Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Do We Want? Health Care Now!

Health care activists from around the country gathered near the U.S. Capitol for a June 25 rally.

Our local campaign to win affordable, quality health care for all is still going strong. Last week, dozens of New Hampshire activists -- including many familiar faces from the Greater Seacoast area -- traveled to Washington DC for a national day of advocacy and action for real health care reform.

On Thursday, June 25, members of the NH delegation kicked off the big day with a breakfast meeting with Senator Jeanne Shaheen and senior policy staff from the offices of Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes. We learned that New Hampshire's Congressional Democrats are firm in their support for a public plan option as a key component of legislation to reduce skyrocketing health care costs and guarantee that every American has access to affordable, quality care when they need it.

After the morning meeting, we joined a Capitol Hill rally with thousands of fired-up health care voters from across the U.S., followed by a high-spirited march to the nearby offices of Republican National Senatorial Committee. In the afternoon, a small contingent of NH activists visited the DC office of Judd Gregg to deliver a message urging the Senator to listen to his constituents instead of well-paid lobbyists from big pharmaceutical companies and the private health insurance industry. In short, it was a fantastic, purposeful day, and Granite Staters who made the long bus ride were glad they came.

This summer, watch for a series of Seacoast region events and actions to support President Obama's priorities for health care reform. Seacoast for Change will be partnering with the NH for Health Care/Change That Works campaign and Organizing for America on a number of local actions in the coming weeks. Yes, we can make a difference -- and there are many ways to get involved:
  • Join us for a health care house meeting or volunteer to help with a Change That Works/Seacoast for Change/Organizing for America event or action. Email seacoastforchange@gmail.com for more information.
  • Have you sent a handwritten card or note to thank Jeanne Shaheen for supporting the public plan option? If not, please do it today -- it only takes five minutes. (Send USPS mail to any one of Senator Shaheen's NH offices for timely reading -- you can find the addresses here.)
  • Write a Letter to the Editor on why NH businesses and families can't wait for real health care reform that includes the public health insurance option.
  • Reach out to your friends and neighbors. If you're able to make calls to invite other health care supporters to upcoming events, we can provide call lists and scripts for you if you'd like to organize a phone bank or make calls from home.
Political pundits on the left and right are already speculating that the outcome of this year's battle for health care reform will make or break the legacy of the Obama presidency as a transformative era -- and that a failure to push through a meaningful fix for our broken health care system will signal the powerlessness and futility of the organized progressive movement in the United States.

We worked hard last year to get Barack Obama elected. We need to work just as hard this year to make the change we believe in a reality. We can't wait -- and we cannot afford to sit this one out and expect the right thing to happen. Please pick one health care action you can take today, tomorrow, or this week, and follow through.

Follow up on Hampton Democrats Health Care Forum:

On Thursday, June 18, Hampton Democrats sponsored a non-partisan community forum on health care reform featuring a panel of experts on health care administration, community health needs, and health care policy. From all accounts, it was an extremely well organized and informative event. Segments of the panel presentations and discussion can be viewed on YouTube; a report on the forum was also featured in a June 25 cover story for the Portsmouth Wire newspaper. The Health Care Forum was the second in an ongoing series of public policy forums organized by the Hampton Democratic Town Committee.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Health Care Summer: Call to Action


ON ELECTION NIGHT, President Obama reminded the nation that his victory was not the change we seek -- only the opportunity to make that change. Right now, we have another chance to make historic progress, and a formidable challenge before us.

You've heard the grim facts: The United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, yet 46 million Americans are uninsured and millions more are underinsured. In 2007, more than 4 in 10 working-age adults said they postponed or avoided filling a prescription or seeking needed medical care because they could not afford it. Disparities in health insurance coverage, health care access and outcomes, and life expectancy -- between the wealthy and working poor, whites and non-whites, men and women -- are pronounced and disturbing. In the entire U.S. population, a significant percentage of men, women, and children do not have access to the health care they need to grow well, learn well, work well, and have a decent quality of life. Whether insured or uninsured, millions of U.S. families are struggling with rising health care costs and medical debt.

There's work to be done on many fronts to ensure that all Americans have truly equal opportunities to thrive. But health care reform that works for everyone -- not just private insurance companies and a privileged few -- may be the most important civil rights issue of our day.

This summer, we have a real chance to make substantive progress on comprehensive health care reform. President Obama has made health care reform one of his top priorities, and the Democratic majority in Congress is favorable to passing legislation that guarantees every American has access to affordable, quality health care when they need it.

But opposition to meaningful change -- backed by big-money special interest groups with a reputation for ruthlessness -- is mounting. Anyone who hopes to see a more caring and equitable society in this lifetime cannot afford to wait this one out and expect the right thing to happen.

Congress may vote on health care reform before the end of July. That means the next eight weeks offer a critical window of opportunity to for strategic grassroots action.

The big battle will be over the creation of a public health insurance plan, and the battleground will be the U.S. Senate. The public plan option will establish a federally-funded, publicly-administered health insurance program to provide coverage to those who cannot afford private insurance and/or do not have employer-based coverage, and anyone else who prefers to enroll. It will establish a baseline standard of care delivery, and create healthy competition for private insurers to meet or exceed the level of cost savings and scope of care available through the non-profit public plan. It will also expand patient choice by offering a new option for comprehensive coverage that includes preventative, primary, and long-term care, and allow patients to keep or choose their own doctor. People who like the private plan they have now will be able to keep it.

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to pass legislation that includes a public plan option, and NH representatives Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes are likely to support it. Senator Judd Gregg is the co-sponsor of a bill that seeks to control costs and mandate universal coverage by regulating the private insurance market and requiring individuals and employers to pay into a private, for-profit health insurance plan. Senator Jeanne Shaheen recently signed a resolution with 28 other U.S. Senators endorsing the creation of a public plan.

Since February 2009, Seacoast for Change has worked with organizers from the SEIU Change That Works/NH for Health Care campaign to engage members of the Seacoast community in a grassroots action campaign for health care reform. On June 6, Organizing for America -- the DNC's post-election online action center -- will kick-off a nationwide campaign to re-mobilize former Campaign for Change volunteers and build public support for President Obama's health care reform priorities.

If you want health care reform that works for working families and everyone else, the time to act is now. Both NH for Health Care/Change That Works and OFA are organizing house meetings to get the word out and bring new supporters into the fold. Hosting a health care house meeting is easy, and it's one of the most effective things you can do to spread the word about the urgent need for health care reform and set the stage for a successful citizen action campaign.

If you support the public plan choice -- and if you care about reducing health care costs, improving health care delivery and outcomes, and ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care, you probably do -- please take 10-15 minutes this week to write a hand written card or note to Senator Shaheen to let her know you stand behind her decision to support the public health insurance plan option. Mail your thank you note to one of Senator Shaheen's NH offices for timely reading -- you'll find those addresses here.

On June 25, New Hampshire will send a delegation of activists to Washington DC for a national day of action for health care reform. Group transportation is being coordinated by the NH Citizen's Action Alliance as part of the NH Health Care for America Now campaign -- click here for more information and to reserve a seat on the bus.

If you can't host a house meeting or participate in the DC day of action, there are plenty of other opportunities make a meaningful difference. For more information about supporting the NH for Health Care/Change That Works campaign, contact SEIU's Seacoast Region field organizer, Israel Pierre. If you're interested in supporting Organizing for America's health care action campaign, visit barackobama.com for more information or to find an event. If you want more information or want to get more involved through the Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network, please contact me.

Judy Stadtman
Organizer, Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network
Portsmouth NH
603.479.7217 | seacoastforchange@gmail.com