

“Governor Pat Quinn’s leadership on pension reform,
which will save taxpayers more than a hundred billion
dollars over the next several decades, along with the
General Assembly’s decisive action to pass public
pension legislation, is a key factor in our efforts
to maintain this rating.” Director Vaught said.

Moody’s also reaffirmed their “negative outlook” on
Illinois’ General Obligation bonds while Standard and
Poors moved Illinois’ General Obligation bond ratings
from “negative outlook” to “credit watch.” A credit
watch indicates a downgrade is possible within six
months. Both ratings agencies contend they will be
looking for action by the General Assembly to address
the state’s fiscal crisis before the May session

“This outlook underscores the urgency for solutions
and emphasizes the need for continued action to
achieve fiscal balance by cutting costs, receiving
assistance from the federal government, managing our
debt, and securing revenue increases,” said Director

Over the next few weeks the state will be issuing
over a $1 billion worth of bonds as part of its Build
America Bonds series. These funds will be used for
several capital projects across the state as part of
Illinois Jobs Now!, a job creating and capital
improvement program that will revive the state’s
ailing economy by creating and retaining 439,000 jobs
over six years.

Gov Quinn and Lt Gov Candidate Shelia Simon Plan Fly-Around on Monday

From Gov Quinn's Campaign Website, March 27, 2010

Sheila Simon is the product of a family with a long tradition of public service. Her father, Paul, was a long-serving U.S. Senator from Illinois, respected by members on both sides of the aisle for his integrity. Her mother, Jeanne, was a State Representative. Sheila has followed in her parents’ footsteps by devoting her energies to advancing the public interest.

As an experienced and dedicated public servant, Simon served as one of the leaders of the Pat Quinn's Illinois Reform Commission. She led the fight for passage of major reforms to enhance government transparency, reform the contract procurement process, and enact the first limits on campaign contributions in Illinois history.

As a former prosecutor and law professor, Sheila knows the criminal justice issues and understands what needs to be done to protect victims of DUIs, domestic violence, and other violent crimes.

As a working mother, Sheila has firsthand experience with the day-to-day challenges that Illinois families face as she and her husband Perry raise their two children. The mother of two daughters, Sheila is inspired everyday to champion women’s issues and ensure that government helps to strengthen the fabric of our communities.

That's why Pat Quinn is so pleased to have Sheila Simon join his fight against an extremist Republican and his 27-year-old running mate, who oppose the idea of a minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, the Family Medical Leave Act, and other basic protections critical to economic well-being of Illinois families.

And Sheila's no shrinking violet when it comes to political campaigns. Ever since she was young, she was a regular on the campaign trail for her father, and Sheila was a key early supporter in Barack Obama's 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate and then again in his historic run for the Presidency in 2008.

Join Pat Quinn and Sheila Simon when they visit with voters in six Illinois cities on Monday, March 29. If you can, please join us at the following locations and times (Doors open 30 minutes beforehand):

9:00 AM Signature Terminal at Midway International Airport, Chicago

10:15 AM Rockford International Airport, Rockford

11:45 AM Quad City International Airport, Moline

1:40 PM Student Union, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

3:25 PM St. Louis Downtown Airport, Cahokia

5:25 PM Shryock Auditorium, Southern Illinois University

GOP Lt Gov Candidate Jason Plummer's Statement on Shelia Simon's Selection as Dem Lt Gov Candidate

I welcome Sheila Simon's entry to this race. I am confident we will have a thoughtful campaign that is going to offer the voters two vastly different approaches for Illinois. Like Pat Quinn, Sheila Simon wants to raise taxes on families across the state. While I was humbled to be nominated by citizens from across Illinois, Governor Quinn chose to ignore the voice of the voters and hand-pick Sheila for this post. This is a perfect example of the arrogance of our current leadership. Bill Brady and I are committed to a clean break for Illinois, standing against job-killing tax increases and the monkey business that occurs in Springfield. I disagree with Sheila's philosophy, but I do respect her and her sincerity. I am sure Sheila Simon is a true believer and look forward to a campaign with her on the issues.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shelia Simon is Gov Quinn's Pick for Lt Governor

In Chicago this afternoon, Gov Quinn said he wants Shelia Simon to be his running mate. Simon is a law professor at SIU Carbondale, and more famously, the daughter of the late US Senator Paul Simon -- who served as Lt Governor under Gov Richard Ogilvie. That was when we could have a Lt Governor from a different party that the Governor.

Simon's selection gives Gov Quinn a downstater, which will help in that both Sen. Brady and his running mate -- Jason Plummer -- are downstate residents. Simon is also thought to help Quinn with the independent womens' vote, as some think Sen Brady's Pro-Life position on abortion will put off a portion of the women's vote. Maybe. But Gov Quinn may have also caused a number of those in the black community to tune out, as the governor did not select Rep. Art Turner, who had the second most votes in the February primary. In fact, a number of black lawmakers this week, said Quinn would suffer in the Fall election if he failed to select Turner.

As with so many decisions in life -- there are few that come without any downsides.

But Gov Quinn in Shelia Simon has a running mate that is going to be in agreement with him on the majority of issues. Quinn was also a huge fan of Sen. Paul Simon. At Lt. Governor, Quinn would tell and retell how he was the Ombudsman for Illinois citizens -- and note that he only knew "Ombudsman" because it was a term used by Paul Simon when he was Lt Governor.

While Rep. Art Turner is a classy fellow, and very well qualified to serve on a statewide level, it is hard to believe the Central Cmte of the Democratic Party of Illiois would now pick someone besides Shelia Simon to be on the ticket. Rep Turner however at this time, remains in the race and continues to say he hopes he will be picked by his fellow Democrats to serve with Gov Quinn.

Sunni's Allawi Narrowly Wins Iraqi Election Over Shiite's Malkik


Ayad Allawi’s predominantly Sunni alliance has won Iraq’s national election, narrowly edging out Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s list to become the largest bloc in the country’s next parliament. The final preliminary results show Mr. Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc winning 91 seats in the 325-member parliament to 89 seats for Mr. Maliki’s State of Law.

The upset threatens to end the lock on power that Iraq’s majority Shiites have enjoyed since the 2003 after decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein and could severely test the country’s fragile institutions. Before the announcement, Shiite politicians warned of violence should their parties lose the election.

US & Russia Reach Nuclear Arms Control Deal


The U.S. and Russia sealed a deal on a major treaty to cut their deployed nuclear arsenals by 30%, while reducing the number of missiles, bombers and submarines, the White House announced. The accord, a follow-on to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that expired in December, would cap deployed warheads at 1,550. Deployed ballistic missiles and bombers would be limited to 700.

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke in a phone call Friday morning. The White House said the pact will be signed April 8 in Prague, the city where the Mr. Obama launched his nuclear security initiative almost a year ago to the day.

Berkowitz: Gov Quinn Likely to Pick Shelia Simon as His Running Mate

By Jeff Berkowitz on Chicago Now

Follow on: Governor Quinn has backed away from his first choice for his Lt.Gov. running mate on the Democratic ticket, State Senator Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest). According to senior Democratic operatives, very close to the Democratic State Central Committee, Gov. Quinn was frustrated by Senator Garrett's reluctance to be a team player and come out, whole hog, for his proposed income tax increase. Moreover, there were some additional, minor, Garrett irritants that caused Quinn to go with Sheila Simon, the law school professor from downstate Carbondale.

Quinn's change of heart evolved over the last day or two and he had made the decision by late Thursday afternoon. Quinn realized that Garrett might be the better campaigner. But, ironically, Quinn the maverick couldn't tolerate maverick Garrett for Lt. Gov. He wanted a Lt. Gov. who would march to the same beat as the Governor. He gets that in Sheila Simon, daughter of the Illinois Democratic Party icon, the late former U. S. Senator, Paul Simon.

Senator Simon, a former guest of Public Affairs and always a consummate politician, reminded me before I introduced him on my show that I did not need to tell the viewers, and his former voters, that he had not been born in Illinois. As he said, there are some things the voters and viewers don't need to know.

There is some chance that Gov. Quinn could come up with yet another choice before he makes his announcement today at 2:00 pm at a presser in the Chicago Loop. But, the odds are against such a change. The strong favorite for the pick at this point: Sheila Simon.

