An Important Message from Dan Hawkins
First let me extend my best wishes for the year ahead. 2011 is certain to be a year of excitement and energy as we work to meet our goals for growth and expansion to serve those in need across the nation.
Already this year there has been a great deal of speculation and commentary on how our legislators will shape and reshape policy in the coming months. While the political landscape may have changed in Washington, the work and mission of health centers remains the same.
We should all welcome the new and returning elected Members of the 112th Congress. We must all remember that every one of them is giving their time and energy to help our country be a better nation and they all deserve our appreciation.
And, we should remember that the work of improving our nation and its health is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We must make progress together, toward a better living environment for us all.
Now to the point of this message…there has been a lot of talk about repealing the Health Care Reform bill that was enacted last year, and yes, health centers strongly supported that effort. I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how we see things here at NACHC.
Let me be very clear, health center support for the Health Care Reform bill was an easy call to make. Every day health centers serve millions of people without insurance. This makes it harder for them to receive regular care anywhere else, and it also makes specialty care that much harder, if not impossible, to find. The uninsured are sicker and poorer than almost everyone else in this country, and something had to be done. The insurance expansions in the law are a major step forward, improving health access for millions of health center patients and others. In addition, the legislation helped strengthen and expand health centers and our cost-effective, high-quality model of care directly. The law provides direct funding to expand existing centers, establish new centers, and also includes payment protections in future insurance expansions that will ensure health centers survival in a newly reformed marketplace. Thus, supporting the bill was a no-brainer for NACHC.
What is less obvious is how to respond to the effort to repeal the law. For this, I’ll give you a political answer and also a practical answer. First, the practical answer – the repeal effort won’t pass the Senate, and most assuredly would not be signed by the President, so it won’t be repealed this year or next. So no one needs to hit the panic button just yet.
The most pressing question is how to respond on the political side of the discussion. The answer is that we need to work with everyone in a position of power to help the populations we serve live a better life. We can’t afford to mischaracterize anyone’s intent until we make an effort to work with them directly. We also need to recognize that many long-time health center supporters may support repeal due to other provisions in the law – not the health center provisions specifically.
We have a lot of work to do, and the health reform law is a strong step in the right direction. We will defend it and also work to take the next steps together to expand access to care for everyone. If that’s with a Republican majority in the House, or a Democratic majority in the Senate, or both, we need to recognize that expanding access is a marathon…and one we can’t win alone.