Tag Archives: health care

May Days: Trump’s Many Ironic Proclamations, From Law Day to Memorial Day, with Mothers Day in the Middle

May finishes with Memorial Day. Trump will no doubt issue a proclamation honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve American freedoms and values, while doing everything to undermine them © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Normally rote proclamations take on a sardonic, sarcastic, ironic tone when signed by Donald J. Trump.

It may surprise people that May 1 (in many places called May Day) is proclaimed Law Day – particularly ironic as Trump, insisting he doesn’t have to answer to the investigation into possible Russian collusion with his campaign and obstruction of justice while in office, is nothing but undermining the Rule of Law and the concept that “No Man is Above the Law.” He has said as much, in such statements echoing Nixon’s “When the President does it, well, that means it’s not illegal”. Or in his echo of Louis XIV’s “L’etat s’est moi” – when he decried the “raid” on his lawyer Michael Cohen as an attack on the nation (what does he make of sending his goons to raid his Dr. Bornstein’s office without any kind of warrant and steal his medical records over his pique at being outed for using a hair-growth prescription? That press shill Sarah Huckabee Sanders said was “routine” when someone becomes president? Does anyone recall any other president raiding their doctor’s office to seize records? ).

Here’s what Trump signed (and clearly did not write and likely never read):

     On Law Day, we celebrate our Nation’s heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under the law.  This heritage is embodied most powerfully in our Constitution, the longest surviving document of its kind.  The Constitution established a unique structure of government that has ensured to our country the blessings of liberty through law for nearly 229 years.

     The Framers of our Constitution created a government with distinct and independent branches — the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial — because they recognized the risks of concentrating power in one authority.  As James Madison wrote, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  By separating the powers of government into three co-equal branches and giving each branch certain powers to check the others, the Constitution provides a framework in which the rule of law has flourished.

     The importance of the rule of law can be seen throughout our Nation’s history.

It is not really a coincidence that May 1 (May Day, a celebration of Workers rights around the world, including in the US of A where May Day began), is also designated as Loyalty Day – a McCarthy-era direct assault on Communism (but apparently, not on Russia, which is no longer communist but fascist and Trump’s best bud).

Loyalty Day, just like National Prayer Day, is actually a violation of what this nation holds dear. In America, we are not supposed to be required to pledge allegiance, certainly not to swear “under God”. No doubt, Trump signed the proclamation, thinking that Loyalty Day meant to swear loyalty to himself, the Dear Leader. I have no doubt he actually read the proclamation:

     On Loyalty Day, we reflect with humility and gratitude upon the freedoms we hold dear, and we reaffirm our allegiance to our Nation and its founding principles.  We cherish our system of self-government, whereby each American citizen is free to exercise their God-given and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We honor and defend our Constitution, which constrains the power of government and allows us freely to exercise these rights.  We also recognize the great responsibility that accompanies a free people and vow to preserve our hard-won liberty.  For we know, as President Ronald Reagan once said, that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

     This Loyalty Day, we remember and honor the thousands of Americans who have laid down their lives to protect and defend our Nation’s beautiful flag.

May is also when this government has decided to hold the National Prayer Breakfast – another action (along with “In God We Trust” as a motto on money) to institutionalize the violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

Instead, Trump went a step beyond what even George W. Bush did in setting up the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, to sign his own Faith-Based Initiative.

The nexus of Capitalism and Christian Zealotry came during the McCarthy era, when the notion of Christian charity was replaced by the Puritan concept that you got what you deserved, so rich people were rich because they deserved it; poor people were impoverished because they deserved it. Such zealotry was used to justify slavery as well as prohibiting abortion to rape victims.

Much of today’s malevolent political climate can be traced to the McCarthy era, including Trump’s own mentor, Roy Cohn, who was McCarthy’s own counsel, and taught Donnie everything he knows about attacking in order to evade legal or moral accountability.

And of course, May features Mothers Day… Trump’s proclamation for May 13, 2018 begins this way:

     Mother’s Day is a very special occasion and opportunity to express our endless gratitude to the women who give their unyielding love and devotion to their families, and their unending sacrifices to guide, protect, and nurture the success of their children.  Our country has long appreciated and benefited from the contributions women have made to empowering and inspiring not only those under their roofs, but those in our schools, communities, governments, and businesses…

     Today, and every day, let us express our utmost respect, admiration, and appreciation for our mothers who have given us the sacred gifts of life and unconditional love.  In all that they do, mothers influence their families, their communities, our Nation, and our world.  Whether we became their children through birth, adoption, or foster care, we know the unmatched power of the love, dedication, devotion, and wisdom of our mothers.

Certainly, Trump cherishes motherhood so much, he had an affair with Stormy Daniels, among others, while Melania was still nursing 4-month old Barron.

This is the man who directs his administration to terrorize undocumented mothers, that they will be forced to abandon their American-citizen children, who pulls away parents who are the major breadwinners for their families, who have lived in the United States for decades and are contributing to their communities.

The precious sentiment of his Mothers Day proclamation is belied by the cruelty the Trump Administration has shown to refugees claiming asylum, purposefully separating children, even infants, from their parents in order to discourage people fleeing violence from attempting to find refuge in the United States.

“There is no law enforcement or other legitimate basis for separating children from their parents at the border,” Congressman Adam Schiff tweeted. “It is simply cruel. Imagine the terror of a young child in a strange land, pried away from his or her parents. Whatever happened to compassion or family values?”

“Arresting and ripping apart parents and children is a new low in demagoguery. It’s another reminder of President Trump’s failure to craft a genuine set of border laws and his inhumane outlook,” the San Francisco Chronicle wrote.

“It’s a chilling but predictable new low for an administration that reacts blindly and harshly to any mention of immigrants. Families may be fleeing persecution, seeking a better life or trying to find relatives already in the U.S.”

It doesn’t stop there.  The Republicans, which just passed a tax scam that shifts $1.5 trillion in wealth from working people to the richest and adds that much to the national debt,so Trump is clawing back $7 billion in spending from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and  $252 million from a fund that earmarked to combat the Ebola outbreak.

Trump also is advocating for a Republican-pushed Farm Bill which cuts SNAP – the food stamp program that helps 40 million people, the majority who are children, seniors and disabled – by $20 billion,  literally taking food from babes’ mouths. Attaching new work requirements to qualify for the very benefits that are necessary because wages have not kept pace, despite record corporate profits and now $1.5 trillion in tax windfall for the richest.

He also sheds crocodile tears for how devastating the opioid crisis has been. But what has Trump actually done to address the opioid crisis? And for that matter, what has he or the Republican majority done to solve the life/death problem of access to affordable health care, instead, making impossible demands for the very people most desperate for health care to access Medicaid.

Indeed, he chose Mother’s Day to proclaim the start of National Women’s Health Week the guy who is doing everything possible to shut down Planned Parenthood, to sabotage access to affordable health care, who would make being a woman a “pre-existing condition”, who appears to care less that the US is facing a maternal mortality crisis, that up to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications each year with Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than white women from those complications, not to mention that a woman who suffers a miscarriage may well be jailed for infanticide. (See: Virginia Woman Given a Jail Sentence for “Concealing a Dead Body” After Her Stillbirth)

Trump proclaims:

This is an opportunity to honor the importance of women across America and renew our pledge to support their health and well being.

