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March 2010 U.S. Poverty Action

inteCall on Congress to Pass Health Reform Now! (Media Action)

Take Action! Write a Letter or Place an Op-Ed Telling Congress to Finish the People’s Work by Passing Health Care Reform!

1. Refer to a recent article in the newspaper on health care reform. Do a search on the newspaper’s website for recent articles if you need a “hook.”

2. Explain that everyday Americans must push back against the insurance companies’ attempts to kill health reform. We need Congress to listen to us, not the insurance companies.

3. Tell readers that Families USA reports that if health reform fails, [this many] people will die in your state for lack of health insurance. You can find your state’s individual data at: http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/delaying-reform.pdf.

4. Inform readers that the president’s proposal works for the American people. It is an important step forward in protecting people who already have health insurance and covering those who don’t. Specifically, you can highlight that the bill will:

    a. Guarantee all Americans access to high quality health coverage

    b. Holding insurance companies accountable by protecting Americans from abusive practices and requiring companies to spend their premium dollars on actual patient care

    c. Give Americans the same kind of insurance options members of Congress have

    d. Cover over 30 million people who don’t have health insurance

    e. Improve access to care by building more community health centers and training more doctors

5. Call on House and Senate members by name to finish and pass health reform now. Tell them that it is time to do what is best for the American people, not insurance company CEOs. People from [your state] are counting on them to get this right and to get this done.

Note: Brevity is key in letters; most newspapers have a 150–250 word limit for letters to the editor. Be sure to send a published copy of your letter to your members of Congress and the RESULTS office.

It’s Time for a Breakthrough on Health Care Reform

On February 25, the president held a nationally televised bipartisan health care summit. Some forty leading members of the House and Senate participated. It appeared afterward that no minds were changed, but the public got a clearer idea of the issues and arguments. One thing was clear — it is time for Congress to pass health care reform. But, it’s not clear if there are the votes to get it done, and that’s why it’s critical that we make our voices heard.

Under the current non-system of health care, millions of people go uninsured or underinsured, the number of uninsured grows every day, premiums skyrocket for families and small business, and health care costs strangle our economy. Recently, Anthem Blue Cross announced that it is raising insurance premiums by 39 percent in California and other companies are doing the same in other states. Furthermore, a failure to pass reform will mean things will get worse; more will go uninsured, millions more will go bankrupt, and thousands will die each year for lack of insurance.

Families USA has a new report out, Lives on the Line, which outlines in stark reality what the lack of reform has done and will do:

  • In the 15 years since health reform was last debated (1995–2009), more than 290,000 American adults (25–64 years old) died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage.
  • If Congress fails to pass health reform, the number of Americans who will lose their lives will continue to grow. In the next 10 years (2010–2019), more than 275,000 adults across the nation will die prematurely due to a lack of health coverage.
  • Every day in 2010, approximately 68 non-elderly adult Americans across the nation will die prematurely due to lack of health coverage. If health reform fails, that number will grow to 84 Americans dying every day by 2019.

The report also states that the link between a lack of health coverage and premature death occurs because the uninsured are less likely to have a usual source of care outside the emergency room, they often go without screenings and preventive care, and they often delay or forgo needed medical care.

What is Really in the Health Reform Bills

Throughout the reform process, many statements and accusations about health reform have been made. As House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA-30) joked at the White House Health Summit to President Obama “Well, if I listened to [reform opponents’] rhetoric all day, I wouldn’t want your plan either.” The simple fact is that health reform will be a vast improvement over what we have now. Not perfect, but better. Here are some of the things that the health care reform bills already passed by the House and Senate will do:

  • Cover more than 30 million uninsured people through Medicaid and private insurance. Medicaid will be expanded to cover everyone below 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Families up to who do not qualify for Medicaid will be provided tax credits and premium subsidies to help them purchase insurance.
  • Expand access to health care through community health centers. Community health centers will receive $11 billion in new funding over the first five years. Reform also invests more money in training doctors and nurses to serve in low-income areas.
  • Protect Americans from insurance company abuses. Reform will outlaw insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and rescinding policies once someone gets sick. Reform will also require companies to spend the majority of the money the collect in premiums on actual patient care.
  • Give Americans the same kind of health insurance members of Congress have. The bills create health insurance exchanges that help individuals and small business pool their resources to buy quality affordable insurance. This is similar to the plan members of Congress currently use to purchase their health coverage. In fact, the bill requires members of Congress to buy their insurance through the same exchanges as everyone else.
  • Reduce the federal budget deficit. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate health bill will reduce the federal budget deficit by $130 billion over the next ten years. It is also expected to reduce the deficit by substantially more in the following decade.

See Families USA’s 12 Reasons to Embrace Health Reform for more information about the benefits of reform.

In a speech on March 2, President Obama urged Congress to finish health reform before the end of March. He reiterated his offer to continue to incorporate Republican ideas into his plan but that if Republicans were unwilling to support the final bill, he would push for the up-or-down vote on health reform the American people deserve.

The American public’s patience for reform has run out. As President Obama said in his closing remarks on March 2, “At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know if it’s still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead... And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law.”

Tips on Generating a Letter to the Editor — Remember Your C’s

  • Be Current. Responding to a recent article in the newspaper or a recent event is a great way to increase your odds of being published. Also, create your letter using the EPIC format (Engage, state the Problem, Inform about a solution, give a Call to action).
  • Be Clear and Concise. Most papers will not print letters that are more than 200–250 words. Some papers limit them to 150 words. The shorter the letter, the more likely it will be published. Stick to one subject and check your grammar. After you have written your letter, read it aloud (this really works). Ask yourself: Is my point clear? Is my letter compelling? Can I shorten it and still get my point across? See our Media Hooks and Framing page for tips on how to word your letter.
  • Connect the Dots. Connect the dots between your community and health reform. For example, use the Families USA report to show what the failure of reform will mean for people in your state.
  • Be Challenging. Feel free to question what others have said or done, and even start your letter off with a feisty first sentence. However, be sure to avoid personal attacks. An argument based on merit rather than emotional attacks is respectful and more persuasive.
  • Call to Action. Make sure your letter calls on Congress or the public to do something. In this case, tell members of Congress to pass reform. In fact, mention members of Congress by name. Because many congressional offices do Internet searches each day, this increases the chance your member of Congress will see your letter. If published, be sure to fax or e-mail your letter to their offices as well.

For more tips, see Media Activist Milestone #1 — Writing a Letter to the Editor. Also, we will discuss our Health Care for All campaign and the latest on reform on the March 2010 National Conference Call — Saturday, March 13, at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.