On Tuesday June 12th the “red shirt army” took to the state Capitol in full force to bear witness and testify to the need for real health care for real people during the SustiNet Cabinet’s last scheduled meeting. Thank you everyone for coming out to bring the full urgency, passion and power of this campaign to bear! We really took the fight for health care justice to the next level -the shift in tone and energy at the Cabinet meeting was palpable.
For those not present – why this action? Because the SustiNet Cabinet is where our aspirations for universal health care now lie. On June 12th the Cabinet’s business plan working group presented their recommendations on alternatives to private, for-profit insurance. Over 120 activists from across the state participated in a prayer circle before entering the hearing room at the Legislative Office Building to give testimony and hear the Cabinet’s recommendations.
The Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care had some recommendations of their own to share with the Cabinet -including creating a robust public option to be offered on the Exchange beginning in 2014 and implementing a State Basic Health Program for low-income adults who can’t afford insurance even with federal subsidies. Interfaith Fellowship Co-chairs Rev Damaris Whittaker, Imam Kashif Abdul Karim, and Rev Josh Pawelek held out the vision of a just, equitable health care system and the expectation that the Cabinet and our state’s leaders work diligently to make that vision reality in CT.
Read their powerful testimony here:
Recommendations to the SustiNet Cabinet and to Governor Dannel Malloy
Connecticut residents, businesses, and state government itself face deep and growing problems with health care and coverage. Costs are rising to unsustainable levels; hundreds of thousands of people lack insurance; quality is inconsistent; purchasers are unsure of the value they receive for their premium dollar; and disparities along racial and ethnic lines affect both health status and access to essential care. If policymakers do nothing these troubling trends will go unabated and the health care crisis in the state will worsen.
As clergy we experience this crisis with our congregants in deeply personal ways. This crisis hurts our communities. We cannot turn our backs on our communities, and so we are here to ask that this cabinet stand with us in the gap and demand that Governor Malloy’s Administration and the Legislature act to end the suffering this crisis creates in the lives of Connecticut’s residents. We come to you today with three recommendations for your final report to the Governor. None are new. None should surprise you. They have all been researched and presented to the public within the last two years as a part of the work of the SustiNet Board. They are not new, but they have been largely ignored. We ask you not to ignore them. We ask you to take them seriously, because too many lives hang in the balance.
First, create a state-sponsored public option for health care that pools all recipients of state health care dollars, competes on the health care exchange with private insurers, and offers affordable health insurance to small businesses and individuals who are left out of the current system. Why a public option? We note that anytime people are left out of the health care system, service costs increase for everyone, and quality decreases for everyone. A system that privileges some actually deprives all of us of the best care at the best price. A public option is a well-researched solution to the problem of differential access and skyrocketing costs. It has been debated publicly in the state and we believe that with implementation people would feel the beneficial effects immediately. Fears that have been generated over the last two years would subside.
Second, eliminate race and class-based health disparities once and for all. For too long we have had to make health care decisions with insurance company interference. Doctors have had to deny care because their costs have been higher than the pay they receive for their services. Our health care status quo delivers unequal care as well as unequal access. This creates well documented health disparities for people of color in the state and this must end. A patient-centered, evidence-based approach to health care that pays doctors to actually provide care and reduces barriers to health care access will substantively decrease race and class-based health disparities. The biggest racial disparity of all is the disparity in access to care. This disparity is a key factor in a shameful health gap. But it is a two headed monster, because besides ensuring unequal health outcomes it also promotes a wealth divide that holds people of color in poverty.
Third, establish a State Basic Health Program as outlined in the federal Affordable Care Act and as was proposed in this year’s legislative session. It is reprehensible to us that our legislators and Governor Malloy have not already taken the steps to implement this essentially free system of health care for 75,000 low income earners in the state. Fears that this program will cost too much have been completely mitigated by the proposed legislation. In this time of crisis, both for our health care system and for the economic system that our health care system undergirds, how are the people of this state supposed to interpret this rejection of a public program and the federal funds attached to that program? If we want jobs and a healthy workforce we must implement the State Basic Health Program.
Why we must Act:
If recent trends continue, by the end of this decade, among Connecticut residents under age 65:
• Nearly 390,000 people will be uninsured;
• Net state costs for Medicaid, HUSKY, and state employee/retiree insurance will climb from $3.2 billion in 2012 to $4.5 billion in 2019; and
• Premiums for private employers will increase from $9.6 billion a year in 2012 to $14.8 billion —a 55 percent rise.
But even these alarming statistics don’t express the urgency we feel. We are here to stand against the health gap and wealth gap that our current inequitable health care system supports. These gaps mean that some suffer and struggle. Some even die. Many people, and if trends continue we fear we will be saying most people, cannot enjoy the fruits of their labor, their families, their hard work or their lives, because they are stuck on a treadmill of unending work and deprivation, while the privileged few go unaware and unscathed. We do not believe that these gaps square with the values of Connecticut’s residents. They certainly do not square with the values of the members of the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care. We hope and believe that these gaps do not square with the values of any of you who are members of the SustiNet Cabinet, nor do we believe that they reflect the values of Governor Malloy. We must act on our values. If we have the courage to do so, we will find that we can work together to create a better system that cares for everyone.