One of the most LOL ironic among the May proclamations was the one Trump issued as a nod to his wife, Melania, who after  a year and a half as First Lady, finally declared her “agenda” branded as “Be Best” (which turns out to be copied from an Obama handbook on social media and bullying), declaring May 7,  “Be Best  Day”.

Trump’s remarks at this heralded event in which he followed up by signing a proclamation of “Be Best Day” did not speak at all to the essence of anti-bullying. No, not at all. It was all praise for Melania.

     America is truly blessed to have a First Lady who is so devoted to our country and to our children.

     On Be Best Day, we encourage and promote the well-being of children everywhere.  In an increasingly complex and inter‑connected world, nothing is more important than raising the next generation of Americans to be healthy, happy, productive, and morally responsible adults.  This begins with educating our children about the many critical issues they must confront in our modern world that affect their ability to lead balanced and fulfilled lives.

Our Nation’s children deserve certain knowledge that they are safe to grow, learn, and make mistakes.  Adults must provide them with the tools they need to make positive contributions in their schools, with their friends, and in their communities.

It will surprise people that May is also Jewish American Heritage Month, and here we can recall Trump’s varied and many dogwhistles to bigotry and hate and his tacit encouragement of White Supremacists.

      Jewish Americans have helped guide the moral character of our Nation… The contributions of the Jewish people to American society are innumerable, strengthening our Nation and making it more prosperous.

Lumping other minorities together in the same month’s celebrations, May is also Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, as a gratuitous nod to an appreciation of “diversity”:

       Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have contributed immeasurably to our Nation’s development and diversity as a people.

It’s also Older Americans Month, as Trump declared:

      Our country and our communities are strong today because of the care and dedication of our elders.  Their unique perspectives and experiences have endowed us with valuable wisdom and guidance, and we commit to learning from them and ensuring their safety and comfort.

       My Administration is focused on the priorities of our Nation’s seniors. The Department of Justice, for example, is focused on protecting seniors from fraud and abuse.  My Administration is also committed to protecting the Social Security system so that seniors who have contributed to the system can receive benefits from it.  We are also dedicated to improving healthcare, including by increasing the quality of care our veterans receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs and by lowering prescription drug prices for millions of Americans.

Except that everything Trump’s administration has done goes against seniors, including rolling back the Consumer Financial Protection Board which helps seniors (and everyone else) address predatory tactics by financial industry, including Obama-era rules reining in PayDay lenders; has exploded the budget deficit in order to justify pulling billions out of Medicare and Social Security, is determined to narrow Medicaid, has sabotaged the Affordable Care Act resulting in higher premiums, and is risking the Veterans Administration’s ability to provide the specialized health care veterans require by its intent to privatize and put in charge Dr. Ronny with absolutely no experience whatsoever. And let’s examine again what this administration has not done to address opioid addiction or skyrocketing cost of prescription medication. What exactly has this administration done for seniors?

And now Republicans are taking $800 million out of Medicare and standing by as drug costs continue to skyrocket.

Of course, May finishes with Memorial Day, and Trump will no doubt pull out one of the proclamations that express such appreciation for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve America’s liberty and freedoms – 660,000 have died in all America’s wars since the Revolution (when 4,435 died), including 1,000 in the Indian Wars (1817-1898), 225,000 in the Civil War (140,414 for the Union, 74,524 Confederates); 53,402 in World War I, 291,557 in World War II, 33,739 in the Korean War, 47,434 in Vietnam and 6915 in the Global War on Terror (2001 to present).

Millions more have returned home, some with lifelong injuries both physical and mental. Trump’s answer to these Veterans isn’t the same as during Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Joining Forces campaign, or the efforts taken to improve access to health care and other services including a new GI Bill. Trump is moving forward with plans to privatize the Veterans Administration which is opposed by most veterans.

On the same day as Trump proclaimed “Military Spouse Day,” he adds to the list of military spouses deported, as well as veterans who had been promised citizenship in exchange for their military service.

      We ask so much of our military spouses:  frequent moves; heartbreaking separations; parenting alone; incomplete celebrations; and weeks, months, and sometimes years of waiting for a loved one’s safe return from harm’s way.  Time and time again, however, military spouses respond with resilience that defies explanation.  Our service members are often praised as national heroes, but their spouses are equally worthy of that distinction.

     My Administration is committed to taking care of our Armed Forces and ensuring that our military is equipped to defend our country and protect our way of life.  This mission also includes caring for the unique needs of military spouses, whose service to our Nation cannot be overstated.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Theater of the Absurd: Trump Proclaims National Women’s Health Week

Donald Trump proclaims “National Women’s Health Care Week” even as he does everything possible to shut Planned Parenthood, sabotage access to health care, cut food stamps by $20 billion, Medicare by $800 million, and does nothing to address the opioid crisis, spiraling cost of life-saving drugs or promote research to address the Alzheimer’s epidemic. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How much more Theater of the Absurd can it get than Trump proclaiming National Women’s Health Week starting on Mother’s Day, the guy who is doing everything possible to shut down Planned Parenthood, to sabotage access to affordable health care, who would make being a woman a “pre-existing condition”, who would take away food stamps, access to Medicaid, who touts a tax cut of $1.5 trillion to the richest companies and Americans in order food stamps by $20 billion, to cut Medicare by $800 million, cut out access to contraceptives,  do nothing to address the spiraling cost of life saving drugs or research advancements in Alzheimer’s.

“For some time, we have been facing a maternal health crisis in this country that will have damaging effects on generations to come. If we truly appreciate and admire mothers, we must do better,” writes Adrienne Kimmell, Vice President of Communications and Strategic Research, NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Between 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth complications each year in the U.S. and of that, Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die than white women from those complications

The U.S. is one of the most industrialized, medically-advanced nations in the world, yet has a rising maternal mortality rate. The horrifying mistreatment many mothers receive, Black mothers particularly, doesn’t align with our progress in this country, but still exists.

The stories are real. Women and mothers who didn’t have health insurance for prenatal care; who’ve suffered a postpartum hemorrhage with a devastating effect on future pregnancies; and even all-star tennis player, Serena Williams’ frightening near-death postpartum experience after a nurse refused to listen to her.

There are countless other stories and these troubling examples show the racial and economic disparities in maternal health that cost lives and hurt women.”

Trump’s “Presidential Message on National Women’s Health Week” is one lie compounded on another –  Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Presidential Message on National Women’s Health Week

This is an opportunity to honor the importance of women across America and renew our pledge to support their health and well being.”

Women are integral members of our families and communities who can face unique healthcare challenges.  Whether breast cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s, my Administration is committed to continue addressing women’s health through advancements in medical research, rapid reviews and approvals of new safe and effective therapies, and affordable treatments and care options.

The ongoing opioid crisis is of particular concern for women.  On average, 115 Americans die each day from opioid-related overdoses—a factor that has contributed to the decrease in life expectancy over the past two years.  The crisis has hit women particularly hard in part because they are more likely to suffer from chronic pain conditions for which opioids are often prescribed.  Since 1999, the rate of deaths among women from prescription opioid overdoses have increased 461 percent.  Remarkably, more American women aged 15-35 lost their lives to accidental opioid overdose in 2016 than to all cancers combined.

