(Host) Congressman Peter Welch says he’ll support the health care reform bill when it comes up for a vote in the U.S. House this weekend because it will help provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
Welch says the bill also includes some provisions that assure the future of the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) After months of debate, members of the U.S. House are scheduled to vote on a compromise health care reform bill in a rare Sunday session.
The legislation mandates that all individuals have health insurance coverage and it provides subsidies to the uninsured to help make this coverage more affordable. The bill also contains a number of insurance company reforms.
Opponents argue that the plan will lead to a government take over of health care and will significantly expand the nation’s deficit.
Welch disagrees with this assessment:
(Welch) "Those of us who support health care reform have to also be modest. This is a step – it’s not an answer and I think what we all have to do is draw a deep breath and acknowledge that health care is absolutely essential to our families, to our businesses and to our economy. And we have to work together starting when we pass this bill to revamp our system and have quality rewarded and then bring the cost into control."
(Kinzel) Welch says the legislation will also lower premiums for people who currently have insurance:
(Welch) "Anyone with insurance with a family plan pays about 1100 dollars of their premium to cover the cost of the uninsured. When this plan gets implemented, then folks without insurance are going to have insurance so that’s going to lower the premium in the cost shift."
(Kinzel) Welch says he was initially disappointed to learn that Democratic leaders wanted to include an overhaul of the nation’s student loan program in the health care bill because the plan consolidates all future loans through the federal government.
It’s a provision that would make it impossible for the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation to make loans to Vermonters in the future.
But under a new compromise, non profit groups like VSAC will still be able to play a role in making direct loans to students:
(Welch) "To make it clear that there’s a big distinction between a non profit organization like VSAC that’s providing direct services to our kids, versus a big bank like say Citibank that is using a student loan to line the pockets of the executives. It’s that simple."
(Kinzel) VSAC will also be able to continue to offer all of its outreach services to students in the state.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.