To Members of the NRLN Grassroots Network:
The NRLN will update NRLN members who have signed on to be Grassroots Network members through a quarterly report update on our Washington lobbying efforts. We will include special features to keep you better informed on an ongoing basis. This is the first of these new quarterly reports.
Our campaign to sway both Chambers and in particular the Senate to pass a Medicare prescription drug price negotiations bill has been very focused. You have sent 2,300 emails plus made local visits. This is in combination with a letter to all Senators on the Finance Committee by NRLN president Jim Norby. In addition, there has been extensive lobbying efforts on the Hill conducted by Marta Bascom, our Washington Executive Director and Michael Calebrese, our Legal Counsel and seasoned staff member on the Hill. They have influenced important legislative committee staffs and members of Congress. It appears that this measure is going to the floor for a vote and helping make this happen is a tremendous job.
In January the NRLN board approved the NRLN legislative agenda for the 110th Congress (2007). We immediately began to meet with Congressional committee members and their staffs to get them focused on retirees as a group and to present specifics of our agenda. Our theme has been that the insured retirees of America are rapidly becoming part of the under and uninsured in America and that it is time for Congress to focus on fixing unique retiree health care problems.
In meetings on the Hill we are hearing a consistent message that major health care reform may stall out due to a lack of revenues to pay for major reform packages. This has caused a shift toward dealing with specific, smaller health care issues like price negotiations for prescription drugs. The political wars are still large but new bills are not as likely to reduce revenue or add excessive spending. That is just fine with us, our retiree agenda items are very focused on protecting what we have, and not curing societies ills.
The following is a brief synopsis of some of our more important contact visits on the Hill through April 15:
House Ways and Means Committee lead staff member, Mildeen Worrell – This committee has been focusing on health care for children and genetic non-discrimination. We presented our agenda with focus on our health care Maintenance of Cost Payment (MCP) proposal and prescription drug proposals. Marta and Michael arranged to meet with the Committee’s health care technical expert Deb Mizeur, who they have been trying to meet for several months. A meeting is tentatively set for the week of April 23.
House Ways and Means, Commerce Committee; staff member Amy Hall – Reviewed the MCP in depth. She suggested we work with Chairman Dingell who’s Detroit District is very concerned about this issue.
House Commerce Committee; the Health Sub-Committee on Commerce, Nancy Faterni – Ms Faterni is Committee Chairman Frank Pallone’s staff representative. She wanted more specific information about previously insured retirees joining the uninsured ranks and asked us to send the Congressman specific examples. We searched the Capwiz database and found there are 159 members in Pallone’s District and initiated a search for specific stories to make our point.
House Education and Labor Committee; the Chairman’s lead staff member, Michelle Varnhagen – We presented our lone pension issue regarding protection of assets. While the rationale was understood and not rejected, Michelle felt it would be difficult to readdress pension issues after the 2006 year-long struggle to get the Pension Reform Act passed. Nevertheless we will try.
Senator Wyden; staff member Emily Katz – This visit was to discuss and solicit support for adding our MCP proposal to Senator Wyden’s health care bill. The concept was well received but Katz expressed a need for facts regarding cost impact.
Senate Committee on Aging; Chairman Kohl’s office – We are trying to get Chairman Kohl to hold a hearing on the issue of retirees losing their health and life insurance. A formal letter of request for a hearing from Jim Norby is planned.
I hope this NRLN report is useful. Congress starts the week late, ends early and committee meetings and field trips are cancelled and rescheduled. Despite these dynamics our team on the Hill has been on top of things and has set a strong pace in 2007. Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.
Send me emails of your experiences with elected officials in their local offices or in Washington. We will include them in our next report. Send comments about how we can use the Capwiz Network to keep you better informed to Ed Beltram at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Vice President, Legislative Affairs