InsidePSN: PSN Leaders in D.C. Highlight State Voices on Health Care Reform Debate
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
PERMALINK: http://www.progressivestates.org/node/23224 
PSN Leaders in D.C. Highlight State Voices on Health Care Reform Debate
Last Wednesday, Progressive States Network brought state legislative and advocate leaders to Washington, D.C. to meet with the White House and Capitol Hill leaders to promote comprehensive national health care reform. PSN's delegation brought with them a letter, signed by over 700 state legislators from 48 states , which demanded federal health care reform that includes the choice of a public health insurance plan, strong affordability protections, and shared employer responsibility for health care costs. The letter itself was a product of PSN work over the last two months with legislative and organizational allies to mobilize state legislators to make their voices heard in Washington, D.C., as well as years of work highlighting the state reform efforts that should serve as models for federal reform .
PSN brought to D.C. leading health care legislators and advocates with decades of experience working for quality affordable health care to their states. With state budgets crumbling under the economic burden of a broken health care system, their message was that federal leaders needed to learn from the best of what states had already enacted while establishing a strong federal health care plan, including the choice of a national public plan, that would deliver quality health care for all Americans. After meeting with D.C. officials, Progressive States Network held its annual State Progressive Leaders Gala, honoring the state leaders who have been promoting groundbreaking health reforms in the states for so many years.
PSN Leaders on Capitol Hill and at the White House
Early in the day, the PSN delegation delivered the letter to Congress in a private meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. This was followed by a Capitol Hill press conference hosted by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, third ranking Democrat on the Senate Healthcare, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee.
At the Capitol Hill event, State Sen. Jack Hatch (IA) delivered the letter to Sen. Harkin and to Congressman Steve Kagen of Wisconsin who accepted the letter on behalf of the House of Representatives. PSN speakers, including Speaker Chris Donovan (CT), Sen. Karen Keiser (WA), and Sen. Nan Orrock (GA) then outlined how the work they have done to build public insurance options, expand Medicaid and SCHIP, and create cost controls on the state level can serve as models for federal reform. Speaker Donovan highlighted the Connecticut legislature's recent enactment of an "Obama-ready" public health insurance plan option, which would allow small businesses the option to join the state employee health plan, as a model for federal reform and noted that, after countless meetings with constituents, it was clear that "Americans want the choice of a public option."
As Senator Tom Harkin told the group:
Sen. Harkin praised PSN's work in building grassroots
support for national reform and pledged to implement a national public insurance
option that would relieve state economies and bring quality affordable care to
Welcomes State Legislators and Highlights PSN Letter: At an afternoon
meeting at the White House, PSN legislative leaders delivered the letter to
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and White House
Director of Health Care Reform Nancy-Ann DeParle and offered their active collaboration moving
forward to craft a national solution to the nation's health care crisis. PSN
legislator Iowa Senator Jack Hatch was named Chairman of the newly announced
White House Working Group of State Legislators for Health Care Reform. Legislators discussed a range of activities, including town meetings, to engage
the public in the national debate on health care reform.
At a press conference during the meeting, Secretary Sebelius and Nancy-Ann DeParle, both highlighted the importance of state legislative voices in the current national debate. Sen. Hatch pledged active collaboration from PSN's growing national coalition of legislators to implement the reform priorities outlined in PSN's letter and supported by the Obama Adminstration, while Washington Senator Karen Keiser, a PSN board member, highlighted the importance of the federal government stepping up to enact meaningful reform
While legislators were meeting with the Obama Administration, Families USA hosted a reception for state advocates who received PSN’s Progressive States Leader Award. During the reception, Families USA gave a detailed update on the various health care reform bills that are being worked on by House and Senate committees. Advocates shared lessons learned from their state campaigns and discussed their priorities and concerns about the emerging details about congressional legislation.
View video coverage of Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, speaking at the Progressive States Network press conference on Capitol Hill by clicking on the video still below:
View video coverage of Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock, speaking at the Progressive States Network press conference on Capitol Hill by clicking on the video still below:
State Progressive Leaders Gala - Honoring Health Care Reform in 2009
That night, the Progressive States Network played host to friends, allies and leaders from all over the country to celebrate the many victories achieved by the organization in the most recent legislative session and since its founding in 2005, and to build momentum for new victories in the coming year.
With a focus this year on health care reform, legislators,
advocates, grassroots organizers, and members of the progressive media gathered
at the Stuart R. Mott House in Washington D.C. on June 17th 2009 to honor and celebrate the pioneering state legislators and advocates whose bold efforts continue to bring our nation closer to health care affordability, access and choice — achievements that resonate in this year’s national debate for health care reform.
Change Starts in the States: In his opening remarks, PSN Executive Director Nathan Newman stressed the core organizational belief that progressive change begins in the states. He welcomed guests and praised the efforts of the legislators, advocates and staff that worked tirelessly to prepare for Federal Health Care Reform Day and the exciting events that had transpired at the White House earlier in the day — galvanizing the continued need for a national narrative of progressive change starting in the states and forging a national network for progressives.
Created in the “dark ages” of 2005, PSN has systematically gathered its strength, tackled core progressive issues and driven positive change state-by-state, when hope at the federal level was seen as a distant impossibility. Happily, in the last year, thanks to the hard work and dedication of countless organizations, legislators and advocates, PSN has begun to realize the fruits of its efforts to create and sustain a vast network of progressive leaders, allies and advocates committed to promoting social change across the states.
PSN's Leadership on Health Care: Nick Rathod from the White House Intergovernmental Affairs department, who organized the meeting with Sec. Sebelius and Nancy-Ann DeParle earlier in the day, praised PSN's work and emphasized the critical role of state legislators and advocates in bringing change to our nation.
As Mr. Rathod told the group:
Georgia Senator Nan Orrock, a PSN board member, highlighted the collaborative effort in producing and distributing the legislator letter around the country, in particular citing PSN's collaboration with the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Community Catalyst, Families USA, Health Care for America NOW!, Herndon Alliance, National Women's Law Center, Northeast Action, SEIU, the Universal Health Care Action Network, and WiLL, as well as thanking the foundations and other funders who have made PSN's work possible.
Progressive Leader Awards: With introductions by Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom and Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the evening honored four exemplary legislators that stood
out amongst their peers as true leaders in the health care reform battle: Speaker of the House
Christopher Donovan, Connecticut House of Representatives; Senator Jon
Erpenbach, Wisconsin Senate; Senator Karen Keiser, Washington Senate; and
Representative Sharon Treat, Maine House of Representatives. These state
legislators advanced priorities for reform in their states that are now being
debated here in DC, and have brought their unique and powerful voices to our
PSN was also thrilled to recognize seven
advocates that have worked tirelessly to organize, shape and influence positive
change in the battle for health care affordability, access, and choice: Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, AFSCME
Council 4 of Connecticut, Universal
Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, SEIU Connecticut State Council and the
As Wisconsin and Connecticut legislative chambers have pioneered bills to
provide affordable coverage, including examples of a public insurance plan, the
advocates honored this evening have turned those states into national models for
Video Coverage of White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Nick Rathod speaks to the crowd at PSN's 2009 State Progressive Leaders Gala in Washington, D.C. (Click picture to watch.)
Media from the D.C. Health Care Events
The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:
Nathan Newman , Interim Executive Director
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