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Domestic Weekly Update January 5, 2010

And for all its flaws and limitations, [the Senate health bill is] a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.

— Columnist Paul Krugman, “Tidings of Comfort” Op-ed, December 24, 2009, The New York Times

New and Urgent in This Week’s Update

  • Join National Conference Call THIS Saturday, January 9, 12:30 pm ET
  • House and Senate Negotiating Final Health Care Bill

Latest from Washington, DC, and Beyond

  • Looking Toward our 2010 Campaign
  • Fundraising Update: Thank You!
  • Quick News

Organizational Reminders and Updates

  • Announcements
  • Upcoming Events
  • RESULTS Contact Information

Start the New Year by Joining National Conference Call THIS Saturday, January 9, 12:30 pm ET

Happy New Year! We hope you all had a very festive and enjoyable holiday season. Now that 2010 is here, let’s plan to make it even more memorable than last year. Start by joining the RESULTS’ January domestic monthly conference call this Saturday, January 9, at 12:30 pm ET. Now that both the House and Senate have passed their versions of health reform, what happens next? We will discuss what to expect in the House-Senate negotiations as health reform gets closer to being completed. We look forward to a great call.

TAKE ACTION: Coordinate and gather with your group this Saturday for the national conference call at 12:30 pm ET. The call-in number is (888) 409-6709. Once connected to the operator, ask for the RESULTS National Conference call. Plan to call in no later than 12:27pm ET to give time to the operator to connect you with the call.


House and Senate Negotiating Final Health Care Bill

On December 24, the Senate passed a final version of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R.3590. The vote was 60 to 39, with all Democrats and two Independents voting yes; no Republicans supported the bill. The Senate returns from recess on January 19, but Senate and House negotiators are already working behind the scenes on a compromise between the two versions of health care reform.

In fact, reports surfaced yesterday saying that the House and Senate may bypass the formal Conference Committee process to work out the differences between the two bills. Instead, House and Senate negotiations would be informal and behind closed doors. Once a deal is reached, the House would vote on the Senate bill passed in December with amendments to reflect the agreed-upon changes. Once passed, the amended bill would go back to the Senate for a final vote. If passed, it would then go to President Obama for signature. Anonymous sources state that the reason for this is to avoid any further stalling tactics. As Jonathan Cohn writes, “[w]hatever form the final discussions take place, a decision to bypass conference would undoubtedly expedite the debate, clearing the way for final passage (if not signing) by the end of January.”

As the Senate and House passed bills move to conference committee, here are some of the key differences negotiators will be wrestling with:

  • Medicaid expansion: The House bill provides for Medicaid coverage to persons earning up to 150% of the federal poverty line (FPL); the Senate bill goes to 133% of FPL.
  • Medicaid reimbursement rates: The House bill increases the payments to Medicaid primary care providers to Medicare rates within three years and preserves existing Medicaid benefits for current and new enrollees; the Senate bill does not.
  • Community health center funding: The House bill guarantees funding for community health centers (CHC) though a Public Health Investment Fund, which contains $14 billion for CHCs over the next five years; the Senate bill authorizes up to $10 billion over five years.
  • Public Health Insurance Option: The House bill includes a new public health insurance program option; the Senate bill does not. The Senate bill creates multi-state, nonprofit health insurance plans overseen by the federal Office of Personnel Management, which manages the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
  • Scope of Health Insurance Exchanges: The House bill creates one national health insurance exchange; the Senate bill creates individual state-based exchanges.
  • Employer mandate: The House bill requires companies with payrolls over $500,000 to provide coverage to employees; the Senate bill has no employer mandate but imposes a $750 per employee charge if the government subsidizes an employee’s health coverage.
  • Start Date for Reforms: Most of the House health reforms begin in 2013; the Senate reforms begin in 2014.
  • Financing reform: To help pay for health reform, the House bill creates a new 5.4 percent surtax on income above $500,000 per individual; the Senate bill creates a new 40 percent excise tax on expensive health plans ($8,500 for an individual plan; $23,000 for a family plan) and the Medicare payroll tax is raised to 2.35 percent for income over $200,000 per individual ($250,000 per couple).
  • Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants: The House bill bars undocumented immigrants from receiving government subsidies to buy health coverage but does allow them to purchase insurance through the health insurance exchange with their own money; the Senate bill bars undocumented immigrants from receiving subsidies and purchasing coverage through the exchange.
  • Abortion: Language in the two bills restricting federal funding of abortions is different.

