A Fourth of July Reflection on the Health Reform Debate

July 2, 2009 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment

“Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. The time has arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and that protection.”

President Obama might have spoken those words in recent weeks. Instead, President Truman spoke them over 65 years ago. With nearly 47 million Americans uninsured and millions more underinsured, most Americans are just one pink slip or accident away from financial disaster. The writing is on the wall, and the environment could not be more ready for health care reform.  Already this summer, the Congress has produced three different reform proposals:

  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released Sen. Kennedy’s (D-MA) draft proposal the “Affordable Health Choices Act” on June 9th. The “Affordable Health Choices Act” attempts to improve access to coverage by regulating insurers. The proposal expands Medicaid (to include families who earn up to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level) and SCHIP. The proposal is built upon establishing state-sponsored insurance Gateways (or exchanges) to help Americans find affordable coverage.  The current proposal would provide subsidies for buying health insurance through plans inside the Gateways to families with annual incomes as high as five times the poverty level. Senator Dodd (D-CT) announced on July 2nd that the HELP Committee bill will include a strong, national, public health plan option.
  • The House has also released a draft version of a Health Reform bill with their Tri-Committee Proposal. The current proposal would set up a new Health Insurance Exchange which would allow individuals and small employers to shop among private and public plans. The proposal also provides sliding scale affordability credits, expands Medicaid (to those earning 133% of the Federal Poverty Level) and caps out-of-pocket expenses.  Individuals will be responsible for having health insurance coverage, and employers will have the option of providing health insurance coverage for their workers or contributing funds on their behalf. Small businesses, with payrolls less than $250,000 per year, will be exempt from the employer responsibility requirement.
  • The Senate finance committee, chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), will release its proposal imminently.

Just as we come together to barbecue or watch the fireworks on July 4th, those of us who believe in the promise of health care for all must also come together. This holiday is a time for us to reaffirm our will to fight the cynics who don’t believe in the essential promises of our land of opportunity and to renew the goal of health care for every American. Our representatives need to hear our voices! Please call your representative and message your members to act for this is our time to fight for our ideals. This week Families USA has published a toll free number that can be used to reach members of Congress. On July 7th and 8th you can call 1-866-210-3678 to connect to the Congressional Switchboard to speak to your representative. Help flood the switchboard.  Together we can achieve the reform that we are fighting for.

Entry filed under: Health Care Reform, Public vs. Private Health Coverage.

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