By John Sawyer
Now comes the hard part.
After months and months of discussion, debate, lobbying, drafting and re-drafting, five different Congressional Committees will be working through more than 1,500 pages of legislative text this week, as the health reform debate gets underway in earnest on Capitol Hill.
For those of us right up close, it’s hard not to be swayed by the highs and lows:
- Seeing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for a major expansion of Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps reflected in the HELP Committee draft is fantastic; realizing that the discretionary funding necessary to pay for that expansion will be in short supply following reform brought us down to earth.
- Seeing legislative text aimed at ensuring full participation of “essential community providers” and “ensuring adequacy of provider networks” in the House bill was a step in the right direction; realizing that Congress may punt decisions on specifics to a new “Health Exchange Commissioner” reminded us that our work in making health centers full participants in a new system is by no means done.
- Good news: the debate over how to expand access, improve quality, and control cost in our nation’s health care system has begun, full throttle, for the first time in 15 years. Bad news: the first “partial estimate” of one of the proposals said it would only cover 16 million more people, and, by the way, it’ll cost a trillion dollars.
As this debate rolls forward through the summer, there will be peaks and valleys. Here are three tips for making it through:
- Check back often to the NACHC Health Reform Hub. We’ll be posting updated information about the different proposals, including side-by-side charts on different health center-related provisions, and useful links.
- Ask your Member of Congress to cosponsor the “Health Centers Resolution” – the bill numbers are S.Con.Res. 25 and H.Con.Res. 144. Cosponsoring this resolution is the best way that your Representative or Senator can show their support for preserving, strengthening, and expanding health centers in health reform. he more cosponsors there are, the more leverage we have to make our case as the debate gets going.
- Share your story. Tell others about work you do, the care you give (or get), and the cause we’re fighting for. Set up an event during National Health Center Week, or take part in the administration’s own health care stories website. Spreading the word will make you remember that health centers are a solution to our country’s health care problems.