I'm proud to report on our first Meet Your Elected Officials Event, held on September 2nd at the St. Vincent DePaul Center. A full crowd heard from Congressmen Danny Davis and Mike Quigley and State Representatives Sara Feigenholtz and John Fritchey.
Rather than report on what each said, I'm going to share what I learned and my impressions from the evening. Today I'll just talk about health care.
If the participants in the room are representative, the 43rd Ward strongly supports national health care reform and the so-called "public option." Federal, state and local impacts from reform are closely linked. As Rep. Davis said, 20,000 more people with health care means 20,000 people who are relying less on the "free" healthcare from Cook County Hospital. While the County treats Medicaid patients, a huge amount of people receiving care are working people who lack any health insurance because they earn too much to get Medicaid. And Rep. Feigenholtz told us that health care is the largest part of the Illinois budget, and because of the downturn, more people are losing their jobs, their healthcare and putting more strain on State-funded hospitals, including putting more people on Medicaid which is 40-50% funded by the state. So, if we want to help our local and state agencies, we should support the national effort.
I also learned that cost-effective strategies are not wholly employed, thus costing us more money. Rep. Fritchey told us that, like it or not, we are funding the uninsured today: because they are forced to go to emergency rooms for care - the cost for this is $1100 per taxpayer today. Universal coverage would lower this cost because the cost of primary care is far less than receiving care in emergency rooms. Rep. Davis told us that community health centers, which he pioneered, and which bring primary care to poor, rural and migrant communities serve about 18 million nation-wide today. As part of a national health care fix, these centers should be expanded to serve about 60 million people - and save costs. Rep. Feigenholtz told us that budget pressure to fund programs that get a federal match puts huge pressure on great programs that save money - like the Illinois Community Care program, which provides in-home assistance to seniors to keep them in their homes instead of forcing them into nursing homes, saving taxpayers about $30,000 a year per person in these programs.
Where do our representatives stand: All of our speakers strongly supported the President, including the public option to increase competition with the insurance companies. Rep. Quigley tutored us on the political realities of the situation that while we have a majority Democratic House and Senate, many are so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats, that is, Democrats from conservative states. Gaining their support for a wide-ranging plan has proven difficult.
What can WE do?
Make your voice heard while bringing others on board for Health Care Reform. Join us for our second Health Care Phone Bank on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at our office, 2527 N. Lincoln, from 5-8 pm. 43rd Ward Democrats again teams up with Organizing for America to speak with our neighbors. Sign up or call us for details at 773-661-2133.
Thanks for your support.