The beaches and businesses in two Southern states are opening up in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic. On April 27, the number of U.S. confirmed cases is 1,010,507, and the number of deaths is 56,803, just short of the 58,220 U.S. military fatalities in the 20 years of the Vietnam War. The actual number […]Why 4 Percent of World’s Population Has 30 Percent of COVID-19 Cases — Nel’s New Day
GOP Senators Work to Take Health Care from Millions of People
While millions of people in the United States were focused on the Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey, the Republicans were sabotaging health care for a large percentage of people in the nation. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced this goal at the annual Road to Majority conference organized by Ralph Reed and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Amidst a drum beat of calling Democrats obstructionists, DDT said that restoring freedom means taking away health care from millions of people. A 13-senator group has been planning in secrecy, hoping to push a vote by July because, according to Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO), “I don’t think this gets better over time.” In other words, they know it stinks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is desperate because the bill has to meet the approval of both House and Senate by September 30 in order to use the process of reconciliation…
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Oppose the Most Restrictive Abortion Ban in Country
Pennsylvania is poised to pass what is seen as the most restrictive abortion ban law in the country. The House has already passed HB 1948 and has sent it to the Senate. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed strictly along party lines. It has the most extreme restrictions placed on abortion in the country. A vote by the full state Senate is expected as early as this Wednesday, July 13. Please call your PA State Senator and tell her/him to OPPOSE House Bill 1948.
SUMMARY OF HOUSE BILL 1948
House Bill 1948, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-Warren), decreases the gestational limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. It also bans Dilation and Evacuation abortions at any gestational age unless necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or prevent the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman. There is no exception for rape, incest or fetal anomaly
- My name is __________________ and I am a constituent from [your city]. I would like Senator________________________ to oppose HB 1948 that would restrict a woman’s access to abortion care services in an extreme and harmful way.
- All women should have access to a full range of health care options, including abortion care services, and live their lives free from violence and reproductive coercion.
- Every pregnancy is different and protecting women’s health and safety is paramount. I ask Sen. __________________ to stand with the women of this Commonwealth and vote “No” on HB 1948.
- More than 40 years ago, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade recognized a woman’s constitutional right to decide whether to continue or end a pregnancy prior to viability. This ban is clearly unconstitutional and will cost taxpayers for the state to litigate a law that is unenforceable. It also constitutionally violates the most recent Supreme Court decision as noted in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurring opinion in the June 2016 WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH ET AL. v. HELLERSTEDT case:
Justice Ginsburg dismissed Texas’s argument about its interest in protecting “the health of women who experience complications from abortions,” by countering that “complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous.” She recites a laundry list of studies of how safe abortion is, and then she delivers the message: “So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113 (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H. B. 2 [and PA’s proposed HB 1948] that ‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ Planned Parenthood of Wis., 806 F. 3d, at 921, cannot survive judicial inspection.”
You can find your representatives by clicking here. Once you are on the page you may enter your address and your elected officials and their contact information will appear.Don’t let Pennsylvania become the most restrictive state for abortion access in the country. Call your legislator TODAY!
(Thanks to the Pennsylvania Reproductive Health Coalition and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence for providing part of this information).
The Pennsylvania Health Care Plan
Are you frustrated with your insurance plan? Have you, or someone you love, been denied coverage? Well here in Pennsylvania, we have new universal health care bill that has been introduced to improve upon the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and provide access to healthcare for ALL Pennsylvania residents.
The bill — HB 1688 — was introduced into the PA House of Representatives on Monday, November 9, 2015 and sent to the House Health Committee for review and mark-up. The prime sponsor is Rep. Pam DeLissio. Here’s what she says about this new legislation:
I am introducing legislation to establish the Pennsylvania Health Care Plan.
Similar legislation has been introduced on at least 3 occasions in the House over the past 7 years.
This legislation sets out a blueprint of bold steps that will result in a healthier citizenry at a lower cost with no co-pays, deductibles or premiums or concern about networks and with the freedom and flexibility to choose their health care providers.
This legislation is possible because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows states the option to innovate with their own health care plan as long as the proposed plan is more economical and efficient.
This proposed legislation meets that criteria. This option for the states to innovate becomes available in 2017.
This legislation improves upon our current health care delivery system in many ways. First and foremost, it preserves the private practice of medicine and the right of patients to choose their healthcare providers.
Briefly, the Pennsylvania Health Care Plan is a system in which the Pennsylvania Health Care Agency administers a plan that ensures the cost-effective delivery of covered services that range from catastrophic care to wellness and preventative care.
Health Care Providers would have autonomy over patient care.
The program will be supported by the savings realized from replacing today’s less than efficient, often profit-oriented, multiple payer system with a streamlined Pennsylvania Health Care Trust Fund.
The Pennsylvania Health Care Trust Fund will be funded by a 10% employer tax paid on payroll and a 3% personal income tax.
