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2010 Health Reform Updates

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UPDATE 1: – 2/10/2010 

Dear Friends,

Staff of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) attended a national health advocacy conference in Washington, DC at the end of January, where we learned a lot about health reform. I want to share with you the most important things that we learned.

Below is a VERY brief overview of the information I would like to share with you. Over the next few days, I will be sending you additional messages that provide more information on each of the points outlined below. But I thought I would start with just a brief, simple overview. I know some of you will have lots of questions, and I hope our subsequent e-mails will help answer some of those questions.

Here is a very brief overview of what CCHCC learned in Washington, DC:

1. The Massachusetts special Senate election did change the legislative landscape for health reform – it would now be near impossible, given the political dynamics, to pass another health reform bill through the Senate, because the 60 vote filibuster-proof Democratic majority is gone. Reconciling the House and Senate bills and getting that reconciled version through both chambers is not a political possibility. A new strategy is needed.

2. The President and leaders in Congress understand that doing nothing is NOT an option. Your advocacy efforts ARE working!

3. Legislatively, the best way forward is to have the House pass the Senate version of health reform, PLUS have both chambers pass budget reconciliation legislation, in which some “fixes” would be made to the Senate bill.

4. The budget reconciliation process is nothing new or unusual, and is a perfectly appropriate way of making changes to the Senate health bill.

5. The Senate bill has many VERY good provisions that would go into effect THIS YEAR and would help millions of Americans and thousands of CCHCC’s constituents. Some of these provisions may surprise you (they surprised me! We’ve been so focused on witnessing the ugly legislative process and all the compromises made along the way, that it’s been hard to focus on positive developments).

6. Stay tuned for action alerts calling on you to contact legislators to tell them that “doing nothing is not an option. Pass the Senate bill plus budget reconciliation and make health reform a reality!”

Stay tuned for more messages where I will provide more details about the items above, and look for opportunities to take action!

I hope this message gives you a sense of how we can move forward on national health reform.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for your ongoing support, and to let you know that I truly believe that, with all of us staying active, we can make health reform happen this year!

Best wishes and thank you,
Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

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UPDATE 2: – 2/18/10 

Dear Friends,

Last week, we at Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) sent you a message providing an overview of what we learned in Washington, DC about health reform and how to move it forward.

The gist of it was this: Health reform legislation can become a reality through a two-step process involving passing the Senate’s health reform bill, as well as a budget reconciliation bill which would be the legislative vehicle for making some changes to the Senate’s bill, to bring it more in line with the House bill.

I promised to write you again to explain the process, debunk some myths about the process, and to tell you about the Senate’s health reform bill.

THIS MESSAGE WILL FOCUS ON GOOD NEWS ABOUT WHAT’S IN THE SENATE’S HEALTH REFORM BILL, AND SOME OF IT MAY SURPRISE YOU (IN A GOOD WAY). I will take time next week to send a separate message to explain the legislative process.

Please read below for information on:
1. What is in the Senate bill
2. How you can take action this week to advance health reform

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1. ABOUT THE SENATE HEALTH REFORM BILL: THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE ACT

SURPRISE! The Senate bill has many very good provisions that would go into effect THIS YEAR and would help millions of Americans. Some of these provisions may surprise you. Also, the Senate bill includes many hard-fought and won regulations on health insurance companies to bring an end to discriminatory and harmful industry practices.

Let’s start first by looking at the health insurance regulations.

THE SENATE BILL WILL REGULATE PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES BY:

– Preventing insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

– Barring insurers from basing premiums on health conditions or gender, as they currently do. CCHCC is a victim of insurer’s gender rating practice. See our website for more information on this:
http://www.HealthCareconsumers.org/index.php?action=Display-Page&id=734

– Restricting insurers from raising rates when people get sick.

– Prohibiting insurers from the practice of “rescission” — dropping coverage when someone gets sick.

– Prohibiting lifetime and annual caps on insurance coverage.

– Limiting out-of-pocket expenses.

– Requiring insurers to devote at least 85% (for group plans; 80% for individual and small group plans) of premiums to medical benefits. If insurance companies do not meet this threshold, they must provide rebates to consumers.

– And much more!

SENATE BILL PROVISIONS THAT WILL GO INTO EFFECT WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR:

– Eliminates pre-existing condition exclusions for children – bars health insurance companies from imposing these exclusions on children’s coverage

– Eliminates lifetime limits on benefits in group plans and the individual market and restricts the use of annual limits. — effective six months after legislation is enacted.

– Coverage of preventive health services – all group and individual plans must provide first dollar coverage (meaning no co-pays or co-insurance, or deductibles!) for preventive services — effective six months after legislation is enacted.

– Extends dependent coverage to age 26 in group or individual plans– effective six months after legislation is enacted.

– immediate access to insurance for “uninsurable” individuals with pre-existing conditions

– small business tax credits for small employers who purchase health coverage for their employees; there is also a 25% credit for small non-profit organizations (like CCHCC!)

