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Reform Jewish Leaders, Activists Urge Congress to Advance Health Reform Bill

 In advance of tomorrow’s health care summit, letter and petition highlight urgent need to address growing numbers of uninsured

Contact: Kate Bigam or Rebecca Katz
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 24, 2010 – Leaders of the Reform Jewish Movement, including Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today sent a letter to Congress and the Administration in advance of President Obama’s bipartisan summit on health insurance reform.

The letter urges the adoption of a strong, comprehensive health insurance reform bill and comes at a critical time in consideration of reform. It is signed by leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Commission on Social Action, Women of Reform Judaism, Men of Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the American Conference of Cantors, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the North American Federation of Temple Youth.

The letter is accompanied by a petition organized by the Reform Jewish Movement and signed by more than 900 activists across the country who believe deeply in the importance of addressing the growing numbers of uninsured Americans and spiraling costs that make our current health system unsustainable and immoral. The petition text and a list of signatories can be viewed at www.rac.org/healthcarepetition.

The full text of the letter from Reform Movement leadership letter follows:

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress:

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, the Central Conference of American Rabbis which includes over 1800 Reform rabbis, and our affiliates including the Commission on Social Action, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Women of Reform Judaism, Men of Reform Judaism, American Conference of Cantors, and the North American Federation of Temple Youth, we reiterate our support for health insurance reform legislation that ensures high-quality, affordable care for all Americans.

We are pleased that Congress has heeded the call for reform; the shortcomings of our health insurance system are too serious to delay fixing any longer. The time to act is now: both the House and Senate-passed bills are promising and contain provisions vitally significant to reducing the numbers of uninsured and controlling costs.  We welcome the bipartisan summit which the President will host tomorrow as a promising step forward.

The Reform Jewish Movement has long advocated for the vulnerable and the voiceless. We have continually emphasized that health insurance reform must expand coverage to millions of Americans, protect low-income and at-risk populations, promise quality affordable care and rest on a financially sustainable foundation. To that end, we believe a final bill must include provisions which not only expand insurance coverage broadly and guarantee affordability of care, but also protect the rights of people with disabilities, ensure access to reproductive health services and increase coverage for America’s children.

We believe that a government-run insurance option would be the greatest guarantor of health insurance affordability. A strong public plan through which the government would compete alongside private insurers would do much to hold down costs and also set standards for quality of care. Other provisions, too, can reduce the financial burden of health care for American families, particularly lowering the threshold for Medicaid eligibility. The Reform Movement is committed to ensuring the highest percentage of families in need qualify for Medicaid benefits.

The attacks on reproductive rights that were included in both the House and Senate-passed bills were alarming. The anti-choice Stupak-Pitts amendment to the House bill would effectively deny coverage for abortion services to women receiving any federal monetary health insurance assistance. In a significant departure from current law, millions of women would be unable to purchase an insurance plan which covers necessary reproductive health care services. Similarly, onerous provisions in the Senate bill stigmatize abortion care and remove incentives for insurance companies to offer comprehensive reproductive health coverage. Congress must pass health insurance reform that meets the needs of all Americans, including women.

We are also concerned about the way in which children’s heath and well being will be impacted under a final bill.  The House bill sought to shift children’s health coverage from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) to Medicaid, resulting in many children losing their coverage at a time when between five and six million children in our country already live without health insurance. In contrast, the Senate bill constituted a step in the right direction, extending S-CHIP which serves millions of children in need.  We urge you to model a final bill on the Senate’s provisions.

Finally, we are pleased that “community choice” provisions – which would provide incentives for states to create community-based long-term services and care for people with disabilities and the elderly – were included in both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill. This should be retained in any final language agreed upon.  In particular, the Community First Choice Option would moderate Medicaid’s enormous bias toward hospital care. This program would empower people with disabilities to receive treatment and assistance at their homes and in their communities where they can heal and thrive best.

Guided by the principles and teachings in our sacred texts, we remain committed to the passage of health insurance reform that ensures the highest quality of life for the greatest number of Americans. The fundamental underpinnings of our faith which teach that every individual, created in God’s image, is entitled to dignity that is impossible to achieve without adequate health care inform our commitment to health reform.  These teachings also guide our belief in the importance of ensuring community participation for people with disabilities and the elderly, protecting women’s access to reproductive health services, extending insurance coverage to all children, and providing as many Americans as possible with the freedom to enjoy healthy lives.

We thank you for your efforts and look forward to working with you to ensure the swift passage of thoughtful, compassionate and comprehensive health insurance reform. We cannot afford to ignore our ailing system any longer.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Eric Yoffie
President
Union for Reform Judaism

Peter Weidhorn
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Union for Reform Judaism

Rabbi David Saperstein
Director
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Dr. Cheryl Gutmann
Chair
Commission on Social Action

Rabbi Steven Fox
Executive Vice President
Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus
President
Central Conference of American Rabbis

Cantor Kay Greenwald
President
American Conference of Cantors

Rachel Roth
Managing Director
American Conference of Cantors
Lynn Magid Lazar
President
Women of Reform Judaism

Shelley Lindauer
Executive Director
Women of Reform Judaism

John Shalett
President
Men of Reform Judaism

Doug Barden
Executive Director
Men of Reform Judaism

Rabbi David Ellenson
President
Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion

Rabbi Michael Mellen
Director
North American Federation of Temple Youth

Aliza Gazek
President
North American Federation of Temple Youth

 ###

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.



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