And, it is likely that Speaker Madigan will respect that choice, and therefore the rest of the Illinois Democratic Party's State Central Committee will follow the Speaker and ratify Quinn's choice on Saturday. Of course, you will notice I used the word "likely." But, ultimately, when Speaker Mike speaks, others listen and act accordingly. .

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Illinois Senate Passes Bill to Allow School Vouchers

From the IL Policy Institute

CHICAGO - Today, the Illinois Senate passed legislation that could change thousands of lives for the better. Children enrolled in the lowest-performing schools in Chicago would be offered a school voucher to attend a private school, if their parents so choose. Modeled after successful school vouchers in other states, SB 2494 can improve private and public schools alike. The Illinois Policy Institute and other groups worked closely with a bi-partisan group of Illinois lawmakers to advance the bill out of the Illinois Senate. The legislation will now be heard in the House of Representatives.

"I appreciate the Senate taking this historic step to provide opportunities to children to achieve their full potential," said SB 2494 sponsor, Rev. Senator James Meeks, following the floor vote.

"The highest-quality research is clear on two points," said Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy for the Illinois Policy Institute. "School vouchers improve education for students who use them, and the resulting competition improves the performance of surrounding public schools. This is bold policy, but it can change the course of education in Chicago. If the Illinois House passes this legislation, families will have a better choice of schools, public schools will compete for students and improve. This can all be accomplished at no additional cost to taxpayers or public education."

Since first partnering with Rev. Senator Meeks on this school reform effort last winter, the Illinois Policy Institute has published research showing that SB 2494 can generate significant savings to state government, since the amount of school vouchers issued cannot exceed the Foundation Level of education spending. Institute publications have also shown both the success of school voucher programs in other states and the legal viability of establishing similar policies in Illinois.

Gov Quinn Comments on Passage of Historic Pension Reform Bill

SPRINGFIELD – March 24, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today issued a statement on the passage of Senate Bill 1946:

“The General Assembly tonight took an important and vital step toward rescuing Illinois from fiscal calamity by passing public pension reform. The legislation approved by the General Assembly will stabilize the public pension system, protect current state employees and provide attractive pension benefits to future state workers. I congratulate House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton for their leadership on this crucial issue. I also thank members of the General Assembly for their bi-partisan support and for bringing in a new era of greater fiscal responsibility and accountability to Illinois. I look forward to signing this important bill into law.”


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SJR Reports: IL to Layoff 450 State Troopers

The Illinois State Police will lay off more than 450 troopers and close five district offices starting in September, acting State Police director Jonathan Monken told a legislative committee this evening.

With expected retirements, the layoffs will reduce the number of sworn state troopers by about 25 percent, Monken said. The force currently has a little over 2,000 troopers.

The five district offices are those in: Litchfield, with 35 sworn officers; Carmi, 33 officers; Pecatonica, 31 officers; Macomb, 32 officers; and Chicago, 182 officers. State police have 22 offices now.

Monken said districts were chosen for closing if other police agencies were available in the area or if crime rates in an area are relatively low.

Read more in Wednesday's State Journal-Register.

NW Herald: Former IL Senator Dick Klemm Dies


CRYSTAL LAKE – Dick Klemm never lost an election.

Not one, said his district manager for 13 years, Geri Davis.

From his entry into public service on the Nunda Township board, seven years as school District 46 president, and eight years McHenry County Board president, Klemm moved to the state level where he was a representative for 12 years and served another 10 as state senator.

Klemm died from a stroke Monday. He was in his 70s.

He had previously been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer, which forced him to resign from his senate seat in 2003.

"He had a smile that could melt the hardest Democrat," Davis said. "I don't know anyone on either side of the House or the Senate who didn't like [Klemm]."

Pam Althoff was named as Klemm's replacement in the state Senate.

"He was just one of those individuals who was able to bring people together and was able to leave a wonderful legacy here in the statehouse," Althoff said through tears. "He was a true statesman."

Investors Business Daily Editorial: 20 Ways President's Healthcare Plan Limits Your Freedoms

from Investors Business Daily:

With House Democrats poised to pass the Senate health care bill with some reconciliation changes later today, it is worthwhile to take a comprehensive look at the freedoms we will lose.

Of course, the overhaul is supposed to provide us with security. But it will result in skyrocketing insurance costs and physicians leaving the field in droves, making it harder to afford and find medical care. We may be about to live Benjamin Franklin’s adage, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”

The sections described below are taken from HR 3590 as agreed to by the Senate and from the reconciliation bill as displayed by the Rules Committee.

1. You are young and don’t want health insurance? You are starting up a small business and need to minimize expenses, and one way to do that is to forego health insurance? Tough. You have to pay $750 annually for the “privilege.” (Section 1501)

2. You are young and healthy and want to pay for insurance that reflects that status? Tough. You’ll have to pay for premiums that cover not only you, but also the guy who smokes three packs a day, drink a gallon of whiskey and eats chicken fat off the floor. That’s because insurance companies will no longer be able to underwrite on the basis of a person’s health status. (Section 2701).

3. You would like to pay less in premiums by buying insurance with lifetime or annual limits on coverage? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer such policies, even if that is what customers prefer. (Section 2711).

4. Think you’d like a policy that is cheaper because it doesn’t cover preventive care or requires cost-sharing for such care? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer policies that do not cover preventive services or offer them with cost-sharing, even if that’s what the customer wants. (Section 2712).

5. You are an employer and you would like to offer coverage that doesn’t allow your employers’ slacker children to stay on the policy until age 26? Tough. (Section 2714).

6. You must buy a policy that covers ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services; chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

You’re a single guy without children? Tough, your policy must cover pediatric services. You’re a woman who can’t have children? Tough, your policy must cover maternity services. You’re a teetotaler? Tough, your policy must cover substance abuse treatment. (Add your own violation of personal freedom here.) (Section 1302).

7. Do you want a plan with lots of cost-sharing and low premiums? Well, the best you can do is a “Bronze plan,” which has benefits that provide benefits that are actuarially equivalent to 60% of the full actuarial value of the benefits provided under the plan. Anything lower than that, tough. (Section 1302 (d) (1) (A))

8. You are an employer in the small-group insurance market and you’d like to offer policies with deductibles higher than $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families? Tough. (Section 1302 (c) (2) (A).

9. If you are a large employer (defined as at least 101 employees) and you do not want to provide health insurance to your employee, then you will pay a $750 fine per employee (It could be $2,000 to $3,000 under the reconciliation changes). Think you know how to better spend that money? Tough. (Section 1513).

10. You are an employer who offers health flexible spending arrangements and your employees want to deduct more than $2,500 from their salaries for it? Sorry, can’t do that. (Section 9005 (i)).

11. If you are a physician and you don’t want the government looking over your shoulder? Tough. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to use your claims data to issue you reports that measure the resources you use, provide information on the quality of care you provide, and compare the resources you use to those used by other physicians. Of course, this will all be just for informational purposes. It’s not like the government will ever use it to intervene in your practice and patients’ care. Of course not. (Section 3003 (i))

12. If you are a physician and you want to own your own hospital, you must be an owner and have a “Medicare provider agreement” by Feb. 1, 2010. (Dec. 31, 2010 in the reconciliation changes.) If you didn’t have those by then, you are out of luck. (Section 6001 (i) (1) (A))
13. If you are a physician owner and you want to expand your hospital? Well, you can’t (Section 6001 (i) (1) (B). Unless, it is located in a country where, over the last five years, population growth has been 150% of what it has been in the state (Section 6601 (i) (3) ( E)). And then you cannot increase your capacity by more than 200% (Section 6001 (i) (3) (C)).

14. You are a health insurer and you want to raise premiums to meet costs? Well, if that increase is deemed “unreasonable” by the Secretary of Health and Human Services it will be subject to review and can be denied. (Section 1003)

15. The government will extract a fee of $2.3 billion annually from the pharmaceutical industry. If you are a pharmaceutical company what you will pay depends on the ratio of the number of brand-name drugs you sell to the total number of brand-name drugs sold in the U.S. So, if you sell 10% of the brand-name drugs in the U.S., what you pay will be 10% multiplied by $2.3 billion, or $230,000,000. (Under reconciliation, it starts at $2.55 billion, jumps to $3 billion in 2012, then to $3.5 billion in 2017 and $4.2 billion in 2018, before settling at $2.8 billion in 2019 (Section 1404)). Think you, as a pharmaceutical executive, know how to better use that money, say for research and development? Tough. (Section 9008 (b)).