– Begins reducing the Part D “Doughnut Hole” coverage gap by $500

– Begins a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs when Medicare beneficiaries fall into the coverage gap

– Reduces the cost to employers for covering early retirees

– Strengthens community health centers and the primary care workforce by providing funds to build new and expand existing facilities, etc.

– Increases access to home and community-based services by allowing states to offer these services to disabled individuals through Medicaid rather than relying on institutional care.

And that is just within the first year. There is MUCH more! Beyond the first year, there are many more important provisions that will expand access to coverage for the uninsured, improve Medicare, and expand Medicaid (for example, Medicaid will be expanded to make it available to people whose incomes are up to 133% of the federal poverty level, AND to allow childless adults to qualify for Medicaid).

A QUICK WORD ABOUT THE SENATE BILL AND SINGLE-PAYER: Finally, single-payer advocates (like CCHCC) are thrilled that the Senate bill actually includes a state-waiver (put forward as an amendment by Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, a single-payer advocate) that will clear the way for states to pass real single-payer legislation — something that Illinois is actively working on (and CCHCC is a part of this statewide effort).

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2. HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION THIS WEEK TO SUPPORT HEALTH REFORM

This week, Congress is in recess and many legislators are in their home districts. You can take action to support health reform by calling the legislators below with this message (remember, you will be leaving a message with a staff member):

Give your name and city of residence. Then, “I’m calling to urge the Senator to keep working hard to pass health reform.” If you want to say more, you can also add, “I’m in support of passage of the Senate bill plus budget reconciliation.” Thank you.

Senator Dick Durbin – (217) 492-4062
Senator Roland Burris – (217) 492-5089

** Please send us an e-mail to let us know if you’ve made these calls, and how the calls went.

YOU CAN ALSO HELP BY:
– Talking to others; let them know what you’ve learned about what’s in the Senate health reform bill.
– Forwarding this message to others.

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We at CCHCC hope the information in this message is helpful.

Stay tuned for more health reform e-mails to explain the Senate plus budget reconciliation process.

Thank you for your support and your activism for health reform and health care justice!

Sincerely,

Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

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Update 3: – 2/22/10

Dear Friends,

A couple of weeks ago, Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) sent out an e-mail explaining what we learned during our time in Washington, DC about how health reform will move forward.

Today – Monday, Feb. 22, 2010, is a big day in health reform. Sen. Harry Reid is expected to lay out the Congressional Democrats’ plans for health reform, and he will explain that the Senate will use the budget reconciliation process to make fixes to the health reform bill that the Senate passed last November.

http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-news-section/50-health-care/1051-reid-dems-will-use-50-vote-tactic-to-finish-health

The White House is also expected to release its health bill at 10 a.m.
(9 a.m. central) this morning.

The budget reconciliation process will be a key process for moving health reform forward, and you should expect to hear a lot of misinformation about that process. You will hear it referred to as a “partisan tactic” and it will be made to seem as if it’s a procedural sleight of hand. This is not the case. It is important to get informed!

Please read below to learn more about:

1) Senate bill, plus budget reconciliation to enact health reform;

2) About the budget reconciliation process;

3) What kinds of “fixes” can be made through reconciliation?

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1. THE WAY TO HEALTH REFORM: SENATE BILL, PLUS BUDGET RECONCILIATION It truly is a moment of historic significance: Both chambers of our Congress have passed health reform bills (yes, they are full of compromises, and not health reform as we would have designed it, but they would both make concrete improvements in people’s lives). It took a 60 vote super majority to pass the Senate bill. That majority no longer exists, so the most expedient way forward is to use the budget reconciliation process to “fix” some of the more problematic aspects of the Senate bill, and then to have the House to pass the Senate’s version of health reform. Congress can use the reconciliation process, a budget procedure, to pass “fixes” to the bill through Congress. If reconciliation is used, then only a simple majority (51 votes) is needed in the Senate to pass legislation.

2. ABOUT THE BUDGET RECONCILIATION PROCESS Reconciliation is a process set forth in the Congressional Budget Act that allows for expedited consideration of legislation affecting mandatory spending programs or taxes. Please be aware that some critics will try to claim that using reconciliation to enact a major change in policy, such as health reform, is unprecedented and would represent a misuse of the process. Don’t be fooled by these arguments!
Reconciliation has been used many times to make major policy shifts, including the following:
– 1996 Welfare Reform
– 2001 Tax cuts for the wealthy
– 2003 Tax cuts for the wealthy

Congress has also used reconciliation in the past to establish new health coverage programs, or to expand existing programs, such as:
– 1985 COBRA, which continued employer-sponsored health coverage (ever wonder about what COBRA stands for? It’s Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act)
– 1997 Children’s Health Insurance Program
– 1997 Medicare Advantage, which established the Medicare+Choice program

A few important facts about Budget Reconciliation:
– Can only be used for items that impact the federal budget deficit
– After the Republican-led tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which INCREASED the budget deficit, Congress in 2007 adopted new rules preventing Congress from using reconciliation to increase deficits and debt
– In other words, any health reform changes made through reconciliation will necessarily be changes that do NOT increase the budget deficit
– Since rising health care costs are the single largest reason for projected long-run deficits, it is appropriate that health reform be considered through the reconciliation process
– Reconciliation rules specify that reconciliation CANNOT be filibustered, and there is a time limit allowed for debate in the Senate.
– There is a myth that provisions in a reconciliation bill must expire after 5 or 10 years. This is a myth! Provisions must sunset ONLY if they would increase deficits in subsequent years.

