Appropriations bill includes Guard health care plan

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s pleased that a congressional conference committee has agreed to include his plan to provide health care to members of the National Guard as part of the Iraqi appropriations bill. Under Leahy’s proposal, members of the Guard and Reserves would be able to enroll in a special health care access program as soon as their unit is activated.

Leahy says the measure is needed because many Guard members lack comprehensive health care when they are called up to serve their country.

(Leahy) “They will go over to Iraq if they’re called, but I think they ought to have at least the basic consideration of what they leave behind. Maybe families without health insurance, they have to leave their job, they’ve lost the health insurance they had. We ought to be able to fill in the gap especially as it would be a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of what we’re going to give to the Iraqis.”

(Host) Late last week President Bush said he might veto the Iraqi appropriation bill if it included the proposal, but Leahy doubts that the president will take this action.

(Leahy) “If he were to veto that bill I think it would be the most devastating blow to morale that you could imagine. Basically what it would say is, we don’t care about your families, we don’t care about your health care. Just answer the call, here’s your weapon, go over there to Iraq.”

(Host) Leahy says a recent report that documented the lack of proper medical care for Guard members who have served in Iraq underscores the need for his plan.

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