Iowa State Senator Jack Hatch was in Washington yesterday to chair the first meeting of a working group on health care. According to a White House press release,
State Legislators for Health Reform includes leaders from across the country who will educate their communities on the need for health reform this year. The legislators will host public events, author opinion pieces in local publications, and use their established networks to organize constituents in support of health reform.
The Iowa Senate Democrats issued a statement from Hatch, who said the state legislators told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that "state-level health care reforms can only go so far." He added that Sebelius
"stressed the need to expand choices in the health insurance market is essential. Increased competition will lower costs and improve patient care.
"That's why we all agreed that Americans must have a public health insurance option and now is the time to speak up."
A public option that makes health insurance more accessible and affordable for adults is also likely to improve the health of children. Kevin Concannon of the Iowa Department of Human Services explained why in his contribution to the Reforming States Group's May 2009 Healthy States/Healthy Nation report:
Ultimately, to achieve better health care access and better health status for children, the United States needs to cover parents as an essential, linked strategy for children. If parents have health insurance, they will better utilize the health care systems available to their children.
If you believe that real health care reform requires a public option for health insurance, you have two new and easy ways to do something about it. Neither will take more than a minute or two of your time.
Details are after the jump.
Several major blogs joined with Health Care for America Now and Democracy for America Wednesday on a campaign to get U.S. senators on record regarding a public option. From Chris Bowers' post at Open Left:
We made and delivered on a commitment to bring about wide Democratic majorities in Congress. Now, instead of negotiating in secret, this Congress needs to make a public commitment to us on where it stands on health care.
No more dodges. No more vague, open-ended responses. We need every member of the Senate--main obstacle to reform--to answer four questions on the public option:
Do you support a public healthcare option as part of healthcare reform?
If so, do you support a public healthcare option that is available on day one?
Do you support a public healthcare option that is national, available everywhere, and accountable to Congress?
Do you support a public healthcare option that can bargain for rates from providers and big drug companies?
[...]Email--don't call, but email--these four questions to your Senators now. Make it clear that you want a written response to all four questions. There needs to be as little room for interpretation as possible. The Senate is going to be the biggest hurdle on health care, as it has proven to the biggest hurdle on all legislation in 2009. That is where we must focus our pressure.
When you receive a response, post it on this webpage. We are going to collect all of the responses to find out where every member of Congress, but especially the Democratic members, stand on the public option. It is only with this information that we can prevent backroom deals that will sell us out to insurance companies.
Join the several thousand people who have already taken part in this campaign. I e-mailed Senator Tom Harkin, because even though he is on record supporting a public option, I do not recall reading whether he would rule out any compromise involving a "trigger" or some other fake public option.
I didn't bother e-mailing Senator Chuck Grassley, because he is the point man for Republican opposition to the public option.
If you live in New Mexico or North Carolina (not everyone who reads Bleeding Heartland lives in Iowa!), it's particularly important for you to contact Senator Jeff Bingaman or Senator Kay Hagan. They are reportedly standing in the way of a strong public option in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Speaking of worthwhile blogger activism on health care, Blue America launched a campaign to put television ads on the air. Howie Klein explains at Down With Tyranny:
Digby's been writing TV scripts for a whole week to try to salvage health care reform from the tender mercies of Democrats who have grown worthless to working families after millions and millions of dollars in legalized bribes from the Medical-Industrial Complex and the Insurance Giants. Robert Greenwald is standing by with a camera crew ready to start shooting. The first batch of ads are going up on TV in Arkansas and, man, do we need help. We have a new Blue America Page that I want to urge you to visit today.
Nothing is more important to the American people than passing health care reform that reduces costs and provides security and coverage for everyone. The economy and the nation's competitiveness will not recover if this isn't done and this may be our last chance to get it done for another generation. Since single payer was taken off the table before the debate even started, the only way to reduce costs and increase coverage is to create a quality public plan choice that will keep the insurance companies relatively honest.
There are several Senators who are resisting this necessary reform and either backing toothless substitutes that will do nothing to rein in the medical industry's unnecessary waste and outrageous profits or looking for excuses to do so. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who sits on the finance committee and is running for office in 2010 is one. She has so far equivocated, saying that she's concerned that "if all Congress comes up with is a government-backed plan, then there will be very little incentive for the private industry to be able to be competitive perhaps in the plans they will be offering and the individuals they will be offering." That's just nonsense. The only incentive these insurance companies will have to stop gouging their patients and hobbling the entire economy is to be forced to compete with a health plan that puts patients over profits.
I'm in for $50, and if you have any cash to spare, please consider supporting this ad campaign. As of Thursday morning, they had raised about $5,800 through the new Blue America Page at ActBlue.