Dear Senate, Please Read This

27 Jan

Some of the biggest names in the world of health reform–people who know what they’re talking about–just sent this letter out to the Senate leadership last night. It mirrors one they sent to the House just a few days ago.

“Dear Senators Reid, Baucus, and Harkin:

For nearly three-quarters of a century, Presidents and Congressional
leaders have tried to enact legislation that would make health care
accessible to Americans. Although pieces of this dream have been
realized–health care for the elderly, the disabled, and children in
low-income families–universal coverage itself has proved beyond

We are now on the cusp of realizing this goal. Both houses of Congress
have adopted legislation that would provide health coverage to tens of
millions of Americans, begin to control health care costs that
seriously threaten our economy, and improve the quality of health care
for every American. These bills are imperfect. Yet they represent a
huge step forward in creating a more humane, effective, and
sustainable health care system for every American.

We have come further than we have ever come before. While the House
and Senate bills differ on specific points, they are built on the same
framework and common elements–eliminating health status underwriting
and insurance abuses, creating functioning insurance markets, offering
affordability credits to those who cannot afford health insurance,
requiring that all Americans act responsibly and purchase health
insurance if they are able to do so, expanding Medicaid to cover all
poor Americans, reforming Medicare payment to encourage quality and
control costs, strengthening the primary care workforce, and
encouraging prevention and wellness.

Key differences between the bills, such as the scope of the tax on
high-cost plans and the allocation of premium subsidies, should be
repaired through the reconciliation process. Key elements of this
repair enjoy broad support in both houses. Other discrepancies between
the House and Senate bills can be addressed through other means.

Last Friday, we urged the House to adopt the Senate-passed bill along
with improvements that can be immediately achieved through
reconciliation. We urge the Senate to join the House in this effort,
and we urge the President to sign both bills.

With the loss of Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat, Democrats no longer
enjoy a filibuster-proof Senate majority, though they still enjoy the
largest Senate majority any party has achieved in the past generation.
The loss of this one vote does not require Congress or the President
to abandon Senator Kennedy’s life work of health care reform. A year
of political infighting, misleading debates about death panels and
socialized medicine, and sheer inaction has left Americans exhausted,
confused, and disgruntled. Americans are also bearing the severe
consequences of deep recession and unemployment. Still, a majority of
Americans support health reform, and all Americans need it.

If Congress abandons this effort at this critical moment, that will
leave millions more Americans to become uninsured in the coming years
as health care becomes ever less affordable. Abandoning health care
reform–the signature political issue of this administration–would
send a message that Democrats are incapable of governing and lead to
massive losses in the 2010 election, possibly even in 2012. Such a
retreat would also abandon the chance to achieve reforms that millions
of Americans across the political spectrum desperately need in these
difficult times. Now is the moment for calm and resolute leadership,
pressing on toward the goal now within sight.

Some have proposed dividing the bill or starting anew with
negotiations to produce a less comprehensive bill. From the
perspective of both politics and policy, we do not believe this is a
feasible option. We doubt that the American public would welcome more
months of partisan wrangling and debate. We doubt that the final
product would match what has already been achieved. Indeed we doubt
that any bill would reach the President’s desk should congressional
leaders pursue this misguided course.

We, the signatories of this letter, come from a variety of different
perspectives. Some of us are long-standing advocates of progressive
causes. Some of us are nonpartisan or identify as political

From these differing perspectives, we agree on one thing: the current
choice is clear. The Senate must work with the House in agreeing on
legislation that is acceptable to both houses of Congress insofar as
this is possible within the reconciliation process and then both
houses must adopt the final reconciliation legislation.

Henry Aaron, Brookings
Ronald Andersen, UCLA
Gerard Anderson, Johns Hopkins
Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Ronald Bayer, Columbia University
Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurers, SEIU
David Cutler, Harvard University
Stephen Davidson, Boston University
Linda Degutis, Yale University
Judy Feder, Georgetown University
Eric Feldman, University of Pennsylvania
Brian R. Flay, Oregon State University
David Grande, University of Pennsylvania
Thomas Greaney, Saint Louis University
Colleen Grogan, University of Chicago
Jonathan Gruber, MIT
Jacob Hacker, Yale University
Mark Hall, Wake Forest University
Jill Horwitz, University of Michigan
Jim House, University of Michigan
Peter Jacobson, University of Michigan
Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, Washington and Lee (organizer)
Theodore Joyce, CUNY
George Kaplan, University of Michigan
Jerome Karabel, University of California, Berkeley
Mark A.R. Kleiman, UCLA
Paula Lantz, Univesity of Michigan
Theodore Marmor, Yale University
Lynda Martin-McCormick, NSCLC
Michael Millenson, Northwestern University
James Morone, Brown University
Paul Nathanson, NSCLC
Len Nichols, New America Foundation
Jon Oberlander, University of North Carolina
Mark A. Peterson, UCLA
Harold Pollack, University of Chicago (organizer)
Karen Pollitz, Georgetown University
Daniel Polsky, University of Pennsylvania
Sara Rosenbaum, George Washington University
Meredith Rosenthal, Harvard University
Lainie Friedman Ross, University of Chicago
William Sage, University of Texas, Austin
Theda Skocpol, Harvard University
Donald H. Taylor, Duke University
William Terry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
James A. Tulsky, Duke University
Alexander C. Wagenaar, University of Florida
Joseph White, Case Western Reserve University
Celia Wcislo, 1199-United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU”

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Posted by on January 27, 2010 in Uncategorized


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