As healthcare reform negotiations remains stalled on Capitol Hill and Pres. Obama prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address tonight, religious leaders are standing up to remind Congress and the administration that the political twists and turns in Washington don’t the change the urgent needs of the millions of Americans who’ve been waiting far too long for quality, affordable healthcare.
This morning a group of 23 prominent religious leaders, including clergy, scholars, nationally known advocates and ten members of the White House Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, sent President Obama a letter stating, in part, “Strong, public leadership from you at this moment could sway leaders who are now wavering and considering putting off or scaling back reform.”
Earlier this week, an interfaith letter organized by Faithful Reform in Healthcare was sent to Members of Congress telling them that “[t]his is your moment for political courage, vision, leadership and faith.” And yesterday the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — in an interesting turn from their previous threats to oppose health reform — sent a letter urging Congress to pass reform that provides “affordable, quality, life-giving care is available to all.”
It’s especially important to have voices of moral clarity when the political situation is so murky. Here’s hoping lawmakers take the faith community’s witness to heart.
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Today, a huge coalition of faith groups is urging congress to show leadership in the face of political uncertainty and finish the job on health care reform (You can call Congress today at 1-866-279-5474.)
The groups are lifting up a common message: despite the political situation, we cannot turn our backs on the millions of families still suffering needlessly because they lack health insurance or have coverage that costs too much and delivers too little.
Congress’s wavering on reform has been discouraging for many health care advocates, but the faith community is holding strong, in the face of setbacks, for those most in need in our communities, and holding on to faith and hope.
A great example of this perseverance is Noel Andersen, an organizer with Interfaith Worker Justice in Nebraska. He recorded some words of encouragement for fellow weary activists:
If you want to follow Noel’s lead and keep on fighting, call Congress today at 1-866-279-5474.
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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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…is a healthcare reform bill with strong affordability provisions for low- and middle-income families.
Actually, that’s not true. I want lots of other things. But I really would like subsidies ensuring that people can afford the coverage they’ll be required to get if reform passes. Currently, the House bill is better for low-income families, and the Senate bill assists middle-income families more. I’m not sure how feasible it is to expect the final package to combine the best of both, but on Christmas Eve eve, that’s one of many things I’m hoping for.
But enough of healthcare for a moment. From this afternoon through the end of the year team FPL will be out of the office spending time with family and friends, reflecting on the year that was, giving thanks for the countless blessing in our lives, and maybe even relaxing a little bit. It’s been quite a year for us and our many outstanding partners, and I hope we can make an even bigger difference for justice and the common good in 2010. Happy holidays.
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When the Senate voted for cloture on the manager’s amendment on healthcare reform in the wee hours this morning, we cleared yet another hurdle to improving the health and financial security of millions of Americans. Although the abortion compromise and the demise of the public option have opened divisions among supporters of reform, we’ve never been this close to health reform, and we’re still on the move even though the bill isn’t perfect. There’s simply too much at stake for the 30 million uninsured Americans and millions more who pay too much for insurance that delivers too little.
For me personally, the effort has been really inspiring and educational. FPL, Faithful America, and great partners such as PICO, Sojourners, Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Faithful Reform in Healthcare, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, NETWORK and numerous denominational leaders have been pulling together on this for months now. I’ve only been working in this community for a little more than three years now, but this is by far the biggest, most innovative team effort in which I’ve ever taken part. Collectively, we’ve run radio and tv ads, met with Members of Congress and their staffs, generated many thousands of phone calls and emails to Congressional offices, held press conferences that have received local and national media attention, had a national call-in program with faith leaders and President Obama (which has been listened to online 300,000 times), appeared on cable tv numerous times, published op-eds, held vigils and worships services for reform, and worked with secular partners to keep reform moving past countless hurdles. There are more to come, so we won’t rest just yet, but the finish line is in sight.
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