These harrowing statistics underscore the urgent need to save American lives and why my Administration declared the opioid crisis a nation-wide public health emergency.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed a comprehensive strategy to combat the opioid epidemic and enhance non-addictive pain treatments by working with medical experts, policymakers, community groups, and families who have experienced the tragedy of opioid addiction.  Through these partnerships, the HHS Office of Women’s Health has awarded 20 grants to public and private organizations that are on the frontlines of the opioid crisis.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has also published guidance for treating pregnant women and new mothers with opioid use disorder, a critical resource for the Nation’s hardworking medical professionals.  It is vital for the wellbeing of our Nation that we support those who are suffering from drug addiction as well as all expecting and postpartum mothers.  Similarly, the National Institutes of Health is engaging in research regarding interventions to help both the mothers and infants born to women with opioid use disorder.

My Administration is also committed to supporting our working families.  Through robust tax reform, we championed a doubled Child Tax Credit to ensure parents can adequately support their children.  We are also focused on expanding access to paid family leave benefits for new mothers and fathers.  The new reality is that in more than 60% of the homes of American married couples with children, both parents work.  Additionally, women are now the primary earners in more than 40% of all families.  Today, however, only 12% of private-sector workers have access to formal paid leave through their employers.  Recent research suggests that women’s labor force participation in the U.S. has stalled due to the lack of family-friendly policies, including paid leave.  There is a critical need to ensure that working mothers and fathers have access to paid family leave, which can support women’s participation in the labor force and promote greater financial stability for American families.  Additionally, and in part to have a long-term effect on women’s health, I recently signed an Executive Order to expand access to sports, fitness, and nutrition, with a specific focus on helping girls from economically challenged communities live active and healthy lifestyles.

During this week, we reaffirm our Nation’s commitment to women and girls across America, and we continue to encourage them to put their health first.  When women prosper, so do our families, our communities, and our entire Nation.

Honor Mothers by Respecting Our Right to Self-Determination

To be the best mother she can be, a woman needs the ability to choose. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

To be the best mother she can be, a woman needs the ability to choose.

A woman needs to have the dignity of making decisions, to have the same right to self-determination as a man, to be the master of her own destiny.

Unless the government is going to adopt all the children who are born who should have been aborted because of ailments or deformities which would lead to a life of suffering, and pay for their care, their schooling, their continued support and health care into adulthood, a faceless government should not be making those decisions for the people who would be required to provide that care, draining resources from the family’s other children and any opportunity for a woman to fulfill her own full potential.

A woman whose husband is abusive, a family that already has four children and can’t afford more, a mother who doesn’t have access to affordable day care and can’t work (and therefore would not be eligible for food stamps or housing vouchers under the Trump Administration’s new policies), should not be forced by the state to bear a child.

Iowa just passed a law banning abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected – around six weeks – which is before many women would even realize they are pregnant, and certainly would not be aware of any grave abnormalities. Governor Kim Reynolds (R) invited a challenge to the Supreme Court, where anti-abortion activists are pretty confident the Trump Majority with Neil Gorsuch in the commandeered Supreme Court seat will overturn Roe v Wade altogether, despite each of the Justices’ promises during their respective Senate confirmation, to respect “settled law” like Roe.

Meanwhile, Trump and the Republicans continue to chip away at access to affordable health care – for women, for children. The Trump administration is considering new tactics to take funds away from Planned Parenthood, often the only access to health services a family might have, proposing to cut off Title X funding to any organization that refers patients for abortion. Waivers for states will allow them to effectively cut off health care based on new work requirements, lifetime limits and such. Trump is also “rescinding” $15.4 billion in spending that had already been approved by Congress, including $7 billion from CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

Consider the irony, then, of a Trump Administration pandering to the Religious Right, has moved to enable employers to deny women access to contraceptives, and attempted to prematurely cut off grants for programs that have already proved successful in bringing down the rate of teen pregnancy, replacing them with a return to useless abstinence education programs.

And this administration has shown zero interest in controlling for such birth-defect-inducing illnesses as Zika.

Texas now has maternal mortality rates on par with Third World countries. Yet, two bipartisan bills that would seek to solve America’s maternal mortality crisis have been stuck in committee for about a year. The bills, sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) in the House and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) in the Senate, would support state-level efforts to form review committees that specifically track and investigate pregnancy-related deaths, and then look for ways to prevent future deaths from occurring. Despite having no organized opposition from members of Congress or outside groups, the bill hasn’t had a hearing, moved out of committee or been scheduled for a vote. It has 107 co-sponsors in the House, including 23 Republicans.

My guess is the conclusion would have something to do with expanding and improving Obamacare, rather than sabotaging it (and what ever happened with that bipartisan committee?).

Instead, taking the anti-abortion crusade to an extreme, women are being prosecuted for miscarrying. A 2013 study by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women revealed a number of cases in which pregnant women were arrested and detained for complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage, with low-income and African American women most commonly targeted.

Utah is the first state to actually criminalize miscarriage, applying the legal standard of an “intentional, knowing or reckless act of the woman” as punishable as criminal homicide. This means that a woman who fails to wear a seatbelt and is in a car accident could be charged with reckless homicide if she miscarries. It also means that a woman who has a substance abuse problem would likely forego necessary prenatal care out of fear she could be prosecuted for “knowing” or “reckless” homicide by continuing to use illegal substances while pregnant.

I can’t wait to see Trump’s Mother’s Day proclamation. Will he remark how much he cherishes Melania’s motherhood so much that while she was still nursing 4-month old Barron, he had an affair with Stormy Daniels among others? Or will he take bows for terrorizing undocumented mothers with the prospect  they will be forced to abandon their American-citizen children, with continuing to terrorize DACA recipients over the prospect they will soon be deported, and threatening any mother fleeing with their children violence in Central America with having their children taken from them?

Indeed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is actively trying to end asylum for domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors – which would be consistent with an Administration led by a sexual predator who enables other sexual abusers, and who wants to take America back to the “good ol’ days” when men had all the power, control and rights and women had none.

The tyranny over mothers is also through various institutionalized economic levers, including the fact that women still earn 77% of what men do for the same job (African-American women earn 64 cents and Latina women earn 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man) – which carries forward in terms of pension, Social Security and other retirement savings.

The lack of access to affordable quality child care is also a significant burden that impacts a woman’s ability to achieve professionally. As Tammy Duckworth, the first US Senator to give birth while in office, noted, “Why should child care cost more than college tuition in most states? These are questions that simply should not exist in one of the most prosperous nations on the planet. And let’s not forget that this is an economic issue, as well. When we lose people in the workforce because of outlandish childcare costs or inadequate family leave policies, it negatively impacts the economy as a whole. And those Americans who drop out of the workforce have a hard time re-entering.”

In other words, women are not able to fulfill their full potential or productivity, are in less of a position to compete or challenge a man for a position or a male supervisor and are more dependent an unable to leave abusive relationship.

The last time women made inroads in the workplace – when there were screams for on-site child care, job-sharing, flex-time, work-at-home – was when there was such a demand for workers, employers were forced to draw women into their workplaces and retain them. It is not a coincidence that the “#MeToo” and “#TimesUp” movement coincides with another tight labor market.

“The Family and Medical Leave Act currently on the books was signed in 1993. The Internet had just gone public. Cell phones were still the size of bricks — and had just begun to text. Bill Clinton had just been inaugurated… The world was very different then. Our technology and our nation have come a long, long way. And yet our policies on paid family leave have gone nowhere,” Duckworth writes.

