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Steering Committee grapples with escalating health care costs.

Members of the NLC's Human Development (HD) Policy and Advocacy Steering Committee, hosted by Council Member John Heilman, held their fall meeting in West Hollywood, Calif., earlier this month.

Chaired by Columbus, Ohio, Council Member Charleta Tavares, the steering committee recommended updates to NLC policy on health care reform and Medicare and studied education financing as it relates to the need for Congress to fully fund the "No Child Left Behind Act."

Health Care Costs

The committee studied the health care reform landscape and reviewed its policy to make sure NLC's health care policy goals are current. Because escalating health care costs are having such a dramatic effect on city budgets across the country, different sectors of NLC are working on this issue together.

Steve Jeffrey, executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, joined the HD committee discussions and shared the concerns of the state league directors about the dramatic rise in costs to provide health care coverage for city employees and their dependents. Jeffrey also discussed similar policy evaluations underway in the Vermont state league policy committee.

Paul Chasco, assistant director for insurance services for the Association of Washington Cities, spoke to the committee about the Washington municipal league risk pool, which provides risk financing and risk management services to cities throughout the state. As vice chair of the Board of Directors of the NLC Risk Information Sharing Consortium (NLC-RISC), Chasco also updated the committee about the cost drivers in the 33 other state risk pools; nine of these include group health and employee benefit programs whose costs have been escalating dramatically.

Other speakers gave a state and national perspective about the increasing costs and increasing number of Americans without health care insurance.

After a lengthy discussion, the committee decided to maintain NLC's current health care policy, which supports a publicly-administered single payer system. Single payer health insurance is the financing of health care costs for the entire population through a single source, presumably the government, with funds collected through progressive taxation of citizens and businesses, similar to the system used in Canada. In theory, it would dramatically decrease administrative costs for health care providers because they would not have to negotiate with thousands of different insurance companies.

In addition, the committee approved two resolutions that also address the cost issue: one resolution on prescription drug costs and a second resolution on cost containment more generally.

Medicare

In light of recent legislative changes to the Medicare system to add prescription drug coverage for senior citizens, the committee recommended strengthening NLC's current policy, which indicates that a prescription drug benefit for Medicare beneficiaries is necessary in the long term.

The committee agreed that such a benefit now--without providing for comprehensive reform--will only intensify Medicare's financial and administrative problems.

Education

In a follow-up from the spring NLC Federal Education Summit in Providence, Rhode Island, committee members discussed three action steps:

* Funding: Gathering local information to support the NLC policy of full funding of the "No Child Left Behind Act" (NCLB);

* Policy: Providing input regarding substantive changes for an anticipated NCLB reauthorization in 2006; and

* Advocacy: Meeting with their respective congressional delegations.

The committee hopes that these actions steps can help to strengthen NLC's advocacy on critical education issues.

Resolutions

The committee re-approved six resolutions from last year, including support for local authority for Head Start, and reauthorization for welfare block grants (TANF), the workforce training funding (WIA) and special education funding (IDEA), all legislation Congress failed to reauthorize this year.

In addition, the committee studied some resolutions proposed by constituency groups, state leagues, and individual member cities.

In particular, the committee endorsed a resolution in support of federalism and local authority regarding marriage. The committee also endorsed one resolution to support the fight against HIV-AIDS and other resolutions on the topics of health care and educational services for Hispanics, among others.
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Title Annotation:Advocacy in Action
Author:Konde, Pamela Sosne
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 25, 2004
Words:643
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