As the health reform negotiations continue, we want to keep the pressure on both representatives and senators to adopt the House provisions for Medicaid expansion and for funding community health centers in the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R.3962). Our December Action urges you to generate media in support of Congress passing a strong bill. This includes the traditional RESULTS work of generating op-eds and letters to the editor, as well as using new media like blog commenting and Facebook to generate support.

Now is the time to act. A final compromise bill could emerge at any time. Voice your support for getting real health care reform passed as soon as possible. Members of Congress need to know that their constituents want a health bill that helps the people who most need it. Expanding Medicaid and CHCs is the most effective way to see that those living in poverty get coverage and access to quality, affordable health care.

Finally, please don’t forget that you all have helped our nation reach this pivotal moment. Despite their imperfections, the fact that we are one vote away from significant health reform — reform that seemed impossible only a few years ago — is a testament to your commitment and determination to make it happen. Thank you for your invaluable hard work and let’s continue the momentum by getting the best possible final bill we can.

TAKE ACTION: Call on your members of Congress to support strong health reform. Ask that your senators and representatives to weigh in with leaders negotiating the final bill, urging that they strengthen and expand both the Medicaid program and America’s investment in community health centers. Have one person in your group seek a direct conversation with his/her member’s health aide.

In your conversations with members and staff, stress these three points about Medicaid:

  • Medicaid should cover everyone up to 150 percent of the federal poverty line.
  • Federal funding for the Medicaid expansion should start as early as possible and cover 100 percent of the cost for as long as possible.
  • Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care providers should equal Medicare reimbursement rates.
  • Existing Medicaid benefits should be maintained for all current and new enrollees.

See our updated health care reform grid on our Recent Developments in Health Care Reform page.


Looking Toward Our 2010 Campaign

Once health reform is complete, we will begin our 2010 major campaign, Low-Income Tax Credits: Creating Economic Opportunity. While these plans are not finalized yet, here is what RESULTS is looking to do. Tax reform is expected to be a major issue in Congress this year when most of the tax cuts enacted during the Bush Administration are set to expire. RESULTS will focus our efforts on seeing that tax policy that benefits low-income populations and reduces poverty is enacted a as part of any reform passed. Primarily, this will include extending and expanding recent improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).

RESULTS will also be looking to promote legislation that helps low-income individuals and families create wealth. In 2010, we’ll work on the Saver’s Bonus, which allows people to put their tax refunds directly into savings products (savings account, Treasury bonds), with a portion of it matched by the government.

TAKE ACTION: We are looking forward to a great 2010. You can get started on our 2010 work by brushing up on these issues with some of our economic opportunity resources. Visit our Economic Opportunity for All pages on the RESULTS website to familiarize yourself with the issues. You can also download our updated Economic Opportunity PowerPoint presentation, which provides a quick and easy overview of these issues. We also welcome your input on ways we can better message our issues and take effective action. Please feel free to e-mail Meredith Dodson (Dodson@results.org) or Jos Linn (jlinn@results.org) with any questions or comments.

See our December 22 Domestic Weekly Update for more details on our 2010 plans.


Fundraising Update: Thank You!

Thank you all for your hard work in our 2009 Fall Fundraising Campaign! Your own donations and donations you leveraged for RESULTS have generated important resources in our continued work to bring an end to poverty in the U.S. and around the world. In the coming weeks, we will have the final totals for you so you can see how successful you were in your fundraising efforts, including in our $30,000 matching challenge.

