500 Mayors for Health Care Reform

09/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Americans are angry. This summer we've seen frustrations boil over in health care town halls across the country. But what are people mad about? Most are upset about the economy and afraid about losing their jobs. They are using town halls to vent.

I understand health care reform is a contentious issue. But reforming the health care system is at the heart of our nation's economic recovery.

In California, health care premiums have risen 114% since 2000. More than 20% of Californians under 65 years old are uninsured, the 4th highest in the U.S. Our small businesses, which make up 77% of our companies in the Golden State, are feeling the pain as well. They're being forced to make a choice between hiring employees or providing health benefits, and even then, only 46% of them offered coverage in 2006. Tens of thousands of children also joined the ranks of the uninsured last month, when Governor Schwarzenegger cut billions of dollars from the Healthy Families health care program to balance the state budget.

Here's the bottom line: rising health care costs are taking money out of our wallets and making it more expensive to do business. The increasing number of uninsured residents leaves cities footing the bill for emergency room visits from the uninsured.

We have a decision to make. We can do nothing, which will only make matters worse or we can demand change.

That's why mayors across our country have joined together to support President Obama's call for health care reform. City governments understand that the status quo is unacceptable. As the Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Health Care Reform Task Force, I am leading an effort to get 500 mayors to sign on in support of the Administration's health care reform principles.

Our petition urges Congress to enact comprehensive Health Care reform that will:

• Reduce long-term growth of health care costs for businesses and government
• Guarantee choice of doctors, hospitals and health plans and the choice of a private or public health care plan
• Maintain coverage when someone changes or loses a job
• End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions
• Eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse in government health programs
• Hold insurance and drug companies accountable

We cannot wait for health care reform. We need to fix our broken system. We must refute the misleading campaigns that make Americans fearful about improving our health care system.

Two years ago, San Francisco launched the country's first universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco. Today, more than 75% of previously uninsured residents are enrolled in our public program.

Healthy San Francisco is saving lives, reducing costs and creating competition. Check out this first hand account of our public program. Watch this moving video of a woman who was unable to get coverage before she found out about Healthy San Francisco.

We can reform our health care system, but we must work together. Ask your mayor to sign on in support health care reform. Call. Email. We need to show right now that we support comprehensive health care reform before we let fear and disinformation prevail.