3. WHAT KINDS OF “FIXES” CAN BE MADE TO HEALTH REFORM THROUGH BUDGET RECONCILIATION?
The kinds of “fixes” that can be made through budget reconciliation, include such things as:

– increase subsidies to make health coverage more affordable;

– expanding Medicaid eligibility limits (Senate bill expands Medicaid to 133% of federal poverty level; House bill went to 150%), (please note that Medicaid is a “public option” health insurance);

– create an early buy-in for Medicare to allow younger people to purchase Medicare coverage (please note that Medicare is a “public option” health insurance);

– create a new “public option” health insurance

– increase Medicaid payments to primary care providers in order to increase the number of providers who will accept Medicaid;

– move to close the Part D doughnut hole more quickly;

– get rid of the so-called “Cadillac” or excise tax;

and more.

WHAT’S NEXT:
Stay tuned to the news today. Pay close attention to the kind of “fixes”
that Congressional leaders and the White House want to pass through the budget reconciliation process.

The next 60 days are going to be very important for passage of health reform, and your advocacy around key beneficial provisions will be essential. So please stay tuned!

Thank you for your support and your involvement!

Best wishes,

Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director
 

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Update 4: – 3/14/10 

Dear Friends,

This is a very BIG week in Health Reform!

Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) would like to update you on what’s going on with health reform, and encourage you to take action.

Please read below for more information on:
1. Health reform update – how will health reform move forward?
2. About the public option…
3. CCHCC’s new handouts explaining how health reform will help you!
4. CCHCC’s leafleting action this Tuesday at 4 p.m. – please join us!

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1. HEALTH REFORM UPDATE – HOW WILL HEALTH REFORM MOVE FORWARD?
This week is a very BIG week in the push for health reform because President Obama is urging Congress to meet his deadline to pass health reform legislation by Thursday, March 18, and Congressional leaders are working hard to help make this happen.

You should expect to see a lot of media coverage, focusing on drama and opposition, but not necessarily much useful content about the Senate health bill, or the legislative process (pretty much par for the course so far). We at CCHCC hope we can cut through the drama and misinformation, and provide you some straightforward information.

The plan to pass health reform involves the following steps:
a) having the House pass the Senate’s health reform bill;
b) then having both the House and the Senate pass a budget reconciliation bill that will make some “fixes” to the Senate health reform bill; and,
c) having the President sign the Senate health reform bill, and the budget reconciliation bill into law.

The House and the Senate are working together right now to come up with a final budget reconciliation bill on health reform. The House does not want to pass the Senate’s health reform bill until a budget reconciliation bill is agreed upon. So, you can probably expect to see the House vote on the Senate health reform bill once a budget reconciliation bill has been finalized and is also ready to be voted on
— that way, the Senate bill will be passed, and followed by a vote on its companion bill (budget reconciliation) that modifies the Senate health bill.

A WORD ABOUT BUDGET RECONCILIATION: Just as we predicted, budget reconciliation is being talked about (by those who oppose health reform) as if it’s an unusual or drastic move. It’s not. Remember that the Senate bill is the main legislative vehicle for creating health reform, while the budget reconciliation bill makes some adjustments to the Senate bill.

If you want to review info. about budget reconciliation, you can view the message I wrote on Feb. 22 — it’s Update 3 on our website at:
http://www.HealthCareconsumers.org/index.php?action=Display-Page&id=747

Also, if you would like to see a graph comparing health reform budget reconciliation bill with past bills, and their impact on the budget deficit, you can see that here:
http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/03/04/3978658-best-graph-ever

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2. ABOUT THE FIGHT FOR THE PUBLIC OPTION: You are hearing a lot about the public option and whether it will be part of health reform. The Senate bill does NOT contain a public option health plan, as the House bill did.

The fight for the public option is going on right now because proponents want to see it become part of the budget reconciliation bill. However, it is not clear that the votes for public option are there either in the House or in the Senate (although, each chamber will blame each other for why they didn’t include it – more drama).

It is worth noting that both chambers are hoping to have an amendment-free process in voting for the budget reconciliation bill — they want a straight up or down vote (yes or no, with no amendments) on the budget reconciliation bill, in order to pass that bill quickly and prevent further delays. Therefore, you can be sure that the ONLY items that will be included in the budget reconciliation bill are the ones that have all the backing and needed votes in both chambers.

