Domestic Weekly Update — July 21, 2009
New and Urgent in This Week’s Update
Latest from Washington, DC, and Beyond
Organizational Reminders and Updates
Use the Media to Push for Health Care Reform that Meets the Needs of Low-Income Americans (July Action)
This month, members of Congress and their staffs are working overtime to complete drafting of health reform bills before the August recess. The time is right to generate media in support of health care for all.
This is a critical time for health reform advocates and foes. President Obama wants to see bills passed both in the House and Senate before the August recess. While the House has a good chance of making this deadline, the Senate is another story (see below). The key in all this is momentum. The moneyed interests are pulling out all the stops to delay or kill reform. A Washington Post article this morning highlights just how much special interests have contributed to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) alone. Also, recent statements from some lawmakers highlight just how much politics is playing in this debate. Delay can be a death knell to important legislation so we must maintain the momentum for meaningful reform.
The media is rife with stories about health reform. As this debate becomes more heated, the public will have to sift through a lot of information and a lot of spin. It is imperative that we keep lawmakers and our fellow constituents’ eyes on the prize — health reform that protects America’s most vulnerable. Use the media to amplify your voice and call for action.
TAKE ACTION: Help build momentum for meaningful health reform by submitting a letter to the editor or place an op-ed in your local media outlet. See the July Action Sheet for guidance in preparing and submitting a letter to the editor or an op-ed (opinion) piece. Inform them that a modest expansion in Medicaid that covers everyone at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line would reduce the 46 million currently uninsured by over one-third. Also, expanding America’s community health center network would provide millions of people access to vital primary health care. Also remind readers that health care for all is a moral issue. Any endeavor that gives millions of people the necessary health care which is their right is more than worth the investment. Finally, call on your members of Congress by name and urge them to strengthen and expand both the Medicaid program and America’s investment in community health centers.
Please note that the July Action Sheet also has a grid outlining key provisions in each health reform bill. We are keeping this grid updated as new developments become known.
Live and Online, It’s The New RESULTS Website!
The revamped and improved RESULTS/RESULTS Education Fund website was launched on Saturday, July 18! All of the same information is available, but in a more user-friendly format. Plus, we have a lot more interactive features. Make sure to check out www.results.org today and see our new look!
We are offering training calls to learn about the content and new features of the site. Join us on Tuesday, July 28 at 7 pm ET or Thursday, July 30 at 9 pm ET to get your questions answered. Dial (712) 432-3100, passcode 761262 to join the call.
As with any new launch, there is still updating to do, which we’ll be doing over the next several weeks. If you find a link or something isn’t working properly on the new site, please contact the webmaster at [email protected].
Key Votes on Children’s Health Care Today or Tomorrow
As health reform legislation moves forward, there have been some key developments in the committees of jurisdiction with regard to children’s health care. On Friday, the Education and Labor committee passed the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, H.R.3200 out of committee with an amendment that requires Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) benefits for all children enrolled in Medicaid up to age 21. EPSDT is considered one of the best health benefit programs, one that is specifically designed to meet the health needs of children.
This week, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee finalizes health reform legislation, some other key amendments to H.R.3200 concerning children’s health care are coming up for a vote. Helpful amendments could be considered as early as TODAY, so making calls now is imperative.
TAKE ACTION: Call the Capitol switchboard toll free at (866) 277-7617, connect with offices of members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and urge them to:
Go to our http://capwiz.com/resu lts/directory/committees.tt?commid=hcomm to see who Energy and Commerce Committee members are.
Thanks to the Coalition on Human Needs for the toll-free call-in number.
The Heat is On: Building Pressure for Reform Now
Right now, the biggest questions on health care reform are how much it will cost and how it will be paid for. Of growing concern for anti-poverty advocates is with all the talk of cost, Congress will opt for savings over all else, which as the past has show does not bode well for programs for the poor. This means that a Medicaid expansion and subsidies for low-income persons to buy private insurance, as well as investments in community health centers, are not guaranteed until a bill goes into law. Here are some of the recent developments highlighting issues of health care costs and paying for reform.
Reducing Costs. Last week, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf said that bills being considered don’t do enough to hold down rising costs of health care. However, his analysis was based on only a partial assessment of the current proposals. The White House is urging that strengthening the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission or a new body with authority to propose savings would significantly reduce costs. However, because recommendations would need the approval on Congress and the president, CBO may not factor them in to its cost calculations.
