Marriage Equality Not for All

Thanks Nel for highlighting this issue. I did not know that “One segment of the U.S. population not covered by the Supreme Court ruling that legalizes marriage equality is Native Americans living on reservations.

Why? Because Congress or the tribes themselves must make that decision since reservations are sovereign lands and apparently are not under the direct purview of the US Supreme Court.

I’m am pleased however to hear that “many tribes have changed their laws to legalize marriage equality or ruled that they will follow the rules of the state where reservations are located, but ten tribes, including the two largest ones of Cherokee Nation and the Navajo, have acts that prohibit same-gender marriage.

I hope my readers read and then support their Native brothers and sisters in their efforts to gain same-sex gender equality within their tribal nations.

Nel's New Day

Every month in editing a newsletter for our local PFLAG group, I write articles about national and global news. This past month has been filled with the aftermath—and sometimes backlash—to the Supreme Court decision that LGBT people should have equal rights in marriage. The media frenzy began when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-gender couples should have the right to marry in all 50 states. Here are some of the issues that emerged from that decision.

Of course, conservatives were traumatized by the possibility that LGBT people could get married. Judges refused to marry same-gender couples or said that they were too busy. A Texas judge required everyone who he married, LGBT or straight, to sign a document stating that he was opposed to the decision and that no one should even mention marriage equality in his presence. Some clerks decided to quit rather than issue marriage licenses. One of…

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The Federal State-Based Universal Health Care Waiver Act of 2015

banner picture of Universal Healthcare from

One Agenda: Universal Health Care.
Picture courtesy of Healthcare for All Colorado

As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states have been given the ability to innovate or create their own form of health care insurance or coverage starting on January 1, 2017 AS LONG AS “benefits are at least as comprehensive and affordable as those offered by Qualified Health Plans available on the Exchanges,” according to Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA-7).

As a result, at least 14 states—California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, , New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington—have community advocates and state legislators working towards implementing a state-level form of universal health care. They have been working for affordable healthcare access for all residents of their states before and since the Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare – was passed in 2010.

Now that the US Supreme Court has basically settled the fact that the ACA is constitutional both on June 28, 2012 (Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services) and again on June 25, 2015 (King v. Burwell), we can consider ways to improve our healthcare system at both the state and federal level. As a medical doctor and a member of Congress, McDermott voted for the ACA. He also recognizes that “still more needs  to be done to control costs, improve care, and cover everyone.”

One way to further control these costs and improve health care while covering everyone is to create a universal health care system which I’ve previously blogged about (see here, here, here, here, and here). That means we either have the federal government create a federal single payer plan OR we use the waiver clause in the ACA to help states create their own universal single-payer health care program.

Yet even with the waiver currently allowed within the ACA for innovative state-based health care plans, creating a state-based universal care plan that saves funds for states and individuals while providing health care access to all has a big hurdle to overcome. Rep. McDermott explained this issue in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on July 28:

One of the many achievements of the Affordable Care Act is its provisions that grant states the authority to innovate in their health care systems. Under Section 1332 of the law, a state may apply for a State Innovation Waiver that will provide it with control of federal dollars that otherwise would have been spent on premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions for its residents. Through this waiver, a state may design a system to cover its residents, so long as benefits are at least as comprehensive and affordable as those offered by Qualified Health Plans available on the Exchanges.

However, even with this flexibility, numerous barriers limit states’ ability to design true single-payer systems. Existing waivers are narrow in scope, requiring states to seek out imperfect and convoluted solutions to circumvent federal limitations. A sweeping preemption provision in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) denies states authority to regulate employer-sponsored health plans. And, due to the complexities of our existing federal health programs, it is essentially impossible for a state to design a single benefit package that can be administered simply and efficiently on behalf of all of its residents.

This speech was McDermott’s announcement that he was introducing HR 3241, aka the “State-Based Universal Health Care Act of 2015:” If passed, this bill would allow states to apply for a universal health care waiver that would allow them to have access to and authority over federal health care dollars that would otherwise be spent on the residents of that state. More specifically, this additional waiver act goes beyond the ACA to deal with the hurdles mentioned above. The new provisions of this law, according to McDermott, would waive all of the following:

  • The rules governing premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, as provided for in existing waiver authority under Section 1332 of the ACA.

  • Provisions necessary for states to pool funds that otherwise would be spent on behalf of residents enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

  • ERISA’s preemption clause, which cur-rently forbids states from enacting legislation relating to employee health benefit program

After the introduction of HR 3241, the House referred this bill to five committees — the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. I believe that the large number of committee referrals was done because of the need to review all of the different laws that this waiver would impact.

