Burris visits Stroger Hospital, talks reform

November 2, 2009 (CHICAGO) It appears Senator Roland Burris could be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to President Obama's efforts to overhaul healthcare. Because Republicans refuse to support health care legislation, Burris recently emerged as a "key wing vote for the Senate's Democratic caucus. Monday, he outlined his position of health care reform while once again promising to only vote for legislation that offers a government-sponsored health care insurance plan.

Three times a week, Evelyn Winfrey says she waits for hours at Stroger Hospital to see a doctor simply because she doesn't have the health insurance that would allow her to get the medicinal attention and surgery she says she so desperately needs.

"I'm having trouble getting health care. I have a lot of health problems," said Winfrey.

Winfrey is one of the millions of Americans Senator Roland Burris says could be helped by a healthcare reform bill that allows the government to sell insurance in competition with private insurers. Monday morning, he used a visit to Chicago's former Cook County Hospital to speak to constituents and healthcare professionals to outline his continue push for that reform.

"We must restore competition and choice to the health care insurance industry. It's time to create a strong public option that will make insurers compete for your business, just like any other company in America," said Burris.

Those who agree with Burris say a government-sponsored health insurance plan would help the millions who are currently facing soaring insurance premiums and rising health care costs.

"Forty-six-percent of our healthcare dollars are government dollars through Medicare, Medicaid and the other charity programs that exist, like Stroger Hospital. Without these, no one people would have anywhere to go," said Jessica Palys, Healthcare for America Now.

But while some critics want a compromise "opt out" option, others like United States Congressman Mark Kirk said Monday afternoon at an unrelated event, that he would like to see reform that gives the consumer the right to buy insurance from any state as well as restructure the ease of medical malpractice lawsuits.

"For us, it also wills reduce the deficit by $350 billion, because the lawsuit reforms alone, for example, will save you just $50 billion dollars," said Kirk.

Senate leaders are counting on Burris's support as the vote count needed to pass health care reform tightens. This is so crucial that President Obama has dispatched the White House's director of health reform to talk with him; remember, the relationship between the White House and Burris is somewhat "cool".

Some say, up until now, Roland Burris had been marginalized because of the controversy over his accepting the appointment from the tainted, impeached, and then indicted Governor Rod Blagojevich.

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