Paying for Reform. The House bill released last week would fully pay the ten-year cost of the reform bill through employer and individual mandates of coverage and by imposing a surcharge on income tax paid by individuals with adjusted gross income of families who earn $350,000 or more ($280,000 for individuals). The House bill would also cut payments for private Medicare plans, so called Medicare Advantage plans, to bring them more in line with traditional Medicare rates.
Where Things Are. Both the House Ways and Means and Education and Labor Committees have passed the bill out of committee. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman has promise to complete drafting his part of the tri-committee bill by Wednesday.
The National Governors Association expressed concern that expansion of Medicaid in the tri-committee bill would stick states with a huge unfunded liability (Medicaid is financed with both federal and state dollars). Although the tri-committee bill calls for the federal government to pick up the full cost of expansion, it is unclear whether that would continue indefinitely or sunset in some future year.
In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved its version of health care reform last week. But all eyes are on the Senate Finance Committee. Senate Finance continues to wrestle with how to pay for reform. Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is seeking funding provisions that will get at least some Republican support. The Finance Committee is said to be considering a limit on itemized deductions for high income earners, or a limit on the income tax exclusion of employer provided health benefits. Reports today indicate they may be considering a new tax on insurance companies, in an effort to drive down plan costs, rather than a direct tax on workers.
It is vital that you continue to contact your members of Congress regularly on health care. The key here is not just contacting them in support of our proposals, but pushing members of Congress to commit to talking to the key leaders listed below about our priorities for health reform. Use our 2009 Domestic Campaign Summary for details on our specific requests.
TAKE ACTION: If you have not already taken the RESULTS Domestic June Action, please do so now. Call your members of Congress toll-free at (800) 828-0498 and tell them to expand health coverage via the Medicaid program and expand access to primary care through a larger and better supported community health center network. These provisions of the House tri-committee bill must not be watered down. We strongly urge the Energy and Commerce Committee to pass a bill that includes these provisions. Also tell them that health reform in 2009 should lay the groundwork for a national health program.
Specifically, ask your senators and representatives to commit to weighing in with key policymakers, including Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Senators Baucus (D-MT), Grassley (R-IA), Dodd (D-CT), and Kennedy (D-MA); House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Representatives Waxman (D-CA-30), Miller (D-CA-7), and Rangel (D-NY-15), to include these priorities in final health reform legislation.
Thanks to Families USA for providing the toll free conference call number.
Committees Act on Single-Payer Health Plan Amendments
While RESULTS immediate focus is on strengthening the current health reform proposals as much as we can, we is still committed to our long-term goal of a national health program. Despite not getting the attention it deserves from key lawmakers, there are still people in Congress who are pushing the merits of single-payer health care.
Before passing its health care reform bill, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee declined to adopt an amendment by Senator Sanders (I-VT) to give states the option to experiment with single payer health care for all their citizens. However, a similar amendment by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) was accepted by the House Education and Labor Committee on Friday.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee was expected to reject an amendment by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) to completely replace the tri-committee health bill with Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI-14) single-payer bill, H.R.676. The committee markup was postponed to Thursday, July 23.
Finally, single payer advocates will be holding a large rally in Washington, DC, for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, H.R.676 on July 30 in Washington, DC. Among the speakers will be Rep. Conyers and 2009 RESULTS International Conference speaker Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association. Go to http://www.healthcare-now .org/campaigns/single-payer-rally/ for more details.
TAKE ACTION: If you have not yet asked your members of Congress to cosponsor H.R.676/S.703, please do so now. You can use our online alert in support of national health care.
Also, be sure to watch Physicians for a National Health Program national board member Dr. Aaron Carroll talk about single payer on The Colbert Report, this evening, July 21 at 11:30 pm ET on Comedy Central.
Full House Appropriations Committee Passes Labor, Health and Education Bill
On Friday, July 17, the full House Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2010 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. The full committee bill is virtually identical to the bill marked up a week earlier in subcommittee. The bill is particularly important for Early Childhood Development programs like Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which we support as part of our Early Childhood Development campaign.
The 2010 House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill is $160.654 billion for FY 2010, $52 million below the President’s request. The request for CCDBG is $2.1 million, which is the same level as last year. Head Start is funded at $7.2 billion, the same as the president’s request and $122 million above 2009.
