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Domestic Weekly Update March 9, 2010

I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform. And I urge every American who wants this reform to make their voice heard as well.

— President Barack Obama, March 2, 2010

New and Urgent in This Week’s Update

  • Join National Conference Call THIS Saturday, March 13, 12:30 pm ET
  • Generate Media for Passing Health Reform (March Action)
  • Tell Congress to Include Higher Medicaid Reimbursement Rates in Reform

Latest from Washington, DC, and Beyond

  • America’s Safety Net Temporarily Restored — Key Vote Today
  • Quick News

Organizational Reminders and Updates

  • Announcements
  • Upcoming Events
  • RESULTS Contact Information

Join National Conference Call THIS Saturday, March 13, 12:30 pm ET

Join the RESULTS’ March domestic monthly conference call this Saturday, March 13, at 12:30 pm ET. As the final push to pass health reform begins, we will discuss the latest developments and what we as grassroots activists need to do to see that reform passes. Also, continuing our background education on our Economic Opportunity campaign that we began last month, we will do another laser talk exercise on low-income tax credits, namely the Child Tax Credit. You will also have the opportunity to share the great things you have been doing to help reduce poverty in America.

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.


Generate Media for Passing Health Reform (March Action)

We are inching closer to a final vote on health care reform. In the wake of President Obama’s White House Health Summit on February 25, last Wednesday the president told Congress that he wants an up-or-down vote on health care before he leaves for an overseas trip on March 18. The president is pushing Congress harder now than he has since this debate began in early 2009. Yesterday, he traveled to Philadelphia for a health care rally, where he pointed out recent rate hikes by health insurance companies, saying “How much higher do premiums have to rise before we do something about it?” He travels to St. Louis tomorrow for a similar rally.

Meanwhile, Congress is working to round up the votes to pass reform to make the president’s March 18 deadline. Here is the likely scenario. The House and Senate are working on a reconciliation bill to amend the Senate bill in a way that garners the necessary YES votes to finish reform. Once the language is complete and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) gives the House some kind of commitment from at least 50 senators to support the reconciliation bill, the House will bring up the Senate health reform bill passed in December, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, up for a vote. If the House passes the bill, it will go to President Obama for signature. The House will then vote on the reconciliation bill, and if passed, send it to the Senate. The Senate will vote on the reconciliation bill, and if passed, send it to the president for signature. At that point, the health reform process will end.

Remember, once the House passes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the president signs it, health reform will become law. The reconciliation bill being discussed (and attacked) is not health reform; it is merely amendments to the Senate bill. The reconciliation bill is simply a means to amend the Senate bill enough to convince enough House members to pass it. Normally, the House and Senate would work all this out in a Conference Committee, but because the 41 Republican senators are united against the Democratic health reform bills, there are not 60 votes to pass a Conference Committee report (i.e. compromise bill) in the Senate. Thus, the House and Senate leadership must take this route.

All this highlights just how integral grassroots support for reform is. Passing reform is not guaranteed and there is a lot of misleading information out there about reform. Many Americans don’t understand the importance of passing reform and what the reform bill actually contains. The same goes for members of Congress. This is why our March Action is so important. As you know, the media can play a powerful role in influencing public policy and opinion. The editorial pages of your local paper are the most read pages. By getting letters and op-eds published in our local papers supporting health reform, we can help shape the debate and push back against the falsehoods about health reform.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to pass reform now! Take the March Action. Send a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local paper, urging Congress to pass health reform now. Be sure to use FamiliesUSA’s latest report Lives on the Line to highlight the stakes involved in reform. The reports shows state-by-state statistics on how many people have died since the last reform effort failed and how many people will die if this reform effort fails. Because newspapers like a “local angle” to their stories, be sure to cite your state’s data in your letters. Be sure to also call on your representatives and senators by name in your letter or op-ed; tell them it is time to do what it right for all Americans and not what is best for insurance companies and Washington lobbyists.

You can also use our online alert to send a letter directly from the RESULTS website. Also, visit the White House “Reform by the Numbers” site, for more information about reform. Finally, see our updated health reform summary chart that has a side-by-side comparison of the House, Senate, and White House health reform proposals.

Because a vote on reform could come at any time, send in your letters as soon as possible. Also, stay tuned for alerts and updates from RESULTS. The House could vote as soon as next week. As soon as we know when these votes will take place, we will urge you to contact your members of Congress about reform. We also urge you to activate your networks about making calls when it is time.


Tell Congress to Include Higher Medicaid Reimbursement Rates in Reform

As we push for passing reform in our March Action, there are still individual issues that need to be resolved before reform passes. RESULTS has been pushing one such issue: the rates at which health care providers are reimbursed for treating Medicaid patients. As mentioned last week, Medicaid is very much like a single-payer program; doctors treat patients and then are reimbursed for their services by the states (the federal government covers part of the states’ Medicaid costs). But the amount doctors and hospitals get from Medicaid is very low; Medicaid doctors are only 66 percent of what Medicare doctors are paid for primary care. As a result, 40 percent of doctors refuse to take new Medicaid patients. This means that Medicaid patients have fewer outlets to seek medical care.

Fortunately last week, raising provider reimbursement rates in Medicaid got an influential new supporter — President Barack Obama. On March 2, President Obama sent a letter to House and Senate leadership highlighting four Republican ideas from the health care summit that he could support. One of those ideas was raising reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers. This is a big development in the effort to raise these rates. As you know, the House health reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R.3962), addresses this problem by raising Medicaid rates up to Medicare rates within three years of implementation, but the Senate’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not. Since the Senate bill is the base bill for reform, any changes in Medicaid reimbursement rates will have to be made in the companion reconciliation bill. We can help see that those reimbursement rates are increased in the final bill.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to pass meaningful health reform that includes the House provision for increasing Medicaid provider reimbursement rates to Medicare levels. Contact the House and Senate health aides you have developed relationships with over the last year and tell them that Medicaid patients need doctors to go to just like everyone else. Remind them that passing reform and raising Medicaid reimbursement rates in the final health reform bill will help doctors get paid, patients get care, and our society get better.

