Health Care Reform = Political Realignment

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THE POLITICAL WAR WAGING around health care reform has
major ramifications beyond the single issue of health care.
Not since the mid-60 has there been an attempt to fundamentally
reshape and realign the policies of this country
for the common good. For the past several decades, our
nation has been exploited and ravaged by the right wing
and their robber barons. They remain committed to
defeating everything President Barack Obama stands for,
and are gearing up to do everything they can to prevent
him from moving our nation forward.
The battlefield where this fight will take place is health
care. The opponents of fairness have regrouped, and some
of their “generals” in this war are people like Rick Scott,
the Bernie Madof of for-profit hospital takeovers, and Rush
Limbaugh, the babbling buffoon of talk radio. They have
money and they can mobilize people. Their followers will
do exactly as they are told, and will make call after call to
their congressperson.
They see President Obama as we do: as our 21st Century
FDR, but they perceive him in a negative way. The
opponents of fairness believe that, of all the major economic
and social issues President Obama has identified for
reform, among them health care, energy, and education,
health care offers them the best opportunity to stop
reform. If health care reform goes down in defeat this year
and the economy is still struggling by November 2010, we
will witness a major onslaught by a new group of ideologues
even worse then Newt Gingrich. Medicare, Medicaid,
and Social Security will all be on the chopping block.
The smears and cultural divide tactics of the past are
likely to come fast and furious from those who continue to
embrace the status quo. The cost of inaction is inexcusable.
We will hear the same old worn-out rhetoric: big government,
socialism, more bureaucracy (even though the insurance
industry’s bureaucracy is 7 times that of Medicare),
lack of choice, and many other lies. Ironically, the perpetrators
of these lies continue to enjoy the security and the
peace of mind that their quality health care insurance, paid
for by tax money from you and me, has provided them.
The health-care-reform-fight, this year, must be fought at
the congressional level. During 1993-94 battle, this fight
was fought in secretive meetings and with internal maneuvering
in Washington. This is not to say that the media will
not portray this fight similarly again. For us to win, we must
wage a ground war congressional district by congressional
district. This includes both Democrats and Republicans.
An opportunity existed in 2007 and 2008 to pass progressive
and comprehensive health care reform in Illinois,
but a small handful of Democratic state senators, including
our local State Senator Mike Frerichs, voted against
legislative proposals that would have achieved this. At that
time, several House Democrats played the game of politics
in Springfield and stated that they supported health care
reform, but continued to embrace a public policy of “Do
Sadly, Washington is no different from Springfield, but
it is up to us to force change. Every year that health care
reform is not enacted, another 40,000 working Illinois
families lose their health care insurance and small businesses
and Illinois families are forced to pay an extra $3
billion a year for an inefficient health care system. We cannot
afford to wait any longer!
While we would prefer a public-private partnership
system that would eliminate the role of the insurance
industry, it is unlikely that this will occur. As Newt Gingrich
suggested in 1995, in referencing Medicare and
Social Security, “We cannot kill these programs all at once,
we must let them wither on the vine and then we can end
them.” This should be our approach with the insurance
industry. We cannot allow the perfect to become the
enemy of the good. If we do, not only will health care
reform fail, but the domino effect on so many other
reforms will also fail.
We face another brutal fight, but this time we will prevail
by stopping those who oppose fairness for all Americans.
We must apply the lessons learned from previous
battles. We can lay out all the facts and figures on health
care reform and explain repeatedly the advantages of one
plan over another, but history tells us that facts alone do
not win social justice causes.
Strategic and targeted messaging, a broader coalition
that includes small businesses, and strong public mobilization
will be the keys to our success. The American people
understand that health care is the key to economic
security and opportunity. They may not believe the fact
that Medicare’s administrative (bureaucracy) costs are less
than 3% per dollar for medical services versus the 20% per
dollar that the insurance industry’s bureaucracy currently
spends, but poll after poll shows that the American public
definitely believes in guaranteeing access to affordable,
quality health care for all.
Recently, from March 13-15, 327 congregations (over
50 in the 15th congressional district) involving over
50,000 parishioners took a step in expressing their outcry
for health care reform. They demanded action from their
congressional representatives to enact affordable, accessible
and quality-guaranteed health care for ALL. Currently, the
Campaign for Better Health Care and our coalition partners
have organized nine local congressional district committees
throughout Illinois. This will be expanded to include a total
of 13-15 congressional districts by this summer.
Here in Illinois’ 15th Congressional District, there is a
broad coalition of faith, social service, small business,
labor and other groups representing several communities
which meet monthly and have rolled up their sleeves in
preparation for this fight. They believe that there is no reason
why all Americans should not have the same opportunity
to access the same level of health care insurance that
Congressman Johnson receives. After all, we pay for his
health care insurance.
So far, Congressman Johnson’s legislative score regarding
health care reform this year is zero. He voted to oppose
expanding an ongoing federal-state program that will now
provide health care insurance to over 10 million children
of working families, commonly referred to as SCHIP. He
also opposed President Obama’s Economic and Recovery
Act that provided the first down payment on health care
reform. We hope to see his score increase. The upcoming
budget vote will be an opportunity for Congressman Johnson
to show that he supports health care reform.
This battle is being fought now, and you must be a part
of it. The Campaign for Better Health Care is part of several
national coalitions fighting the battle for affordable quality
health care for all, but you cannot allow this opportunity
to make history pass you by. We need you to dedicate at
least 30 minutes a month writing emails, making phone
calls, and attending community meetings for health care
justice. We also need your financial contributions to
enable us to wage this fight. Without both of these kinds
of support, we will not succeed.
Your health, your family’s health and your community’s
health is at stake. Join your 15th Congressional District
Committee by going to to find out
how you can get involved. The time is now to ensure every
American’s economic security and opportunity through
health care reform.

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