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Oberstar will support health care bill

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar said Saturday he will vote today in support of the health care reform package.

"I have evaluated the issues of health care for 35 years and very intensively for this past year as Congress has worked on the major reform legislation," said Oberstar, DFL-8th District, in a statement.

"The fine points of this health care bill have now been defined, and in my judgment, the balance of benefits are in favor of this bill. That will benefit the people of the 8th Congressional District and the American people," he said.

Oberstar original opposed the measure as it was universally thought to allow for taxpayer-funded abortions. That's apparently not the case.

"I am confident that abortion will not be funded in this legislation," Oberstar said. "Current law dating back to October 1979 (Public Law 96-86) has contained a federal prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortion in community health centers. Conscious clause protections that have existed in the past will remain in effect and in the future, and the legislation prohibits the use of federal tax credits and cost-sharing assistance to pay for abortion."

The bill is a compromise measure offered by President Barack Obama that includes the best out of original House and Senate bills. The House earlier passed its bill but the Senate did not take a final vote in light of losing its 60-vote edge to stop filibusters.

"This bill will assure that no one's current health care can be dropped," Oberstar said. "No one will be forced out of their health care they now hold. No one will be denied because of a previously existing condition. No one can have their health insurance dropped because of lifetime caps or be denied when they need their health insurance the most. People will be able to retain health insurance if they change jobs."

A week ago, 25 anti-abortion Catholic and Evangelical leaders urged members of Congress not to let misleading information about the abortion provisions in the Senate health care bill block passage of health care reform, a previous Oberstar statement said. And the Catholic Health Association, representing 1,200 medical facilities, issued a statement of support for the Senate bill.

The House today is to pass two bills with one vote. One bill goes directly to Obama for his signature and the second to the Senate with corrections to its bill, which will be passed as a reconciliation matter and also sent to Obama.

For seniors, the new legislation closes the doughnut hole that has existed for five years, which will save seniors thousands of dollars in prescription drug costs. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents' policy until age 26, Oberstar said.

"This bill represents a massive step forward in quality health care for the people of the 8th Congressional District," he said. "Included in this legislation is a major improvement in the Medicare reimbursement formula. The longstanding geographic disparity in Medicare has severely disadvantaged Northland health care providers, and the reimbursement gap will be closed as we move toward payment parity with the rest of the country."