WASHINGTON - February 13 - A new coalition of organizations representing a broad swath of Californians announced a consumer-based healthcare reform campaign today.
Together, the groups, which include AARP California, California Black Health Network, California ACORN, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Council of Churches, California Labor Federation, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, CALPIRG, Congress of California Seniors, Consumers Union, Health Access California, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, National Council of La Raza, SEIU, Greenlining Institute and California Partnership, have more than 8 million California members. See: www.ItsOurHealthCare.org
“Health care reform can only be successful if it’s based on the real life experiences of California familes,” said Betsy Imholz, Special Projects Director for Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. “We need to hear from consumers to develop a comprehensive plan that meets their needs for affordable, quality heath care.”
The new coalition will activate a massive on-line organizing effort to ensure that Californians have a chance to share their concerns about their own healthcare and weigh in to shape how the system gets fixed. The coalition launched an email blitz to the hundreds of thousands of the groups’ members today. The campaign will include online and person-to-person outreach to gather Californians’ healthcare stories and concerns, satellite-linked town halls across the state to learn about the issues and proposed solutions, house parties to bring neighbors, friends and families together to discuss the problems with our healthcare system, and many opportunities for individual Californians to communicate to our elected leaders.
“Beyond providers, insurers, employers and other stakeholders, California patients and families need to have the strongest voice in fixing what’s wrong with our healthcare,’’ said Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California. “Consumers aren’t just another stakeholder. At the end of the day, it’s our healthcare that needs to be improved. The point of health reform is to provide a benefit, not a burden, to Californians.”
The groups have come together around specific goals, and support and oppose ideas and proposals that are currently a part of the health reform debate.
“Seniors understand that healthcare works better for everyone when we come together to make sure that people who are sick, frail, or injured aren’t left out on their own,” said Casey Young, Advocacy Manager for AARP-California, which represents 3 million Californians. “Our members have a lot of collective experience and a lot to say about fixing our healthcare system, and we plan to make sure that our voices are a vigorous part of this debate.”
“We all share a concern for our families’ and our own health,” said Lupe Alonzo-Diaz, Executive Director of Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “That concern is common to every community and will unite us all in our campaign.”
“Politicians are finally listening to what Californians have felt and said for a long time,” said Elizabeth Sholes, Director of Public Policy for California Church Impact, founded by California Council of Churches, whose membership encompasses a million Californians. “Healthcare is a fundamental human need, and accepting a system that doesn’t take care of this need is a failure of our imagination and our hearts. We can do better.”
"Working families have struggled at the bargaining table and at the kitchen table to pay the bill for rising health care costs," said Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, whose members represent 2 million Californians. "It's time for our political leaders to help."
“We’re the largest healthcare union in the state and in the nation,” said President of SEIU Local 1021 Damita Davis-Howard, representing the Service Employees International Union, which represents 650,000 healthcare and other service workers in California. “We’ve seen it all and we know things need to change, whether we’re talking about a child who goes deaf because she didn’t have access to timely treatment for ear infections or a family that is overwhelmed by medical bills and goes bankrupt because their coverage is inadequate.”
Our organizations do not want this year’s reform efforts to be reduced to sound bites and photo opportunities. For too long, health care has been skipped over for real reform. This is the year to turn good intentions and campaign promises into real progress on health care for Californians and our groups plan to be a part of that.