-Staff Writer-

WASHINGTON, DC (FinalCall.com) – While the President and Congress haggle over merging health care reform bills, more than 200 grassroots organizations including Campaign for Community Change, Community Catalyst and PICO National Network, representing millions of Americans came to Capital Hill, January 13, for a National Affordability Summit to ensure that health reform legislation makes coverage truly affordable for families.

“Affordability is the key to successful reform,” said Rev. Dr. George Cummings, National Steering Committee Co-chair, People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO). “Without it health care will continue to be out of reach for too many Americans who will go bankrupt or continue to suffer.”

In a letter to President Obama and members of the House and Senate the groups wrote, “Health care reform can only succeed if it makes coverage truly affordable for ordinary families who are finding it more and more difficult to get the care they need.”


“Requiring people to purchase health insurance that costs too much and covers too little would frustrate the fundamental goals of health reform and undermine the public support needed to pass and sustain reform.”

The community organizers and faith leaders journeyed to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress. Their goal was to stress the importance of including strong affordability protections in the final health care reform legislation as they go about merging the reform bills passed by the House and Senate.

“It is unacceptable that one in five African Americans and one in three Latinos remain uninsured because health insurance is not affordable,” said G. Smith, associate director of the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, a co-convener of the Health Rights Organizing Project (HROP).

“The House bill recognizes that the majority of the uninsured are people of low and moderate means. True reform must address this glaring injustice. We’re going to fight so that the final bill makes health insurance affordable and accessible to all. Affordability is the key to successful health reform.”

Specifically, HROP, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Community Catalyst and Families USA asked the members of Congress to fight for the larger Medicaid provisions in the House bill, which expands Medicaid to households with incomes up to 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), higher than the 133 percent FPL in the Senate’s bill; more affordable subsidies and out-of pocket caps for families earning up to 250 percent FPL; and subsidized plans with higher actuarial values, which would translate to lower out-of-pocket costs for average enrollees. Before the attendees met with their representatives members of Congress attended the summit.

“Seventeen years ago I didn’t have health care. I got up and went to work everyday. I crossed my fingers like a lot of people and hoped I didn’t get sick. Then one day I fell in the grocery store. It cost me thousands of dollars and nearly bankrupt me,” explained Donna Edwards (D-Md.)

“I’m with you in this fight. There is not a single person in this country who should wake up in the morning and be afraid to go to the doctor because you can’t afford it. That’s not right.”

Others in attendance included Reps. John Dingell (M-15), Tom Perriello (VA-5), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), Jared Polis (CO-2), Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Eliot Engel (NY-17), Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) and Chris Murphy (CT-5).

Each member of Congress reiterated the importance of those gathered at the summit to continue to push for affordability provisions in the health care bill in order for it to happen.

“Now is a critical time, said Rep. John Dingell. “The House and Senate bills are going to conference. The House bill is better, but the Senate bill can be made better. Your efforts can help make it better. America is the only major industrialized nation that doesn’t take care of all of our people. The fight is on. You are going to be the major contributors to winning!”