Senator Tom Harkin says work has been ongoing on the health bill and will continue today as they seek to get it done by fall.Harkin says the outline is clear, they will provide access to "affordable quality care" for every American. He says it will protect your choice of doctors, hospitals and insurance plans — if you like the coverage you have now you will keep it. Harkin says it will also help keep down costs.
Harkin, a Democrat, says they are still on track to get the bill finished this summer unless Republicans seek to slow it down. Harkin says the plan has to have a public health component or it will lose Democrat support. "I think that’s the essential part of health reform, and that is to have one public plan that is portable, no matter where you live, no matter where you move, you know you can get this plan," Harkin says.
He says the plan has to be affordable and cover basic services and be available no matter where you work or if you work and no matter how old you are. Harkin says they aim to have the bill done before the July 4th recess, have it through the senate in July, work out differences with the house in a conference committee in September, and on the president’s desk by October.
On another health-related issue, Harkin says an agreement has been reached with the restaurant industry to provide nutrition information on the items they serve. Harkin says it would require all restaurants with 20 or more in a chain to provide the number of calories for each item they serve and have in written form other health information on things like fat and transfat. Fast food chains have done well in the down economy with their "value menus," and Harkin says while people are looking to save money, they still want healthy food.
Harkin says there have been a number of experiences where restaurants provide the calorie information and people choose to eat healthier. He admits if the healthy items are the highest price, people might not buy them, but he says more and more people are looking for foods that are lower in calories, fat and sodium. Many restaurants currently provide the nutrition information, but it is on a voluntary basis.