16. The government will extract a fee of $2 billion annually from medical device makers. If you are a medical device maker what you will pay depends on your share of medical device sales in the U.S. So, if you sell 10% of the medical devices in the U.S., what you pay will be 10% multiplied by $2 billion, or $200,000,000. Think you, as a medical device maker, know how to better use that money, say for R&D? Tough. (Section 9009 (b)).

The reconciliation package turns that into a 2.9% excise tax for medical device makers. Think you, as a medical device maker, know how to better use that money, say for research and development? Tough. (Section 1405).

17. The government will extract a fee of $6.7 billion annually from insurance companies. If you are an insurer, what you will pay depends on your share of net premiums plus 200% of your administrative costs. So, if your net premiums and administrative costs are equal to 10% of the total, you will pay 10% of $6.7 billion, or $670,000,000. In the reconciliation bill, the fee will start at $8 billion in 2014, $11.3 billion in 2015, $1.9 billion in 2017, and $14.3 billion in 2018 (Section 1406).Think you, as an insurance executive, know how to better spend that money? Tough.(Section 9010 (b) (1) (A and B).)

18. If an insurance company board or its stockholders think the CEO is worth more than $500,000 in deferred compensation? Tough.(Section 9014).

19. You will have to pay an additional 0.5% payroll tax on any dollar you make over $250,000 if you file a joint return and $200,000 if you file an individual return. What? You think you know how to spend the money you earned better than the government? Tough. (Section 9015).

That amount will rise to a 3.8% tax if reconciliation passes. It will also apply to investment income, estates, and trusts. You think you know how to spend the money you earned better than the government? Like you need to ask. (Section 1402).

20. If you go for cosmetic surgery, you will pay an additional 5% tax on the cost of the procedure. Think you know how to spend that money you earned better than the government? Tough. (Section 9017).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ten States Prepare to Challenge Constitutionality of Healthcare Mandate to Buy Insurance

CNN) -- Ten states plan to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new health care reform bill, Florida's attorney general announced Monday.

Bill McCollum, the Republican attorney general under fellow Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, told a news conference that the lawsuit would be filed once President Obama signs the health care bill into law. He said he'll be joined by his counterparts in Alabama, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington.

AP Reports: Quinn Will Not Attempt to Challenge Healthcare Mandates in Court

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn says Illinois won't try to block the health care reform that Congress has passed.

Quinn on Monday said Illinois embraces the reforms, unlike other states.

Virginia already has announced a legal challenge. And a new Virginia law says its residents can't be forced by the government to have insurance.

Idaho's governor also has signed a measure requiring that state's attorney general to sue the federal government over mandates that require people to have coverage.

Quinn, however, says he doesn't think opponents will win in court.

CORRECTION: No Party-Line Vote on Healthcare, as Rep. Lipinski (D) Voted NO


(March 21, 2010) Today, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) released the following statement regarding his decision to vote against the Senate health care bill:

“My decision to vote against the Senate health care bill is the result of months of studying our broken health care system, developing and analyzing various proposals for reform, studying legislation, and listening closely to my constituents. I want to thank each and every one of the thousands of Third District residents who contacted me by phone, fax, email, and in person to share their views for and against the bill.

“As I have said many times, I strongly believe reform is needed to lower soaring health care costs and make insurance coverage more affordable and accessible for individuals and working families. But reform must be done right. The Senate bill does make a number of improvements to our health care system, including expanding access and reforming health insurance by doing such things as immediately banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions for children, prohibiting lifetime coverage limits, and banning rescissions. Unfortunately, the bill also contains a number of serious flaws, and many of the good aspects could have been done without passing this massive bill. The Senate bill does not do enough to lower the skyrocketing cost of health care, cuts more than $400 billion from Medicare, is not fiscally sustainable over the long term, and breaks with the status quo by providing federal funding for abortion and abortion coverage. This bill was also marred by backroom deals that benefit pharmaceutical companies and other special interests. In the final analysis, I cannot support such a deeply flawed bill.

“Last November, after successfully fighting to make numerous improvements to the initial House health care bill, I voted to move the measure forward. I did so because I did not want to give up on reform, and because I believed we might still be able to fix the flaws in the bill before a final vote. However, I made my position very clear at the time, stating: ‘If this bill does not improve when it comes back from the Senate, I will vote against it.’ Unfortunately, the final bill is in many ways worse, not better, than the House legislation.

“To deserve the name of reform, a bill of this magnitude ought to make major progress on reducing health care costs, which continue to increase at unsustainable rates. Since 1980, overall spending on health care has risen on average at almost twice the rate of inflation, and per capita health care spending is nearly double what it was 10 years ago. Unless we address these increases, health care will continue to gobble up more and more of people’s income, and more and more of our tax dollars, until we reach a breaking point. Government subsidies alone cannot solve the problem of the increasing burden that skyrocketing health care costs impose on middle class Americans. We must change payment incentives for providers and this bill does not accomplish that.

“As the Congressional Budget Office has stated, the Senate health care bill would do little to affect the cost of premiums for those who currently get their health care through large employers. Since 70 percent of Americans who are not on Medicare are in this group, this bill fails to sufficiently reduce costs for the majority of working families in the Third District. The Senate bill also does not include several specific measures that were in the House bill that could increase competition. These include the elimination of the health insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption and a provision to begin to require health care providers to disclose their prices.

“I am also concerned that the bill’s more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts could have ramifications for seniors in my district. For instance, the Senate bill reduces Medicare reimbursements to providers – such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and home health agencies – by over $200 billion. The Chief Actuary of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has stated that these cuts would likely result in roughly 20 percent of providers becoming unprofitable; this could lead to providers refusing to take care of seniors on Medicare. And if these cuts are going to be made to Medicare, the money should at least be put in the Medicare Trust Fund instead of being spent elsewhere as this bill does. In addition, unlike the House bill, the Senate bill does not allow the government to negotiate for lower drug prices, which I have long supported.

“I am also greatly concerned about the impact of this bill on our ballooning deficit. While the Congressional Budget Office has stated that the bill would officially reduce the deficit, close inspection of this analysis reveals serious problems. The CBO counts as deficit reduction over $70 billion in premiums that will be paid into the newly created CLASS Act. This well-intentioned program to provide long-term care for people with disabilities should be keeping this money in a trust fund to pay out future benefits instead of being spent elsewhere. And even if these premiums were kept in a trust fund, CBO states that the CLASS Act is fiscally unsustainable after two decades, when benefit payouts will significantly overwhelm the premiums coming in. Further, $29 billion in increased Social Security receipts are counted towards deficit reduction although they ought to remain in the Social Security Trust Fund.

“The bill also does not address this year’s scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors; when Congress votes to do this, likely later this year, it will cost over $200 billion over the next 10 years. Also, the CBO score assumes that in later years, the growth in federal subsidies would suddenly be allowed to decline, and that the tax on middle-class insurance plans – which I and many others already oppose – would be expanded. If Congress will not do these things today, why would it do so tomorrow? Taken together, these elements more than wipe out the supposed savings.

“Finally, of great concern to me and to a significant majority of my constituents, this bill changes current federal policy and provides funding for abortion. This is not acceptable. It is in direct contradiction of the Hyde Amendment, which for more than three decades has prohibited federally funded abortion. First, the bill allows federal funds to subsidize health plans in the insurance exchanges that cover abortion. For any insurance plan that receives federal subsidies and provides abortion, all participants would be required to contribute at least $1 per month that would fund abortion services, regardless of whether they want abortion coverage or not. It also opens the door for Community Health Centers receiving federal funding under the bill to use that money to pay for abortion. I do not believe the last minute effort to address these concerns through an Executive Order is sufficient because there is every indication that federal courts would strike down this order, and the order could be repealed at any time in the future.

For all of these reasons, I cannot support the health care bill. I am deeply disappointed that Congress did not develop a better bill. But whatever this bill’s fate, I will not stop fighting against special interests and for improvements to our health care system that will benefit all of the residents of the Third District. And in the days, weeks, and months ahead, I will continue working to create jobs and revive our economy.”

President Obama's Remarks Following Passage of the Healthcare Bill



March 21, 2010

East Room

11:47 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. Tonight, after nearly 100 years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying, and a year of sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared that America’s workers and America's families and America's small businesses deserve the security of knowing that here, in this country, neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.

Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. We pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. We didn't give in to mistrust or to cynicism or to fear. Instead, we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things and tackling our biggest challenges. We proved that this government -- a government of the people and by the people -- still works for the people.

