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Reform of Health Care Has New Ally; National Coalition to Put $40 Million; Behind Advocacy

Resource type: News

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel |

By GUY BOULTON An array of unions and liberal activist groups in Wisconsin have joined a national coalition that plans to spend $40 million to push for health care reform, particularly universal coverage, in the coming election. The Health Care for America Now coalition, a national umbrella group, launched the campaign in Madison and more than 40 other cities Tuesday. Coalition members in Wisconsin include such groups as the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, Planned Parenthood, the Wisconsin Council of Children and Families, Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and Wisconsin Farmers Union. Health Care for America Now’s stated goal is “quality, affordable health care for every American.” The coalition has set out to ensure that health care reform remains a top priority in the presidential and Congressional elections. “We are going to do everything we can to keep this a front- burner issue,” said Robert Kraig, program director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a grass-roots political group that is leading Health Care for America Now’s campaign in the state. The coalition joins a long list of other organizations, from the American Medical Association to the National Federation of Independent Business, that have backed health care reform. The health insurance industry’s trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, also has put forth a plan to expand coverage for the uninsured. Nearly all those proposals sidestep details on how to reform the health care system and pay for expanded coverage. Health Care for America Now’s proposal is no different. “The principles of this coalition don’t spell that out,” Kraig acknowledged. But he said the first goal is to establish a clear mandate for health care reform. “There is leverage to be gained in an election year,” he said. Expanding health insurance coverage for the long-term uninsured — a group that consists mainly of low-wage workers and people with pre-existing medical conditions — has been estimated to cost $80 billion to $140 billion a year. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a physician and chair of the Department of Bioethics at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health, said reform proposals must meet two criteria: how to pay for health care and how to change the way health care is delivered. “If it doesn’t do both, it’s not a serious proposal,” said Emanuel, author of “Healthcare, Guaranteed: A Simple, Secure Solution for America.” That means not only finding a way to pay for expanded coverage but also controlling costs and improving the quality of care. The Health Care for America Now coalition backs increased regulation of health insurers, including a requirement for coverage of people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also supports having a government health care plan similar to Medicare as an alternative to commercial plans. People who get health insurance through an employer or in the individual market could keep that option. The proposals are part of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s plan to expand coverage. Health care reform has fallen behind the economy as a top issue among voters. But Kraig said that one of the biggest fears in becoming unemployed is losing health insurance. “If you dig deeper, health care is a large part of the economic issue,” he said. Health Care for America Now plans to spend $25 million on an advertising campaign and hire 100 organizers in 45 states. The coalition’s national steering committee includes the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the National Education Association,, SEIU and the United Food and Commercial Workers union. It was funded by a commitment of at least $500,000 from each of the 13 organizations in the national steering committee and a $10 million grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies, a foundation that supports projects to improve the health care system. For more on the group, see (c) 2008 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. All rights Reserved. var ranNum = Math.round(Math.random()*1000000); var myURL=’’ + ranNum; document.write(”)

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HCAN, Health Care for America Now