The House bill also funds community health centers. CHCs get $2.2 billion, the same amount as in FY 2009. However, CHCs did receive $2 billion in grants in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed earlier this year.
In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee is working but the Labor-HHS subcommittee is unlikely to meet before late July.
TAKE ACTION: Please urge Congress to include a $1 billion funding increase for Head Start and a $1 billion funding increase for the CCDBG for FY 2010. Point out that Head Start and child care are an obvious way to improve the lives of children, create jobs for early education and child care providers, and to allow parents to participate in the work force.
Early Learning Challenge Fund Passes House Education and Labor Committee
The House Education and Labor Committee has marked up the Early Learning Challenge Fund for incorporation into the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R.3221). This provision will invest $10 billion over 10 years in competitive grants to challenge states to build a comprehensive quality system of early learning for children from birth to age five. It will transform early learning programs by insisting on real change in state standards and practices.
The grants are in two categories:
RESULTS is committed to improving early childhood development. Our core goal remains increasing resources for Head Start and child care, and we support the Early Learning Challenge Fund as a path to better early education and care.
TAKE ACTION: When contacting your representative about Head Start and CCDBG, ask him/her to also support the early learning challenge grant provisions in H.R.3221.
Upcoming Summer Events and House Parties: If you are considering holding summer fundraising event for RESULTS/REF please contact Stacy Carkonen. Whether you are considering an event big or small support for your group is always available! Please call Stacy Carkonen for more information: (206) 715-4986 or [email protected].
Upcoming Fundraising Events:
Presidential Press Conference Tomorrow Night. President Barack Obama will be holding a live press conference tomorrow night, July 22 at 9:00 pm ET. It is expected that the president will discussing health care reform legislation and urging Congress not to delay in passing a bill as soon as possible.
First Lady Visits Community Health Center. First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Unity Health Care Center in Washington, DC, on June 29. Her remarks were on the Chicago Sun-Times blog. On July 18, she announced the release of $851 million for health clinics as part of the economic recovery bill. The New York Times reported that the First Lady is stepping up her participation in health care discussions by speaking in settings appropriate for a first lady. The Times reported that Jocelyn Frye, Mrs. Obama’s policy director, said the first lady wanted to “draw the connection between this massive conversation that’s happening about health reform and what’s really happening to people on the ground.”
New Group Calls for Fair Taxation. Wealth for the Common Good is an emerging network of business leaders, wealthy individuals and partners supporting public policies that promote shared prosperity and fair taxation. From their website: “Those of us who have disproportionately benefited from the economic policies of the last 30 years have a unique role and responsibility to help create an economy that works for everyone, not just the very wealthy. As our country faces unprecedented economic, ecological and global challenges, wealthy individuals must pay a fair share toward public investments in education, health, energy, and infrastructure.” Read more at http://wealthforcommongood.org/.
Build RESULTS through new media. If you are on any of these sites, please join and invite others: Facebook Group, Facebook Cause, Razoo. Our basic 12-minute video about the work of RESULTS, Everyday Heroes, can be found on Google Video.
Find this update, actions and alerts online at http://www.results.or g/take_action/us_poverty_actions_and_news/.
(Click to see a complete calendar)
July 28: New RESULTS website training call, 7:00 pm ET, Call-in Number: (712) 432-3100, passcode 761262.
July 30: Rally in support of H.R.676, 1:00 pm ET, Upper Senate Park, Washington, DC (between Constitution Avenue, New Jersey Avenue, and Delaware Avenue.
July 30: New RESULTS website training call, 9:00 pm ET, Call-in Number: (712) 432-3100, passcode 761262.
August 8: Domestic Monthly National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET.
August 3 – September 7: U.S. House scheduled summer recess.
August 10 – September 7: U.S. Senate scheduled summer recess.
RESULTS Contact Information
Main Office: (p) 202) 783-7100 (f), (202) 783-2818, 750 First Street NE, Suite 1040, Washington DC 20002.
Grassroots Fundraising Support: Stacy Carkonen, (206) 715-4986 ([email protected]).
The RESULTS Domestic Update is sent out every Tuesday over e-mail to RESULTS volunteers and allies all over the country and is posted on our Activist Info page. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our domestic campaigns.
To subscribe or unsubscribe from the RESULTS Domestic Update list, please contact Alan Gold at the RESULTS Washington office at (202) 783-7100 x106.