NAACP Urges U.S. Senate to Ensure Maximum Quality Coverage with a Strong Public Option as Health Care Reform Debate Continues on Capitol Hill
The U.S. Senate is now moving forward with its version of health care reform. It is likely to take the entire month of December to debate and amend the underlying bill (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that he hopes to have final passage by Christmas). The underlying bill, H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is a compromise of the bills that were produced by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and the Senate Finance Committee.
The NAACP applauds the Senate’s decision to move forward with this debate: the longer our Nation is forced to wait for genuine health care reform, the more Americans who must suffer and even die needlessly. Americans today are too often struggling and straining under the burden of three related trends: shrinking health care coverage, rising health care costs or no health care insurance at all. Over the last decade, millions of Americans have found themselves uninsured, and millions more have become underinsured as the value of their coverage has declined. In the years 2008 – 2010, it is estimated that approximately 6,000 people a day, or almost 7 million Americans total, will lose their health insurance. Today, more than 46 million Americans do not have any health care insurance at all. At the same time, health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs have risen steadily, and the number of families who are facing unmanageably high health care costs continues to grow. In fact, nearly one in four non-elderly Americans are in families that will spend more than 10% of their pre-tax dollars on health care in 2009, and the vast majority of them (more than 82%) have health care insurance. Furthermore, in the United States today the color of your skin, your ethnic background and where you live can not only influence your health care access and quality; they can determine them.
Although we do not know at this time what amendments will be offered in the Senate, the NAACP is working hard to ensure that the final product has the following four elements: (1) Full health care coverage that is affordable to every individual, family and business which also provides coverage for pre-existing conditions; (2) Standard, comprehensive health care benefits that meet everyone’s needs from preventive to chronic care; (3) Equity in health care access, treatment, research, and resources to all Americans, including communities of color and stronger, more comprehensive health services in low-income communities; and (4) The choice of a private (allowing recipients to stay with their existing health care coverage if they choose) or public health care plan, which includes a new public health care plan (the “public option”) that will offer real competition and provide a guaranteed backup which will always be there to ensure quality, affordable health care coverage no matter what. In order to ensure that we cover as many people as possible, we must also ensure that we have a strong public option.