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  • bluecheese4u bluecheese4u Nov 21, 2009 2:09 PM Flag

    TAX Cadillac HealthCare plans ~ UAW members talk about opting out of company HealthCare Plans

    TAX Cadillac HealthCare plans ~ UAW members talk about opting out of company HealthCare Plans

    Wilson stands by his vote

    STEUBENVILLE - U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-St. Clairsville, stands by his favorable vote on the House version of the health care reform bill.

    Wilson told nearly 5,500 constituents on a district telephone conference, "It was not an easy vote for me to make, but in the end I had to look at what was best for all of you."

    Wilson said the bill will help 13,000 small businesses in the 6th Congressional District, as well as closing the "doughnut hole" for prescription coverage for seniors, and 174,000 households to be able to afford better coverage.

    Wilson addressed a number of health care issues in response to questions:

    The House version of the bill would put a health surtax on individuals earning more than $500,000 a year and couples making more than $1 million a year, while the Senate is proposing taxing so-called "Cadillac" health care plans. An autoworker from Columbiana County said his fellow UAW members are talking about opting out of company health care in exchange for more salary if a proposed 40 percent tax is put in place on their coverage.

    "Most of the UAW and other union workers over the years gave up wages to get the insurance they have, that's why I don't think it's a fair way of paying for a new program," Wilson said. "I hope it comes out of the conference committee without that, or we will work to find another way to fund it. This bill will not fix everything, but it is a good first step to fix something that is hurting the economy, employment and everything else in the country."

    To pay for the bill without raising the deficit, a focus on eliminating fraud and abuse in Medicare will be made, Wilson said.

    "There will be no new debt that will arise out of this health care reform," he said.

    Wilson was asked to comment on this week's recommendation by a government panel for eliminating mammograms on an annual basis for women under age 40 as an indicator of what a government health system would represent.

    "My sister, Becky, had breast cancer at age 46," Wilson said. "We need to make sure that we have screening available for ladies at age 40, not 50 like they're saying in their statistics. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has assured me there will be no change in government policy in mammogram screenings. I have it in my own family."

    On the question of Medicare being cut to pay for the health care plan, Wilson said, "I feel no senior citizen will lose benefits under this program. If anything, it will make Medicare much stronger and make it expand into the future."

    On closing the "doughnut hole," where seniors have to pay for their own prescriptions fully for part of the year once certain purchase levels are met, Wilson said the House bill would eliminate $500 of that during the first year, as well as offering a 50 percent discount on name-brand drugs. The rest of the gap would be closed over a number of years.

    Wilson also addressed a number of other issues:

    Congress voted this year not to fund ACORN, he said.

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    • part two

      The Congressional Steel Caucus hasn't been meeting because of the focus on health care reform, but soon will get back on track. Wilson said he hasn't received answers to his questions about the future of Severstal plants in the area, though he noted the plan to put Yorkville back to work.

      Wilson said he is in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to agree to join a union by simply signing a form.

      "There really has been a lessening of the ability of the middle class families to get ahead, especially in the last 10 years or so. When you shrink the middle class, you take away our ability to run our economy properly," Wilson said. "I look forward to seeing us get back to a fair day's wage for a fair day's work."

      Wilson said credit card companies began jacking up interest rates in advance of a Feb. 1 federal control deadline, so the deadline has been moved to Dec. 1. Wilson said he's proud of the credit card reform act that was signed into law and the work being done to develop a financial consumer protection agency, though he noted work is being done to avoid an adverse impact on small community banks.

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