June 2009 Domestic Monthly Action
Join the Nationwide Push for Health Care for All: Don’t Forget the Poor in Health Reform
Meet with Members of Congress in Person or Virtually on Health Reform
*If no one in your group is coming to the conference, you can still participate by requesting conference calls with health aides on June 23 or 24. Your members’ of Congress local office may be willing to help set this up.
Let’s Make Health Care for All A Reality
Each month of 2009, RESULTS Domestic has focused on the issue of health care for all. As our primary campaign in 2009 and for the last several years, health reform is closer to becoming a reality now more than ever before. While we are still committed to our long-term goal of a national health program (see below), in April and May we have targeted our work on specific issues of access, via community health centers, and coverage, via Medicaid. Now it is time to step up our work.
On June 23 and 24, RESULTS volunteers from around the country will ascend Capitol Hill to help enact health care for all in 2009. Thousands of other advocates from all over America are also using June as the month to push for health reform. Even President Obama is using his former presidential campaign website to organize people on health reform this month. In Congress, June is turning out to be a pivotal month in the health reform process, as House and Senate committees are expected to consider their health reform bills. It is therefore imperative we make our voice heard at this critical time.
If you are attending the RESULTS International Conference, please be sure to schedule meeting with your members of Congress on June 23 and 24 to discuss health reform. This will be a unique opportunity for you to meet face-to-face with legislators about this and other important anti-poverty issues. Make sure to meet with your local RESULTS group before coming to Washington to plan out your meetings and gather valuable input from group members who may not be traveling to the conference. Use our template to request your lobby meetings today! In addition, if possible ask your legislator’s office to set up a conference call during your visit so that you (in DC) and your fellow group members (back home) can participate together in your meeting.
If none of your local group members are attending this year’s conference, you can still make a difference in this process. Follow up from your important actions so far this year with calls to congressional aides on June 23 or 24 to discuss health care. While your fellow RESULTS activists are meeting with leaders in person those days, your calls with key aides will magnify the impact our work can have on health reform in 2009. Consider setting up a conference call meeting to be a “virtual” participant in this year’s International Conference.
RESULTS’ Vision for Health Care Reform
RESULTS has endorsed a national health care plan (single payer) to provide everyone in the U.S. with health coverage. Bills we support include H.R.676, the United States National Health Care Act or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act (introduced by Rep. Conyers), and S.703/H.R.1200, American Health Security Act of 2009 (introduced by Sen. Sanders/Rep. McDermott).
Unfortunately, none of the health reform proposals now being drafted in congressional committees include single payer health care. While we remain committed to a national health program as the long term goal for the U.S. health care system and continue to advocate for it, we are also focusing our efforts on ensuring that the health reform legislation enacted this year will not only serve as a “bridge” to this vision, but also provide the most vulnerable in our society with quality, affordable health care.
Expand and Strengthen Coverage Through Medicaid
Medicaid currently serves over 60 million people in the U.S., making it the country’s largest single insurer. Long considered one of the best health plans for children and pregnant women, it has provided quality affordable, health coverage for some of America’s lowest income individuals and families for four decades.
Unfortunately, Medicaid is still not available for millions of low-income Americans. Parents of dependant children only have limited access to the program, despite evidence that children are healthier when the entire family has health coverage. Also, adults without children are forbidden from enrolling in Medicaid by federal law. By expanding Medicaid to cover all persons under 150 percent of the federal poverty line (in 2009, that would be $27,465 for a family of three), we could reduce the number of uninsured persons by one third.
Furthermore, the recent economic downturn has demonstrated the absolute necessity of the Medicaid program. The Kaiser Foundation estimates that for every one percent increase in the national unemployment rate, one million more people go one Medicaid and CHIP. Since January 2008, the national unemployment rate has risen by 5 percent. Yet, despite the increased demand, a declining economy forces states to cut important programs like Medicaid to balance their budgets. Fortunately, Congress provided a temporary increase in federal Medicaid funding this year to stave off state cuts; however this approach is piecemeal and unpredictable. Medicaid must be strengthened so that in times of economic crisis, federal funding will automatically increase until the crisis subsides.
Community Health Centers Ensure Access in Underserved Areas
Health coverage through a national health program or Medicaid expansion is useless if there is no access to a health facility or primary care provider near a person’s home. Millions of people in rural areas and urban inner cities have little or no access to care.
Community health centers (CHCs) can help fill the gap in health care access. Currently, there are approximately 1,100 community health centers in the U.S., serving 19 million people. This is the nation’s largest primary care system. Although anyone can seek treatment at a CHC, most of those cared for in this system are uninsured or on Medicaid (Medicaid makes up a large portion of CHC budgets). In addition, they primarily serve lower income and minority communities; 70 percent of patients have incomes below 100 percent of the poverty line and 91 percent below 200 percent of the poverty line. Yet, the CHC budget averages about $2 billion per year, about .08 percent of the $2.5 trillion the U.S. spends on health care each year.
The Access for All Americans Act (S.486/H.R.1296) would authorize $8.3 billion a year for the expansion of Qualified Health Centers from the current number of 1,100 to 4,800. Estimates are that with this expansion, 30 million people could be served by CHCs by 2015. The bills also addresses the need for doctors and health service providers by increasing the National Health Service Corps budget to $1.2 billion a year, a ten-fold expansion of current figures.