Samantha Michaels/MNS

Rev. Heyward Wiggins (left) of Camden Bible Tabernacle Church and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., (right) stress that affordability is "key" to health care reform.

Affordability is emphasis of health care summit

by Alexandra Pechmanand Samantha Michaels
Jan 13, 2010


WASHINGTON -- More than 200 clergy and leaders of grassroots organizations met with House members Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill to advocate that affordability for families remains a key priority for Congress in the final stages of health care reform.

At this National Affordability Summit, House members urged community leaders to support provisions of the House bill.

“We are here for one purpose and one purpose only: to make sure that the primary health care legislation passed by Congress and signed by President (Barack) Obama makes health care truly affordable for the millions of working families that we represent,” said George Cummings, co-chair of the PICO National Network, which develops strategy for its congregation-based community and co-sponsored the event.

The summit was attended by several members of Congress, including Reps. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., Janice D. Schakowsky, D-Ill. and Jared Polis, D-Colo.

As negotiations continue between the House and Senate on a final health care package, community leaders at the summit called for a compromise between the two bills which would adopt most of the House provisions, such as expansion of Medicaid and affordable subsidies for families earning less than $45,000 a year.

“The House bill is better,” said Dingell, who received a standing ovation at the beginning and end of his speech. “The House bill is better, and the Senate bill can be made better.”

Representatives said that the House plan’s expansion of Medicaid will provide insurance for an estimated five million more Americans than the Senate plan.

Still, the sponsors also supported certain provisions in the Senate bill which would provide more affordable subsidies for families earning more than $45,000 a year.

Although both bills will work to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million Americans, they contain a number of differences—specifically concerning the taxation of high level “Cadillac” insurance plans, the public option and federal coverage for abortion.

Shortly after the National Affordability Summit, Republican Representatives on Capitol Hill held a news conference on the costs of the pending health care bill. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., criticized the Democrats for conducting final health care negotiations behind closed doors.

“The President of the United States should keep his word to the American people and ensure the public's right to know and bring the C-SPAN cameras into these backroom negotiations immediately,” he said. “Right now is the moment for every American who cherishes freedom, who cherishes the ability to choose their own doctor, who still believes that we can create health care reform that will lower the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government, to let their voice be heard.”

Democratic Representatives at the National Affordability Summit criticized those who oppose their efforts at health care reform. Their speeches also included a few jabs at Republican leaders.

“As Sarah Palin would say, I can see health care reform from here,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

Blumenauer said Congress is willing to extend the debate, even if that means delaying the State of the Union address.

“Getting it right is more important than getting it passed,” he said. “We will be fighting the fight to make this work for years to come.”