Using our respective Caucuses as an example, we would save millions in health insurance costs if we were to pay an amount equal to 10% of our payroll.
A benefit to Plan participants is knowing definitively their healthcare cost exposure for the year.
And here is a summary HB 1688 (thanks to Healthcare for All PA for reviewing and summarizing the The Pennsylvania Health Care Plan). It…
- Covers all Pennsylvania residents
- Gives citizens the freedom and flexibility to choose their health care provider while at the same time preserving the private practice of medicine:
- Allows free choice of providers, including specialists, without pre-approvals or referral
- Provides comprehensive coverage
- Give health care providers autonomy over patient care.
- Doesn’t exclude or limit coverage due to preexisting conditions
- Creates cost savings for citizens, businesses, municipalities and school districts:
- Eliminates co-payments, deductibles, point-of-service and networks
- Eliminates premiums. They are replaced by a 3% tax on adjusted gross income and Businesses will pay a 10% tax on payroll, (most businesses pay far more for employee health benefits, which will be eliminated under this Plan).
- Benefits businesses by lowering costs for Worker’s Comp, Vehicle Insurance and Liability Insurance due to removal of medical component.
- Removes retiree healthcare costs from businesses, municipalities and school districts
- Creates this cost savings by replacing our less than efficient, confusing multi-payer system with a streamlined single-payer system.
- Covers all of the following, but is not limited to:
- All medically necessary inpatient and outpatient care and treatment, both primary and secondary
- Emergency services
- Emergency and other medically necessary transport to covered health services
- Rehabilitation services, including speech, occupational, physical and massage therapy
- Inpatient and outpatient mental health services and substance abuse treatment
- Hospice care
- Prescription drugs and prescribed medical nutrition
- Vision care, aids and equipment
- Hearing care, hearing aids and equipment
- Diagnostic medical tests, including laboratory tests and imaging procedures
- Medical supplies and prescribed medical equipment
- Immunizations, preventive care, health maintenance care and screening
- Dental care
- Home health care services
- Chiropractic and massage therapy
- Complementary and alternative medical procedures that have been shown by the National Institute of Health’s Division of Complementary and Alternative Medicine to be safe and effective for possible inclusion as covered benefits
- Long-term care for those unable to care for themselves independently, including assisted and skilled care
Currently there are four cosponsors of the bill — Rep Pam DeLissio, Rep W. Curtis Thomas, Rep Patrick J. Harkins, and Rep Mark Rozzi. But we need more co-sponsors and citizen calls for passage of this bill. So we need your help.
Join us and act now! Contact your state representative now and urge them to support the ‘Pennsylvania Health Care Plan legislation’, this new and innovative health care plan will cover ALL Pennsylvania residents. Find your representative by clicking on this link. Then call, write, and visit your Representative to ask her/him to cosponsor and support an improvement in our health care system here in Pennsylvania.
Then share this blog with your family, friends, and business colleagues so that they too can call for this change.
The Federal State-Based Universal Health Care Waiver Act of 2015
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.
Universal Health Care: Let’s Do It!
I am not an economist. But I am a strong advocate for universal access to healthcare in the United States. See why here.
A couple of days ago, Thom Hartmann at The Big Picture RT posted a YouTube video on why economists are demanding a universal national healthcare plan. In this video he reports that more than 100 economists sent an open letter to Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin (D) after Shumlin “bailed” on implementing Vermont’s state-based single-payer healthcare plan.
Governor Shumlin stated that he was stopping the implementation process because he believes that “This is not the right time” for enacting single payer. He stated that there were too many costs associated with the program and could not go forward with the plan “at this time.”
The economists argued otherwise:
As economists, we understand that universal, publicly financed health care is not only economically feasible but highly preferable to a fragmented market-based insurance system…. Public financing is not a matter of raising new money, but of distributing existing payments more equitably and efficiently. Especially when combined with provider payment reforms, public financing can lower administrative costs, share health care cost much more equitably, and ensure comprehensive care for all.
We support publicly and equitably financed health care at federal and state level, and we encourage the government of the state of Vermont to move forward with implementing a public financing plan for the universal health care system envisioned by state law.
Hartman then goes on to say that part of the economic concerns about Vermont’s single-payer healthcare plan arises from its small population base. He believes that the economy of scale makes it harder for a small state to go it alone in “innovating” new healthcare plans as allowed by the Affordable Care Act starting in 2017. Then he goes on to urge the federal government to expand Medicare to all citizens over a 10-year period of time.
I agree that it would be great to have universal Medicare for All across the United States. But I also believe that the only way that will happen is if some states implement single-payer healthcare at a state level to concretely show that a universal healthcare plan is economically viable and distributes existing healthcare payments more efficiently and equitably while lowering administrative costs WITHOUT raising the overall cost to individuals, businesses or communities. In fact, in many instances, cost would be lower.
