At a forum today on the uninsured crisis in America, Congressman Adam Smith (D-09, Tacoma) called on Congress to take action to help states deal with the ballooning numbers of uninsured individuals.  

The forum offered a look at the nation’s pending uninsured crisis, discussed ways in which small businesses in Washington can provide coverage to their employees at reasonable cost and presented both long- and short-term strategies to combat the problem.  

 “Health care costs continue to rise, and an increasing number of Americans feel unsure about the quality of their health care and whether or not they will have insurance a year from today,” said Smith.  “Washington state, like many other states around the country, is currently experiencing budgetary shortfalls, and with our economy in a downturn as well, it is crucial that people have the tools to take care of themselves and their families.  Access to quality health care is one of those fundamental needs.”

 “From annual check-ups to specialist visits to affordable prescription drugs, many of our neighbors aren’t getting the basic services they need.  To combat this, I believe we must make it a goal that every American has health insurance,” continued Smith.  “Not only will this clearly help the 43 million who currently do not have health care, but it makes good economic sense for all of us - people who don't have health care get their medical attention through costly emergency room services, for which taxpayers end up footing the bill. We need to get these uninsured people paying into the insurance system and the way that makes the most sense right now, given our economic situation and the demographics of this uninsured population, is through employers.  But Congress has to step in and make sure that there are incentives for businesses to do so.  We need to take the lead and offer proactive help to the states here.”

 “Eight out of ten uninsured Americans come from wage earning households” said Alan Mertz, Executive Vice President of Healthcare Leadership Council, one of the participants in Smith’s forum. “Today’s forum helped local business groups better understand the options available to Washington State employers and the steps Congress can take, including refundable tax incentives, to make sure more Americans are covered.”

Tackling the problem of the large numbers of uninsured individuals in the state is one more way in which Smith is working to make sure that no matter what the economy is doing, we maintain a high quality of life for all our citizens under a fiscally responsible banner.  Smith is the lead co-sponsor in the House of the "MediFAIR Act," H.R. 4850, which would ensure that Washington’s seniors are treated on par with seniors around the country.  It will stop punishing Washington state’s health care system and our seniors and instead reward the efficiency and good results the state has produced.  He is also introducing a comprehensive Unemployment Insurance reform package to modernize the program for today's economy.