This is a negotiated process, after all, and the budget reconciliation bill will be the result of these negotiations, where both the House and Senate leaders have commitments to pass the specific provisions in the bill.

If you feel strongly about the public option, you should advocate for it to your legislator.

We at CCHCC believe that even with no public option, this health reform legislation is necessary and beneficial and we are urging support for it. And, the Senate bill DOES improve the two long-standing public option forms of health insurance: Medicare and Medicaid.

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3. CCHCC’s NEW QUICK GUIDE TO HEALTH REFORM CCHCC’s Health Care Access Task Force developed a quick guide to help you understand how you will benefit under the Senate’s health reform bill (hopefully, there will be even more benefits as part of the budget reconciliation bill!).

The guide is divided into the following 7 sections, which are very easy to read, and in bullet-point format:

a. How health reform will help Americans IMMEDIATELY!
b. How health reform will help ILLINOIS RESIDENTS in particular.
c. How health reform will help PEOPLE WITH HEALTH INSURANCE.
d. How health reform will help UNINSURED PEOPLE.
e. How health reform will help SMALL BUSINESSES AND EMPLOYEES.
f. How health reform will help MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES.
g. How to TAKE ACTION.

To view and download the guide, please go to:
http://www.HealthCareconsumers.org/index.php?action=Display-Page&id=751

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4. TAKE ACTION! JOIN US ON TUES. AT 4 P.M. LEAFLET ACTION

CCHCC’s Health Care Access Task Force will be taking to the streets on Tuesday this week (3/16/10) to distribute the Quick Guide to Health Reform. We hope to educate local residents about what is in the Senate health reform bill, and how they can advocate for its passage. Please join us!

WHAT:    Press conference and leafleting to distribute health reform guide

WHEN:    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TIME:    4:00 to 5:30 p.m. (join us whenever you can!)

WHERE:    Corner of First and Kirby Streets in Champaign, near UIUC
Assembly Hall

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As always, thank you for your support and your activism! CCHCC will continue to keep you updated on the progress toward health reform.

I hope to see many of you on Tuesday, helping to distribute health reform information.

Best wishes,
Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

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Update 5: 3/18/10

Dear Friends,

We at Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) have been closely monitoring the progress toward passing health reform legislation, and we want to provide you with some important updates, and ask you to take action to help push health reform forward.

Please read below for more information on:

1. HEALTH REFORM UPDATES;
2. HOW THE 15TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS WILL BENEFIT FROM HEALTH REFORM; AND, 3. HOW TO TAKE ACTION TODAY.

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1. HEALTH REFORM UPDATES

Health reform is moving forward! There are several new important
developments:

A. The timeline has changed a little bit — Last week we were told to expect a vote on health reform this week, on Thursday. However, now the vote may not come until this weekend.

The reason for the change in the timeline is that the Congressional Budget Office is finalizing its analysis of the health reform package, and Congressional leaders hope to allow 72 hours to review the final legislation before the vote.

B. The process for passing health reform has changed a little bit, but don’t let it throw your focus! The House is now planning to get the health reform vote on the Senate bill, and the budget reconciliation bill, through a more streamlined process called “deeming.” This would involve voting on a resolution that would simply “deem” the Senate health reform bill passed in order to allow unhappy House members to avoid a direct vote on the Senate bill, and then the House would proceed to a separate vote on the more popular changes to the Senate bill. This would essentially allow the House to pass the Senate bill, plus the budget reconciliation bill (which includes important “fixes” to the Senate bill) as a package and much more efficiently than having to vote on the Senate bill separately, wait for the President to sign that, and then go back and vote on the budget reconciliation.

Critics are focusing on process and crying “foul” about deeming. However using the deeming process is not unusual, and it has been used by both parties, and the end result is the same: health reform is created by passage of the Senate health bill, plus important changes to that bill enacted by passage of the budget reconciliation bill. Critics would rather focus on process in order to avoid focusing on the content of the legislation.

C. A big victory toward the health reform legislation is Rep. Kucinich’s announcement yesterday that he has switched his vote and WILL support health reform! He recognizes this health reform package as an important first step toward important improvements to our nation’s health care system.

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2. HOW THE 15TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS WILL BENEFIT FROM HEALTH REFORM

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce just released a report that shows how each Congressional District will benefit under health reform.

This analysis examines the benefits of the legislation in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, which is represented by Rep. Timothy V. Johnson.
In Rep. Johnson’s district, the health care reform bill will:
– Improve coverage for 430,000 residents with health insurance.
– Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 173,000 families and 13,200 small businesses to help them afford coverage.
– Improve Medicare for 106,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.
– Extend coverage to 24,500 uninsured residents.
– Guarantee that 8,100 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.
– Protect 1,200 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.
– Allow 72,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents’
insurance plans.
– Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 8 community health centers.
– Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $48 million annually.
– There are 8 community health centers in the district that provide health care to the poor and medically under served. Nationwide, the legislation would provide $11 billion in new funding for these centers.
If the community health centers in the district receive the average level of support, the 8 centers will receive $10.4 million in new assistance.

