black sign with a flag at the top. Underneath the flag are the words, "Democracy is Dissent."

Something Positive from the first days of Trump

And he’s not too happy about it!

black sign with a flag at the top. Underneath the flag are the words, "Democracy is Dissent."

Democracy is Dissent. A statement declaring that we have a 1st Amendment constitutional right “of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress.”

Central Oregon Coast NOW

Here are some positive results from the events of the last two weeks. Copy and pasted from a friend.
For everyone who DID something, small or big, your efforts have been successful. Because of you:

  1. Federal hiring freeze is reversed for VA (Veteran Affairs).
    2. Court order partial stay of the immigration ban for those with valid visas.
    3. Green card holders can get back in country.
    4. Uber pledges $3M and immigration lawyers for its drivers after#DeleteUbertrends on Twitter.
    5. Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) enrollment ads are still going to air.
    6. The ACLU raised 24M over the weekend (normally 3-4Mil/year).
    7. HHS, EPA, USDA gag order lifted.
    8. EPA climate data no longer scrubbed from website.
    9. More people of different career/religious/economic/race backgrounds are considering running for political office than ever before.
    10. MOST importantly, since we live in a participatory democracy, the people are engaged.

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What to Do This Week of Jan 29, 2017: Actions for Democrats, Independents, & Republicans of Conscience

black sign with a flag at the top. Underneath the flag are the words, "Democracy is Dissent."

As promised, I am once again reblogging Jennifer Hofman’s weekly “To Do” list.  This week’s actions focus on

  • opposing the religious discrimination and immigration executive order signed by Trump on Friday.
  • opposing the cabinet nominations of Betsy DeVos, Jeff Sessions, Steve Mnuchin, Rex Tillerson, and Tom Price
  • supporting free speech rights to assemble and protest as guaranteed under the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution
  • supporting access to health care for all
  • supporting planet earth’s water and endangered species
  • supporting full statehood rights for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico

And on an aside note, Jennifer positively notes that the White House petition for Trump to release his tax records that I urged all of my readers to sign onto a little over a week ago has now received more signatures than any other petition ever posted on the WhiteHouse.gov website. As of 4:50 pm on January 30, 2017, 443,909 people have signed this petition.

So read on, make your calls, and enjoy the good news.

What to Do This Week of Jan 29, 2017

Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience

We have 21 months to mid-term elections. Fired up?

The intention of this weekly document is to make clear suggestions for action backed by well-considered research. If an issue doesn’t affect you, consider whether you would support this issue on behalf of other Americans and act accordingly. Although these topics have been well researched, they are subject to human error. Please do your own research!

Did someone send this to you? Sign up for this weekly checklist here:

http://jenniferhofmann.com/home/weekly-action-checklist-democrats-independents-republicans-conscience/

I believe I can make a difference.

Print out the Americans of Conscience Action Worksheet and make a plan.

I believe in equal rights for all Americans.

Action 1: Oppose religious discrimination by contacting the White House.

Call: The WH comment line is closed, however, use:

Email: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Script: I oppose the executive order banning entry to the US by green card-carrying residents, dual passport-holding residents, legal citizens, and vetted, peaceful refugees. This action is unconstitutional and unamerican.

Tweet: .@realDonaldTrump How foolish it looks for a POTUS to prevent legal residents + peaceful immigrants from entering the USA.

(A note on the tweet: Shame motivates narcissists, not criticism.)

Action 2: Defend the rights of legal immigrants to our country.

Donate to the National Immigration Law Center: https://www.nilc.org/

Action 3: Ask your elected officials to publicly oppose this executive order.

Call: Your three MoCs (1 representative and 2 senators) (lookup)

Script: Hi! I am a constituent from _ZIP code _ and oppose the executive order on banning refugees and legal residents. Can you tell me if _MoC’s name_ has publicly opposed this action? If not, can you tell me when s/he will?

I believe in a government with qualified, trustworthy leadership.

Oppose these cabinet appointees

Call: Your two senators.

Script: Hi! I’m a constituent from _ZIP code_ calling about cabinet appointees. I know that five is a lot to oppose, but I believe the following people are unfit to lead: Betsy DeVos, Jeff Sessions, Steve Mnuchin, Rex Tillerson, and Tom Price. Will you let me know how _my senator_ plans to vote on these appointees?

I believe in my Constitutional right to free speech.

