A Nation Built on Action
By Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D.
The Pioneer Express
July 6, 2009
More than 200 years ago, a group of patriots risked all by taking bold action to build a new country where freedom and equality was the law of the land and a great nation was born.
This Independence Day, we find ourselves in a time of immense challenges and difficult choices. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to think things all the way through and ask, ‘What kind of nation are we, and in which direction shall we turn?’
I believe a similar spirit of bold action is required today, and I am working hard to bring about all the changes we need.
To put our economy back on the road to recovery, we must address the root causes of our economic instability – impossible costs for health care and energy.
Our Declaration of Independence states, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” I believe it’s time we apply our hard won civil rights to health care, so last year I authored the No Discrimination in Health Insurance Act to end the common insurance practice of cherry-picking out citizens with pre-existing medical conditions.
On June 19th, the House of Representatives released a discussion draft of a bill to secure access to affordable care for all of us. I am proud to announce that on page 21 of this 852 page bill it categorically states, “A qualified health benefits plan shall comply with standards established by the Commissioner to prohibit discrimination in health benefits or benefit structures for qualifying health benefits plans.”
Freedom from discrimination was written into our nation’s founding documents and this year I am working hard to guarantee it becomes the law of the land in health care as well. Freedom from discrimination due to pre-existing medical conditions is an essential civil right, and we must protect it.
Although the effort to reform health care in America is in its early stages, the initial discussion draft reflects ideas set forth in the Essential Elements of Health Care Reform prepared by the 8th Congressional District Health Care Advisory Committee, including the establishment of a standard health benefit plan, cutting costs by creating real competition between insurance companies on a level playing field, and the discovery and elimination of wasteful spending in hospitals and insurance companies.
But the time to act is now. Why? Because we will not be truly free until we are independent of foreign oil. Our continued dependence on Middle East oil endangers our national security, our environment, and our economy. We cannot and must not remain dependent on foreign oil.
That is why I voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act that encourages private businesses to invest in clean energy to create new jobs in housing construction and remodeling, wind and solar energy installations, as well as nuclear energy, while breathing new life into our papermaking, agriculture and timber industries that are part of our Wisconsin way of life. The new green jobs this legislation will help private business owners to create can’t be shipped overseas and will make us a global leader in clean energy technology. This bill is an essential step to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and build a secure future for our children and grandchildren.
We have also taken bold action to clean up today’s economic mess by passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, without which our nation would be standing still. This transformational legislation invests in many areas of our economy simultaneously, including health care, veterans services, small business loans and stabilizing our state economy.
Everyday I receive notice that our hard-earned tax dollars are coming home to our communities – saving jobs and improving schools, while promoting entrepreneurship and supporting local law enforcement.
Everyone understands these actions will take time to succeed. We are now moving in the right direction – securing our nation, protecting our environment and growing the jobs we need to work our way back into prosperity.
We will continue to fight to revive our economy, while our thoughts remain with those who are fighting for our safety at home and abroad. And what kind of nation would we be if we failed to honor all our brave servicemen and women, and their families, who have sacrificed so we may continue to enjoy our freedoms? We are forever grateful for their courage and strength and will continue to dedicate ourselves to guaranteeing them the benefits they’ve earned – before, during and after they have served us all.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not the adage of a bygone era.
There is much work ahead, but today on our nation’s birthday, I am more confident than ever that by working together, we will build a better nation for all of us.