“America remains one of the only industrialized nations in the world with no set policy on paid family leave. It leaves working parents in a tough position. And I’m one of millions working to balance family and career.”

Though women are the main breadwinners or joint breadwinners, in two-thirds of the families in America, having a child is the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse; single mothers are more likely than any other group to file for bankruptcy and more likely than people living in poor neighborhoods; and single mothers who have been to college are 60 percent more likely to end up bankrupt than those with just a high school diploma.

Women make up two-thirds of minimum-wage workers, but Republicans in Congress have fought against raising the minimum wage or even thinking of requiring a living wage.

Yet the Republican-controlled Congress just gave the richest 1% of households in America a huge tax windfall of over $48,000 per millionaire, and slashed corporate tax rates virtually in half (even though many profitable companies paid zero or minimal tax), is now pushing to cut $20 billion in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), commonly known as food stamps, used by 40 million people, mainly children, seniors and people with disabilities. Walmart is getting a tax cut of $2.2 billion this year alone. Yet in just one state – Ohio, more than 11,000 of its employees and their family members qualify for SNAP because they earn so little. Walmart’s ten-year tax cut could pay for the entire $20 billion in SNAP cuts proposed in the farm bill.

Policies like these put mothers in a constant state of insecurity – over finances, health care, child care.

“The deck has been stacked against working women and moms for years. And with the Republicans in charge, it’s getting worse — a lot worse,” noted Senator Elizabeth Warren.

In Trump’s misogynistic, right-wing America, motherhood has come to mean a means of controlling, containing, disempowering women.

Here’s a radical idea for Mothers Day: Honor mothers by respecting their rights, beginning with the right to choose motherhood. Add to that the right to access affordable health care, child care, and equal pay.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New Yorkers Need to Demand State Legislators Support Cuomo’s Women’s Agenda

New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul addresses the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University: “The torch has now been passed to us. Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

New York State, the birthplace of women’s rights, is pushing for a second round of legislation to address persistent and institutional gender inequity. The state legislature needs to hear from advocates before the April 1 budget deadline.

It is laudable that these initiatives – in categories of Health, Safety, Workplace, Girls, and Family being forcefully advanced by Governor Cuomo – came after months of information gathering, listening tours, and the formation of regional Women’s Councils, coordinated by the governor’s Director of Women’s Affairs, Kelli Owens. Just having such a position is notable.

As Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a singular champion of women’s rights in New York State, said in her remarks that opened the Council on Women and Girls Regional Forum at Long Island University on March 1,The genesis for the Council of Women and Girls came because of Washington – on the day the president said ‘We don’t need to be concerned’ and abolished the [Obama-era] Commission on Women and Girls, our governor, as in so many cases [climate action, environmental protection, gun control], stepped up to fill void created by Washington.”

Trump has moved aggressively to roll back gains women have made: restoring being a woman as a “pre-condition” for medical insurance, overturning the mandate that insurance companies provide contraception without co-pays, attacking Title X funding for health clinics including Planned Parenthood, advocating for legislation to curtail access to abortion.

Unless Congress takes action, the Violence Against Women Act will run out of funding in September. This landmark piece of legislation is a life-saver. Since its original passage, domestic violence cases are down by more than 65% nationally. If Congress’ “action” on reauthorizing CHIP is an indication, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely let this lapse as well, even as they cut billions of dollars for programs that directly affect women and families.

New York State – which Cuomo never fails to point out has been a progressive leader for the nation, a status he has worked to reclaim – has made some important gains during his administration, including aggressively pushing for economic development opportunities for Minority & Women-owned Enterprises, for wider access to pre-K programs, gun control, access to health care and guarantee for women’s reproductive rights.

In this second round of legislation and policies – notably several of which need to be adopted by the State Legislature before the April 1 deadline for adopting the budget – he is going after sexual harassment, pay equity, domestic violence, expanding access to child care, educational opportunities, job training and business investment.

New York has been celebrating the centennial of Women’s Suffrage since 1917, the year the state on its own gave women the right to vote, three years before the nation adopted the 19th Amendment.

But despite New York’s progressive policies, New York women still earn less than men for the same work: white women 89c, African American 66c, Hispanic women 54 c in New York, “and we’re the good state, where people are better off. Does that not tell you we have a long way to go?” Hochul said.

“We are convening forums around the state, to drill down why this is happening – part is institutional, cultural, part is that women don’t have childcare but want to continue on a career track, have talent, brilliance, but are primarily responsible for making sure kids are okay and there is not enough child care.” Also parental leave, not just for a newborn or adoption, but when a child or parent gets sick.

“You should be proud your state recognizes this challenge – we now have the most generous paid family leave policy – to relieve the stress of possibly losing a job when you are home with a new baby.”

“It’s about economic empowerment: getting more girls into STEM education and careers. It’s about safety and security – domestic violence” – something that has been crystallized in the Trump White House, notably with the tolerance of a credibly accused wife-beater as Trump’s secretary.

Budget initiatives (see details at https://www.ny.gov/2018-womens-opportunity-agenda-new-york/womens-opportunity-agenda-proposals) include:

Health initiatives: passing Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act codifying access to contraception; codifying Roe v. Wade into state law and constitution to insure health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty; mandating insurance coverage and insuring access to IVF and fertility services; combat maternal depression and establish a maternal mortality review board (NY ranks 30th in maternal mortality); add experts in women’s health and health disparities to the State Board of Medicine.

Safety: pass the Equal Rights Amendment to add sex as a protected class; remove firearms from domestic abusers; combat sextortion and revenge porn; extend storage timeline for forensic rape kits at hospitals (from 30 days to at least five years, or when the victim turns 19); advance legislation to amend the Human Rights Law to protect all public school students from discrimination.

Workplace: combat sexual harassment in the workplace; call on NYS Common Retirement Fund to invest in companies with women and minority leadership; reauthorize the State’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program; close the gender wage gap; support women returning to or advancing in the workforce with job training and placement services; invest $20 million in Women-Owned Businesses;  encourage more use of flexible work schedules.

Girls: expand access to computer science and engineering (STEM); launch “If You Can See It You Can Be It,” a day for girls to see what is possible; create K-12 learning module on healthy relationships; legislation requiring school districts to provide free menstrual products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12.

Family: invest $25 million to expand pre-K and after-school programs; increase state funding by $7 million  to provide working families with affordable child care; continue enhanced Child Care Tax Credit for working families; establish a new Child Care Availability Task Force.

“All these areas converge,” Colleen Merlo, Executive Director, Long Island Against Domestic Violence, said. “Gender equality cannot be achieved unless we address all these buckets….We see that women lose time at work because of domestic violence, so if we don’t create safety at home, they are losing time at work, so are not advancing, not getting equal pay or promotion – all are interconnected with safety.”

It’s also about making it easier to vote, adding early voting (which NYS doesn’t yet have), so women who work and care for children aren’t shut out of casting a ballot – part of Cuomo’s “Democracy Agenda.”

“The torch has now been passed to us,” Hochul stated. “Our job is not just to pass it along, but to make sure it glows even brighter, so we look back 100 years from now, and can say, yes, we made a difference in lives in a profound way, that we spoke up for people without voices.”

