Health care momentum nothing to sneeze at

Fishermen aren’t so lucky. Health care for fishermen and their families is expensive — and often too costly to buy.

The good news is that two bills championing a nationwide health care plan for fishermen (H.R. 5404 and S. 2630) continue to gain traction and bi-partisan support in Congress. So far, the Commercial Fishing Industry Health Care Coverage Act of 2008 has 26 co-sponsors, according to the Massachusetts-based Fishing Partnership Health Program.

The legislation is also getting support at the state level. Yesterday it was announced that California State Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) has introduced legislation calling on Congress and the President to pass the bills. Wiggins chairs the state Joint Legislative Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture.

That the program has gained such political support is attributed to the work of the fishing community organizations that have endorsed the legislation. Thus far 15 such groups spanning the nation’s coasts have demonstrated their support, as have two nationwide organizations.

All the stars seem to be aligned to get the bills passed this legislative session — provided that fishermen and fishing groups continue to press their Congressional delegates to co-sponsor the bills. To learn more about the health care program and what you can do to help get the legislation passed, visit the Fishing Partnership Health Plan Web site (www.fphp.org).

Just think: If fishermen make enough phone calls, send enough e-mails and get their legislators to commit to sponsoring the legislation, there could actually be an affordable health care plan for fishermen and their families approved by year’s end. Hey, I’m feeling better already.

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