November 2007

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News and Opinion

Letters to the Editor

A New Prescription for Pennsylvania 

This month, hundreds of small business owners, workers, and faith community representatives joined Governor Rendell and state legislators to urge the General Assembly to pass the health care reform initiative, "Prescription for Pennsylvania."

The plan would extend health care to 800,000 Pennsylvanians who are not currently covered, including 70% of that number who are employed.

For decades the Jewish Labor Committee and many other Jewish organizations, have advocated health care reform to widen access, lower the cost, and improve the delivery system to health care. Sadly, tragically for some families, the proposals have remained in tact as the numbers of uninsured people has inexcusably risen. There is no way of knowing what percentage of the 800,000 are Jewish, however as the 1993 statement of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism noted, "Jewish values demand that we work to create a society where no one is denied proper medical care."

The governor has offered us an opportunity to accomplish several elements of health care reform. Prescription for PA expands health insurance for the uninsured while reducing costs to all. The plan offers affordable health insurance for nearly all of our citizens, while controlling costs for employees and individuals who have suffered because of illness and soaring insurance premiums. It will be funded by increased taxes on tobacco and a 3% fair share payroll assessment only on companies that do not provide insurance (small business are excluded from an assessment initially). The plan would expand our current employer based insurance system to more workers, while allowing business to offer quality insurance at an affordable price.

Prescription for PA addresses the top two concerns of business owners. According to the Pennsylvania Chamber poll this summer, the number one issue for business owners is "controlling the costs of health care" and the number one deterrent to doing business in Pennsylvania is the high cost of health care.

On October 1, the Pennsylvanians United for Affordable Healthcare poll revealed that 66% of voters are concerned with the "rising cost of health care premiums." This concern is corroborated with the Hewitt Associates study predicting health care premiums will jump 8.7% in 2008. In addition, Prescription for PA will not allow insurers to exclude people with pre-existing conditions or charge exorbitant rates to employers with workers who have serious medical conditions. It will require insurers to put 85% of their premiums into providing health care.

The Pennsylvanians United poll also showed 66% of Pennsylvania voters support the Governor’s plan after knowing something about it. The compelling conclusion is that health care reform is one of the most pressing issues for business and families, and should be one of the most burning legislative issues for the next nine months.

Prescription for Pennsylvania makes economic sense for families and businesses, it is on the table, and it’s consistent with Jewish values. "We are all created b'tzelem Elohim -- in the image of God -- health is not a luxury, and it should not be the sole possession of a privileged few". Now is the time to contact your state senators and representatives. As the governor said, "It is time to do the right thing."

-- Seth Goldstein, President, Jewish Labor Committee, Philadelphia, PA
-- Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Mishkan Shalom, Philadelphia, PA
-- Rabbi Elliot Holin, Congregation Kol Ami, Philadelphia, PA

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice welcomes the submission of articles and letters to the editor letters @ pjvoice.com. Please include name, address and phone number for identification purposes. We cannot publish every submission we receive. We also reserve the right to edit submissions for length, clarity, grammar, accuracy, and style, though we will never intentionally distort the author's intent.

Editor-in-chief Charles Smolover editor @ pjvoice.com

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