United Health Reform Campaign Picks Up Steam


6-04-09, 9:28 am

Fixing the healthcare system is not only morally sound, but it will also produce major economic benefits. So argued a new report released this week by the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA). If passed this year, a health reform package that controls the cost of coverage and provides universal access will positively impact the economy, the CEA report explained.

With meaningful healthcare reform, families could expect higher incomes of about $2,600 over the next 10 years. The annual federal deficit would shrink. Hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity tied to covering the out-of-control rise in costs could be freed for real investments in other parts of the economy.

The jobs picture would improve in a lot of important ways, the CEA report added. Economic growth unhindered by healthcare costs could reduce the unemployment rate, adding 500,000 jobs to the economy each year. In addition, the labor pool would grow, job mobility would increase and small businesses, now cutting or ending healthcare benefits in record numbers due to high costs, would be more competitive with bigger businesses.

These positive estimates depend on the the passage of meaningful healthcare reform that controls costs, provides universal access, modernizes the system with new technologies, eliminates insurance exclusions for preexisting conditions, allows portability, and expands the public coverage system to compete with the private market, the Obama administration has repeatedly emphasized.

In a letter to Congress on the issue, President Obama reiterated these points. 'I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans,' he wrote. 'This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive and keep insurance companies honest.'

The private insurance industry has used its well-financed army of lobbyists of press for reform proposals that exclude a public option. Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Scott Serota, for example, recently attacked the public health insurance option idea as a new 'government bureaucracy' and complained that it would unfairly compete with the private market. He failed to explain why the private market, which, according to its proponents, is vastly superior to public programs, would be hurt by such a move.

To counter this misleading and distracting big business PR campaign, progressive groups, including the labor movement, have joined forces to launch a national campaign to win passage of meaningful reform.

The Campaign for America's Future, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations, the Health Care for America Now (HCAN) coalition and many others 'are poised to spend more than $82 million to support President Obama's goal of achieving quality, affordable health care for all this year,' a recent press statement from that coalition announced. That campaign will include TV, radio, Web and print ads, nationwide events

HCAN national campaign manager Richard Kirsch said, “We have the momentum for real change, and with the commitment of the president and Democratic leadership in Congress, we know we can be stronger and louder than the special interests who make money off the status quo and would have any reform continue to put their profits before people's health.”

HCAN is sponsoring a congressional lobby day on June 25th in Washington, DC. For that day, organizers have planned a rally that they say will attract about 5,000 people. That event will be followed by visits to more than 300 members of Congress. Across the country, affiliated groups will be holding town hall meetings to build support for the effort.

USAction, a co-chairing organization of the HCAN coalition, also plans to revive its Revive and Rebuild America Now campaign, which was originally created to build support for President Obama's budget earlier this year. After that success, USAction spokesperson David Elliot remarked, 'we’re bringing it back to life to pass progressive ways of raising revenue to pay for health care, such as closing corporate tax loopholes.'

This weekend, thousands of members of Organizing for America, a national grassroots movement that evolved out of the Obama campaign to support the President's initiatives, will hold hundreds of house parties to build momentum for healthcare reform.

Change to Win Chair Anna Burger put the economic necessity of meaningful health reform into a working-class perspective. 'Comprehensive health care reform lies at the heart of the American Dream, and without it, the dream is unobtainable. We're organizing on all fronts to make this dream a reality for all of America's workers,' she said.