Oppose legislation that risks criminalizing your constitutional right to peaceful protest if you live in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, North Dakota, or Washington state. (source) (source) (source) (source) (source) (source)

Action 1: Call. Look up your state legislators’ numbers at openstates.org

Script: Hi! I am a constituent from _town_ calling to oppose new legislation that threatens my constitutional right to peacefully protest. Can you tell me where my representative stands on this issue?

Action 2: Share. If you know anyone in the states above, ask them to make these calls.

I believe in quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.

Oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act

Call: Your representative (not senators–for now) (lookup)

Script: Hi! I’m a constituent from _ZIP code_ and I support the Affordable Care Act. If the ACA is repealed, it will affect me personally. For example, (share what your life will be like without it, i.e., I take prescriptions I can’t afford, my child has a chronic condition, we would have to sell our home, etc.). Can you tell me where _rep’s name_ stands on this issue?

Sign up for health insurance

Conservatives are second-guessing a quick repeal of this law (source), so it’s more important than ever to show them you value the ACA.

Sign up by Tuesday at healthcare.gov. Experts say coverage is likely [to] remain valid for the rest of 2017 (source).

I believe in creating a healthy planet for future generations.

Action 1: Support the water protectors at Standing Rock.

If you are able, contribute to mounting legal fees after months of arrests (source).

Click here: https://fundrazr.com/d19fAf

Action 2: Oppose the wall at the Mexican border.

Its construction would be threaten 111 endangered species (source).

Call: Your representative (not senators–yet) (lookup)

Script: Hi, I’m a constituent from _ZIP code_ and would like to know if _elected official_ has publicly opposed building a wall on the Mexico border. I’m concerned not just about the expense to Americans and relations with Mexico, but for the numerous endangered species this project would harm.

I believe in a vote for every American.

Support Americans citizens without representation.

For years, residents of Puerto Rico and Washington, DC have been seeking statehood and a vote. They need your help.

Email: Your MoCs (your representative and both senators) (lookup)

Write: Use your new postcards and stamps.

Script: I am a constituent from _ZIP_ and support statehood for the over 4 million US citizens in Washington DC and Puerto Rico. All citizens deserve a voice and representation.

Note: Send e/mail so that phone lines are open for pressing issues.

Recommended reading

Useful, in-depth articles I find while I’m reading obsessively. You’re welcome.

Storytelling: How to talk so Members of Congress will listen, by Rachna Choudhry (Click to read.)

Deliberate action: Step two of the Trump Resistance Plan, by Stephen Harper (Click to read.)

“Christofascism:” Understanding the minds of zealots, by Kieryn Darkwater (Click to read.)

Self-care: How to stay outraged without losing your mind, by Mirah Curzer (Click to read.)

This is #NotNormal

It is not normal for a president to target investigations on states that didn’t vote for him (source). It is not normal to lie about which people are to blame for not winning the popular vote (source). A normal president accepts election results and, after winning, focuses on his or her leadership.

It is not normal for a president to ban a federal department from communicating with the public (source), to force them to hide data (source), nor pressure a department to lie on his behalf (source). A normal president welcomes information from government experts to assist in his or her leadership.

It is not normal to deny entry to legal residents with all required documents (source) nor invade their privacy (source). A normal president respects privacy and allows legal residents to travel freely.

Good news

Thank goodness. Couldn’t you use some good news right now?

One less conflict of interest: Direct references to the first lady’s product lines have been removed from the White House website (source).

Republican heroes: Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) advocates for an “intelligence-led approach” to securing the Mexico border, not a wall (source).

Integrity matters: A whitehouse.gov petition for the president to release his tax returns is receiving more votes than any petition ever–over 380,000 so far (source).

Truth to power: The Tohono O’odham Nation publicly opposes a wall through their tribal lands on the border of Mexico (source).

Fighting fake news: Google and Facebook are starting to take measures to prevent the spread of fake news (source) (source) (source).

Reigning in bullies: Ada Morales’ rights as a US citizen were upheld when a federal court ruled her 24-hour detention by US immigration unconstitutional (source).

Americans showing up for each other: “When the International Refugee Assistance Project put out a call for lawyers to help new arrivals in danger of being turned away, it received 3,000 volunteers in four hours” (source).

Please keep taking care of yourself. If we get tired, he wins.

Housekeeping

Final action

If you found this checklist useful, please spread the word!

