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Rep. Pallone Leads Cheers At Gathering To Celebrate Health-Care Reforms

Home News Tribune / MyCentralJersey.com — Friday, March 26, 2010

By RICK MALWITZ
STAFF WRITER

NEW BRUNSWICK — In an event designed to thank U.S. Rep Frank Pallone, D-6th, for his work to help pass the overhaul of health-care insurance, Pallone turned the tables and thanked his hosts.

"After Scott Brown I thought health care was dead," said Pallone, referring to the special election in Massachusetts in January when Brown, a Republican, won the seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy.

"You kept this going," he said to a group of 80 advocates, including members of New Jersey Citizen Action, AARP and staff at the Eric B. Chandler Health Center on George Street, where the event took place.

Pallone allowed how he preferred a bill originally passed in the House of Representatives to the Senate bill, which became law when President Obama signed the legislation Wednesday.

The House could only consider the Senate measure, after the Brown election gave Republicans the ability to stall the process with a filibuster. Democrats circumvented the filibuster by a process known as reconciliation.

Pallone lamented that the debate leading up to the bill was misunderstood due to what he called "false information" from talk radio and right-wing organizations.

Opponents, he said, focused on ideology and did not discuss the substance of the bill.

Since the Sunday vote, Pallone said he's heard from scores of people who learned about details of the bill and liked them.

He said he heard from seniors who applauded him for helping close the so-called "donut hole" in prescription coverage, from owners of small businesses who learned of tax credits for employee health plans, and from Native Americans in North Jersey who approved of changes for health care coverage of 1.2 million Native Americans.

Pallone also said he received a call from the Wall Street Journal, asking him about the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS ACT) that was tucked in the bill.

The Class Act, introduced in 2007 by Pallone in the House and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D—Mass.) in the Senate, creates a national insurance program to help adults who have or develop functional impairments to remain independent and employed, with funds raised by a voluntary payroll deduction.

Among those who preceded Pallone were Anita Thomas of Plainfield, executive director of the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company of Union. She explained she pays 10 percent of health insurance for 14 dancers, 50 percent for three staff members and 80 percent for herself.

Thomas said tax credits would help her increase coverage. When she mentioned that her premiums rose by 12 percent in December, Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, said premiums for its staff rose by 34 percent.

Lorena Gaibo of New Brunswick, a social worker and former volunteer with Citizen Action, talked about how she ignored a sprained ankle 13 years ago at a time when she lacked health insurance.

The ankle caused leg injuries, and when she was having physical therapy during a point when she had health care coverage, her insurance suspended coverage in the middle of treatment.

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