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A voice for afforability

January 11, 2010, 3:56 pm | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

In an op-ed today, Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary Catholic bishop in the Los Angeles archdiocese, articulated the need for healthcare reform legislation to include adequate subsidies to make health coverage truly affordable for low- and middle-income families. This issue is especially important right now because Congressional leadership is still determining how strong the final bill’s affordability measures will be. Bishop Zavala’s take:

One of the most critical challenges that lawmakers have yet to adequately resolve is the obligation to ensure that health care reform truly makes coverage affordable. This responsibility takes on even greater urgency at a time when unemployment has reached its highest level in decades, a growing number of citizens are falling into poverty and social safety nets in states around the country are worn thin by deep budget cuts. On this fundamental question of protecting working families from skyrocketing health-care costs, there is a profound difference between House and Senate proposals. The House legislation requires everyone to contribute to the cost of their health coverage, but sets premiums and out-of-pocket costs at levels that lower-income families are likely to be able to afford. In contrast, the Senate offers weak protections for low-income citizens. The Senate approach would require many Americans to buy insurance that costs too much and covers too little. Providing inadequate subsidies, as the Senate does, would threaten a signature goal of health reform and undermine public support needed to pass and sustain this monumental effort.

Fortunately, as Congress moves to reconcile these bills, the House legislation provides a road map to making reform work for lower-income families.

Bishop Zavala is hardly alone in speaking up for affordability. Hundreds of grassroots leaders are converging on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning for a National Affordability Summit, which will feature Congressional champions for reform and people of faith from across the country. As the House and Senate bills are merged over the coming weeks, affordability advocates’ efforts are as timely as they are necessary.

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