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3. TAKE ACTION! MAKE TOLL-FREE CALLS FOR HEALTH REFORM!

Families USA, a national consumer health advocacy organization, is providing advocates from all around the country with a toll-free number you can use to call legislators in Washington, DC to advocate for passage of health reform. Please take some time to make these important phone calls.

THE TOLL-FREE CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD NUMBER IS: 1-866-922-4970

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CALL: You will hear a brief pre-recorded message from Families USA and then you will be connected to an operator. Tell the operator the name of the Representative or Senator you’re trying to reach, and you will be connected to their office. Once you reach their office, you will leave a message with a staffer (or if after hours, on an answering/voicemail system).

WHO TO CALL:
We are asking advocates to focus their attention on the House members right now, since they need to first pass the Senate health bill. If you’re an Illinois resident, please feel free to call your Representative, as well as other Illinois representatives and tell them that you’re calling because Illinois needs health reform!

There are three Illinois Democratic Representatives who are undecided on health reform or who are pledging to vote no: Lipinski, Bean, and Costello. We urge you to give them a call, even if you are not in their district. Of course, if you know someone in their districts, urge that person to call them. The Congressional Republicans have vowed to vote against health reform, but if you have time and energy, you can call and let Rep. Tim Johnson know how you feel.

Congressman Tim Johnson – Champaign area 15th District Congressman Daniel Lipinski – west/southwest suburbs of Chicago Congresswoman Melissa Bean – northern suburbs of Chicago Congressman Jerry Costello – Metro East area of Illinois

SUGGESTED MESSAGE:
“I am calling today to urge __________ to support health care reform and move forward with the legislative process. Illinois residents will benefit from health reform, and I want you to vote yes, for all Illinois residents. Thank you.”

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We are in the home stretch in getting health reform passed. Please don’t ease up now! Now is the time to push!

As always, we at CCHCC thank you for your support and your activism!

Best wishes,
Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

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Update 6: 3/19/10

Dear Friends,

Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) has good news about the progress of health reform — it IS moving forward, and rapidly! The House is scheduled to convene on Sunday for the health reform vote, so the next few days are VERY important for getting House members to declare their support for health reform! Your actions ARE going to count for a lot! Please don’t ease up now — now is the time to turn up the pressure.

Please read below for more information on:

1. THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE’S SCORE OF THE HEALTH REFORM PACKAGE

2. DAY ONE BENEFITS OF HEALTH REFORM LEGISLATION

3. HOW TO TAKE ACTION TO HELP MOVE HEALTH REFORM FORWARD.

But first, a word about the Provena Covenant property tax case that was ruled on by the IL Supreme Court yesterday — you’ve probably seen the news, that the IL Supreme Court ruled that Provena Covenant did not qualify for property tax exemption in 2002 because of their charity care practices, because they failed to provide financial assistance to patients who needed it. I will write a separate message on this issue over the next few days, to give CCHCC’s perspective and help explain what the ruling and the case means. But for now, we must focus all our energies on health reform!

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1. THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE’S SCORE OF THE HEALTH REFORM PACKAGE

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) yesterday released a preliminary score  for the health insurance reform legislation. Based on a preliminary analysis from CBO, the legislation:

A. Cuts The Deficit – Cuts the deficit by $138 billion in the first ten years (2010 – 2019) and by $1.2 trillion in the second ten years.

B. Reins In Wasteful Medicare Costs & Extends The Solvency Of Medicare; Closes The Prescription Drug Donut Hole -Reduces annual growth in Medicare expenditures by 1.4 percentage points per year. Improves benefits and lowers costs for seniors. Extends Medicare’s solvency by at least 9 years.

C. Expands And Improves Health Coverage For Middle Class Families -Expands health insurance coverage to 32 million Americans. Helps guarantee that 95 percent of Americans will be covered.

D. Is Fully Paid For – Costs $940 billion over a decade. Americans spend nearly $2.5 trillion each year on health care now and nearly two-thirds of the bill is paid for by reducing health care costs.

SO DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WE CAN’T AFFORD THIS HEALTH REFORM PACKAGE!
What we can’t afford, is the current situation, without health reform!

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2. DAY ONE BENEFITS OF HEALTH REFORM LEGISLATION

What will health insurance reform do starting the first day it becomes law?

A. On Day One, annual caps on coverage would be eliminated

B. On Day One, rescissions – the practice of dumping people even if they have paid their premiums – would be eliminated

C. On Day One, pre-existing condition exclusions for children would be eliminated, and over time all pre-existing condition exclusions would be eliminated

D. On Day One, parents would be allowed to carry their children on their health insurance policy until their 26th birthday

E. On Day One a down payment toward completely closing the Donut Hole for seniors would be met with a $250 rebate for those in the Medicare Part D coverage gap

These are just the Day One benefits! There are many more provisions to health reform that will take effect THIS YEAR, within 6 months of the passage of the legislation.