I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. And I know this wasn’t an easy vote for a lot of people. But it was the right vote. I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn for their commitment to getting the job done. I want to thank my outstanding Vice President, Joe Biden, and my wonderful Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for their fantastic work on this issue. I want to thank the many staffers in Congress, and my own incredible staff in the White House, who have worked tirelessly over the past year with Americans of all walks of life to forge a reform package finally worthy of the people we were sent here to serve.

Today’s vote answers the dreams of so many who have fought for this reform. To every unsung American who took the time to sit down and write a letter or type out an e-mail hoping your voice would be heard -- it has been heard tonight. To the untold numbers who knocked on doors and made phone calls, who organized and mobilized out of a firm conviction that change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up -- let me reaffirm that conviction: This moment is possible because of you.

Most importantly, today’s vote answers the prayers of every American who has hoped deeply for something to be done about a health care system that works for insurance companies, but not for ordinary people. For most Americans, this debate has never been about abstractions, the fight between right and left, Republican and Democrat -- it’s always been about something far more personal. It’s about every American who knows the shock of opening an envelope to see that their premiums just shot up again when times are already tough enough. It’s about every parent who knows the desperation of trying to cover a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again and again. It’s about every small business owner forced to choose between insuring employees and staying open for business. They are why we committed ourselves to this cause.

Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party -- it's a victory for them. It's a victory for the American people. And it's a victory for common sense.

Now, it probably goes without saying that tonight’s vote will give rise to a frenzy of instant analysis. There will be tallies of Washington winners and losers, predictions about what it means for Democrats and Republicans, for my poll numbers, for my administration. But long after the debate fades away and the prognostication fades away and the dust settles, what will remain standing is not the government-run system some feared, or the status quo that serves the interests of the insurance industry, but a health care system that incorporates ideas from both parties -- a system that works better for the American people.

If you have health insurance, this reform just gave you more control by reining in the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections this country has ever known -- so that you are actually getting what you pay for.

If you don’t have insurance, this reform gives you a chance to be a part of a big purchasing pool that will give you choice and competition and cheaper prices for insurance. And it includes the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in history -- so that if you lose your job and you change jobs, start that new business, you’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.

This reform is the right thing to do for our seniors. It makes Medicare stronger and more solvent, extending its life by almost a decade. And it’s the right thing to do for our future. It will reduce our deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

So this isn’t radical reform. But it is major reform. This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction. This is what change looks like.

Now as momentous as this day is, it's not the end of this journey. On Tuesday, the Senate will take up revisions to this legislation that the House has embraced, and these are revisions that have strengthened this law and removed provisions that had no place in it. Some have predicted another siege of parliamentary maneuvering in order to delay adoption of these improvements. I hope that’s not the case. It’s time to bring this debate to a close and begin the hard work of implementing this reform properly on behalf of the American people. This year, and in years to come, we have a solemn responsibility to do it right.

Nor does this day represent the end of the work that faces our country. The work of revitalizing our economy goes on. The work of promoting private sector job creation goes on. The work of putting American families’ dreams back within reach goes on. And we march on, with renewed confidence, energized by this victory on their behalf.

In the end, what this day represents is another stone firmly laid in the foundation of the American Dream. Tonight, we answered the call of history as so many generations of Americans have before us. When faced with crisis, we did not shrink from our challenge -- we overcame it. We did not avoid our responsibility -- we embraced it. We did not fear our future -- we shaped it.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.


Statement by Congresswoman Melissa Bean

From Congresswoman Melissa Bean

Yesterday morning, I announced my support for the final health insurance reform legislation that will come to a vote within the next few days. After receipt and thorough review of reconciliation language and the Congressional Budget Office score, I am confident that these reforms will provide Americans with the health care security, affordability and choice they seek, while yielding an historic federal budget deficit reduction of $1.3 trillion.

You've heard a lot of distortions and misinformation about this legislation, and you've heard about process and politics, but here’s the truth about who benefits:

*32 million uninsured Americans (31,500 8th District Families) will finally have access to affordable coverage choices

*Families with insurance will have healthcare security by prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, dropping insurance when a family needs it most, or capping lifetime benefits.

*Taxpayers will benefit from the most significant deficit reduction in more than 10 years, cutting our federal deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years (according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office)

*Seniors will benefit from protections and extensions to the Medicare system, while reducing costs in the “doughnut hole” thus lowering the overall cost of lifesaving prescription drugs

*Small business owners and employees will be able to pool together to access lower rates and a wider choice of insurance plans.

As a fiscal conservative, it was important to me that this legislation benefit not just our physical health but our fiscal health as well. In addition to the deficit reduction cited above, many experts, including those at the Mayo Clinic, expect that the bill’s significant reforms are likely to present additional cost reductions for both government and the private sector.

There are many who will oppose this historic legislation because real change is never easy. Misinformation campaigns will continue, the opposition may get ugly, but one thing is clear: our economy can’t survive if we continue to spend almost $2.5 trillion on health care each year. I look forward to getting home and proudly telling my daughters about how Mom got to vote to make America healthier.

Please share this information with your loved ones, friends, neighbors and business associates. If we can save lives and save money, why would we wait?


Melissa Bean

WHITE HOUSE Issues Executive Order Regarding Restrictions on Federal Funding of Abortion


The President announced that he will be issuing an executive order after the passage of the health insurance reform law that will reaffirm its consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion.

While the legislation as written maintains current law, the executive order provides additional safeguards to ensure that the status quo is upheld and enforced, and that the health care legislation’s restrictions against the public funding of abortions cannot be circumvented.

The President has said from the start that this health insurance reform should not be the forum to upset longstanding precedent. The health care legislation and this executive order are consistent with this principle.

The President is grateful for the tireless efforts of leaders on both sides of this issue to craft a consensus approach that allows the bill to move forward.

A text of the pending executive order follows:

Executive Order

- - - - - - -

ensuring enforcement and implementation of abortion restrictions in the patient protection and affordable care act

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (approved March ­­__, 2010), I hereby order as follows:

Section 1. Policy.

Following the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“the Act”), it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), consistent with a longstanding Federal statutory restriction that is commonly known as the Hyde Amendment. The purpose of this Executive Order is to establish a comprehensive, government-wide set of policies and procedures to achieve this goal and to make certain that all relevant actors—Federal officials, state officials (including insurance regulators) and health care providers—are aware of their responsibilities, new and old.

The Act maintains current Hyde Amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those restrictions to the newly-created health insurance exchanges. Under the Act, longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience (such as the Church Amendment, 42 U.S.C. §300a-7, and the Weldon Amendment, Pub. L. No. 111-8, §508(d)(1) (2009)) remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

Numerous executive agencies have a role in ensuring that these restrictions are enforced, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Section 2. Strict Compliance with Prohibitions on Abortion Funding in Health Insurance Exchanges. The Act specifically prohibits the use of tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments to pay for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) in the health insurance exchanges that will be operational in 2014. The Act also imposes strict payment and accounting requirements to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services in exchange plans (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and requires state health insurance commissioners to ensure that exchange plan funds are segregated by insurance companies in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, OMB funds management circulars, and accounting guidance provided by the Government Accountability Office.

I hereby direct the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS to develop, within 180 days of the date of this Executive Order, a model set of segregation guidelines for state health insurance commissioners to use when determining whether exchange plans are complying with the Act’s segregation requirements, established in Section 1303 of the Act, for enrollees receiving Federal financial assistance. The guidelines shall also offer technical information that states should follow to conduct independent regular audits of insurance companies that participate in the health insurance exchanges. In developing these model guidelines, the Director of OMB and the Secretary of HHS shall consult with executive agencies and offices that have relevant expertise in accounting principles, including, but not limited to, the Department of the Treasury, and with the Government Accountability Office. Upon completion of those model guidelines, the Secretary of HHS should promptly initiate a rulemaking to issue regulations, which will have the force of law, to interpret the Act’s segregation requirements, and shall provide guidance to state health insurance commissioners on how to comply with the model guidelines.

Section 3. Community Health Center Program.

The Act establishes a new Community Health Center (CHC) Fund within HHS, which provides additional Federal funds for the community health center program. Existing law prohibits these centers from using federal funds to provide abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered), as a result of both the Hyde Amendment and longstanding regulations containing the Hyde language. Under the Act, the Hyde language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers under section 10503 and all other relevant provisions. I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of Federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law. Such actions should include, but are not limited to, updating Grant Policy Statements that accompany CHC grants and issuing new interpretive rules.

