Health care reform is in the air. Last week, Appleseed, Nebraska’s Health Care for America Now coalition (HCAN), and SEIU, organized a rally in support of health care reform to counter a different event that was organized against health care reform. We had an impressive turn out given the spontaneous nature of the event — further proof that health care reform is important to Nebraskans.
And now we are on the cusp of a serious legislative debate, and we believe, an historic first step in providing quality, affordable, health care for all. Yesterday, Senator Ted Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (“HELP Committee”) released the majority of its health reform legislation. (You can find the 619 page (yes, that is the “partial” bill) draft here: http://help.senate.gov/BAI09A84_xml.pdf.) So, I thought now might be a good time to give a brief update on the expected course of events and timeline for health reform in Congress.
First, some background: there are several committees with jurisdiction over the health reform legislation. In the Senate there are two committees — the HELP Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. The Senate HELP and Finance Committee members and staff have been working together on reform for over a year. Each committee will release their own bill, but it is expected that those bills will be combined on the floor. In the House there are three committees of jurisdiction – Ways & Means, Energy & Commerce, and Education & Labor. These three House committees are working together to introduce one unified piece of legislation.
The committees in both the House and Senate have set a goal to have the bills ready to be debated on the floor in July. As advocates and supporters of health care reform then, our work begins now and will be most intense in July and into the fall.
I have been reflecting lately on conversations Appleseed had last year in communities across the state at which we regularly heard that people wanted comprehensive health care reform but didn’t think it was possible. What a difference a year makes. Now, we at Appleseed wait with bated breath to see the legislation and stand ready to redouble our efforts to ensure that meaningful reform is passed this year.