Monday, December 21, 2009

* “Manager’s Amendment” Make Changes–Good and Bad–to Health Reform Bill
* New Language Secures 60 Votes in Senate to Llimit Debate, Have Final Vote by Christmas Eve
* Next Step: Negotation over Key Differences between House and Senate Bill
* Public Hearing at NAIC, Updates on Twitter…..and other news for the week…

60!: Earlier around 1am East Coast time this morning, the U.S. Senate held a key vote, mustering the required 60 votes needed to cut off the debate and proceed to subsequent votes later this week to pass major health reform from the Senate floor. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein both joined all 60 Democratic and Independent Senators to vote for the motion; All 40 Republican Senators voted against it.

Further votes are expected Tuesday, Wednesday, and final passage Thursday, December 24th, Christmas Eve. That would then start negotiations to reconcile the Senate bill with the House health reform measure passed earlier in the year. The expectation is that those talks will go into January, but with a goal of a final agreement, and one final vote in the House and Senate, by the end of January.

The 60 votes were secured largely through changes made through a 380+ page “manager’s amendment.” The full text of the bill, and the amendment, is available at:

The Health Access blog has a list of some of the changes, and other commentary as well. For health advocates, the changes are both negative–like the removal of the public health insurance option as well as those that are positive, like more funding for community clinics and the institution of new, higher medical loss ratios for insurers so that more premium dollars go to patient care rather than administration and profit. Especially if there is no public option in the final deal, than the level of insurance company regulation is essential–as some blog posts describe.

The advocacy done in the next few weeks, especially with key California Congressional members, will help determine the final shape of the bill.

ADVOCATES CONTINUE TO PUSH ON HEALTH REFORM & THE RIGHT REFORM: Lat week, Health Care for America Now! events around the state mobilized hundreds in several locations to advance health reform, and to push to improve provisions that are pending as we speak. These efforts included actions at hospitals where workers and patients called their Senators, to visiting offices of key Congressional members. For more information about these events, contact Patrick Romano at promano@health-access.org.

HUNDREDS MARCH IN SAN FRANCISCO: People for meaningful health reform took to the streets of San Francisco, carrying candles in a vigil to honor the 45,000 Americans who die each year for lack of health insurance. The procession of about 350 people, walking from Yerba Buena to Union Square, moved silently out of respect for the deceased. Health Access, as the lead California organization working on behalf of Health Care for America Now, joined in coordinating the march, which attracted the notice of radio, TV, and print media.

ADVOCATES ON ALERT: The upcoming holiday season differs from many others because of what’s at stake for health reform — in the U.S. Senate, the governor’s upcoming state budget, and the state Department of Health Care Services’ Medi-Cal waiver proposal to massively restructure the program that provides coverarge to nearly 7 million Californians. Health Access encourages you to keep in touch with each other — and us — through Twitter, our Facebook page, and our blog. Don’t miss any opportunities to make calls, march or speak out on behalf of real reform!

MAKING THE CASE ON TELEMUNDO: The case for equitable health reform is being heard again and again on YouTube, as it was recently on Telemundo. The Spanish-language television network reported on how the needs of legal immigrants fit into the health care debate. One of the community advocates interviewed was Health Access’ Nancy Gomez, an organizer in our Los Angeles office. Watch it here, on YouTube.

AND THEY CALLED IT A PUBLIC HEARING…: Two of Health Access’ experienced policy experts attended a public forum in San Francisco recently of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Elizabeth Abbott and Beth Capell were in attendance to gather/share information and concerns about the huge changes in health care delivery our nation is about to embark upon– the biggest shift since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted 45 years ago. They were concerned at what they found. Read about their watchdog reports on our blog.

WHY TWITTER? California Pan-Ethnic Health Network gives us as many reasons as we have days to celebrate the holidays!

Any suggestions about the update format, or questions about its content, should be directed to Cynthia Craft at Health Access, at ccraft@health-access.org.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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