So as to bring this campaign to a close, please plan with your groups to wrap up your efforts by January 15 (this applies mainly to those doing Friends and Family Campaigns). We want to have a “closing date” for the campaign so we can determine how successful this particular effort was. Please look at your individual and group goals for the campaign and assess whether you will meet your goals. At this point, it is important to have an accurate picture of what is likely to be raised. While we obviously hope you meet (and exceed) your goals, please know that if you do not quite make your target, your efforts are still vital to our success and greatly appreciated. Thank you again and please work with your groups to wrap up yet another successful fundraising campaign by the 15th. If you have any questions, please contact Cynthia Stancil at cstancil@results.org.

As always, if you have not donated yourself and would like to, or if know others who would like to financially support RESULTS/REF, please use our easy, breezy online donation form to make your contribution. (Please note that REF donations made after December 31, 2009 are not tax deductible until tax year 2010).

Finally, we want to thank long-time RESULTS volunteer and staff person Stacy Carkonen for her great work with grassroots fundraising support this past year. In December, Stacy accepted a position with the Global Action for Children as their director of field organizing beginning January 1. Stacy’s commitment to our volunteers and this work has been pivotal in making our 2009 fundraising campaign a success. Thank you for your hard work, Stacy, and we wish you the best of luck with your new job. Keep in touch!


Quick News

Senator Sanders Approves of Community Health Center Provisions. In an interview with Washington Post commentator Ezra Klein, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said the health care reform bill could spark a “revolution in primary health care.” He noted that the Senate bill has $10 billion over five years for expansion of community health centers (CHC) and the House bill has $14 billion. That $14 billion could more than double the number of people served by CHCs, from 20 million to 45 million, and could triple the National Health Service Corps. With negotiations beginning on the final health care bill, Senator Sanders said, “My main focus right now is to get the $14 billion for this program.”

President Obama Announces More Funding for Community Health Centers. In December, the President announced $600 million in money awards from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support renovation and construction projects at 85 CHCs around the country. The White House states that these funds will help serve more than 500,000 new patients.

Senate Allows Estate Tax to Expire. Unlike the House, the Senate adjourned for the year without passing an extension of the estate tax, which goes into full repeal for tax year 2010. The House passed H.R.4154 on December 3, which would make 2009 estate tax levels permanent. Despite Senate inaction in 2009, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has said he expects the estate tax to be revived, in some form, within the first three months of 2010. RESULTS supports a common-sense estate tax, as outlined in the Sensible Estate Tax Act (H.R.2023) introduce by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA-7). A January 1 Boston Globe editorial called H.R.2023 a promising proposal. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that, contrary to common belief, allowing the estate tax to expire would leave many family farms and small businesses worse off. For more information on the estate tax, see our Estate Tax and Recent Developments in Economic Opportunity Legislation pages.


Announcements

Group Planning Materials on the Way. January is group planning time at RESULTS. Group planning allows your group to plan your goals and means to achieving them over the next year. To help you, in the coming weeks we will provide you will materials to facilitate the process so you can articulate your goals and report them back to the RESULTS office in an easy and efficient manner. We will also discuss group planning on this Saturday’s national conference call.


Upcoming Events

(Click to see a complete calendar)

January 9: RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET. (888) 409-6709.

June 20–22, 2010: RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund International Conference, Washington Marriott Hotel, Washington, DC.


RESULTS Contact Information

Main Office: (p) (202) 783-7100, (f) (202) 783-2818, 750 First Street NE, Suite 1040, Washington DC 20002.

Domestic Legislative and Grassroots Support Staff: Meredith Dodson, x116 (dodson@results.org); Alan Gold, x106 (gold@results.org); Jos Linn, (515) 288-3622 (jlinn@results.org).

The RESULTS Domestic Update is sent out every Tuesday over e-mail to RESULTS volunteers and allies all over the country. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our domestic campaigns.