Disparate Groups Seek Health Insurance Coverage Expansion
The joining of "powerful business interests that once teamed up to defeat Democratic health care plans ... with labor unions and other unlikely allies to advocate extending medical insurance to millions of Americans" is "a sign of how the political climate is shifting," the Los Angeles Times reports.
On Tuesday, Service Employees International Union and the Business Roundtable will jointly announce a campaign to reform the U.S. health care system. Another "champio[n] of change" is America's Health Insurance Plans, "which helped turn public opinion against the universal health care plan" proposed by former President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1994, the Times reports.
On Thursday, the health insurance industry will join with doctors' associations, health advocacy organizations and other groups to announce a plan for universal coverage. Despite increasing support for health care reform, "Congressional Democrats, traditionally the leading advocates of expanded coverage, largely have been left on the sidelines in the latest maneuvering," the Times reports.
According to the Times, while universal coverage "stalwarts" such as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) "remain committed to covering all Americans, the party lacks a unified position."
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said, "What we are building up to is a year, 2007, in which a lot of people are willing to discuss the benefits and costs of universal coverage, but I don't think we're going to make legislative headway" (Hamburger/Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 1/16).
"Unusual alliances of interest groups are coalescing to bring a unified front before Congress to spur federal action on health care costs and the uninsured," The Hill reports. The campaign to be launched on Tuesday by SEIU, the Business Roundtable and AARP -- called Divided We Fail -- plans to undertake coordinated activities, such as townhall meetings on health care issues in key presidential primary states.
The initiative also will promote joint appearances and opinion pieces by representatives of the three groups, according to AARP spokesperson Mark Kitchens.
Meanwhile, another initiative to be announced on Thursday called Health Coverage Coalition for the Uninsured will include Families USA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AARP and associations representing health insurers, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.
AHIP spokesperson Mohit Ghose said the goal of that coalition is "to build a consensus that can be presented to Congress and provide ... a set of principles that can inform the national debate on health care coverage."
SEIU spokesperson Sara Howard said, "There is clearly momentum building for fundamental changes to the health care system. For the first time, business, labor and consumers are standing together to address this problem" (Young, The Hill, 1/16).