At the “National Affordability Summit” on Capitol Hill this morning, 200 clergy, grassroots leaders and families from across the country were joined by Members of Congress, including leaders from key House Health Committees, who committed to making affordability their priority in final health care bill negotiations.  The Summit was sponsored by leading faith, labor and consumer organizations who are calling for legislation to include the House bill’s subsidies for low-income families to ensure that health care reform makes coverage affordable for all.

Members of Congress who spoke at the Summit were Reps. John Dingell (MI-15), Tom Perriello (VA-5), Jared Polis (CO-2), Allyson Schwartz (PA-13), Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Chris Murphy (CT-5), Donna Edwards (MD-4), Lois Capps (CA-23) and Eliot Engel (NY-17).

“Health reform is an expression of our moral commitment to protect all families and affordability is the key to its success,” said Rev. Dr. George Cummings, Co-Chair of PICO National Network and pastor of Imani Community church in Oakland, CA, who chaired the event. “Everyone agrees that the House subsidies would do a much better job at putting affordable coverage within reach of people of limited means.”

“We need to focus on what this means for real people, what the differences are between the bill that passed the House and the bill that passed the Senate, and what the stakes are,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “We need you to help us make it real, to share with respect to some of these differences and what it means.”

At the Summit, people shared their difficulty affording health care and explained how they would fare under the House and Senate bills.

“We would pay about $2,100 more in premiums and co-pays each year under the Senate provisions than the House,” said Rev. Keith Mayes, of  Allen Chapel AME Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  His family-income is $50,000.

“We need to make sure this legislation delivers on affordability… failure is not an option!” said Rep. De Lauro.

“Affordability is access,” said Rep. Edwards. “There is not a single person in this county who deserves to wake up like I did, scared to get sick… That is not who we are as Americans.”

Numerous people stood up to speak during the event on behalf of the 90 million people in America who live in families earning below 200 percent of poverty, for whom the House bill would provide much greater financial protections. 

“We have a moral obligation to make sure health reform works for hard working families and getting affordability right is the single most important thing we can do to build and sustain public support for reform,” said Rev. Heyward Wiggins, pastor of Camden Bible Tabernacle Church in Camden, NJ.

Grassroots organizations across the country are also holding nearly fifty in-district rallies, press conferences and prayer vigils this week to urge Congress to make affordability a top priority in the final health care reform package. You can see a listing of events here:

Last week, 770 elected officials, clergy, small business owners, health practitioners, health care providers and heads of organizations sent a letter to Congress and President Obama, calling for strong affordability protections for low- and middle-income Americans in final legislation.  The National Affordability Summit and letter were organized by PICO National Network, Families USA, SEIU, and Health Rights Organizing Project and Community Catalyst.