Tweet: It’s easy to feel hopeless. This checklist helps me get engaged: https://goo.gl/8Vvi7I

Email and Facebook: This awesome checklist helps me take action and make a positive difference: https://goo.gl/8Vvi7I

We’re stronger together!

 

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 statesCalifornia, 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.

The Supreme Court, the ACA, Healthcare.gov, and an Alternative Plan

The US Supreme Court will be hearing a case – known as King v. Burwell – this coming week on whether or not the federal healthcare exchange program, known as Healthcare.gov, is legal. The question before the Court is whether or not the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows for subsidies for healthcare premiums in any of the 34 states that refused to set up their own healthcare exchanges under the ACA.

The plaintiffs – four people from Virginia – argue that the federal government misinterpreted the ACA in regards to the subsidies. They argue that the law only allows for subsidies in states that set up a state-based exchange. Virginia in one of the 34 state who opted out of a state-based exchange. These four individuals, who don’t want to purchase insurance, say that without the subsidies, they would not have to either buy insurance or pay a penalty since they do not make enough to afford healthcare without the subsidy*. The Obama administration argues that this is a politically motivated argument to narrowly interpret a couple of words found in the ACA in order to gut it.

If the US Supreme Court invalidates the Healthcare.gov websites in all of the states that refused to set up their own healthcare exchanges, everyone who gets a subsidy to purchase their health care through the exchange will lose that subsidy. According to the Washington Post, this type of ruling would affect about eight million people across the country. That’s about 87% of all Healthcare.gov users nationwide in the 34 states that did not set up a state-based exchange receive. In Pennsylvania, somewhere between 70-84% of all users of healthcare.gov receive these subsidies.

The subsidies in Healthcare.gov currently reduces healthcare premiums by up to 72% of the full premium, depending on the size of one’s family and family income. So if the Court holds that subsidies within the Federal Healthcare exchange are illegal, premiums for individuals needing these subsidies will dramatically increase; out-of-pocket premium increase could amount to an average increase of 256%. This increase could begin in as little as 25 days after the ruling is made in June 2015. OR the Court could set a date further in the future to allow some time for transition.

What would the end of these subsidies mean?

Healthcare in the 34 states in the federal exchange program would destabilize. The predictions include lots of people – mostly the young and the healthy – ending their insurance, insurance companies pulling out of the exchanges in these states, lots of layoffs, and a return to uncovered people attempting to get care in hospitals without any coverage. Those left in the exchanges after the young and healthiest leave are the older and the sickest individuals. Insurance companies will begin to feel the pain and start to pull out of the exchanges as participation in the exchanges would no longer be financially viable. With fewer people seeking care on the federal exchange, thousands of people hired by the insurance companies and by the federal exchange system will likely face layoff. In addition, hospitals will once again see a surge in the uninsured arriving on their doorstep for care.

Here’s how the Kaiser Family Foundation summarizes this issue:

People Leaving the Market Followed by Premium Increases for Those Who Remain. As a result, the elimination of the subsidies would destabilize the individual insurance markets in states not running their own marketplaces. Under the ACA, insurers would still be required to guarantee access to coverage irrespective of health status and prohibited from charging sick people more than healthy people. Even without the subsidies, many people who are sick would likely find a way to maintain their insurance in the face of substantial premium increases. However, people who are healthy would likely drop their insurance.

Insurers in the affected states would immediately find themselves in a situation where premiums revenues were insufficient to cover the health care expenses of the remaining enrollees, who would be far sicker on average than what insurers assumed when they set their premiums for 2015. This would trigger a classic adverse selection “death spiral,” where insurers would seek very large premium increases, which in turn would cause the healthier of the remaining enrollees to drop coverage….

Insurance Companies Leave the Market and Layoff Employees…Under ACA regulations, premiums for insurance sold inside the marketplaces are locked in for a full calendar year. So, the earliest those premiums could change would be January 1, 2016, though even that would be tricky since insurers will have already submitted proposed 2016 premiums to state insurance departments by the time the Court issues a decision. Depending on state laws, premiums for products sold outside of the marketplaces could potentially be increased more quickly. And even if insurers could adjust rates, establishing stable and sustainable premium levels in this type of environment is extremely difficult, because as rates move higher, more of the relatively healthy enrollees drop their coverage.

Because this may all happen very quickly, it is possible that many or all insurers would choose to exit the individual markets in these states rather than facing significant losses in a quickly shrinking market. Insurers that remain in the market risk being one of the only carriers continuing to guarantee access to coverage to people in poor health (since people who lose coverage from exiting insurers have special enrollment periods to choose new coverage).

