AFFORDABLE, QUALITY HEALTH CARE FOR ALL -- NOT JUST A PRIVILEGED FEW -- MAY BE THE MOST IMPORTANT CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE OF OUR DAY.
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.
Organizer, Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network
603.479.7217 | firstname.lastname@example.org