Section 4. General Provisions.

(a) Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect: (i) authority granted by law or presidential directive to an agency, or the head thereof; or (ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This Executive Order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This Executive Order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity against the United States, its departments, agencies, entities, officers, employees or agents, or any other person.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Americans for Prosperity Statement on Healthcare Passage

Chicago, Illinois – Americans for Prosperity- Illinois State Director Joe Calomino issued the following statement after the U.S. House passed the health care takeover bill:

“Today we have seen a critical setback for freedom in our country. Americans for Prosperity’s members would like to let those Illinois Congressman who voted “Yes” know that we will not forget their vote for this disastrous bill. Their votes have helped solidify a Washington takeover of our health care, the details of which we don’t even know yet.

“More than 320,000 Americans have signed AFP’s November Is Coming petition, telling House members they will vote NO on them for having voted YES on this health care bill.

“The fight over this health care takeover has been long and brutal. But something hopeful has emerged: millions of active, passionate Americans who are aware of the many threats to our freedoms and who are willing to fight.

“Those Illinois Congressman who voted “Yes” have failed to act in the best interest of the people of the United States. Instead they chose to serve the best interest of their political parties special interest groups. This fight is not over. Today we lost in Congress, but we won with the American people.”

Please visit to see how many Americans have told their House members they will hold them accountable in November for their health care vote.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a nationwide organization of citizen leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFP believes reducing the size and scope of government is the best safeguard to ensuring individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans. AFP educates and engages citizens in support of restraining state and federal government growth, and returning government to its constitutional limits. AFP has more than 1 million members, including members in all 50 states, and 30 state chapters and affiliates. More than 60,000 Americans in all 50 states have made a financial investment in AFP or AFP Foundation. For more information, visit

Illinois Congressional Delegation Votes on Healthcare Straight Down Party Lines

The Illinois Congressional delegation which has 19 members in the US House, voted along party lines, with 12 House Democrats voting in favor of the bill. And eight Republican House members all voting against passage.

DEMS VOTING FOR PASSAGE OF HEALTHCARE — Bean,Costello, Davis, Foster, Gutierrez, Halvorson,Hare, Jackson, Lipinski, Quigley,Rush, Schakowsky.

REPUBLICANS VOTING AGAINST PASSAGE OF HEALTHCARE: Biggert, Johnson, Kirk, Manzullo, Roskam, Schock, Shimkus,

Sun-Times posting of AP Story on Healthcare Passage


WASHINGTON --- Summoned to success by President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled Congress approved historic legislation Sunday night extending health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and cracking down on insurance company abuses, a climactic chapter in the century-long quest for near universal coverage.

Widely viewed as dead two months ago, the Senate-passed bill cleared the House on a 219-212 vote, with Republicans unanimous in opposition.

FULL ARTICLE,obama-house-health-care-vote-032110.article

Statement by Rep. Tim Johnson (R) on Healthcare Passage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Timothy V. Johnson (R) issued the following statement today in response to the passage of H.R. 3590.

“I voted against this legislation for many reasons. It strikes at the very core of our liberties and is a giant step toward wrecking an already fragile economy,” Rep. Johnson said. “This is a regrettable day in the history of this Congress and I want my constituents to know the dire consequences of this bill.


· $569.2 billion in tax increases

· $523.5 billion in Medicare cuts

· $48 billion more for Medicaid Expansion

“The more we learn about this legislation, the worse it is. Payoffs and favors have been passed out like candy to buy passage of a bill nobody completely understands. Even the President’s own chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services said he could not fully analyze the cost of the legislation before the vote.

“The bill contains no language that would prohibit federal funds from being used to fund elective abortions. For the past 35 years, our government has statutorily blocked the use of Federal funds being used for abortions. That is unacceptable!

“The bill projects $17 billion in tax revenue from people who cannot afford to or choose not to comply with the mandate to obtain health insurance, and $52 billion in new taxes on employers that do not provide so-called acceptable or affordable coverage. Obviously that is going to negatively impact employers and employees, especially those least able to pay.

“This bill also for the first time in history applies Medicare taxes to capital gains, dividends and other investment income. This would increase the capital gains tax from 2.9 to 3.8 percent, pushing the top capital gains rate from 15 to 23.8 percent and the top rate for dividends to 43.4 percent in conjunction with tax cuts expiring at the end of this year

“The cuts in senior health care are among the most distressing. This bill basically uses Medicare as a piggy-bank to pay for these new entitlement programs. The cuts in Medicare are so deep even the White House’s own Medicare actuaries predict that providers might end their participation. Most of these cuts will be in reduced cost-sharing that senior citizens receive through Medicare Advantage.

“Reimbursement rates will also be cut for in-patient and out-patient hospital services, long-term care facilities, psychiatric hospitals, hospice, labs, medical product suppliers and prescription drugs. Citizens in the small towns in the 15th District of Illinois will surely lose many of their doctors.

“Millions of people will be pushed into Medicaid because of this bill, with the expectation that states share in the cost. This is yet another unfunded mandate that states such as Illinois – already $14 billion in debt this year alone and unable to pay its basic obligations – simply cannot afford. The impact on schools, social services, law enforcement, and fiscal soundness is obvious.

“With states already squeezing payments to providers, Medicaid patients will find it harder and harder to find doctors and dentists to treat them. This is already occurring. Nationwide, 28.2 percent of physicians refuse to accept new Medicaid patients, including 9,472 doctors in Illinois. Illinois already has an average wait time of 103 days for Medicaid reimbursement. This will only worsen.

“Veterans too are being penalized in this headlong rush to shove this legislation through. The bill does not protect the health-care programs provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the military’s Tricare system. It does not cover children suffering from spina bifida as a result of a parent’s exposure to Agent Orange, and it does not cover dependents, widows and orphans who are served by the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our people serving in the military put their trust in the existence of these plans. Now millions of soldiers, veterans, widows and dependents are in jeopardy.

“Yet another flaw is that this bill leaves in place a marriage penalty. The structure of subsidies for health insurance offers more aid to non-married couples than married ones.

“A lesser-known aspect of this bill is that it will cause the IRS to spend an extra $10 billion in new enforcement resources. According to the House Ways and Means Committee Republicans, the IRS may need to hire as many as 16,000 new agents, auditors and other employees to investigate and collect billions in new taxes and penalties.

“The agency will have the authority to fine individuals up to $2,250 or 2 percent or your income – whichever is greater – for failure to prove you have purchased ‘minimum essential coverage.’

“This legislation expands the reach of government into the most private aspects of our lives. It removes your basic right to elect to purchase insurance or not and to choose the kind of insurance you want. The government will choose it for you, dictate coverage, and if it covers too much, you’ll be taxed.

“More than 150 new agencies, commissions and government offices will be created under this monstrosity, bloating the bureaucracy even more, and all to be overseen by 13 more ‘czars’ – unelected, highly paid bureaucrats whose reason for being is to control your health care and your life.

“Health care expansion continues an ongoing theme under this Leadership. They have built a legacy of government intrusion, entitlement and public debt that flies in the face of personal responsibility and constitutional principles of limited government. It is clear that this administration and the majority in Congress have no regard for the will of the American people. The evolution of statism in this nation is truly horrifying. It is also a call to action. Using our right to vote, November cannot come soon enough.”


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Statement by Rep. Art Turner (D) to the Democratic State Central Cmte on Why He Should be Lt Gov Candidate

From Rep. Art Turner's Campaign Website

Statement of Rep. Art Turner
to the Democratic State Central Committee
March 20, 2010

Dear Democratic Committee Members,

Thank you for the opportunity to present myself for your consideration to be our party’s nominee for Lt. Governor on the November ballot. I appreciate the weight of the task ahead of you and the seriousness with which you are treating your responsibility.

I believe that the Lt. Governor plays a vital, essential role in State government, and I absolutely disagree with those who think that this is a do-nothing office worthy of elimination.

The limited constitutional duties of the office allow the Lt. Governor to become a unique resource for public access, an ombudsman for the entire executive branch, and an advocate on important but neglected issues. As you all know, throughout its history the office has brought focus to disenfranchised populations and communities. Neil Hartigan brought the plight of senior citizens to light, Corrine Wood focused on the challenges of rural Illinois, and Pat Quinn championed veterans during his time in the office.