Since it is unlikely that Congressional opponents to the ACA would be willing to craft a law allowing for subsidies within Healthcare.gov should the Court overturn this portion of the ACA regulations, the burden of the fix falls upon each of the 34 states. Some of these 34 states will allow the healthcare exchange to die with the dire predictions quickly coming to fruition. Others, in advance of the Court’s hearing and decision of this case, are starting to talk about alternatives should the Court outlaw the subsidies in their states.

One of these states attempting to deal with this possibility is Pennsylvania, where I live. The insurance companies and hospitals throughout the state, fearing for their livelihood, are lobbying the PA General Assembly to set up a state-based exchange system. Tom Wolf (D), our new Governor, has said he is interested in setting up a state-based exchange.

The question then becomes, where would the money for the set-up of a state exchange come from in a state that has a large budget deficit since federal dollars for such a set-up are no longer available.

Might this be a great time to lobby for a universal health care plan for Pennsylvania? As well as in the other 21 states currently working towards such a solution as well?

Healthcare for All PA, in conjunction with some of our state legislators, are working on re-introducing the Pennsylvania Health Care Plan. This bill, if it becomes law, would

…create one insurance plan that has one single payer, to cover all Pennsylvania taxpayers.  The premiums for The Pennsylvania Health Care Plan would be a flat rate of 3% of income for individuals and 10% of payroll for businesses.  The Pennsylvania Health Care Plan would place you and your healthcare provider in charge of you and your family’s healthcare. The plan will be a public/private hybrid with the insurance function provided by the state government and the medical care would be privately delivered.

It’s cost effective. It covers everyone. It’s comprehensive in that it covers all medical treatment, dental care, eye care, physical therapy, mental health treatment,  hospice care, treatments for addiction, long-term care, access to wellness programs, prescription drugs and emergency transport. And you won’t need an army of navigators in either a state- or a federal-based healthcare exchange to help you interpret your plan.

Check out Healthcare for All PA for more information on this bill and become a citizen lobbyist for comprehensive health care that allows you access to the healthcare you need and want without bankrupting you, your family or your neighbors.

_________________________________________

*NOTE: The four plaintiffs in this case before the Supreme Court–David King, Douglas Hurst, Brenda Levy and Rose Luck—appear to be either ideologues and/or guinea pigs for the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). CEI is an organization committed to overturning the Affordable Care Act. If the subsidies are overturned, all four of these individuals may not even be affected by the Court’s ruling according to a February 9 article in Mother Jones. Three of the four – Levy, King and Hurst – are now or soon will be fully eligible for Medicare. Two of them – King and Luck – already qualify for a hardship exemption from purchasing healthcare and/or paying a penalty due to their relatively low-income levels. However, the issue of “standing” (the legal argument that they would actually be harmed if the law were to continue), for some reason, has not been raised in this case by the Obama administration and will not be considered when the Court hears the case next week.

Why I Support Universal Health Care: A Right, Not a Privilege

Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) has reintroduced his National Health Care plan bill HR 676, “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.” I strongly support a universal national health care program such as HR 676. I also support any effort by any state to implement a state-based single-payer health care plan. Why?  For many reasons.

My life was threatened by the multi-company, private health insurance system we currently have.

I received a bone marrow transplant in 1989 from my identical twin sister. Although I had no problem finding a match, I had to jump through many hoops and barriers put up by the two health insurance companies covering my sister and myself. In the case of my insurance provider, I was refused coverage of the donor portion of the transplant because my twin sister wasn’t on my health insurance plan. In the case of my twin sister’s insurance provider, they refused to cover her portion of the transplant because she “wasn’t sick.” Then the hospital administration said that they would not perform the transplant until this conflict between the two insurance agencies was resolved with a guarantee of payment by either or both companies. And my doctors said that if the resolution did not occur rapidly, I would be dead within the year due to the seriousness of the form of leukemia that I had.

According to Health Care for America, health insurance companies profit by denying–not by providing–healthcare. Health insurance CEOs of the top 10 health insurance companies today typically enjoy an average of $10,000,000 in annual compensation–salary, bonuses, stock options, etc.

