CHICAGO — National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial unveiled his organization’s “Main Street Marshall Plan” to enthusiastic attendees of the Root Cause Coalition’s First Annual National Summit on the Social Determinants of Health last week. While commending the narrowing of health disparities under the Affordable Care Act, Morial called for a $1 trillion investment over the next five years in the nation’s urban communities under the Urban League’s plan, dedicated to early childhood education, food security, a $15 federal minimum wage and comprehensive urban infrastructure funding, among more than a dozen objectives.
“If the new administration is going to propose a new infrastructure, all of us involved in social justice have to be in the conversation,” Morial said. “That infrastructure must be savvy to and sensitive to social justice solutions. As advocates for better health outcomes, we have to be advocates for social and economic justice. In the court of policymaking, those people will want explanations about why these things matter.”
Morial directly addressed the future of health care reform, saying, “We will support and defend the maintenance of the ACA, even with its imperfections, until we see something better.” He called for an approach to “retain and reform” the law, adding that any revisions must cover as many Americans as possible as affordably as possible and must not gut Medicaid expansion. “What I fear is that [the ACA] will devolve into chaos, with the public unsure if they will be covered or not,” he said.
Retention and support of the ACA ties into four central empowerment goals the Urban League plans to pursue in driving public policy and thought leadership, Morial said. Those goals must ensure “that every child be ready for college, work and life; that every American gets fair, affordable, decent housing; that they have access to a living wage with good benefits; and that they have access to affordable health care solutions.”
Morial underscored the housing crisis, citing the growing number of consumers who pay more than 30 percent of their income for shelter. “Unaffordable housing has spiked in the U.S. The face of poverty in America is people who go to work every day, including many young, single mothers,” he said. “Unstable or too expensive housing affects health outcomes. It’s not a separate issue — and homeless children are more likely to be hospitalized.”
Morial called on his audience to “articulate the Root Cause Coalition vision because it will be in play going forward, and more voices need to participate. We must openly educate people about how economic, social and health disparities happen.” He said the challenges are “system-based” and “this is a debate that will continue. We have to keep our minds on this important North Star of improved health outcomes and how and where they intersect with social and economic well-being.”
The Root Cause Coalition was founded by Toledo, Ohio-based ProMedica and the AARP Foundation. AHA is an inaugural partner of the coalition and sponsor of the summit.