Health Care – The time for a united push is NOW!

BY:CPUSA Political Action Commission| December 21, 2009
Health Care – The time for a united push is NOW!

Action Memo from Political Action Commission, CPUSA

Don’t be fooled by rumors and news clips that the health care fight is over and done with. One of the most important parts of the process is just about to get under way. Once the Senate votes on it’s bill, that goes to conference committee along with the House bill passed earlier. All cards are on the table, some good that must be kept or expanded, some bad that must be stripped out. 

Richard Turmka, president of the AFL-CIO issued a statement after a closed door national board meeting urging mobilization of pressure on Congress for a bill that is affordable, covers everyone, regulates the insurance companies, and taxes the wealthy, not individuals with health care benefits.

Last week was a turmoil, as the Senate twisted and turned eventually dropping both the public option and Medicare eligibility at age 55, while including taxation of benefits, which would hurt union members with health care coverage in their  contracts the most. But the Senate bill is not the end of the road. That is why the right-wing has been so bold about trying to stall Senate action.

Late Saturday night, Sen. Tom Harkin said, “This is not a mansion. It is a starter house,” that can be added to and improved. Last week, Rep. Grijalva, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus said that the fight for progressive principles must go on to get the measures included in the House bill into the final bill.

The answer is to up the ante and make voices heard with phone calls, letters and public statements from community health centers, from work sites, from neighborhood gatherings, from schools, to Congress and the White House to counter the high financed blitz by insurance and pharma corporations.

If the experiences of the recent months have taught anything, it is when labor, racially oppressed, women and youth are not sufficiently organized and mobilized, the right-wing will step in. Support for public option and universal coverage must be more and more united and visible to get the strongest possible bill passed. What happens in this fight sets the stage for 2010 elections and the huge battle to shift the balance of forces more toward working people, creating the conditions to improve what is won now.

Below are links to four documents to understand more deeply the process underway:

  1. A message from Health Care for America Now which outlines the upcoming votes and the conference committee process, showing that it is very important for members of Congress to hear from their constituents now even if they have called in the past.
  2. A message from Rekindling Reform in New York state with a list of demands of what should remain and what should be removed from the draft bills.
  3. An appeal from the National Immigration Law Center for incorporating the demand to end the five year waiting period for coverage of immigrants with documents.
  4. A paper from the Economic Policy Institute, “House Health Care Bill is Right on the Money,” emphasizing what the conference committee will be considering.
For up-to-date news and analysis visit  Please circulate.
Political Action Commission, CPUSA

Reference Materials

1. From a memo by Health Care for America Now:

“As you might know if you’ve been reading the newspapers, health care reform has had a tumultuous week. I want to make sure you had up-to-date information on what’s happening, as well as our take on recent events.

Where are we now?

In the last week, the public health insurance option Majority Leader Reid put into his merged bill was stripped out, and a “compromise” allowing people over the age of 55 to buy into Medicare if they chose was added and then also stripped to appease Senators Joe Lieberman.1,2 The leadership and the White House accepted these changes in order to move forward, and they have introduced a bill in the Senate that reflects this.3,4

The compromise, which took away the best way to truly hold the insurance companies accountable, provoked an angry reaction from health reform supporters.5 Frankly, we’re angry, too. The new bill released today does include a number of new, tougher insurance reforms, including a patients’ bill of rights, restrictions on how much insurers can spend on administration and profit, and an attempt to hold down insurance premium increases.

Right now, the Senate bill looks like it will pass the Senate next week and move into conference with the House, which has a much better bill that it passed last month.6

What needs to be fixed?

The Senate bill, as it stands now, has major problems that need to be fixed. We need to make sure that the final bill that goes to President Obama’s desk provides good, affordable coverage and holds insurance companies accountable.

Here’s what must be fixed:

1. Make health care affordable
The Senate bill does not make health care affordable at work, and would encourage employers to hire part-time workers and offer bare-bones benefits. We need the final legislation to do what the House bill does – require all but the smallest employers to contribute a fair amount to good coverage for their workers.

And for those people who are self-employed or in between jobs, both bills need improvement on affordability. The Senate bill doesn’t do enough to make coverage affordable for low-and-moderate income families and the House falls short for middle-income families. The final bill should combine the best of both.

2. Hold insurance companies accountable
The final bill must include strong consumer protections and insurance regulations for all consumers, and give the federal government responsibility for running the new insurance marketplaces. Generally, the House bill is better, but we need Congress to pick the strongest provisions from both bills to be sure that everyone with insurance benefits from strong consumer protections.

The final bill should also give us the choice of a national public health insurance option that’s available on day one.

3. Fairly finance health care reform
The Senate bill taxes the health care benefits of millions of workers to pay for health reform. There’s a better way to pay for health reform that won’t raise premiums and out of pocket costs. By contrast, the House bill asks those who can most afford to pay their fair share to finance reform, as President Obama promised during his campaign.

The final bill should ask the richest to pay their fair share for reform, instead of taxing our health care benefits.

What’s next?

The reason that conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson and Independent Joe Lieberman have been able to hold the bill hostage to their demands is that Republicans have insisted on filibustering the bill every step of the way, requiring all 60 Senators who are part of the Democratic caucus to agree. That will continue this week, with the next 60-vote motion happening on Monday and perhaps two more 60-votes motions occurring during the week.

After the Senate passes their health care bill, it will head into “conference” with the House bill. There, leaders from each branch of Congress, as well as the White House, will work to resolve the differences between the two bills and come up with something that can pass and be sent to the President’s desk.

Conference is an opportunity to stand up for the three priorities listed above, and make sure the final bill guarantees us quality, affordable health care, with the choice of a public health insurance option. The legislation that comes out of the conference will be sent to both houses of Congress for a final vote, and will require a majority in the House and 60 votes one more time in the Senate.

What can be done?

In the coming days, we’ll be asking you to let your Senators, member of Congress and President Obama hear from you. We’ll be rolling out with a campaign to stand up for the fixes we must see to get the best bill possible to the President’s desk. We’ll be asking you to take part, raise your voice, and help us fight for what we believe in.

It’s been a tough week for health care reformers, there’s no question. But we need to get ready, because it’s not over yet.

As President Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty.” This last week has been painful and difficult, and there’s a lot of effort ahead. We’ll all be taking this time over the holidays to recharge for the coming fight.

As long as you’re fighting with us, we’ve got a chance to win this thing and finish reform right.

Thank you, happy holidays, and onwards!

To your health,

2. From a memo by Rekindling Reform:
  1. Either offer everyone an opportunity to enroll in a real public health insurance program (not merely a co-op or private nonprofit plan) or else takes out the individual mandate.
  2. Enable access to Medicare coverage by persons age 55 to 64. 
  3. Do away with the Stupak amendment and do not disturb existing provisions governing abortion.
  4. Require community-rated premiums for all plans and cap out-of-pocket costs at affordable levels.
  5. Prohibit both annual and lifetime caps on services received.
  6. Rely largely on higher taxes on the wealthy for the necessary financing and don’t tax health coverage.
  7. Require insurance companies to spend at least 90% of premiums they receive for patient care.


3. From a memo by the National immigration Law Center:

We are in urgent need for organizations to call the offices of Senator Reid and Senator Baucus NOW with the following message:
“We urge you to include the Menendez amendment, SA 2991, in the manager’s amendment to HR 3590.  This amendment helps restore fairness to our health care system, enabling states to remove a harsh five-year waiting period that prevents legal immigrants from accessing Medicaid.”
Phone numbers are:
Majority Leader Reid: 202-224-3542
Senator Baucus: 202-224-2651


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