Back to my story. I went into battle mode against the insurance companies when I was told that they would let me die because of their bottom line and attempts to deny coverage. Because of the support and advocacy I had through the organization where I self-purchased my health insurance (the National Organization for Women), we were finally able to get me the life-saving transplant that I needed. And I am here today.

This experience is why I became an advocate for a single-payer health care system rather than the current system that allows private companies the ability to deny critical health care to “save” their bottom line for profit only.

Other Reasons why I support a Universal Health Care Plan at Either the National or State Level.

It is the ethical and moral to treat all people, regardless of economics or status when they are sick.

A 2009 article in the Journal of Public Health reports that approximately 45,000 people on average die each year due to lack of health insurance. One of the goals of The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to reduce the number of people without health insurance, so that premature deaths from lack of coverage would also be reduced.

People will continue to struggle to receive health care coverage and treatment with both passage of the ACA and the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the ACA as constitutional while allowing states to opt out of the expanded Medicaid program for low-income people.

The Centers for Disease Control acknowledges that access to coverage will improve under the ACA. But that acknowledgement holds a caveat; they state, “Even after ACA is implemented fully, some persons eligible for coverage might go uninsured.” The ACA will not fully resolve this ethical and moral threat to peoples’ lives. 

Some states are threatening people’s health care and lives based on decisions either by their legislature and/or their governors.

These states place people who could have been covered under the Expanded Medicaid program in continued jeopardy since they will neither be able to sign up for Medicaid nor be able to afford private health insurance through the ACA’s health care exchanges. The 13 states that have already threatened the healthcare of their citizens are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Five states – Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, Virginia, and Wyoming—are leaning towards opting out of coverage. Kentucky, New York and Oregon haven’t yet made their decision, but do appear to be leaning towards opting into full ACA with the expanded Medicaid coverage. All remaining 22 states plus the District of Columbia have opted into full ACA with the expanded Medicaid coverage.


Where the States Stand

Via: The Advisory Board Company

For the low-income people living in the 18 states that have either opted out of or are considering opting out of the expanded Medicaid coverage, nothing changes for them since most of these individuals will not be able to afford private health insurance in the new health care exchanges under the ACA.

A Single Payer, Universal Healthcare program would cover everyone.

According to predictions by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Commission on Taxation, we will we still have 30 million uninsured in 2023 under Obamacare. At the same time, health care costs for our nation, states, and families will continue to increase. A single-payer, universal healthcare program could cover everyone at lower cost. Everyone in and no one out regardless of income or health status.

The BETTER Alternatives: National and State-Based Single-Payer Plans

The plan introduced by Representative Conyers is basically an expansion of the efficient and cost-effective Medicare system currently used by the elderly and people with disabilities. Its overhead (all costs other than for healthcare) is much lower–and patient satisfaction is much higher–than under for-profit healthcare. And it would cover everyone regardless of their economic or health status without fear of an insurance company denying coverage to save their bottom line.

Similarly, legislation is being considered in about half of the states to create state-based single-payer healthcare programs. Some of these states’  legislatures have held hearings and/or had votes on universal healthcare. Vermont has already passed a law that sets in place the possibility of a single-payer healthcare program by 2017. 2017 is the year that the ACA—aka “Obamacare”—allows states to try other healthcare plans IF they cover at least the same number of people with at least the minimum coverage under the ACA.

Obamacare is now the law of the land. It is an improvement over what we had before 2009. It is also the basis from which we can work towards a comprehensive healthcare program. We could do it nationally, such as with HR 676. Or, like Canada, we can start at the state level.

So check out HR 676. See if your Representative is one of the 40 current co-sponsors. If not, meet with him/her, tell your personal story about why you support an expanded and improved Medicare for All, and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. If he/she is already a co-sponsor, ask your Representative to take the next step. They can hold a town-hall meeting on universal healthcare to hear from their constituents. They can also call on the chairs of the three committees reviewing HR 676 to hold Congressional hearings on HR 676. These three committees are the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the House Natural Resources Committee.

Also get active with your state-based single-payer organization. These local and state-based single-payer health care groups will let you know how can help with your state-based legislation. Healthcare NOW has a full listing of state- and local-based organizations. If your state does not have a single-payer chapter yet, contact Healthcare NOW at their national office in Philadelphia, PA; they can help you to organize a plan for your state.

All other “advanced” nations have already adopted comprehensive healthcare systems. All deliver better health outcomes at a lower per capita cost than the USA. Let’s get cracking. Let’s do it here in the US of A as well.