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Council looking at support for expanding Medicare coverage

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 by Austin Monitor


The Austin City Council on Thursday will consider a resolution in support of a nationwide single-payer healthcare system. Council Members Lee Leffingwell, Mike Martinez, and Randi Shade are sponsoring the item in support of House Resolution 676, the “United States National Health Insurance Act.”


Democrat John Conyers of Michigan originally submitted the measure for consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives. It calls for expanding Medicare to cover all U.S. residents.


“This is not socialized medicine. It is basically the same system we have now in the form of Medicare, just more broadly applied,” said Leffingwell. “One of the reasons we’re addressing this issue now is a resolution to the same effect was just passed by the National Council of Mayors.” That group voted to support a similar resolution at its meeting last month in Miami.


In discussing previous resolutions on national policy issues such as the war in Iraq, the Council has faced criticism from those who felt such issues were best left to elected officials in Washington, D.C.

“Frankly, I’m reluctant to get into national or even state politics,” Leffingwell admitted. “But this is a very important issue to people in Austin. About 20 percent of our residents don’t have health insurance, and that puts a very heavy burden on our area hospitals and on our network of social service organizations.” The city is currently considering a change in the process for allocating money to many non-profit social service organizations, which receive about $18 million each year in city funding.

Several other cities across the country have already endorsed HR 676 including Chicago, Baltimore and Indianapolis. Members of the Texas Congressional delegation who are listed as co-sponsors of the bill are Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Houston, Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas.

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