If you are not sure who your representatives are, you can search by zip code on the RESULTS elected officials page. If you cannot call your House and Senate aides, please send an e-mail to them using our online alert.


America’s Safety Net Temporarily Restored — Key Vote Today

On March 1, unemployment insurance benefits (UI), COBRA benefits, and a cut in Medicare doctor reimbursements went into effect putting millions of Americans in financial jeopardy. The Senate had tried to pass an extension of these provisions but the extension was held up by a filibuster by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY). Fortunately on March 2, Sen. Bunning relented and the Senate passed a 30-day extension of benefits, 78-19.

However, this only provides temporary relief. Unless Congress passes a longer extension, they will be back in the same boat at the end of March. Fortunately, that could change today. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) is bringing up the Tax Extenders Act of 2009 (H.R.4213). This bill contains an extension of UI and COBRA benefits for the rest of 2010. The bill also includes an extension of the higher federal Medicaid payments to states (called the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage or FMAP) that was part of the economic recovery bill last year. The higher Medicaid FMAP will be extended for six months, through June 2011. This will be helpful to states who are now drafting their 2011 budgets. If it passes, states can hopefully stave off cuts to the program they would otherwise make. RESULTS has been urging this FMAP extension for the last several weeks for this very reason.

The Senate vote today is a procedural vote that requires 60 votes. If the motion passes, the bill is expected to pass the Senate sometime this week. Because the bill contains extensions of many popular tax provisions that Republicans support, many expect it to get the 60 votes.

TAKE ACTION: Ensure passage of a long-term extension of these important benefits — contact Congress and tell them to pass extensions of unemployment insurance benefits, COBRA and Medicaid’s FMAP increase! UI and COBRA should be extended through the end of 2010 and the FMAP for Medicaid should be extended another six months through June 2011.


Quick News

Health Insurance Companies Launching Ad Campaign. Upset by heightened attacks from elected officials on dramatic insurance rate increases, health insurance companies are not taking things lying down. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the lobbyist group for health insurers, plans to run $1 million in ads the next few weeks countering the recent criticisms of rising health premiums. AHIP President Karen Ignagni said “[t]he current debate about rising premiums has demonstrated that, in fact, we have a health care cost crisis in this country. Unfortunately, the path that has been followed is one of vilification rather than problem solving.” AHIP is also holding a policy conference in DC this week, where reform supporters will be holding protests and a mock “citizen’s arrest” of insurance company CEOs.

Sarah Palin, Single Payer Advocate? Former Alaska Governor and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin made news this week when she shared that her family had used single-payer health care. As a child, Governor Palin lived just over the border from Whitehouse, Yukon, Canada. Speaking in Whitehorse this weekend, she noted when her family got sick, “[w]e used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada. And I think now, isn’t that ironic?” Considering Governor Palin has repeatedly decried “government-run health care” during the health debate and even told Canadians last year to scrap their national health program, it is ironic indeed.


Announcements

New Hunger Fellow Starts at RESULTS today! RESULTS is pleased to welcome Girmay Zahilay as the latest Hunger Fellow from the Congressional Hunger Center to join RESULTS. Girmay just finished his six month field placement at City Harvest in New York City, where he worked to help increase access to food for low-income areas. Hunger Fellows spend the first six months of the fellowship working on hunger and poverty issues in the field and their second six months working on those issues at the policy level in Washington, DC. Girmay will be working with the RESULTS Domestic Team on both policy and outreach activities for the next six months and we are thrilled to have him on board. You can read more about Girmay at the CHC website. Welcome Girmay!

Please Submit Your Group Planning Forms. Go to the RESULTS Group Resources page to find the RESULTS 2010 Group Planning Materials. Use the forms available to help with your group planning. Once you have completed your Group Planning Form, e-mail, mail or fax a copy to Meredith Dodson at the RESULTS DC office. As always, if you have any questions or need help with your planning, please contact Meredith or Jos Linn.

Be Sure to Plan to Come to DC this June! The RESULTS 2010 International Conference is June 20–22. The theme this year is “Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future: 30 Years of RESULTS.” We are working on an ambitious and exciting agenda for the conference and we want as many volunteers to attend as possible. We will have more information about the conference in the coming weeks, which we will highlight in our weekly updates and on our RESULTS International Conference page. We look forward to seeing you in June!

Updated Actions Online. We have updated our online action alerts that you can take directly from the RESULTS website. Take a few minutes to send a quick action concerning health reform or economic opportunity at our U.S. Poverty Actions and News page.

Donations Always Welcome. RESULTS and RESULTS Education Fund always welcome your financial contributions. Your support helps us do the work we do. Use our easy, breezy online donation form to make your contribution.


Upcoming Events

(Click to see a complete calendar)

March 13: RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET, (888) 409-6709.

April–May: New Activist Orientation. Four sessions: April 5, April 19, May 3, May 17. Call (712) 432-3100, passcode 761262. Contact Lisa Marchal to sign up and for more information.

June 20–22: 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. You can read this update online at RESULTS U.S. Poverty Action and News page. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our domestic campaigns.

If you would like to unsubscribe from these updates, follow the link below or contact Alan Gold at gold@results.org or (202) 783-7100.