You can read the bill in its entirety here.

I am pleased that this bill has been introduced. It however needs many co-sponsors and advocates to pressure Congress to actually hear, review, and pass this legislation. Please contact your US Representative and ask her/him to co-sponsor Representative Jim McDermott, MD’s bill HR 3241. Here’s the lookup page to find your US. Representative by zip code.

As this is the summer, your Representative should be in the home district. Call, write, set up a meeting and tell her/him why you want to see a universal health care program in your state and why this bill is so necessary. If your Representative agrees to sign on, have him/her contact Mr. McDermott’s aides that are focusing on this issue. They are Jayme Shoun, located in Seattle at (206) 553-7170 and Daniel Foster, Health Counsel in the DC Office at (202) 225-3106.


Jeb for President? Part III

Nel of Nel’s New Day has written several blogs on the 2016 presidential candidates. Most of them have been about the GOP candidates.  I wonder: might this be because the “Grand Old Party” seems to be having a free-for-all?.

Jeb Bush merited three days of her blogging. I reblogged the first two — Number One here and Number Two here — earlier today. Here is the third one.

Nel's New Day

Jeb cartoon

jeb-bush-logo-hed-2015 with BushJeb (short for John Ellis Bush) Bush is trying to rebrand himself as a new man, a person disconnected from the Bush dynasty, but his logo is old-school, left over from his 1994 unsuccessful run for Florida governor. The lack of last name didn’t go unnoticed. David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote, “The most important thing about the Jeb logo isn’t the exclamation point that is there. It’s the last name that isn’t there.” At least, the logo is producing a lot of fun about Bush’s declaration of his candidacy.

jeb1 logoIn declaring his candidacy—finally!—Jeb Bush said, “I’ll break away from the GOP pack.” He won’t escape the Bush name, but his personal family scandals show that he’s already separated from the other GOP candidates:

1994: Bush’s eldest son, George P., broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house, fled the father, and then returned to drive his SUV into their…

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Jeb for President? Part II

Nel of Nel’s New Day has done several blogs on the 2016 presidential candidates. Most of them have been about the GOP candidates (might that be because the “Grand Old Party” seems to be having a free-for-all?).

Jeb Bush merited three days of her blogging. I reblogged the first one earlier today. Here is the second one. e is the And finally, here is the third one.

Nel's New Day

king bushJeb Bush’s plan for the half of 2015: raise tens of millions of dollars, separate himself from his brother’s presidency, win conservatives, and become the Republican who will win the GOP nomination. Thus far, he’s raised the money. Asked about his brother, he waffles between supporting him and trying to find a way to please people who disagree with George W. Bush’s Iraq War. Conservatives still don’t like him, and he has appeared incompetent through answers to questions and consistent flip-flopping.

Last week he changed his campaign manager to the more negative and conservative Danny Diaz, meaning that Bush may have reconsidered whether he’ll still campaign “joyfully.” Diaz’s participation in Bush II’s campaign is another connection between Jeb and Dubya. One Bush ally said that Diaz will signal that “the culture of the Bush operation will now be a Pickett’s Charge engagement campaign with his main opponents.” Pickett’s Charge on…

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Jeb for President? Part I

Once again, thanks Nel for blogging on the full spectrum of presidential candidates. I have been traveling since June 14 and am just now getting back to reading my favorite blogs. As I promised on June 13, I am now catching up on the plethora of presidential candidates that have officially announced their candidacy since June 14. I agreed to reblog Nel’s presidential candidate series. As of today, several more Republican candidates have announced their candidacies since June 14l Of these new candidates, Nel has blogged about four of them. In order of their announcements, they are GOP #10 Jeb Bush (June 14), GOP #12 Donald Trump (June 18), GOP #13 Bobby Jindal (June 24), and GOP #14 Chris Christie (June 30).

Jeb Bush merited three days of blogging. Here is the first one.   You can view the second posting here and the third posting here.

Nel's New Day

The big day has arrived! Everyone knew that former Florida governor Jeb Bush wouldn’t be dashing around the country and coordinating with his Super PAC—something he can’t do after he declares his candidacy—unless he was running for president. Millions of dollars later and on the verge, some people say over the edge, of breaking the law in his campaigning, he’s a bona fide candidate. Here’s what the United States would get with Bush III, as he explains his positions in an opportunistic, passive-aggressive way.

Former Florida Governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder Former Florida Governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire April 17, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Bush’s Christian belief will guide his governing. That includes supporting the so-called “religious freedom” that merges church and state in laws and courts.

Unmarried women with children should be publicly shamed, according to Bush’s 1995 book, Profiles…

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