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Health care in spotlight: Coalition starts national campaign to push for U.S. system’s reform

Resource type: News

Richmond Times-Dispatch |

Original Source By TAMMIE SMITH TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER As a summer intern with the Virginia Organizing Project, Gabrielle Brown has spent the past few weeks knocking on doors, asking residents about community issues and health care. She has gotten an earful. One single mother of two said that when faced with paying her mortgage or paying for health care, the mortgage won out. One man said he had not been to a doctor in 10 years. “I’ve met some people who are really stressed about it,” said Brown, 20, a junior at Virginia Tech. “They don’t know what they can do about it.” Brown gives them a voter’s guide with information on how to contact their elected officials. A national campaign launched yesterday in more than 50 U.S. cities wants to showcase people like these grappling with health care in a well-financed push for reform. Health Care for America Now, a coalition of groups representing labor unions, health professionals and others, plans to spend more than $25 million in the next five months on advertising, and to send mass e-mails and rally grassroots organizers. Initial funding for the campaign includes $10 million from The Atlantic Philanthropies and at least $500,000 from each of 13 steering committee member groups, including the National Education Association, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Both prospective presidential candidates have made health-care reform part of their platforms. Virginia Organizing Project, lead agency for the state effort, held a briefing yesterday for the news media at the Virginia General Assembly Building in Richmond. “Americans know it is getting tougher to get good, affordable health care no matter how hard you work,” said Ladelle McWhorter, secretary of the Virginia Organizing Project. “Even if you take responsibility for your care and make good choices for yourself and your family, there is no guarantee you’ll get what you’ve paid for.” Ali Faruk, a policy analyst with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, said the center went on a 41-stop health-care listening tour across Virginia last year. Cost, quality and access were mentioned again and again as concerns, he said. Virginia Poverty Law Center attorney Jill Hanken said some states have taken the lead in health-care reform. A commission appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine developed a comprehensive list of reform recommendations that it presented in September 2007. Reform “can take a lot of different forms,” said Hanken, who mentioned expanding Medicaid to cover more poor adults as an example. Tobacco taxes could help finance such an effort. Health Care for America Now’s campaign includes ads that target health-insurance industry profits as part of the problem. Robert Moffit, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, said the coalition’s statements imply they don’t want any private-sector coverage for health insurance. “It sounds to me like [what] they really want is for the government to run the health system,” Moffit said. “We have the government determining levels of quality, in Medicaid for example. There is not one person you are going to talk to . . . who for example would give up their private health insurance to enroll in Medicaid.”

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HCAN, health care, Health Care for America Now