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3. TAKE ACTION! MAKE TOLL-FREE CALLS FOR HEALTH REFORM!

Families USA, a national consumer health advocacy organization, is providing advocates from all around the country with a toll-free number you can use to call legislators in Washington, DC to advocate for passage of health reform. Please take some time to make these important phone calls.

THE TOLL-FREE CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD NUMBER IS: 1-866-922-4970 (more information about the toll free line at the bottom of this section)

WHO TO CALL:
We are asking advocates to focus on Illinois members of the House right now, since the House needs to first pass the Senate health bill/budget reconciliation package. If you’re an Illinois resident, please feel free to call your Representative, as well as other Illinois representatives and tell them that you’re calling because Illinois needs health reform!
PLEASE MAKE AT LEAST ONE PHONE CALL!

There are four Illinois Democratic Representatives who are undecided on health reform or who are pledging to vote no: Lipinski, Bean, Costello, and Rush. We urge you to give them a call, even if you are not in their district. PLEASE MAKE AT LEAST ONE PHONE CALL TO ANY OF THESE FOUR! Of course, if you know someone in their districts, urge that person to call them. The Congressional Republicans have vowed to vote against health reform, but if you have time and energy, you can call and let Rep. Tim Johnson know how you feel.

Congressman Tim Johnson – Champaign area 15th District Congressman Daniel Lipinski – west/southwest suburbs of Chicago Congresswoman Melissa Bean – northern suburbs of Chicago Congressman Jerry Costello – Metro East area of Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush

SUGGESTED MESSAGE:
“I am calling today to urge__________ to support health care reform and move forward with the legislative process. Illinois residents will benefit from health reform, and I want you to vote yes, for all Illinois residents. Thank you.”

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CALL: You will hear a brief pre-recorded message from Families USA and then you will be connected to an operator. Tell the operator the name of the Representative or Senator you’re trying to reach, and you will be connected to their office. Once you reach their office, you will leave a message with a staffer (or if after hours, on an answering/voicemail system).

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Thank you for your support and activism! I feel very optimistic, and I am already thinking about the CCHCC clients who will benefit from health reform!

Best wishes,

Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Update 7: – 3/20/10 

Dear Friends,

We at Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) wanted to bring you the latest updates on health reform, and to let you know that your actions — your phone calls, faxes, e-mails, letters to the editor — DO make a difference!

It is Saturday, and today is the eve of the House’s vote on health reform, and a couple more Representatives from Illinois have committed themselves to voting yes for health reform.

Please read below for more information on:

1. HEALTH REFORM UPDATE – WHAT’S NEXT?

2. VOTES NEEDED TO PASS HEALTH REFORM & HOW ILLINOIS REPS ARE LINING UP

3. TAKE ACTION – MORE CALLS NEEDED TODAY AND EARLY TOMORROW!

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1. HEALTH REFORM UPDATE – WHAT’S NEXT?

A. The House will NOT use the “deem and pass” approach to passing health reform.

Instead, the House will apparently take three independent votes tomorrow
(Sunday) in order to pass the health reform package (Senate bill, plus budget reconciliation bill, which “fixes” certain aspects of the Senate bill). The three votes the House will have to take are: 1) a vote on the rule; 2) a vote on the budget reconciliation fix package; and 3) a vote on the Senate bill.

Why the change? The Senate parliamentarian has assured leaders that they could pass the “fix” package prior to the Senate bill.

B. Next steps, legislatively:
Once the House passes the Senate bill, President Obama will sign it into law. Once the House passes the budget reconciliation “fix” bill, it will be taken up by the Senate. Once the Senate passes that, then that bill will go to President Obama.

C. Over 50 Senators have pledged to support the budget reconciliation “fix” bill.

The Senate delivered a letter to House members today signed by over 50 Senators pledging to pass the budget reconciliation package. This is a good faith effort to encourage the House to vote on the Senate bill and the budget reconciliation bill, so the House members don’t have to worry about getting “stuck” with only the passage of the Senate bill.

D. No deal with Stupak over abortion changes.

Speaker Pelosi has stated that the House will not make a deal with Rep.
Stupak over abortion changes to the Senate bill, or budget reconciliation bill. Also, Stupak has lost some of his supporters — he previously had 12 Representatives who were going to vote no against health reform if it didn’t include language similar to the Stupak amendment in the House bill. Now only 6 are standing with Stupak. On the other hand, over 49 House members, led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky have pledged to oppose any efforts to add a Stupak amendment or cut a deal with Stupak.

E. The House vote is scheduled for tomorrow!

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2. VOTES NEEDED TO PASS HEALTH REFORM & HOW ILLINOIS REPS ARE LINING UP

The Democrats need 216 votes in the House to pass health reform. This means they can only afford 38 Democratic “no” votes. So, at this point, they are literally counting heads and seeing where people stand.

Good news! Several Illinois Representatives have changed their positions from either “no” or “undecided” to “yes.” These include:
– Luis Gutierrez
– Melissa Bean (your calls helped!)
– Debbie Halvorson (your calls helped!)

