Yesterday approximately 1,000 African Methodist Episcopal clergy and lay leaders from across the western US gathered in Los Angeles for their annual meeting and used the occasion to call their members of Congress and urge them to support healthcare reform. And their effort attracted the attention of LA news outlets:
This is just a preview of things to come, as numerous African-American denominations observe “Health Care Sunday” in congregations nationwide this weekend to continue building support for healthcare reform.
When Sen. Reid submitted a merged healthcare bill to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring last week, I flagged the important issue of affordability provisions in the bill. Unbeknownst to me at the time, faith groups were analyzing the legislation as well, and on Friday they voiced serious concerns about the Senate bill and called on Majority Leader Reid to address them:
Today, 160 organizations from 39 states, including faith, labor, consumer, public health and patient organizations representing millions of American families, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to reject a proposal that would increase premiums for low-wage working families, and instead to ensure that Senate legislation makes insurance more affordable for precisely these families who have been hardest-hit by the economic downturn.
The letter — which is endorsed by more than a dozen national religious organizations and denominations, as well as several nationwide community organizing networks — states in part:
We believe it is vitally important that – as you work to develop the best possible health reform legislation that can pass the Senate – you do everything possible to lower premiums and out-of-pockets costs on low-wage working families who are least able to bear the brunt of an individual mandate. That is why we are alarmed by reports that suggest that your merger proposal may not make significant improvements in affordability for low-wage working families, and may in fact increase premiums on people at lower-income levels.
Our faith, labor, consumer, public health and patient organizations represent millions of American families who actively support health reform, but they need to know that reform will make coverage affordable not place an unsustainable burden on those who today lack coverage. As many interests vie to influence the health reform process, it is important that working families not be left with the short-end of the stick.
It’s cute, pointed and fact-free — everything that makes for an effective advocacy spot…
The really interesting thing is that the FRC ad doesn’t make any mention of the hot-button issues like abortion and euthanasia that fueled the opposition of the religious right for so long. Interesting, but also problematic. As Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News asks, “Should a Christian group like the Family Research Council be expected to base its policy positions on the Bible or religious tradition, or is this kind of fiscal-based attack fair game?”
Good point. Of course, fiscal issues can be deeply moral, but shouldn’t the onus be on explicitly religious organizations to make those connections? Or, more to the point, shouldn’t there be a noticeable difference in the content of ads from FRC and, say, the Republican National Committee?
A short while ago, Sen. Majority Leader Reid announced that the merged Senate healthcare bill will include an opt-out public option. This of course will receive the bulk of public attention moving forward, but there are other important things to flag. TPMDC reported that
In the next several hours, Reid will send the CBO a draft bill with alternative provisions on certain issues, to get a range of cost estimates on the plan he’ll bring to the floor.
That range of estimates and provisions will likely include various levels of funding for insurance premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion — two critical determinants of whether reform will make healthcare truly affordable for all. This morning USA Today reported that the Senate Finance bill would leave 17 million Americans uninsured because they make too much to qualify for Medicaid and make too little to afford insurance premiums. Once the Congressional Budget Office analysis of Reid’s merged bill comes back, we’ll see if the Senate leadership takes to heart the message from people of faith who came to Capitol Hill last week to call for Senate reform legislation to reflect the HELP Committee’s affordability measures, not the Finance Committee’s inadequate ones.
As Kristin noted, yesterday faith leaders nationwide observed a day of remembrance and action for healthcare reform in a variety of ways, from holding prayer services to speaking at press conference to visiting Members of Congress. News clips today from across the country reflect as much, in places as diverse as Alabama, North Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Washington, DC. It just goes to show that healthcare reform is an issue that still resonates in congregations across the country after a months-long debate in Congress, and that the media is noticing.