What to do? First: contact state representatives to urge them to vote on the budget and legislation bolstering the Women’s Agenda. Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, among others, is mounting a lobbying day in Albany on March 13, to join Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and more than 1,000 activists from across New York State, to advocate for pro-reproductive health legislation.

Call and write representatives, yes. March, yes, Protest, yes. Spread the word with social media, yes. Vote, absolutely.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump, Republicans’ Dickens Vision of America: Where Money is Entitlement, ‘Please Sir, I’d Like Some More’

Long Islanders protesting for the 99% against foreclosures by banks too big to fail, bailed out by taxpayers. The Republican tax scam, combined with Trump deregulation and obliteration of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, sets up an even greater Recession and foreclosures. Seniors on Long Island, facing the inability to deduct state and local taxes and the likelihood of Republican cuts to Social Security and Medicare, will be forced out of their homes. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.

Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care.  800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.

The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.

Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”

You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.

It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.

Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.

This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)

Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.

Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)

You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.

“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.

“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.

The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.

Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”

“Please sir, I’d like some more.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NYS Gov Cuomo Devises Healthcare Model to Counter TrumpCare (Hint: Pre-Existing Conditions, Contraception, Abortion Would be Covered)

Governor Andrew Cuomo has come up with a list of items that any health insurance company that wants to sell in New York State would have to include. Among them: rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, such as durable medical equipment, medical supplies, prosthetic devices, hearing aids, chiropractic care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and home health care © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

As the fate of Americans’ health care falls in the hands of 13 Republican Senators conferring in secret without input from Democrats let alone health care experts or patients, deciding how much of the “harsh” House plan they incorporate into their own bill, it may well fall to states to take matters into their own hands. Indeed, New York State may provide the model for health care, just as California has dictated pollution standards to the auto manufacturing industry, exceeding federal standards.

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed the New York State Department of Financial Services to promulgate new emergency regulations mandating health insurance providers do not discriminate against New Yorkers with preexisting conditions or based on age or gender, in addition to safeguarding the 10 categories of protections guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act. The new first-in-the-nation measures will ensure that essential health services are protected and covered for all New Yorkers regardless of efforts at the federal level to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare.

At the Governor’s direction, the Department of Health will ban all insurers who withdraw from offering Qualified Health Plans on the State Health Marketplace from future participation in any program that interacts with the marketplace, including Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan. New York is home to one of the most robust health marketplaces in the country, and insurers who do not comply will lose access to such profitable programs. The Governor will also direct state agencies and authorities to ban insurers who withdraw from the State Health Marketplace from contracting with the state and to consider all available actions to protect New Yorker’s access to quality healthcare.

Furthermore, the administration finalized regulations that will ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles no matter federal action. The regulations also ensure all medically necessary abortion services are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles.

“We will not stand idly by as ultra-conservatives in Washington try to roll back the progress we have made to expand access quality, affordable health care, putting our most vulnerable New Yorkers at risk,” Governor Cuomo said. “As long as I am Governor, New Yorkers will not be subject to price discrimination based on age, gender, or pre-existing conditions, and essential health benefits will continue to be the rule, not the exception. These aggressive actions will make certain that no matter what happens in Congress, the people of New York will not have to worry about losing access to the quality medical care they need and deserve.”

Under the new regulations, DFS will require that individual and small group accident and health insurance policies, which provide hospital, surgical, or medical expense coverage, as well as student accident and health insurance policies cover the same categories of essential health benefits and be subject to the same benchmark plan rules that currently apply through the Affordable Care Act. Insurers must comply with the new regulations as a requirement of their license in New York.

  1. Ambulatory patient services, such as office visits, ambulatory surgical services, dialysis, radiology services, chemotherapy, infertility treatment, abortion services, hospice care, and diabetic equipment, supplies and self-management education;
  2. Emergency services, such as emergency room, urgent care services, and ambulance services;
  3. Hospitalization, such as preadmission testing, inpatient physician and surgical services, hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, and hospice care;
  4. Maternity and newborn care, such as delivery, prenatal and postnatal care, and breastfeeding education and equipment;
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, such as inpatient and outpatient services for the diagnosis and treatment of mental, nervous and emotional disorders, screening, diagnosis and treatment for autism spectrum disorder, and inpatient and outpatient services for the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorder;
  6. Prescription drugs, such as coverage for generic, brand name and specialty drugs, enteral formulas, contraceptive drugs and devices, abortifacient drugs, and orally administered anti-cancer medication;
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, such as durable medical equipment, medical supplies, prosthetic devices, hearing aids, chiropractic care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and home health care;
  8. Laboratory services, such as diagnostic testing;
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, such as well child visits, immunizations, mammography, gynecological exams including cervical cytology screening, bone density measurements or testing, and prostate cancer screening; and
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care, such as preventive and routine vision and dental care, and prescription lenses and frames.

The Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services may issue model contract language identifying the coverage requirements for all individual and small group accident and health insurance policies that provide hospital, surgical, or medical expense coverage and all student accident and health insurance policies delivered or issued for delivery in New York State.

DFS will also mandate under existing New York law that health insurers:

  • Provide coverage for all contraceptive drugs and devices and cover at least one form of contraception in each of the FDA-approved contraceptive delivery methods without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles, regardless of the future of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Provide coverage for the dispensing of an initial three-month supply of a contraceptive to an insured person. For subsequent dispensing of the same contraceptive covered under the same policy or renewal, an insurer must allow coverage for the dispensing of the entire prescribed contraceptive supply, up to 12 months, at the same time.
  • Provide coverage for abortion services that are medically necessary without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles (unless the plan is a high deductible plan).
  • Provide full and accurate information about coverage, enforced in a letter available here.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging atwww.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Declaring Women’s Health Week States ‘Ensuring Affordable, Accessible, Quality Healthcare is Critical to Improving Women’s Health’

Mother’s Day apparently begins Women’s Health Week, Donald Trump has proclaimed. But the Republican healthcare plan, TrumpCare, would make being a woman a pre-existing condition, make pre-natal and maternity costly add-ons, take Medicaid away from millions of women and children, and shut down access to Planned Parenthood clinics © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Who knew that Mother’s Day kicks off Women’s Health Week? In honor of the occasion, Donald Trump issued a statement that, like so many in TrumpWorld – like Orwell’s 1984 – bears little connection to reality:

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Women’s Health Week

As we celebrate Women’s Health Week, beginning with Mother’s Day, we recognize the importance of providing women access to the best, evidence-based health information and care, and growing our medical knowledge through basic and applied research support.

Today, women are living longer, healthier lives than their mothers.  The number of women dying from heart disease and cancer – the top two killers of women in America – has been decreasing for decades.  Thanks to new breast cancer treatments, our health care professionals have saved lives and improved the quality of life for millions of women.  We must continue to foster an environment that rewards these needed advances in research.

Ensuring affordable, accessible, and quality healthcare is critical to improving women’s health and ensuring that it fits their priorities at any stage of life.  In particular, women should have access to quality prenatal, maternal, and newborn care.  Under the current healthcare system, however, the lack of choice in health insurance and in healthcare providers, along with skyrocketing premium and out-of-pocket costs, are failing our citizens, our families, and, in particular, our women.  Studies show that women are often the primary healthcare decision-maker for their family and they deserve better options.

