Health care reform that benefits the most vulnerable – keep the pressure on!

January 8, 2010
by Ann Beltran, Domestic Policy Volunteer, RESULTS

President Obama and House and Senate leaders have agreed to forego a formal House-Senate conference committee to reconcile the two health care reform bills and will instead negotiate informally behind closed doors. Democratic leaders stated they will overcome their remaining differences, with the aim of sending a bill to President Obama before his State of the Union address (latest scuttlebutt says February 2).

Despite frustrations and collective soul-searching among our coalition partners about what these bills do not do, a consensus is emerging. For example, on a recent Faithful Reform in Health Care call, participants spoke their support of passing this reform legislation: “There is more good in these bills for the poor than the status quo.” “It is arrogant of us who have insurance to block real improvements for many in need.” The Center for Budget and Public Policy Priorities is focused on improving affordability of coverage under the exchange. At a recent Coalition for Human Needs meeting, partners are continuing to push for more coverage, more affordability, more accessibility knowing that the critical limitation is how to pay for more.

RESULTS continues to support passing the strongest possible health care reform bill and there still is work to be done to accomplish that. House and Senate negotiators will be focused on a variety of issues — see RESULTS January 5 Weekly Update — but those of greatest importance to RESULTS are the following:

  • Expanding Medicaid coverage to everyone at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line, per the House bill;
  • Implementing this expansion as early as possible;
  • Ensuring 100 percent federal funding for this expansion for as long as possible (due to the dramatic deficits across the states); and
  • Raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to health providers up to Medicare levels, per the House bill, which will provide greater incentive for providers to actually accept new Medicaid patients.

Despite the less formal process Congress is using to negotiate a final bill, we can still have an impact on what will happen. However, we need to be strategic. We must leverage our existing relationships with members of Congress who support health care reform who can then pressure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to focus on what matters most — getting health care for those who need it most. Urge members of Congress who may have stood strong on issues like single payer and the public option to now channel their voices into making Medicaid the benchmark program for America’s commitment to health care for all. Take Action by calling your senators and representatives to voice your support for a Medicaid expansion that covers as many as possible, begins as soon as possible, is fully funded, and will increase access to health care. Our network of grassroots chapters are building on their work over the past year by sending Congress a strong message: “The Final Health Care Bill Must Increase Access to Health Care!

Also, for months President Obama has said he will use his personal influence during final negotiations to get the best bill possible. It is now time to see that he does it. Call the White House and urge the president to use his leverage to focus on helping America’s poor.

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