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NEA members unite for health care reform

WASHINGTON - August 26, 2009 -

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union, launched an online petition calling on elected officials to pass comprehensive health insurance reform now. Since July, NEA members have sent more than 20,000 handwritten postcards to congressional offices. NEA members also have sent over 24,000 email messages to the Hill on health care reform via NEA’s legislative action center.  As the nation’s students return to school, NEA has launched a new online map that shows the number of uninsured children by state.

NEA is partnering with Healthcare for America Now (HCAN) to place targeted phone calls to the offices of nine Senate Finance Committee members. NEA members also are participating in town hall meetings and HCAN rallies nationwide. 

“Our members know health care is an education issue. Educators in our nation’s public schools teach and support the 9 million children in America who don’t have health insurance. When students aren’t healthy, they aren’t ready to learn. The last time Congress took up this issue was 16 years ago; our children cannot wait another 16 years. Congress must pass a health insurance reform bill that includes a public option, so that everyone can have access to quality health care,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. 

So far, NEA has invested $350,000 in a targeted advertising campaign featuring both television and radio advertisements in 10 states. The ads thank several members of Congress for their support and encourage them to make health insurance reform a reality by supporting America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200). 

NEA has been engaged in the health insurance reform to ensure that the voices of its 3.2 million members are heard.  In addition to being concerned about the students they teach, educators’ livelihoods may be affected by reform efforts as well. Many public schoolteachers and employees have traded salary increases for the long-term security of comprehensive health insurance. Reducing or taxing health insurance would unfairly penalize workers.

According to the 2008 Current Population Survey, Texas and Florida have the highest percentage of children without health insurance —approximately one out of every five children is uninsured. California has over 1 million children uninsured—about one in every 10. The Web page also includes testimonials from NEA members on their experiences with uninsured children, as well as their personal experiences paying for health care and dealing with insurance companies.

Among the personal stories from NEA members on dealing with the health insurance crisis are:

Lisa W., a teacher in Irvine, Calif.  

I work in a very low-income school (99% plus free lunch) where many students have no health coverage. One day, I sent 20 of my 33 students home with a fever, and the CDC said we needed to treat it like Swine Flu. So, students either had to bring back evidence that they've been tested negative for Swine Flu or, they needed to stay out of school for seven days. Nearly all of them stayed out for seven days instead of going to the doctor to be tested. For a week I had less than half of my students. I've also had students who are obviously ill (with bronchitis, strep throat, pneumonia, or other ailments) and return to school untreated, still hacking and coughing, having a fever, vomiting, having diarrhea, etc. This is compounded by the fact that many parents cannot afford to stay home from work.”

Van Roekel summed it up by saying, “It’s unacceptable that millions of children in the United States can’t get the basic health care they need to perform well in school. From preventative check-ups to vaccinations to antibiotics, our students deserve better. Congress needs to pass this bill, which will provide quality, affordable health care for everyone. It could be decades before this crucial issue is addressed again, and we can’t wait; we need health insurance reform now.”
H.R. 3200, the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” has passed the three committees of jurisdiction in the House of Representatives and will come to a floor vote in the House in September.

For more information on NEA’s health insurance reform activities, please go to

To see NEA’s map of uninsured children by state and member stories, please go to

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Sara Robertson
(202) 822-7823,