As you measure your choices for this position, I believe there are certain yardsticks that are best used. The first yardstick is how well a candidate is qualified for this unique role and responsibility as Lt. Governor.

As Representative for the 9th District, I serve one of the State’s poorest communities, on Chicago’s west side. For thirty years I have represented the very people that the Lt. Governor’s office can most effect. Gov. Quinn has publicly stated his belief that the Lt. Governor’s office should continue its focus on veterans. I respectfully disagree. I have every respect for veterans, have supported many pieces of legislation for them, and I will help the Illinois Dept. of Veterans Affairs continue their excellent work.

But I intend to bring my own focus to the office.

I will focus on the challenges and problems that face our State’s youth. Gang violence destroys too many young lives, and absolutely must have a high-level solution. All of our State’s responsibilities and challenges – education, budget, health care, poverty and more – all affect youth more than any other segment.

The second measure of a candidate for Lt. Governor is how effectively they can participate in government with real solutions to the challenges facing our State.

I am known as the ‘Father of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund’, which is the type of legislative solution that marks my career. The Trust Fund’s activity has created more than 25,000 jobs and $500,000,000 in taxes for local and State governments in Illinois. In addition it has helped create 15,000 first-time homeowners in safe, affordable, fixed-rate loans, 25,000 affordable rental units in safe and decent properties, 7,000 homes for the elderly and hundreds of additional homes for veterans, foster care families, the homeless and others. The Trust Fund is run by a State agency at no cost to the Illinois taxpayer, and has the strong support of both Republicans and Democrats. These bipartisan, structural solutions exist in many other areas of government – prison reform being the most glaring. These are the types of big ideas we need to enact, and I have a proven ability to do so.

The third, related duty of the Lt. Governor is to support the Governor, and help pass his agenda through the legislature.

I submit that Speaker Madigan is a master politician, and that over the course of nearly two decades at his leadership table in the State House I have learned something unique and of significant value. With this training, and working with five different Governors, there is no one better qualified nor more knowledgeable than I to help legislators reach out to the executive branch, or to help the Governor connect with legislators for the benefit of all. Those who feel that the problems in Illinois are due to ‘career politicians’ are simply wrong. Legislation is difficult, experience is valuable, and successful legislators work very hard at their jobs.

I believe another important yardstick should be how well the candidate serves the Democratic Party’s ideals as the Lt. Governor nominee.

The Democratic Party does not need quotas of any kind.
There is no magic formula of downstate versus Chicago, of whites, or women, or minorities on a ballot that will guarantee Democrats a victory in November. Instead of hailing from a particular community or region, we need a nominee who has an honest

connection and a true understanding of the challenges facing all the State’s communities and populations.

I know the loss of manufacturing jobs is just as painful to rural and downstate communities as it is to my inner-city neighborhood. The brain drain and flight that hurt my Lawndale community is no different from other areas of the State that face declining populations. And the social problems we face as a State are certainly as acute in my community as anywhere. As Democrats we need to leave the politics of division and us-versus-them to other parties.

Similarly, the Democratic Party must not make this decision based on fundraising ability, as some have suggested.

Someone unqualified for office, but with access to too much money is what got our Party into this situation in the first place. (I need not to mention our previous Governor’s brilliance in fundraising, too.) In thirty years combined I have not raised half what one recent opponent spent on one primary election. Instead of fundraising acumen, I have independence and integrity. I was first elected as an independent democrat, and I have continued my independence for my entire career.

The Democratic Party does need to select someone who can win.

Some may say that my second place finish is bad sign, but I disagree. As a complete unknown in a crowded five-person race, I spent less than $60k on media but received 182,000 votes, took second place against someone who spent more than $2 million, and carried Cook County where the majority of voters exist. I take this as proof of my ability to win in November, and my ability to appeal to all Illinois voters. We just need an introduction.

I do not want to be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor because I came in second. I do not want to be your nominee because of my home address or the shade of my skin, or because some feel I am owed it, or because I have the support of any particular person or organization. I want to be our Party’s nominee because when you consider the duties of the Lt. Governor and the needs of the Democratic Party, I am the most qualified and the best choice. I want to be your nominee because I passionately believe in the ideals and principles of our Party as I have proven for the past thirty years, and because I will fight tirelessly for our entire slate between now and November 2.

The choice of our Lt. Governor candidate will say a great deal about our Party. Have we sufficiently prepared for leadership with this selection? Or are we making poor choices based on shallow reasoning? I know you take your responsibility seriously, and I ask that you entrust me with this great obligation as our Democratic Party nominee for Lt. Governor of Illinois.

House Speaker Madigan Spokesman, Steve Brown, on the Process of Selecting a Democratic Candidate for Lt. Governor

Part of the Illinois Channel's Coverage this week, as we look - in part - at the process and politics in selecting a person to be the Democratic Candidate for Illinois Lt Governor.

Democratic Party Officials Audition Candidates for Lt Governor

NOTE: The Illinois Channel on Monday will air our interview with Speaker Madigan's Press Secretary, Steve Brown on the Lt Gov selection process for filling the slot on the Dem Ballot. That will be followed by Prof. Paul Green also commenting on that -- and other issues -- as he is interviewed by our Contributing Correspondent, Jeff Berkowitz.

The auditions/interviews noted in the article below took place in Chicago, though the article has a Springfield dateline.


SPRINGFIELD — Audition day in the Democratic Party brought out a used-car salesman, veteran legislators, an expert on bat houses and a political legend's daughter — all hoping to become the party's nominee for lieutenant governor of Illinois.

In presentations to party leaders Saturday, some argued that they have the government know-how a state official needs. Others stressed their business experience. Some made the case that they understand the interests and worries of regular voters.

"I get to hear what people think," said Jose Ruiz, a 29-year-old Chicago car salesman. "I think my everyday experience has been more than enough to get me ready for any position."

The applicants also included some of the people who failed to win the nomination in last month's primary election.

"Ten thousand signatures, 30,000 miles and $150,000 later, I'm still trying," said Rep. Arthur Turner, who finished second in the primary.

The original nominee for lieutenant governor, Scott Lee Cohen, withdrew in an embarrassing episode for the party. Democratic leaders pressured him to drop out after allegations of domestic abuse, steroid use and failure to pay child support.

Officials decided to throw open the search for Gov. Pat Quinn's new running mate. They allowed anyone interested in the job to apply online and present their argument to the Democratic Central Committee. More than 100 people made their cases at five hearings in Chicago, its suburbs and Springfield.

Applicants praised the very public search as a way to promote interest in the job and to fight the image of Illinois as a place where every political decision is a backroom deal.

But some also said the process might amount to nothing more than political theater.

"I have to move forward as if it's a serious process. I don't know if that's the case," said Rayne Devivo, a stay-at-home mother from LeRoy.

Devivo said she has worked in state government as an assistant attorney general, among other things. Many others have no state experience.

Robert Nelson of Rochester, for instance, said he's a former school bus driver and an environmentalist. He told the committee that he designs bat houses and gives demonstrations on how to build snowshoes.

The applicants also included former Marines, advocates of legalizing marijuana, a radio DJ, the East St. Louis city treasurer and a volunteer firefighter.

One would-be lieutenant governor, Sheila Simon, called them "a really neat group of folks."

Simon, a law professor at Southern Illinois University, is the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon. She told the committee that she's been part of political campaigns since the age of 7 and understands the rigors of running for statewide office.

In the end, 17 applicants survived the initial screening process and will be considered March 27, when the full Democratic Central Committee is expected to pick a nominee.

The finalists include Turner, Simon and Sen. Susan Garrett, who is on Quinn's list of possibilities. Some relative unknowns also made the cut, including Glenview businesswoman Megan Drilling and DuPage County Board member Dirk Enger.

Committee members are divided on how they'll decide who gets the nomination.

Some say they'll give great deference to Quinn's preference, which the governor says he will reveal in the coming week. Others argue that Turner, the second-place finisher, deserves the nomination.

Rep. Constance Howard, D-Chicago, compared the situation to the Miss America contest. If the winner drops out, she said, the runner-up takes over.

Michael Madigan, chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, offered little guidance on how the decision will be made next Saturday.

"I'm sure the members of the committee, like I, will be greatly interested in the opinion of the governor. We're very interested in working with him," Madigan said.