I am committed to working with Congress to help mothers—and fathers—have paid family leave so that childcare is accessible and affordable, and to invest in the comprehensive care that women receive at community health centers.  Through these reforms, and my 2018 Presidential Budget, we will enable access to the critical healthcare services women need.

 

Cuomo: Here’s How GOP Health Care Act Would Harm New Yorkers

Republicans in Congress are trying to push through – force feed – the American Health Care Act without concern for how many millions of Americans would lose access to health care, the impact on premiums or deductibles, or Medicaid. The “fix” that pre-existing conditions would be “covered” is a fraud since there is not sufficient funding for high-risk pools, nor a clear mechanism for how users would access. Instead of less “government” in health care, this would increase government © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Republican contrived American Health Care Act would repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) which made great strides in making access to health insurance more affordable for millions of Americans and slowing the annual increases in premiums which had been rising at rates 3 to 5 times faster than inflation. Obamacare was designed to work within the for-profit health insurance industry, rather than do what every other industrialized nation does and offer universal health care. Some continued to complain that premiums and deductibles were too high, but rather than solve that problem, Republicans have sought to repeal Obamacare 60 times, going so far as to shut down the government in 2013 rather than accept a budget that provided for the subsidies that make health insurance affordable for tens of millions of Americans.

Trump has made it a defining issue to get repeal, no matter the damage or loss of health insurance which is quite literally a life-and-death issue. But the AHCA is more than just a matter of Trump’s ego, it is also about reducing taxes for the wealthiest – who are assessed a small surcharge to fund ACA – and crucial to Trump’s other massive giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations, his tax “plan.”

It’s remarkable that this act, which would completely rework health care, representing one-sixth of the US economy and impacting every single person, is being pushed through without any hearings, input from medical professionals or even health insurance companies, without scoring from the Congressional Budget Office as to its true cost or how many people would find health insurance unaffordable or inaccessible.

But Governor Andrew Cuomo spells out how AHCA would affect millions of New Yorkers, and specifically attacks an amendment foisted by two New York Republican Congressmen that exclusively targets New York:

“The Republican health care bill is an assault on women and an assault on New York. It would allow insurance companies to discriminate against Americans based on pre-existing conditions, force millions of New Yorkers to lose coverage, and slash Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars.

“As a direct result of the amendment introduced by Congressmen Faso and Collins, this provision alone would cut Medicaid funding for New York by $2.3 billion and cripple hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities across the state.

“Most disturbingly, this bill penalizes New Yorkers because we believe in reproductive rights and ensure by law that medically necessary abortions are covered by insurance carriers. I’m calling on all of New York’s Congressional delegation—Republican and Democrat alike—to stand up for New York values and vote against this terrible bill.”

The American Health Care Act will be disastrous for New York:

  • The plan will leave 2.7 million New Yorkers without health care coverage
  • It will cut $4.7 billion from the state’s Medicaid budget.
  • It will put at risk 7 million people who rely on Medicaid services and other programs created under the Affordable Care Act
  • And it threatens the entire New York State health care system, which serves 19.5 million New Yorkers.

The Collins/Faso amendment, which targets only New York, stops counties from paying a share of Medicaid. It would have a devastating effect on New Yorkers:

  • It will cut $2.3 billion in Medicaid funding to the State. When added to the $4.7 billion cost of the ACHA over the next four years, the total cost to the State would rise to $6.9 billion
  • Steep cuts would force New York State to increase taxes, slash coverage to millions of New Yorkers, or devastate health care providers:
    • Nursing Home payments would be cut by $401 million
    • Home care payments would be cut by $360 million
    • Hospital payments would be cut by $355 million

The bill punishes New York for its support for women’s reproductive rights by threatening to take away citizens’ access to tax credits that are intended to make health insurance more affordable:

  • New York requires that all commercial insurance policies cover abortion services. In January, Governor Cuomo took new action to ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles
  • The Republican health care bill would prohibit the use of tax credits to support the purchase of insurance plans that cover abortion services.
  • As a result, the bill would effectively defund the Essential Plan, forcing 685,000 low-income people, half of whom are women, to lose their insurance and denying them $1.5 billion in tax credits.
  • In addition, roughly 143,000 lower-income New Yorkers whose income is just above the threshold for the Essential Plan, half of whom are women, would be denied $400 million more in tax credits that help them afford insurance.

This bill also includes an amendment that will enable insurers to charge more for people with preexisting conditions in some states, rolling back a key achievement of the Affordable Care Act.

  • In New York, 8.4 million people under the age of 65 have preexisting conditions.
  • The MacArthur amendment would allow states to opt out of provisions that restrict providers from raising prices on people with preexisting conditions.
  • Removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions will result in the sick paying high premiums and would force those who cannot afford it to lose coverage.
  • The health plan would also permit states to charge older people more, which would also force people who cannot afford it to lose coverage.

Nassau County Democrats Raise Alarms Over Impact of Repealing Affordable Care Act

Nassau County Legislature Minority Democratic Leader Kevan Abrahams, Legislators Laura Curran and Carrie Solages, Planned Parenthood CEO JoAnn Smith, Long Island Progressive Coalition Executive Director Lisa Tyson, and Long Islander Rachel Siehs raise alarm about how repealing the Affordable Care Act will impact residents and the county budget © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

(MINEOLA, NY) –Nassau County Democrats are raising alarms about what repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean for county residents and appealed to County Executive Ed Mangano to compile a comprehensive report that would quantify the impact on residents and the county’s budget.

Minority Democratic Leader Kevan Abrahams and Legislator Laura Curran stood with their democratic legislative colleagues, along with local healthcare advocates including Long Island Progressive Coalition and Nassau County Planned Parenthood calling upon the Nassau County Executive, commissioners, and administrators to compile a comprehensive report that measures the impact of what looks like the inevitable repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to a report issued by New York State’s Office of the Governor on January 4, 2017, Nassau County stands to lose $17,866,829 in direct funding which “goes directly to counties and helps to lower property taxes”.

Under the ACA, Nassau County saw a 33% decrease in the number of uninsured according to the most recent U.S. Census. The number of uninsured people on Long Island has declined rapidly over the last decade, while the proposed GOP healthcare bill will undo that work by putting 24 million at risk of losing coverage, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The American Health Care Act proposed by the Republican Party may affect more than 1 in 4 Nassau residents. Those at risk of coverage changes include, but are not limited to, the 204,681 Nassau seniors enrolled in Medicare and 133,324 residents who enrolled on the Affordable Care Act’s open marketplace.

“After making inroads for more affordable healthcare access, the proposed law could force counties to choose between supporting low-income residents who rely on Medicaid for health services,” said Minority Legislative Leader, Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

“President Trump is leading us down a very dangerous path and County Government is going to be left holding the bag while taxpayers’ costs could skyrocket. Trumpcare is no longer a campaign talking point but an imminent threat to the financial and physical health of our community, and we must be prepared,” said Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin). “Repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with Trump’s alternative is going to drive a massive hole in the County budget while leaving more residents uninsured and without the benefits of preventative care. So that the County is prepared for these massive changes, County Executive Mangano, County Commissioners, and Department Administrators must immediately start preparing a report that outlines the real impact of losing the Affordable Care Act and what it will mean for Nassau taxpayers.”

