CBC Letter to President Obama


September 3, 2009
Washington D.C.

Today, the Congressional Black Caucus Health and Wellness Taskforce released a letter sent to President Barack Obama in advance of his address to Congress on health care next week. The letter reads as follows:

September 3, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
President, United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We eagerly anticipate your address before Congress next week regarding the urgent need to reform America’s ailing health care system. As the Members of Congress who represent the men, women and children who are disproportionately under- and uninsured, and whose health and wellness have suffered because of the numerous gaps in our nation’s health care system, we are deeply concerned about the current discussions surrounding health care reform and the possibility that current components of the bill such as a robust public option and myriad health disparity elimination provisions may be stricken in order to lower  its cost to about $500 billion.  We sincerely hope that you stress unwavering support for the following in your remarks:

1.      An unwillingness to reduce the current costs of the health carereform bill.  Despite misinformation about health care reform, suchdrastic cuts are unnecessary.  Many of the nation’s health and healthcare experts concur that a meaningful, upfront investment is necessaryto adequately mend the nation’s broken health care system.   TheTriComm bill (H.R. 3200), as you know, is budget neutral; in itscurrent state, it is reflective of health legislation that is not only medically and socially appropriate, but fiscally sound.  Reducing theoverall cost of a budget neutral bill is therefore unnecessary and nota strategy that we do or can support.  

2.      A strong public health option that will allow the nation’s morethan 46 million uninsured Americans  more than half of whom are peopleof color  to finally have access to affordable, meaningful health carecoverage no later than 2013.  As you know and we have firmly notedthroughout the health care reform debate, a robust public option notonly will play a pivotal role in our collective efforts to eliminateuninsurance  a public health challenge that detrimentally affectsmillions of hardworking, innocent Americans  but also in our efforts toensure that every American citizen, regardless of race, ethnicity,geography or gender, has affordable access to meaningful, reliablehealth care treatments and services when needed.  Thus, we firmlybelieve that the extraordinary benefits of a robust public option tothe health and strength of this nation should, and do, outweigh theimmediate, upfront costs associated with creating it. 

3.      A strong and demonstrative commitment from the White House to,in the days and weeks to come, use health care reform to achieve healthequity.  This will include not only ensuring  the passage of existinghealth disparity elimination provisions  such as those around datacollection, workforce diversity and community health workers but alsosupporting stronger provisions, such as those included in Titles I, II,III and IV of the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 (H.R.3090). These measures are necessary to address the root causes of thehealth inequities that disproportionately and detrimentally affectracial and ethnic minorities, women, rural Americans and Americanswithin the U.S. Territories.  These provisions are integral to effortsto ensure that as health care reform proceeds, we succeed in closingthe gaps in health care that are independent of an insurance coverage,but that millions of Americans fall through and suffer from every day.

4.      Inclusion of provisions that will ensure equity and parity forthe American men, women and children in the U.S. Territories.  Thenearly 5 million Americans who live in the U.S. Territories shouldbenefit from health care reform in a manner that is equitable to thoseAmericans who live within the 50 states and in the District ofColumbia.  This is especially pertinent, given that so many of thenation’s worst health and health care trends are in the U.S.Territories.  Therefore we urge you to, reiterate your commitment toensure that these American citizens receive equal treatment under thehealth care reform bill..

5.      Strong consideration of a trigger that will allow for thesavings from prevention and other provisions in H.R. 3200 to replacethe current pay-fors that have been identified.  This strategy will notonly allow the realization of true cost savings of prevention, healthdisparity elimination and other provisions, but it also will provide anavenue through which the savings generated can replace current pay-forsand/or be used to add important services and programs not currentlyoffered because the costs are deemed too high.

We want to assure you and your Administration that the members of theCongressional Black Caucus are committed allies and partners in thefight to reform America’s broken health care system. Together we canseize this unique moment in our nation’s history to ensure that we notonly reform our nation’s health care system, but that we transform itin a manner that eliminates uninsurance with a robust public option,achieves health equity for all Americans, and makes us as a nation healthier and stronger.

We appreciate your attention to this letter and look forward to working with you on this critically important legislation.

With regards,

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Chair, Congressional Black Caucus

Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen
Co-Chair, CBC Health and Wellness Task Force

Congressman Danny K. Davis
Co-Chair, CBC Health and Wellness Task Force