I’m signing [this health reform bill] for 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, who’s also here. Marcelas lost his mom to an illness. And she didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford the care that she needed. So in her memory he has told her story across America so that no other children have to go through what his family has experienced. — President Barack Obama, March 23, 2010
On March 23, the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations celebrated a huge victory: President Obama’s signing of historic health care legislation. By his side stood Marcelas Owens, an 11-year-old member of the Washington Community Action Network–a NWFCO affiliate–who had spoken on national television about his mother’s death from lack of health insurance. Marcelas courageously endured attacks from the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin and, in so doing, represented the thousands of community leaders NWFCO and our partners mobilized in support of health care for everyone in our communities.
The new legislation does far more than set new rules for insurance companies and guarantee health coverage for millions who can’t get it now. It also makes important advances in Native health, such as reauthorizing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which had been languishing in Congress for almost two decades. And it includes measures to address racial disparities in health, like providing needed support to community clinics. These provisions will make a real difference in people’s lives.
A Historic Victory for NWFCO
In this latest win, NWFCO partnered with Health Care for America NOW! and organizations across the country to coordinate on-the-ground action, and to document the excesses of the health insurance industry. Our research and organizing support helped to highlight the clear choice that Congress had to make between the interests of the people, and the interests of the insurance industry.
NWFCO also partnered with organizations and tribes in Indian country to clearly show the glaring inadequacies of the Native American health system through the stories and images of Native struggles. These stories, along with a Sign on letter in support of Indian Health Care Improvement Act, helped ensure that Congress took a major step in improving access to quality health care for Native Americans by reauthorizing the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.
This historic victory is the latest win in NWFCO’s long record of work on expanding access to quality, affordable health care to everyone in America, with a specific focus on low-income communities and communities of color. NWFCO’s work includes local and state research leading to agreements with local hospitals to expand language access to health care, as well as working on the ground with grassroots leaders to hold key decision makers accountable to their needs. NWFCO’s work to expand health care also includes a major victory in 2008, when we coordinated a national campaign to bring children’s voices and artwork to Washington, D.C. in order to highlight the need for health care for all children, including all immigrants.
Onward and Upwards
NWFCO is proud of its sixteen-year history of working tirelessly with our affiliates and partners to ensure everyone has access to high quality health care. With this health care bill, we’ve made tremendous advances. But we still have far to go. In the months and years ahead, we will fight for the promise of health to be realized for all members of our communities.