Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Update on Health Reform: What You Can Do

Health Reform Home Stretch Primer:
Here's What You Need to Know About What's Happening This Week!

Hikers climbing a mountain sometimes experience what's known as the false summit phenomenon -- you've been going for hours, you're hungry and thirsty, and it looks like the peak you set as your finish line is right in front of you. But when you get there, you realize it's a false summit, and the actual peak is behind it.  Congress's health care reform effort has been a lot like that – every time we think the end is in sight, it turns out to be a false summit, and we realize there's more hard slogging to go to get to the goal.  But this week, it looks as if Congress may at last be scaling the true, final peak.

House leaders are predicting a vote on health care reform legislation by the end of the week, and they say that they expect by then to have the 216 votes to win the vote.  (For vote count projections, check out the whip count being kept by The Hill.)  If they're going to be able to hold to that, between now and then we'll see several steps forward:

The Congressional Budget Office will release an estimate on how much it will cost to enact the Senate bill with the changes that the House and Senate agree to put in a reconciliation bill.   Expected today.
  • The Congressional Budget Office will release an estimate on how much it will cost to enact the Senate bill with the changes that the House and Senate agree to put in a reconciliation bill, and the House Budget Committee will vote to clear the way for the House to act on a reconciliation bill.   Expected this afternoon
  • The House Rules Committee will post the changes included in the reconciliation bill on its website.  Expected Tuesday morning
  • The House Rules Committee will set the terms for how the House will vote on the reconciliation bill and the Senate bill.  There isn't yet a decision about how to handle the votes – the question is whether the House will vote on the Senate bill separately from its vote on the reconciliation bill that modifies it.  Expected Wednesday or Thursday.
  • The full House will vote on both measures.  Expected on Friday or Saturday.
After that, the House will have done its job and the remaining steps will be for the Senate to pass the reconciliation bill and the President to sign both bills into law.

So many months of being disappointed by false summits have made everyone cautious about predictions, and there are still quite a few problems that could derail the effort.  But news reports for the last few days make it clear that the House leadership has committed itself to this attempt.   The end to this battle to make affordable and reliable health care available to more people in the United States may be in sight.

So what can you do? Keep working! Keep raising your voice for health care that meets our needs!

We're at the endgame! This might be your last chance to call your Representatives and tell them that women want health care reform that meets our needs, and we want it NOW!

What should you say? Our message is clear: Women and our families need health reform this year, so we are urging you to vote for it. Please let Speaker Pelosi know she has your vote, so she won't have to make any deals with anti-choice legislators (like Rep. Bart Stupak) that will hurt women's ability to buy health coverage that includes all of our reproductive health needs.

Our voices have been critical throughout this process, and as we near the passage of this historic legislation our leaders need to hear from us TODAY!

Faith Leaders Speak in Support of the Senate Bill

As the Senate health reform bill heads for a vote in the House later this week, key religious leaders are stepping forward to say the Senate bill's abortion restrictions are sufficient, thereby challenging the demand by Rep. Bart Stupak for additional anti-choice language.

Sister Carol Keehan, chief executive of the Catholic Health Association, said in an interview with the Associated Press that she believes the Senate's bill's approach would work just as well as Stupak's preferred approach to keep federal dollars from being used to pay for abortion.

"On the moral issue of abortion, there is no disagreement," Sister Keehan said. "On the technical issue of whether this bill prevents federal funding of abortions, we differ with Right to Life."

The statement by Sister Keehan, who heads an organization of more than 600 Catholic hospitals, nursing homes and health systems across the nation, strikes a sharp contrast with the demands by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and National Right to Life organization for inclusion of Stupak's language in health reform. The Catholic health providers stand to gain from successful health reform, since the uninsured patients they now serve would be eligible for health insurance through the measure.

Sister Keehan wrote a personal statement about the urgent need for health reform in the latest issue of the newspaper Catholic Health World. In it, she reflected on her visit to the White House March 3 to hear President Obama talk about health reform:

"As I watched our president present his plan to pass the health reform legislation, it was clear this is an historic opportunity to make great improvements in the lives of so many Americans. Is it perfect? No. Does it cover everyone? No. But is it a major first step? Yes. The insurance reforms will make the lives of millions more secure, and their coverage more affordable.  The reforms will eventually make affordable health insurance available to 31 million of the 47 million Americans currently without coverage."

Meanwhile, 25 evangelical Christian, Catholic and Baptist leaders sent a letter to Congress March 11. In it, they said disputes over abortion should not be allowed to derail health reform. 

According to the Associated Baptist Press, the religious readers said they believe the Senate bill not only maintains long-standing restrictions on federal funding of abortion, but also provides new support for vulnerable pregnant women that could actually reduce the number of abortions.

"As Christians committed to a consistent ethic of life and deeply concerned with the health and well-being of all people, we want to see health-care reform enacted," the leaders said.
For more details on this story, click here.

Upcoming Events: Mark Your Calendars!

Doctors of America, March on Washington! 
March 22, 2010
Washington, D.C., Capitol Building
Our patients need it, our communities need it, our country needs it. A sea of white coats and scrubs on 
Pennsylvania Ave. will give Congress a strong message - we must pass health reform now. Click here for details about how to join in!

Healthy Women, Healthy Choices: Reform! Respect! Rejuvenate! 
March 23,2010
9:00am - 3:00pm
The InterchurchCenter (475 Riverside DriveNew York)
Join RWV and the InterchurchCenter to learn more about health care reform and what it means to you. We will be discussing the reform debate, balancing your work and social lives, and how to make healthy choices for you and your family. Keynote Speaker, Byllye Avery of the Avery Social Institute of Change will be presenting along with: Dr. Manisha Sharma, Eesha Pandit, Verónica Bayetti Flores, and other advocates for social justice and health reform. Email us to RSVP.

Raising Women's Voices is a national initiative
working to make sure women's voices are heard
in the Health Reform debate and their concerns are addressed by policymakers
developing national and state health reform plans.

475 RIVERSIDE DRIVE  |  NEW YORK CITY, NY 11010  |  212.870.2010

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