November 20, 2009 - New York Times
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
The White House is once again distributing a statement from a Republican in support of health care reform.
On the eve of a crucial Senate vote on whether to proceed with its health bill, the Obama administration on Friday distributed the latest of these statements, a bipartisan message from Tommy G. Thompson, the Republican who served as health secretary to President George W. Bush, and Richard A. Gephardt, the Democratic former leader of the House.
The two said that while they had “specific concerns with the bill in its current form,’’ they believed that the measure the Senate measure “represents another milestone in achieving meaningful health care reform for millions of Americans.”
The White House used a similar tactic last month as the Senate Finance Committee was preparing to consider health legislation. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Gephardt issued a joint statement at that time, and other Republicans — including Bill Frist and Bob Dole, both former Senate leaders — weighed in as well. All the statements were circulated by the Obama administration; the president subsequently used them to cite an “unprecedented consensus’’ around the need for reform.
Here is the text of the latest statement from Mr. Thompson and Mr. Gephardt:
Statement on Senate Health Care Reform Bill
By Tommy Thompson and Richard Gephardt
The health care bill in the Senate represents another milestone in achieving meaningful health care reform for millions of Americans. It is now critical that members of Congress work together in a bipartisan fashion to pass a common-sense, fiscally responsible solution to drive down health care costs, ensure access to affordable and quality care, increase efficiency and achieve real savings.
While we both have specific concerns with the bill in its current form, we believe a bipartisan consensus must emerge to address the health care crises in America. All evidence shows that the number of uninsured Americans will continue to rise and that skyrocketing costs will be simply unsustainable for American businesses and workers without Congressional action in the near term.
Any final bill passed into law must focus on both the human and economic impact, ensuring that access and affordability are achieved for employers, employees, and Americans currently without coverage. We can all agree that the opportunity before us is far too great to let specific differences stand in the way of reaching consensus legislation needed this year.
As the Senate takes up the bill, we urge Members to further reduce costs, waste, inefficiency and chronic disease prevalence through such measures as coordinated health teams at the family doctor-patient level. It is a proven idea that both business and labor have rallied behind, and will redefine the way we prevent chronic disease, eliminate unnecessary costs and deliver 21st-century health care to millions who need it most. In short, coordinated health teams will tie together, and make real, disparate elements of health care reform by providing a means to help eliminate costly fragmentation of our health care system once and for all.
Americans will look back with appreciation for those who set aside political interests to keep the process moving forward. Working together, it is time to show the nation that consensus legislation is possible, that ideas and bipartisanship far outweigh politics and, above all, that members of both parties rose to the occasion and got the job done.