What recess? This August, some activists are fanning out across the country to push for better health care, paid leave 


August 6, 2021

Congress is embarking upon an extended recess this month and beyond – but advocates for better health care and paid leave for every worker are using the August recess to advocate for a budget bill that includes their priorities.   

Protect Our Care has announced a 19-state tour that kicks off in Bangor and Portland, Maine this Monday, August 9. The nationwide tour – its third – will call for lowering health care costs, expanding coverage, and reducing racial disparities in care. Care Force One’s “Lower Cost, Better Care” bus tour will travel throughout the Northeast before making stops across the Midwest and Southeast, and concludes with stops on the West Coast. You can view Protect Our Care’s planned bus itinerary here. 

And Paid Leave For All kicked off its bus tour with a stop in Providence, Rhode Island on Monday, August 2. Rhode Island was the third state to enact paid leave; others have followed, but federal legislation is needed to ensure that people across the country do not have to choose between a paycheck and caring for a newborn, a sick loved one, or their own recovery.  President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda includes a paid leave plan. This bus tour is one way of showing Congress there is support for including paid leave in the budget. It will travel to more than a dozen cities before winding up in Phoenix on Friday, August 13. You can view the group’s itinerary here, access its social media toolkit here, and follow its blog here. 

Protect Our Care will visit key congressional districts to demand that Congress include certain health care reforms in the upcoming budget reconciliation legislation. Specifically, the group is calling for Medicare to have the power to negotiate lower drug prices, create a federal solution to close the Medicaid coverage gap by providing federal insurance for poor people in states that have refused to expand their Medicaid programs, expand Medicare benefits to include vision, dental, and hearing, and make permanent the Affordable Care Act premium reductions included in the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March so millions of people can continue to access low-cost coverage. 

“While members of Congress go home to their districts this August recess, they’re going to have a chance to show their constituents whether they stand by President Biden’s agenda to improve health care for millions or if they side with Big Pharma and other special interests,” said Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse in a news release. “When Congress returns this fall, we have a once in a generation opportunity to transform health care for the American people, and Care Force One will crisscross the country this summer making the case for getting this critical job done.” 

According to Protect Our Care, here is how the group’s four priorities would help Americans: 

Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices would save patients a considerable amount of money. Twenty-three percent of people age 65 and older report difficulties paying for their prescription drugs; negotiated lower prices in Medicaid would help them. 

More than 2 million Americans living in the 12 states that have refused to expand Medicaid would gain access to affordable, quality health care if the federal government stepped in to provide coverage; their incomes are too low to qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies, so no health care options are open to them without federal action. People of color make up 60 percent of those living in the health insurance gap. 

Some 4.2 million uninsured people would gain coverage if the American Rescue Plan’s A.C.A. subsidies are made permanent, and millions more would continue to save on health care costs. 

And if Medicare is expanded, nearly 38 million traditional Medicare enrollees would gain dental, vision and hearing coverage. 

The Senate is expected to pass its budget resolution before heading out for its August recess. Within it will be “reconciliation instructions,” which are marching orders for various congressional committees to come up with the details for proposals such as paid leave for all and health care expansions. House committees will be working on drafting such provisions during August, so advocates are doing the right thing by showing strong support for these and many other proposals over the recess period. In the fall, these plans will be combined into a reconciliation bill, which under the rules can pass in the Senate with only a simple majority.  

A simple majority is easier, but it will take every single Democrat in the Senate to pass, assuming Republicans maintain their opposition. Advocates know they still have a lot of work to do. 

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