By Readers

Cheers for health care bill

After months of partisan division and massive lobbying from special interests in Washington, health reform finally came to a vote in the House. The health care industry spent $1.4 million a day to pressure members of Congress to reject reform, but U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Pontiac, chose to do what was right for communities here in Michigan and cast his vote in favor of the bill.

For local families and small businesses that are sick of constantly rising costs and unfair practices by insurance companies, passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) means one simple thing: help is on the way. Some of its most important provisions include:

• Bans on the most egregious insurance industry practices like pre-existing condition denials, lifetime or yearly caps on benefits, price discrimination based on health history, and rescission of coverage based on small enrollment form errors once you get sick.

• A strong, national Health Insurance Exchange, which allows small businesses and individuals without affordable employerbased coverage to pool their bargaining power and negotiate better deals with insurers.

• A public health insurance plan option, which would compete on a level playing field with private coverage plans in the exchange. This public option would generate much needed choice and competition, leading to lower costs for consumers, small businesses, and the nation.

These recommendations will automatically go into effect in 2013 unless a law is passed to stop their implementation.

The bill included research into which treatments work best so that consumers and their providers can be armed with the latest science when making decisions about care; new incentives for primary and preventive care keeping Americans healthy and away from expensive unneeded emergency room visits; health information technology and simplified administration to reduce administrative costs; and the elimination of costly drug and insurance industry subsidies by allowing the government to purchase low-income seniors’ prescription drugs at lower Medicaid prices and cutting subsidies to private insurers currently paid by Medicare.

We all owe a big round of thanks to Peters for standing with us, not the powerful interests in Washington.

— Kara Rumsey Public Interest Research Group in Michigan

Support the food bank

The tri-county region has a very robust food assistance network that involves many organizations and agencies. October saw more than 200 new families seek food assistance for the first time just through the Ingham County Food Bank (ICFB) pantry network. The Greater Lansing Food Bank was founded in 1981 to serve those needing food assistance and serves our neighbors in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties with support for food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. We pay the food bills for the 21 pantries in the ICFB network and provide key assistance to an additional 36 agencies to cover their food costs.

In addition, we operate Food Movers, which rescues prepared and perishable food from restaurants, commercial kitchens, bakeries and grocery stores and delivers to the pantries, agencies, and subsidized housing units in Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton counties. Food Movers also operates Neighborhood Partnerships in five Lansing neighborhoods that distribute food once or twice a month to those in need. Food Movers is also the delivery system for the many items collected at food drives in the community. This past year we rescued or collected more than 650,000 pounds of food for our community.

Our other major program, The Garden Project last year organized and supported 45 community, school, and group gardens as well as assisted many low-income backyard gardeners. They provide tilling, seeds, starter plants, compost and mulch, and they mentored more than 3,000 gardeners this past summer. Estimates are that more than 200,000 pounds of good fresh, locally grown produce was harvested from these efforts. In addition the Garden Project’s Gleaning program recovered more than 300,000 pounds of locally grown produce from MSU and area farms this past summer and fall.

The GLFB also expanded a voucher system for fresh produce and dairy by which we provide vouchers worth up to $5 worth of either dairy or produce redeemable at participating grocers and farmers markets. These vouchers are distributed by the pantries and agencies in our network and we pay the bills.

Our holiday envelope campaign is now in full swing. Between now and the end of January we raise about 65 percent of our total annual budget from donations made through this campaign. We encourage you to support the work of the GLFB and its many partners. If you can’t afford to donate money or food, we still need volunteers, for without all of you this system doesn’t work. Thanks for your support.

— Terry Link Executive Director Greater Lansing Food Bank