[COMM-ORG] health care organizing

Discussion list for COMM-ORG colist at comm-org.wisc.edu
Mon Dec 21 11:23:25 CST 2009

From: "Gordon Whitman" <gwhitman at piconetwork.org>

[ed:  sorry, I'm behind on posts, so this is a bit outdated, as this new 
proposal has passed its first procedural hurdle.]

Dear friends,

This morning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced an amended
health reform bill that now has support from 60 Senators.   This
overcomes one of the most difficult hurdles on the road to
comprehensive health reform.

The revised bill has much tougher regulation of insurance industry
practices, better consumer protections and stronger controls on
long-term health care costs than the original Senate bill.  It also
includes a two-year extension in funding for the Children's Health
Insurance Program, $10 billion in additional funding for safety net
health clinics, expanded tax credits for small business and new
language designed to prevent federal funding of abortion.

The new version of the bill does not include improvements in
affordability for lower-income families, and that remains a fundamental
problem that will need to be fixed when the Senate legislation is sent
over to the House.

While we and others are still looking at the details of the bill, we
wanted to share four new consumer protections included in the revised
A requirement that insurers spend 85 cents out of every dollars they
receive in premiums on health care rather than profits and
administrative costs. If not, people would receive rebates from their
insurance companies for the difference.
A complete ban on lifetime and annual limits on benefits.
The right to an independent appeal of any decision by an insurer to
deny coverage.
People receiving subsidies to buy insurance will be able to choose from
national plans, including at least one non-profit plan, that are
supervised by the same department of the federal government that
selects health insurance plans for federal employees.
The new Senate bill does not provide for a public option to compete
with private insurance plans, which may disappoint some people; it
compensates, however, by significantly tightening up insurance
regulations and offering people a much wider set of choices of private
and non-profit health plans.  The Senate bill would extend health
coverage to 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured.

As always, please consult your own denominations and faith traditions
for their analysis of the legislation, particularly the language
related to abortion.

Next steps:  Senate procedures require four votes, the first of which
will likely take place 1am Monday morning and will require 60 votes.  
Then there will be votes on Tuesday at 7am, Wednesday at 1pm, and a
final vote on the legislation that may take place Christmas Eve at 7pm
(unless there is a bi-partisan agreement to speed things up so Senators
and their staff can get home for Christmas!).

After that the bill goes back to the House of Representatives.  The
most likely scenario is that the House makes some additional changes
based on its own bill and then sends a bill back to the Senate for
final passage and signing by the President.

As you know PICO affiliates have already begun working to make sure
that the House protections for lower-income families are included in
the final legislation.  We need to make sure that premiums and
out-of-pocket costs are set at levels that all families can afford if
we want reform to succeed.  This will be a hard fight, but critical to
the success of health reform.

Please share your thoughts and questions.

Best wishes and happy holidays.

Gordon Whitman, PICO national staff

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