Sun Times: IL House Votes to Lower Pension Benefits for New Judges and Lawmakers


SPRINGFIELD -- Future legislators and judges would qualify for less generous retirement benefits under a partial fix to the state's financially buried pension systems that passed the Illinois House Friday.

"The first thing you have to do is stop digging if you're in a hole. Today is the day that we stop digging," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park), the pension legislation's chief House sponsor.

Under the plan, which passed 109-0, incoming legislators and judges would have to wait until they are 67 to draw full pension benefits. Now, they can draw full benefits as young as 55 years old.

The plan would base their pensions on 60 percent of their final salaries rather than the current 85 percent.

Annual, post-retirement, cost-of-living adjustments would be capped at half the rate of inflation or 3 percent, whichever is less. Now, retirees in the General Assembly Retirement System and Judges Retirement System get automatic 3 percent annual increases.

McCarthy said the changes don't pertain to sitting lawmakers or judges because of a constitutional provision that bars the diminishment of pension benefits to them, though some Republicans disagree with that interpretation.

The establishment of a two-tiered pension system, in which existing judges and lawmakers fare better than future ones, would save the state $1.65 billion by 2045, according to a House Democratic analysis of the legislation.

However, the changes would generate only $22 million of short-term relief toward the $4.6 billion contribution the state must make toward its pension systems next year under a 1995 law designed to make the retirement funds 90 percent funded by 2045, McCarthy said.

The House's vote represented one of the rare moments this spring when ruling Democrats and the GOP minority have come together in responding to the state's $13 billion budget deficit, which is fueled partly by huge shortfalls in Illinois' five public retirement systems.

"It would be nice if this was all done in a bipartisan manner, but I'm not sure what's going to happen. Let's take advantage of saying this was a good move," said House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), who contended his members supported McCarthy's bill despite not being given a voice in its creation.

One government watchdog characterized Friday's vote as the first "significant pension reform" lawmakers have imposed on Illinois' retirement systems in years, but stressed it remains far short of what is necessary to defuse the state's pension time bomb.

"While it's a positive first step, it's neither comprehensive nor does it effectively address the greater financial challenges facing the state," said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation.

Msall's group and Gov. Quinn have advocated major pension belt-tightening for state employees, university workers and suburban and Downstate teachers, as well. A plan pertaining to those groups is expected to surface as early as next week in the state Senate.

But AFSCME Council 31 and the state's teachers unions have dug in against any weakening of their benefit packages, and their sway over lawmakers is sure to be enhanced given that this is an election year.

"Those groups are little bit more well-organized than General Assembly members or judges," McCarthy said, acknowledging the tough road ahead in securing more expansive pension reforms.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Alabama Shows How Illinois Can Turn Its Pensions Around?

As in any enterprise -- you've got to take some intelligent risk. You can't turn a failing system around merely by cutting costs. In this CNN report, we see how Alabama's Pension system turned itself around by raising money through smart investments.

President Obama's Remarks on Healthcare at George Mason University

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. It’s good to be back with some real Patriots. (Applause.) I want to thank Dr. Alan Merten, the President of George Mason University, and his family. (Applause.) Dr. Shirley Travis, who’s here -- thank you. And Coach Larranaga, we were just talking a little bit about -- (applause) -- looking forward to picking George Mason in my bracket next year. (Applause.)


THE PRESIDENT: I love you! (Applause.) I don’t know if some of you remember, but I visited this university about three years ago for the first time. (Applause.) This was at just the dawn of my presidential campaign. It was about three weeks old, I think. We didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have a lot of staff. Nobody could pronounce my name. (Laughter.) Our poll numbers were quite low. And a lot of people -- a lot of people in Washington, they didn’t think it was even worth us trying.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes we can! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: They had counted us out before we had even started, because the Washington conventional wisdom was that change was too hard. But what we had even then was a group of students here at George Mason -- (applause) -- who believed that if we worked hard enough and if we fought long enough, if we organized enough supporters, then we could finally bring change to that city across the river. (Applause.) We believed that despite all the resistance, we could make Washington work. Not for the lobbyists, not for the special interests, not for the politicians, but for the American people. (Applause.)

And now three years later, I stand before you, one year after the worst recession since the Great Depression, having to make a bunch of tough decisions, having had a tumultuous debate, having had a lot of folks who were skeptical that we could get anything done. And right now, we are at the point where we are going to do something historic this weekend. That’s what this health care vote is all about. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

THE PRESIDENT: A few miles from here, Congress is in the final stages of a fateful debate about the future of health insurance in America. (Applause.) It’s a debate that’s raged not just for the past year but for the past century. One thing when you’re in the White House, you’ve got a lot of history books around you. (Laughter.) And so I’ve been reading up on the history here. Teddy Roosevelt, Republican, was the first to advocate that everybody get health care in this country. (Applause.) Every decade since, we’ve had Presidents, Republicans and Democrats, from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon to JFK to Lyndon Johnson to -- every single President has said we need to fix this system. It’s a debate that’s not only about the cost of health care, not just about what we’re doing about folks who aren’t getting a fair shake from their insurance companies. It’s a debate about the character of our country -– (applause) -- about whether we can still meet the challenges of our time; whether we still have the guts and the courage to give every citizen, not just some, the chance to reach their dreams. (Applause.)

At the heart of this debate is the question of whether we’re going to accept a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people -- (applause) -- because if this vote fails, the insurance industry will continue to run amok. They will continue to deny people coverage. They will continue to deny people care. They will continue to jack up premiums 40 or 50 or 60 percent as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever. They know this. And that’s why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak, and pouring millions of dollars into negative ads. And that’s why they are doing everything they can to kill this bill.

So the only question left is this: Are we going to let the special interests win once again?


THE PRESIDENT: Or are we going to make this vote a victory for the American people? (Applause.)

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can!

THE PRESIDENT: George Mason, the time for reform is right now. (Applause.) Not a year from now, not five years from now, not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now -- it’s now. (Applause.) We have had -- we have had a year of hard debate. Every proposal has been put on the table. Every argument has been made. We have incorporated the best ideas from Democrats and from Republicans into a final proposal that builds on the system of private insurance that we currently have. The insurance industry and its supporters in Congress have tried to portray this as radical change. (Applause.)

Now, I just -- I just want to be clear, everybody. Listen up, because we have heard every crazy thing about this bill. You remember. First we heard this was a government takeover of health care. Then we heard that this was going to kill granny. Then we heard, well, illegal immigrants are going to be getting the main benefits of this bill. There has been -- they have thrown every argument at this legislative effort. But when it -- it turns out, at the end of the day, what we’re talking about is common-sense reform. That’s all we’re talking about. (Applause.)

If you like your doctor, you’re going to be able to keep your doctor. If you like your plan, keep your plan. I don’t believe we should give government or the insurance companies more control over health care in America. I think it’s time to give you, the American people, more control over your health. (Applause.)

And since you’ve been hearing a whole bunch of nonsense, let’s just be clear on what exactly the proposal that they’re going to vote on in a couple of days will do. It’s going to -- it’s going to change health care in three ways. Number one, we are going to end the worst practices of insurance companies. (Applause.) This is -- this is a patient’s bill of rights on steroids. (Laughter.) Starting this year, thousands of uninsured Americans with preexisting conditions will be able to purchase health insurance, some for the very first time. (Applause.) Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions. (Applause.) Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned from dropping your coverage when you get sick. (Applause.) And they’ve been spending a lot of time weeding out people who are sick so they don’t have to pay benefits that people have already paid for. Those practices will end.

If this reform becomes law, all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care to their customers. (Applause.) If you buy a new plan, there won’t be lifetime or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care you receive from your insurance companies. (Applause.) And by the way, to all the young people here today, starting this year if you don’t have insurance, all new plans will allow you to stay on your parents’ plan until you are 26 years old. (Applause.)

So you’ll have some security when you graduate. If that first job doesn’t offer coverage, you’re going to know that you’ve got coverage. Because as you start your lives and your careers, the last thing you should be worried about is whether you’re going to go broke or make your parents broke just because you get sick. (Applause.) All right?

So that’s the first thing this legislation does -- the toughest insurance reforms in history. And by the way, when you talk to Republicans and you say, well, are you against this? A lot of them will say, no, no, that part’s okay. (Laughter.) All right, so let’s go to the second part.

The second thing that would change about the current system is that for the first time, small business owners and people who are being priced out of the insurance market will have the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of Congress give to themselves. (Applause.)