Here is where the remaining Illinois Democratic Representatives stand:
– Jerry Costello – no
– Daniel Lipinski – no
– Bill Foster – undecided
– Bobby Rush – undecided
– Mike Quigley – undecided

If you want to track this kind of information yourself, you can go to:
http://thehill.com/homenews/house/85693-whip-watch-the-hills-survey-of-house-dems-positions-on-Health Care-

But you have to hit “refresh” frequently because this information is constantly being updated.

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3. TAKE ACTION! MAKE TOLL-FREE CALLS FOR HEALTH REFORM!

TODAY (SATURDAY), PLEASE FOCUS ON:
– FOSTER
– RUSH
– QUIGLEY

Families USA, a national consumer health advocacy organization, is providing advocates from all around the country with a toll-free number you can use to call legislators in Washington, DC to advocate for passage of health reform. Please take some time to make these important phone calls.

THE TOLL-FREE CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD NUMBER IS: 1-866-922-4970 (more information about the toll free line at the bottom of this section)

WHO TO CALL:
We are asking advocates to focus on Illinois members of the House right now, since the House needs to first pass the Senate health bill/budget reconciliation package. If you’re an Illinois resident, please feel free to call your Representative, as well as other Illinois representatives and tell them that you’re calling because Illinois needs health reform!
PLEASE MAKE AT LEAST ONE PHONE CALL!

There are four Illinois Democratic Representatives who are undecided on health reform or who are pledging to vote no: Lipinski, Bean, Costello, and Rush. We urge you to give them a call, even if you are not in their district. PLEASE MAKE AT LEAST ONE PHONE CALL TO ANY OF THESE FOUR! Of course, if you know someone in their districts, urge that person to call them. The Congressional Republicans have vowed to vote against health reform, but if you have time and energy, you can call and let Rep. Tim Johnson know how you feel.

Representative Bill Foster – undecided
Representative Bobby Rush – undecided
Representative Mike Quigley – undecided

SUGGESTED MESSAGE:
“I am calling today to urge __________ to support health care reform and move forward with the legislative process. Illinois residents will benefit from health reform, and I want you to vote yes, for all Illinois residents. Thank you.”

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CALL: You will hear a brief pre-recorded message from Families USA and then you will be connected to an operator. Tell the operator the name of the Representative or Senator you’re trying to reach, and you will be connected to their office. Once you reach their office, you will leave a message with a staffer (or if after hours, on an answering/voicemail system).

*******************
Thank you for staying tuned and staying active!

Best wishes,

Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

——————————————————————————————————

Update 8: – 3/21/10 

Dear Friends,

On behalf of Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC), CONGRATULATIONS!

And thank you! All of your efforts paid off! Tonight, the House of Representatives passed both the Senate health reform bill, and the budget reconciliation bill! (With 219 Democrats voting yes for each.)

Thank you for all of your hard work — all the phone calls, letters, and e-mails urging for health reform. Thank you for your letters to the editor, your calls to radio shows, and all the time you spent attending rallies or other events. Thank you for all the time you spent talking to others (in person, by phone, or over e-mail and Facebook), educating them and asking them to also take action for health reform.

All those efforts added up and paid off!

NEXT STEPS FOR HEALTH REFORM:
The reconciliation bill now goes to the Senate for debate and a vote. We will keep you posted on when the Senate is expected to vote on that bill. The Senate health reform bill, now passed by both the Senate and the House, goes to President Obama for his signature.

STAY TUNED!
CCHCC will continue to keep you posted and let you know about actions you can take. But for now, we just wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS and a very heartfelt THANK YOU!

Best wishes,
Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

—————————————————————————————————–

Update 9: –  3/22/10

Dear Friends,

If you get a moment today or tomorrow, please use the Families USA toll-free phone number to call Illinois Representatives who voted yes for health reform in last night’s House session.

Actually, all Illinois Democrats voted for health reform, except Rep. Dan Lipinski, who voted no for the Senate bill, but voted yes for the reconciliation package. Rep. Jan Schakowsky was always an unwavering leader on health reform, while other Representatives were not as solid and were on our call list and needed to be encouraged. Your calls helped! They voted yes! Now, they need to be thanked.

Share your excitement and appreciation with Representatives who voted “Yes!”

Please call anyone of these Representatives, or all of them, from the list below. Call 1-866-922-4970 to thank them.

WHO TO CALL:
– Representative Jan Schakowsky (was always a strong leader for health
reform)
– Representative Debbie Halvorson
– Representative Bill Foster
– Representative Jerry Costello
– Representative Melissa Bean
– Representative Bobby Rush
– Representative Mike Quigley

Thank you for your support, and thank you for taking time to contact these legislators.

Best wishes,
Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

———————————————————————————————

Update 10: 3/22/10

Dear Friends,

The struggle for health reform is far from over, but we have crossed a major hurdle and it is worthy of celebration!