Today, Nassau Democratic Legislators called upon the Nassau County Executive, county commissioners and department administrators to prepare an impact study that outlines the real impact losing the affordable care will have on Nassau County residents and the services they receive.

Such a study was just announced by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and is being undertaken by county governments all over the country, Lisa Tyson, Executive Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said.

“The repeal of the Affordable Care Act will deprive Long Islanders’ access to affordable healthcare that can be a matter of life-and-death. Nassau County residents deserve to know how losing the Affordable Care Act might affect their family both financially and physically,” she said.

The repeal of the Affordable Care Act. could be detrimental to citizens of Nassau most in need: low-income families, young adults, seniors and those in need of mental health care and substance abuse treatment. All these programs are at risk of being affected as the legislation currently stands.

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act will have real consequences for our community and we need to know how many of our neighbors will be affected and what costs will fall to the County. Obvious questions are whether our Medicaid costs will rise, and by how much; how increased emergency room visits will affect Nassau University Medical Center; whether the workload and costs of the County’s Department of Health will skyrocket; whether the County’s drug abuse rates are likely to soar due to diminished treatment options; the projected costs that will result; and many more. Governor Cuomo estimates that 133,000 Nassau residents (one out of ten residents) would lose coverage, and that should serve as a chilling wake-up call to every stakeholder in government and healthcare. Our taxpayers deserve to know exactly how much they will be affected by Washington’s costly decisions, and the County’s planning must start now,” said Legislator Curran.

Older residents will see a rise in healthcare premiums, with a projected 20-25% increase for those in their early 60s, given the current proposed GOP tax credit structure, which does not take income into account. For Nassau’s poor and working families, the halting of Medicaid expansion coupled with rising premiums will disintegrate any chance of affordable healthcare.

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood will mean that many women – across the country and right here in Nassau County –who receive their care at Planned Parenthood health centers won’t receive care at all. We are calling on congress to stop these political attacks, but, until they do, Planned Parenthood will leave no stone unturned in fighting back for our patients and ensuring that our doors stay open,” said PPNC President & CEO JoAnn Smith.

For Long Islander Rachel Siehs, not having healthcare at a most crucial time in her life could have been a matter of life-and-death. After Rachel was laid off from her job in October 2015 she battled the very same conflict so many do when they lose their health insurance – in this case, she gotten it from her previous employer. “I was on the fence if I should buy health insurance? I couldn’t afford Cobra. Plus, I am young and healthy and thought I could wait to start a new job and acquire insurance that way,” said Rachel Siehs. “After discussing the issue with my parents, they encouraged me to find coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplace and thankfully I did – I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma only two months later and would fight cancer for most of 2016.”

Long Islander Rachel Siehs describes how being able to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act saved her life © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Since then, Rachel, 28 years old, has successfully fought Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was able to see doctor because she had health coverage through the Affordable Health Act. Like many Americans, she risks losing health insurance again after the repeal.

“I don’t know if I would be here today if I didn’t seek coverage on the ACA marketplace. I would start a new job in January 2016 but my health insurance would not have kicked in until April. But also, who knows if I would have scheduled the doctor appointments if I would have had to pay completely out of pocket for them. The impact is real here in Nassau. Health care is important. It needs to be well thought out and studied and shouldn’t be a rushed vote. This is people’s lives,” said Rachel Siehs of Melville.

While County Executive Mangano has already indicated his disinterest in undertaking such a study, which he decried as purely political, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo did provide some indication of the impact on New Yorkers of the American Health Care Act – 2.7 million New Yorkers would face substantial loss in their health care coverage from what they have now, while quality and availability of health services across the state would be jeopardized. Also, an amendment just introduced by Chris Collins, an upstate Congressman (and Trump spokesman) and John Fasio, which would apply solely to New York State, would ban federal reimbursement for state Medicaid funds for local governments outside of New York City, cutting Medicaid for these local governments by $2.3 billion. When added to the $4.5 billion cost of the ACHA over the next four years, the total cost to the State would rise to $6.9 billion.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Fly on the Wall: Trump Blasts Obamacare, Praises GOP Health Plan, in Session with ‘Victims’ and First-Ever Cabinet Meeting

Donald Trump holds his first-ever cabinet meeting. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Pool Reporter Alex Leary, Washington Bureau Chief for the Tampa Bay Times, brings us into the inner sanctum of the White House to learn how Donald Trump and Mike Pence are manipulating the debate over the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with the Republicans’ American Health Care Plan (Ryancare).

On March 13, he hosted a group of Obamacare “victims”, followed by his first-ever meeting of his Cabinet which featured remarks by Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price’s dismissal of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scathing report projecting that 24 million people would lose health care under the Republican plan:

This is Leary’s report:

POTUS entered the room at 11:26 a.m. and pool was inside for roughly 33 minutes.

POTUS thanked the participants for sharing their stories about “the very, very failed and failing Obamacare law.”

Several times POTUS complained about news media coverage of the debate. “The press is making Obamacare look so good suddenly. I’m watching the news. It looks so good. … First of all, it covers very few people and it’s imploding. And ’17 will be the worst year.”

POTUS cast the coverage as nostalgia. “It’s a little bit like President Obama. When he left, people liked him. When he was here, people didn’t like him so much. That’s the way life goes. That’s human nature. The fact is, Obamacare is a disaster.”

The best political play, POTUS said, would to let the law collapse on its own over the coming year – “because it’s going to blow itself off the map. But that’s the wrong thing to do for the country. It’s the wrong thing to do for our citizens.”

POTUS said his administration and “a lot of people in the Senate and a lot of people in the House are committed to repealing and replacing this disastrous law with a health care plan that lowers costs, expands choice and ensures access for everyone. You represent the millions of Americans who have seen their Obamacare premiums increase by double-digit and even triple-digits …”

POTUS said the House bill would provide “far” more choices at lower costs. “Americans should pick the plan they want. Now they’ll be able to pick the plan. They’ll be able pick the doctor they want. They’ll be able to do a lot of things that the other plan was supposed to give and it never gave. …”

You’re not going to have one-size-fits-all. Instead, we’re going to be working to unleash the power of the private marketplace to let insurers come in and compete for your business and you’ll see rates go down, down, down and you’ll see plans go up, up, up. You’ll have a lot of choices. You’ll have plans that nobody is even thinking of today.”

Seated across the table in the Roosevelt Room was VPOTUS. At one head of the table was HHS Secretary Tom Price; at the other. Gary Cohn, director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

The rest of the table was filled out by individuals (see list below) invited to tell their stories.

A collection of Obamacare “victims” from across the country shared their stories. (names below as provided by WH).

But first, more from POTUS, who said the Obamacare repeal and replacement must come in three steps, due to working with Congress. “I’d love to do it all in one package, but if you did it that way, it can’t get done.” 

As pool was led out, a reporter asked POTUS if he had “any message” for people worried about losing coverage if Obamacare goes away.

“It’ll get better. If we’re allowed to do what we want to do, it will get better. Much better.,” POTUS replied. “Hopefully it will get very good.”