So what this means is, is that small business owners and middle-class families, they’re going to be able to be part of what’s called a big pool of customers that can negotiate with the insurance companies. And that means they can purchase more affordable coverage in a competitive marketplace. (Applause.) So they’re not out there on their own just shopping. They’re part of millions of people who are shopping together. And if you still can’t afford the insurance in this new marketplace, even though it’s going to be cheaper than what you can get on your own, then we’re going to offer you tax credits to help you afford it -– tax credits that add up to the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in American history. (Applause.)

Now, these tax credits cost money. Helping folks who can’t afford it right now, that does cost some money. It costs about $100 billion per year. But most of the cost --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: That’s all right. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s the reason it’s all right. (Laughter.) Here’s the reason it’s all right. It wouldn’t be all right if we weren’t paying for it -- and by the way, that's what a previous Congress did with the prescription drug plan. All they did was they gave the benefits and they didn’t pay for it.

That's not what we’re doing. What we’re doing is we’re taking money that America is already spending in the health care system, but is being spent poorly, that's going to waste and fraud and unwarranted subsidies for the insurance companies, and we’re taking that money and making sure those dollars go towards making insurance more affordable. (Applause.)

So we’re going to eliminate wasteful taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies. (Applause.) We’re going to set a new fee on insurance companies that stand to gain millions of new customers. (Applause.) So here’s the point: This proposal is paid for. Unlike some of these previous schemes in Washington, we’re not taking out the credit card in your name, young people, and charging it to you. We’re making sure this thing is paid for. (Applause.) All right, so that's the second thing.

Now, the third thing that this legislation does is it brings down the cost of health care for families and businesses and the federal government. (Applause.) Americans who are buying comparable coverage in the individual market would end up seeing their premiums go down 14 to 20 percent. (Applause.) Americans who get their insurance through the workplace, cost savings could be as much as $3,000 less per employer than if we do nothing. Now, think about that. That’s $3,000 your employer doesn’t have to pay, which means maybe she can afford to give you a raise. (Applause.)

And by the way, if you’re curious, well, how exactly are we saving these costs? Well, part of it is, again, we’re not spending our health care money wisely. So, for example, you go to the hospital or you go to a doctor and you may take five tests, when it turns out if you just took one test, then you send an e-mail around with the test results, you wouldn’t be paying $500 per test. So we’re trying to save money across the system. (Applause.) And altogether, our cost-cutting measures would reduce most people’s premiums. And here’s the bonus: It brings down our deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next two decades. (Applause.)

So you’ve got -- you’ve got a whole bunch of opponents of this bill saying, well, we can’t afford this; we’re fiscal conservatives. These are the same guys who passed that prescription drug bill without paying for it, adding over $1 trillion to our deficit -- “Oh, we can’t afford this.” But this bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office -- which is the referee, the scorekeeper for how much things cost -- says we’ll save us $1 trillion. Not only can we afford to do this, we can’t afford not to do this. (Applause.)

So here’s the bottom line. That’s our proposal: toughest insurance reforms in history, one of the biggest deficit-reduction plans in history, and the opportunity to give millions of people -- some of them in your own family, some of the people who are in this auditorium today -- an opportunity for the first time in a very long time to get affordable health care. That’s it. That’s what we’re trying to do. (Applause.) That’s what the Congress of the United States is about to vote on this weekend.

Now, it would be nice if we were just kind of examining the substance, we were walking through the details of the plan, what it means for you. But that’s not what the cable stations like to talk about. (Laughter.) What they like to talk about is the politics of the vote. What does this mean in November? What does it mean to the poll numbers? Is this more of an advantage for Democrats or Republicans? What’s it going to mean for Obama? Will his presidency be crippled, or will he be the comeback kid? (Applause.) That’s what they like to talk about. That’s what they like to talk about. I understand.

One of the things you realize is basically that a lot of reporting in Washington, it’s just like SportsCenter. It’s considered a sport, and who’s up and who’s down, and everybody’s keeping score. And you got the teams going at it. It’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. (Laughter.)

Look, let me say this, George Mason: I don’t know how this plays politically. Nobody really does. I mean, there’s been so much misinformation and so much confusion and the climate at times during the course of this year has been so toxic and people are so anxious because the economy has been going through such a tough time. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the politics on this thing. I don’t know whether my poll numbers go down, they go up. I don’t know what happens in terms of Democrats versus Republicans.

But here’s what I do know. I do know that this bill, this legislation, is going to be enormously important for America’s future. (Applause.) I do know the impact it will have on the millions of Americans who need our help, and the millions more who may not need help right now but a year from now or five years from now or 10 years from now, if they have some bad luck; if, heaven forbid, they get sick; if they’ve got a preexisting condition; if their child has a preexisting condition; if they lose their job; if they want to start a company -- I know the impact it will have on them. (Applause.)

I know what this reform will mean for people like Leslie Banks, a single mom I met in Pennsylvania. She’s trying to put her daughter through college, just like probably some of your moms and dads are trying to put you through college. And her insurance company just sent her a letter saying they plan to double her premium this year -– have it go up 100 percent. And she can’t afford it. So now she’s trying to figure out, am I going to keep my insurance or am I going to keep my daughter in college? Leslie Banks needs us to pass this reform bill. (Applause.)

I know what reform will mean for people like Laura Klitzka. I met Laura up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, while I was campaigning. She thought she had beaten her breast cancer. Then she discovered it had spread to her bones. And she and her insurance -- she and her husband, they were lucky enough to have insurance, but their medical bills still landed them in debt. So now she’s spending time worrying about the debt when all she wants to do is think about how she can spend time with her two kids. Laura needs us to pass this reform bill. (Applause.)

I know what reform will mean for people like Natoma Canfield. When her insurance company raised her rates, she had to give up her coverage, even though she had been paying thousands of dollars in premiums for years, because she had beaten cancer 11 years earlier. They kept on jacking up her rates, jacking up her rates. Finally she thought she was going to lose her home. She was scared that a sudden illness would lead to financial ruin, but she had no choice. Right now she’s lying in a hospital bed, faced with paying for such an illness, after she had to give up her health insurance. She’s praying that somehow she can afford to get well. She knows that it is time for reform.

So George Mason, when you hear people saying, well, why don't we do this more incrementally, why don't we do this a little more piecemeal, why don't we just help the folks that are easiest to help -- my answer is the time for reform is now. We have waited long enough. (Applause.) We have waited long enough.

And in just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote. (Applause.) We’ve had historic votes before. We had a historic vote to put Social Security in place to make sure that our elderly did not live out their golden years in poverty. We had a historic vote in civil rights to make sure that everybody was equal under the law. (Applause.) As messy as this process is, as frustrating as this process is, as ugly as this process can be, when we have faced such decisions in our past, this nation, time and time again, has chosen to extend its promise to more of its people. (Applause.)

You know, the naysayers said that Social Security would lead to socialism. (Laughter.) But the men and women of Congress stood fast and created that program that lifted millions out of poverty. (Applause.)

There were cynics that warned that Medicare would lead to a government takeover of our entire health care system, and that it didn’t have much support in the polls. But Democrats and Republicans refused to back down, and they made sure that our seniors had the health care that they needed and could have some basic peace of mind. (Applause.)

So previous generations, those who came before us, made the decision that our seniors and our poor, through Medicaid, should not be forced to go without health care just because they couldn’t afford it. Today it falls to this generation to decide whether we will make that same promise to hardworking middle-class families and small businesses all across America, and to young Americans like yourselves who are just starting out. (Applause.)

So here’s my bottom line. I know this has been a difficult journey. I know this will be a tough vote. I know that everybody is counting votes right now in Washington. But I also remember a quote I saw on a plaque in the White House the other day. It’s hanging in the same room where I demanded answers from insurance executives and just received a bunch of excuses. And it was a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, the person who first called for health care reform -- that Republican -- all those years ago. And it said, “Aggressively fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.”

Now, I don’t know how passing health care will play politically -- but I know it’s right. (Applause.) Teddy Roosevelt knew it was right. Harry Truman knew that it was right. Ted Kennedy knew it was right. (Applause.) And if you believe that it’s right, then you've got to help us finish this fight. You've got to stand with me just like you did three years ago and make some phone calls and knock on some doors, talk to your parents, talk to your friends. Do not quit, do not give up, we keep on going. (Applause.) We are going to get this done. We are going to make history. We are going to fix health care in America with your help. (Applause.)

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)