Studies on how this might happen have been done by well-known economists across the country. For example, Dr. Gerald Friedman, Professor of Economics and Department Head at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has done several of these studies, including one for Pennsylvania, one for Maryland, and one for expanding Medicare to all at the national level. Every economic impact study on implementing universal healthcare plans that I have read indicates that “A single-payer health care finance system would produce substantial health and economic gains” when implemented at either a state or the national level.
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 healthcare. And advocates across the nation continue to work for Medicare for All at the national level.
Whichever way comes first is fine with me. We just need to get moving and create healthcare for all in the USA. Let’s make it sooner rather than later.
Abortion ‘Hostility’ Depends on Your Zip Code
If you live in the South, your access to reproductive health services is greatly reduced. The same is true for a few other states, like Ohio, Indiana, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Why? Because the legislators in 27 states have decided to place themselves and their misogynistic beliefs between the decisions you would normally make about your reproductive health in consultation with your medical care provider. And in 18 of these states, the legislators are considered to be “extremely hostile” to women’s healthcare.
It’s gotten significantly worse in the last four years. State legislators have placed restrictions on access to abortion as well as on family planning and related services.
The 18 most hostile states are:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Here’s more to this story. Read below and then check out the full report at the Guttmacher Institute.
From 2011 to 2014, the number of legislative restrictions against abortion rights skyrocketed to 231, quadrupling the number of restrictions within just three years. In 2014 alone, legislators enacted 26 brand new measures to restrict access to abortion rights.
According to a new report by the Guttmacher Institute, the number of measures enacted are not just surging, but the severity of these ‘hostility’ classifications is alarming and threatening to women’s rights.
The same 18 states keep introducing these measures, and all of these states lie in the South and Midwest. According the report, thirty-eight percent of the country is now considered to be extremely hostile to abortion rights.
What does it mean when a state is “extremely hostile towards abortion”?
It means that states can grant ‘fetal personhood’ in lieu of a pregnant woman’s rights, thereby prioritizing fetal rights over women’s rights. (Ahem, Tennessee.) It means that a pregnant woman…
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The 2014 quest to get single women to the polls
This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times at http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-democrat-quest-to-turn-out-single-women-20140716-story.html on July 17, 2014. It was written by Maeve Reston. She is a political reporter at the paper. She’s been covering presidential election since 2004, first in Pittsburgh PA, then Austin TX, and now in Los Angeles. She can be reached through Twitter at @MaeveReston.
If you’d like to learn more about unmarried-women voters, you can check out the research that was conducted by the Voter Participation Center and Lake Research Partners.
Please read this great article. Review the research. And help get-out-the-vote. You can help by talking to your unmarried female friends and family members and helping them to register to vote. And the remind them to vote on November 4, 2014.
It’s a Black and White Issue
Women have rights. It is a black and white issue. Show your support for overturning the Hobby Lobby decision by the US Supreme Court
Rally near your nearest Hobby Lobby protesting this decision. Here’s a link to the Hobby Lobby’s “Store Locator.” Your local NOW chapter may also be participating in a local action.
Wear Black and White on July 5.
And turn your profile picture or banner on all of your social media sites black and white through August 26; this is the anniversary of women’s right to vote being placed into the US Constitution.
Thanks for your support of this action continuing to oppose the War on Women.
Repeal the RFRA and Ratify the ERA
Corporations should not have more religious rights than woman. With the US Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) Hobby Lobby decision, women’s personally “sincerely held” beliefs now mean nothing.
The Hobby Lobby decision is not based on the US Constitution. Instead it’s based on a bill known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA combined with the recent Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that granted personhood status to companies. Since there is no constitutional equality for women and therefore no strict scrutiny review for women’s religious and civil rights, this decision eliminating women personal religious beliefs and access to reproductive health coverage occurred.
The RFRA, when combined with this SCOTUS decision, makes women non-persons.
Therefore in order to place women back on equal footing with men (and the “personhood” of corporations as this activist Court has mandated), we need to do two things:
- Ratify the ERA — the Equal Rights Amendment — and put women into the US Constitution so that women WILL be equally treated as people and not as objects to be pushed around by the will of corporations and by gender bigots.
- Repeal the RFRA – The Freedom From Religion Foundation placed an ad in the New York Times entitled Dogma Should NOT trump Civil Liberties that in part states:
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people. Now, the Supreme Court asserts that corporations have “religious rights” that surpass those of women.In the words of Justice John Paul Stevens, “Corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings,no thoughts, no desires” — but real women do. Allowing employers to decide what kind of birth control an employee can use is not,as the Supreme Court ruled, an “exercise of religion.” It is an exercise of tyranny.
I agree. Repeal the RFRA and put women into the US Constitution.
The repeal of the RFRA would require an act of Congress. That means we need to elect new members to Congress who respect and will stand up for women. So we all need to register to vote and then vote.
We only need three more states to ratify the ERA to make it the 28th amendment to the US Constitution. Illinois is halfway there; their Senate ratified it and we’re now awaiting the vote in the state House. Just two more states and then we can proudly say:
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.