If you have time, please drop in to the CCHCC office tomorrow evening, between 5 and 7 p.m. to help celebrate this victory. This is an impromptu celebration, and CCHCC will have some refreshments and lots of good cheer.

Feel free to bring something to share, or just drop in — we just want to take a small break from the hard work and enjoy this particular victory.

Here are the details:

WHO:    Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC)

WHAT:    Short-notice, impromptu Health Reform Celebration!

WHEN:    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TIME:    5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

WHERE:    CCHCC – 44 E. Main Street, Suite 208 in downtown Champaign in the
Lincoln Building (across from Jupiter’s & Jos. Kuhn, on Main Street, east of Walnut Street)

PARKING: There is metered parking on the street and in the lot across from CCHCC. You might be able to find free parking in various other lots nearby, but you would need to be able to walk a couple of blocks.

No RSVP needed. We’ll be here. Just stop in if you get the chance!

Thanks, and we hope to see you tomorrow evening!

Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

————————————————————————————————-

Update 11: 3/23/10

Dear Friends,

Today, President Obama signed the landmark health bill into law!

There is still a lot more work to be done on health reform, but it’s time to celebrate how far we’ve come, before we talk more about the work ahead.

If you feel like celebrating this health reform victory, Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) invites you drop in to our headquarters (fancy word for our office) anytime between 5 and 7 p.m.
this evening.

This is an impromptu celebration, and CCHCC will have some refreshments and lots of good cheer.

Feel free to bring something to share, or just drop in — we just want to take a small break from the hard work and enjoy this particular victory.

Here are the details:

WHO:    Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC)

WHAT:    Short-notice, impromptu Health Reform Celebration!

WHEN:    TODAY – Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TIME:    5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

WHERE:    CCHCC – 44 E. Main Street, Suite 208 in downtown Champaign in
the Lincoln Building (across from Jupiter’s & Jos. Kuhn, on Main Street, east of Walnut Street)

PARKING: There is metered parking on the street and in the lot across from CCHCC. You might be able to find free parking in various other lots nearby, but you would need to be able to walk a couple of blocks.

No RSVP needed. We’ll be here. Just stop in if you get the chance!

Thanks, and we hope to see you this evening!

Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

———————————————————————

Update 12: 3/26/10

Dear Friends,

Good news!

On Thursday, the House passed the Senate changes to the Reconciliation Bill by a vote of 220 to 207. The bill will now go to the President for his signature. Earlier in the day, the Senate passed the Reconciliation bill by a vote of 56 to 43.

Please read below for more information on:

1. WHAT’S IN THE BUDGET RECONCILIATION BILL

2. WHAT’S NEXT IN HEALTH REFORM

3. CCHCC’S NEXT STEPS

*******************

1. WHAT’S IN THE BUDGET RECONCILIATION BILL (A very brief overview):

Here are some of the provisions of the budget reconciliation bill:

The budget reconciliation bill expanded the insurance subsidies for
lower- and middle-income families, to make health coverage more affordable.

The bill also closes the Medicare Part D prescription drug “doughnut hole” by 2020.

The bill eliminates a special exemption contained in the Senate’s health reform bill (signed into law on Tuesday) for the state of Nebraska from all new Medicaid expenses — known as the “Cornhusker Kickback.” The federal government will instead assist every state by picking up 100 percent of the costs of expanded Medicaid coverage between 2014 and 2016, and 90 percent starting in 2020.

The bill increases the fine on large companies failing to provide health coverage for workers from $750 to $2,000 per employee.

The budget reconciliation bill also includes a number of tax provisions to help finance health reform.

**********************

2. WHAT’S NEXT IN HEALTH REFORM

The President will sign the budget reconciliation into law.

Congressional Republicans have vowed to work to repeal the health reform law, so health care advocates will have to work hard not only to implement health reform, but to guard against a repeal effort.

Health care advocates (including Champaign County Health Care Consumers) and many members of Congress have pledged to continue to work for more legislation to further improve health reform, viewing this package of health reform legislation as a first step, rather than a last step.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “It is a beginning. Remember, there was a 1957 Civil Rights Act; then there was a 1960 Civil Rights Act; then a 1964 Civil Rights Act’ then a
1965 Voting Rights Act; and there have been subsequent voting and civil rights bills.”

***********************

3. CCHCC’S NEXT STEPS

CCHCC will continue to keep you informed about any important developments in health reform.

Over the next few weeks and months, we will continue with our educational efforts to provide you with useful information about the health reform law, to let you know what is in it, and when the various provisions take effect.

CCHCC will also continue our advocacy and community organizing efforts to protect the health reform advances, and to work for further improvements.

**********************

Thank you for your support and your continued involvement.

We look forward to celebrating the passage of health reform with you at our Annual Awards Dinner on Friday, April 23, 2010. For more information on our dinner, or to purchase tickets, please go to:
http://www.HealthCareconsumers.org/index.php?action=Display-Page&id=753

Congratulations, and best wishes,
Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director

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