After an exhausting year of debating health reform, we have finally reached the home stretch. We are closer than we have ever been to affordable, comprehensive health reform. However, opponents of reform continue to do everything in their power to delay, mislead, and disrupt the process. While they may score short-term political points, I have to wonder if they know what is truly at stake.
We may say it a lot, but it bears repeating one more time: We are closer than ever to enacting comprehensive health reform. So close, in fact, we can almost taste it over here at Stand Up for Health Care.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as excited about the prospect of passing health reform as we are.
No strangers to stall tactics, opponents of health reform have developed a habit of telling us to "start over" and "scrap the bill" instead of just compromising and forging ahead with the bills the Senate and the House have passed.
First, there were the highly publicized rate hikes in California. Then, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report detailing rate hikes in several more states. And then there was WellPoint, who joined the club last week by jacking up premiums in 11 states.
The fight over health reform has reached a fevered pitch, but between all the arguing over process and the lies and distortions that have been thrown around by the opposition, the true meaning of reform seems to have been lost: People's lives are at stake.
A recent Kaiser Poll showed that while Americans are split on their support for the health care legislation in general, they are very supportive of individual aspects of the legislation. The logic then follows-to generate more support among those that are wary, we need to be clear about the all of the protections and benefits Americans will receive with health reform.
The news of WellPoint's Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield hiking up premiums for its customers in California by 39% made waves across the country, and many other of WellPoint's affiliates will soon follow suit.
California consumers are not alone as they face huge premium hikes. Other consumers in states across the country also will see rate hikes from WellPoint this year.
Last week, a few of my colleagues and I had the honor of meeting up with a group of 10 dedicated health care activists from Philadelphia Unemployment Project and Pennsylvania HCAN who were finishing up the last leg of a 150 mile march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. Melanie's March, named after an avid health reform activist, Melanie Shouse, who recently passed away from breast cancer, sought to show legislators just how urgently we need health reform.
The beltway has been abuzz ever since President Obama announced he plans to hold a Health Care Summit between key Congressional leaders. Will Republicans attend? Will President Obama provide a health reform proposal? Will the Republicans provide their own proposal? If they do provide a proposal, will meet the criteria of meaningful health reform?
If the news of impending premium hikes in California wasn't enough to convince you of the urgency of passing health reform, then the news that insurance companies in at least six other states (and counting) have proposed dramatic rate increases as well should shock you into the realization that the time for reform is NOW!
Despite the recent epic snowfall in D.C., our congressional leaders and President Barack Obama have continued to work towards a compromise on the health reform bills, in hopes of finding a way to move it across the finish line. Unfortunately, reform has not come quickly enough for many people in California.