  1. Carrie Couey, from Colorado, said her rates are “three times” higher than when Obamacare began and that has hurt her family cattle ranching business. “We can’t afford our equipment if we’re paying these rates year after year after year. Our food source is in jeopardy because of this health care law.”
  2. Brittany Ivey, Georgia, said she left a full-time job in 2009 to raise her two children. She said a family plan for four cost them $650 per month and by 2015, it had gone up “102 percent.” She said her husband’s employer dropped the family from coverage so she looked for a new job but couldn’t find one that offered insurance. At that point, the family got Obamacare. “We believed the sales pitch that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Even though we were going to have to pay $1,300 a month for Obamacare, we thought we’d still be ok with our doctors.” But she said doctors would not accept the coverage. “We paid them $8,000 in five months and were never able to use it.” She and her husband earn a combined $74,000 a year, Ivey said, but health care is too burdensome. “It’s almost put our family in financial ruin.”
  3. Elias Seife, Florida, said his individual plan was canceled. He said his parents came from Communist Cuba. “They know what socialism is all about. I know what socialism is … and this whole system was meant to have one single provider.”
  4. Kim Sertich, Arizona, said her premium last year was $365 a month and it had risen to $809 a month this year, with a deductible of $6,800. “It just didn’t seem like a good use of my money,” she said, adding she had opted out and went into a faith-based program.
  5. Louis Brown, Virginia, said he worked for the Democratic National Committee when the Affordable Care Act was going through Congress in 2009 and that he later resigned, citing opposition to abortion. He supported Trump in the election and said that he was on hand to support efforts to place people “at the center of our American health care system, not the government.”
  6. Manny Sethi, Tennessee, says he runs nonprofit called Healthy Tennessee and that he’s noticed that people can’t afford rising premiums. “So what they are doing is, effectively, they’re paying the tax penalty because it’s cheaper and works out better than paying for the insurance. That’s been a big problem that we’re seeing across the state.”
  7. Joel Brown, Tennessee, said he’s in farming and he considered paying the penalty for not carrying insurance. He said there is only one option for coverage, Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee and the premium is $540 a month with a $7,000 deductible. “You’ve got to pay a high premium for a plan that I don’t need or don’t want.”
  8. Robin Armstrong, Texas, said a lot of patients are not adequately covered by Obamacare and are hit with high premiums and deductibles. “I actually read the bill that’s been produced, that’s coming out of the House now and I really like a lot of the changes in it. I think this is going to correct a lot of issues that Obamacare has had.”
  9. Gina Sell, Wisconsin, said she’s a nurse and mother and had to get a full-time position to pay the costs. “We could not afford a premium of $1,200 per month and a deductible that didn’t cover anything.” She said now the deductible is $6,500 “and so if I have a child who is extremely sick, it’s going to cost me hundreds of dollars.” Last week, she said, her daughter had a fever and she sent her to school for “three days straight because I had to work to afford our insurance” and couldn’t pay for a trip to the doctor. “It has been devastating for our family.”
  10. Greg Knox, Ohio, began by giving POTUS a note and drawing from his 11-year-old son. The note was written on the back of a cutout face with orangeish hair. “Looks nothing like you,” Knox said to laughter. POTUS flashed a big smile and said, “I wish I looked that good.” Knox said he had meet with Secretary Price and Vice President Pence during a recent roundtable in Cincinnati. “We have the best health care system in the world. We do. But it needs to be fixed. Small business owners like myself — I’m a manufacturer — what we’d like to see is not a government-operated market but a free market.”
  11. Stan Summers, Utah, said his son was born premature 26 years ago and they had good insurance but it deteriorated over time. Enter the ACA. “I’m not going to call it the other word. I call it the last president’s health care bill. I don’t need to say that name.” (POTUS: “Other than that, you like him a lot.” Laughter.) Summers said he has three businesses and drives a school bus to provide coverage for his family. He said he expects to meet a $6,000 deductible in April.

Secretary Price gave brief remarks about the stories. “This is about real people, about real patients.” He said he was “really excited” to help install a replacement.

POTUS then again bemoaned what he deemed “wonderful press” about Obamacare. “It’s a horrible thing, actually, and getting worse.” 

VPOTUS thanked the participants. “These people are emblematic of the Americans that Obamacare has failed.”

Trump Convenes His First Cabinet Meeting

Later, at 3:48 pm, Trump convened the first-ever meeting of his Cabinet, lamenting that, “We have four empty seats, which is a terrible thing.

“Because the Senate Democrats are continuing to obstruct the confirmation of our nominees for the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, the director of national intelligence and the United States Trade Representative, somebody I want very badly. … The main victim of this very partisan obstruction is the American public.”

POTUS began by giving an update on the approaching storm…

He then touted actions by the nascent administration, including stripping away “job crushing” regulations, and alluded to the coming executive order to “begin the process of reorganizing the executive branch to make it less wasteful and more productive.”

POTUS reiterated his earlier remarks about Obamacare and talked about the replacement plan on Capitol Hill. “It’s a big, fat beautiful negotiation,” he said, drawing snickers. “Hopefully we’ll come up with something that’s going to be really terrific.” He thanked “Paul Ryan” and “Mitch.” 

POTUS said he’d be sending a budget request with the major increase in defense spending. “And it will be fully paid for,” POTUS said, Secretary James Mattis on his left. “I saved a lot of money on those jets, didn’t I? Did I do a good job?”

POTUS talked about immigration and enhancing vetting. “We will not rest until the job is done.”

“This is our first Cabinet meeting,” POTUS said. “I hope this is going to be a historic Cabinet meeting, historic in the sense that we’re going to do a fantastic job for the American people, for our country and for the future of our country.”

He did not respond to a request for comment on the “wiretapping.”

A number of officials were on hand, including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

HHS Secretary Price ‘Disagrees Strenuously” With CBO Report on GOP Health Care Plan

“We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out,” HHS Secretary Tom Price told reporters at the White House after the CBO score was released on the GOP health care plan.

Price argued that the CBO report looked “at a portion of our plan, but not the entire plan.” He explained that HHS can employ the “regulatory apparatus” to “make certain that patients are helped and that costs are decreased.”

Price said CBO ignored other legislative action.

“We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and their family, not that the government forces them to buy.”

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said he had not read the entire CBO report but found a bright spot. “The numbers that I’ve seen in the first glance is that CBO says that premiums will go down by at least 10 percent.”

A reporter noted that CBO got to that figure by estimating that fewer older Americans would get coverage but Price waved that away, again saying CBO did not take into account the full plan for repeal and replace. “The fact of the matter is, we’re working on the regulations right now.”

Asked about the report’s finding that 14 million more people would be left without insurance next year, Price said it’s “virtually impossible to have that number occur.”

Reporter: So CBO is wrong, they are not credible?

“Well, you just look at the numbers,” Price said. “There are 8-9 million people who are on the exchange currently. I’m not sure how they are going to get 14 million people uninsured, if that’s what they say, with only 8 million people on the exchange.

“They are individuals, I guess that they assume that are on Medicaid who aren’t paying anything in the Medicaid system who are not going to take the Medicaid policy just because the mandate ended or something happened. It’s just not believable is what we would suggest. We’ll look at the numbers and see.”

Reporter: Without that mandate to buy coverage, wouldn’t you concede there will be millions of uninsured?

“No, I wouldn’t concede that at all,” Price said. “The fact of the matter is they are going to be able to a coverage policy that they want for themselves and for their family. They are going to have the kind of choices that they want. … So we think that CBO simply has it wrong.”

Mulvaney echoed those points, criticizing CBO for assuming Medicaid changes will happen “on day one. It’s just absurd.”