Episcopalians urged to support affordable health care

July 28, 2009

The Episcopal Public Policy Network issued a Policy Alert July 29 asking Episcopalians to contact their elected officials and urge them to pass legislation that would provide affordable health care to all Americans.

"For a while it looked like they were going to leave town without discussing it," said DeWayne Davis, domestic policy analyst in the Episcopal Church's Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations, adding that late on July 29 it looked like the bill would be discussed in the House of Representatives.

Congress is set to take a monthlong summer recess beginning August 3.

The bill, H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, would "provide access to affordable health care insurance for every person regardless of age, income, or health care status."

The Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations (OGR), based in Washington, D.C., lobbies Congress and the president in response to legislation passed at General Convention. The 76th General Convention recently passed several health care-related resolutions, including CO71, in support of universal access to quality, affordable health care in the United States and calling on Congress to pass comprehensive health care reform this year.

Resistance to health care reform is complex and diverse and characterized by uncertainty: middle class Americans are insecure and uncertain about the rising costs and any change will spell more uncertainty, Davis said. He added that a disparity exists in urban and rural areas between Medicare reimbursements paid to physicians and the overall availability of heath care. In addition, he said, elected officials fear their constituents will not understand or like the changes in their health care coverage and will take it out on them at the polls; and the many stakeholders, including insurers, corporations and pharmaceuticals, pay big money to have their interests heard.

Notwithstanding the bill's complexity and resistance, the current health care bill has moved the health care conversation forward in a way not seen since 1994, Davis said.

"Everyone including the insurers and corporations is very aware that the rising cost of health insurance is unsustainable and that something has to be done to deal with the rising costs, provide coverage and take a stab at doing preventative and wellness care, dealing with the cost issue on the front end," he said. "Look at GM [General Motors]; their largest cost was health care; everyone is aware that something needs to be done, reform needs to happen. We are in a much different place than we've ever been; the argument is over how." (General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection June 1.)

President Barack Obama has focused on health care reform and educating the public on health care issues. On July 29 he spoke at a town hall meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, in support of health care reform.

People look to the president to advise them, but it is up to Episcopalians to educate themselves on health care issues, and share their experiences and concerns with their families, parishes, communities; to participate in rallies and grassroots efforts aimed at health care reform; and to contact local, state and federal officials, in support of healthcare reform. "It's a trickle up thing," Davis said.

In June, Episcopalians joined other faith leaders in launching localized radio ad campaigns in six states in support of the estimated 50 million people in America who cannot afford adequate health care.