Tag Archives: Obamacare

Bernie Sanders Defends Medicare-for-All, Attacks Insurance Companies, Big Pharma for Dysfunctional, High-Cost Healthcare

Bernie Sanders, seen at a Brooklyn rally, is defending his signature plan, Medicare-for-All, and blaming the greed of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries as the reason for dysfunctional, high cost health care system that causes 30,000 premature deaths a year and bankrupts 530,000 Americans a year. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, running to be the Democratic nominee for president, on July 17 delivered a major address on Medicare for All, coinciding with the 54th anniversary of Medicare being signed into law. In his remarks, Sanders outlined his plan to make health care a human right for all Americans. Here is highlighted transcript of remarks as they were prepared for delivery: – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Thank you all very much for being here to discuss one of the major crises facing our country.  Let me also thank the dozens of organizations throughout America who support Medicare for All and the tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals who support my legislation.  Let me thank the 14 Senate co-sponsors that we have on this legislation and the 118 Members of the House who support similar legislation.  And mostly, let me thank the American people who by the millions understand, as I do, that health care is a human right, not a privilege.

Together, we will end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all of its citizens.  

It is not acceptable to me, nor to the American people, that some 87 million people today are either uninsured or underinsured.

It is not acceptable to me that we end up spending almost twice as much as any other major country on health care, while our life expectancy continues to decline and our healthcare outcomes lag behind many other countries.

Frankly, I am sick and tired of talking to doctors who tell me about the patients who died because they were uninsured or underinsured, and walked into the doctor’s office when it was too late.  And we are talking about over 30,000 Americans who die every year because they are uninsured or under-insured.  What a tragedy. 

I am sick and tired of seeing working class families and small businesses pay far more for healthcare than they can afford, and 530,000 Americans declare bankruptcy each year because they cannot pay off the outrageous cost of a medical emergency or a hospital stay.  Families should not be driven into financial ruin because someone in the family became seriously ill.  How insane is that?

I am sick and tired of hearing from Americans who lost loved ones because they could not afford the unbelievably high cost of prescription drugs, or hearing from constituents who are forced to cut their pills in half due to the cost. 

In fact, later this month, I will be travelling from Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario with a busload of Americans who have diabetes in order to purchase insulin in Canada at one-tenth of the price that they pay in America.

I am sick and tired of talking with people who are struggling with mental illness but cannot afford the mental health counseling they desperately need. 

I am tired of talking to people who have teeth that are rotting in their mouths, but cannot afford the high cost of dental care

Let me be very honest and tell you that, in my view, the current debate over Medicare for All really has nothing to do with healthcare.  It has everything to do with greed and the desire of the healthcare industry to maintain a system which fails the average American, but which makes the industry tens and tens of billions of dollars every year in profit. 

It is about whether we maintain a dysfunctional system which allows the big drug and health insurance companies to make over $100 billion in profits last year, while the top CEOs in that industry made $2.6 billion in total compensation – all the while 1 out of 5 Americans cannot afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe.

It’s about whether we maintain a system in which the CEO of the Aetna insurance company, Mr. Mark Bertolini, received a golden parachute worth nearly $500 million after his company merged with CVS Health, while elderly people lack the resources to purchase a hearing aid.

It’s about whether we maintain a system that allows the former CEO from Gilead (John Martin) to become a billionaire by charging $1,000 a pill for a hepatitis c drug called Sovaldi that costs a dollar to manufacture.

Let us make no mistake about it.  The struggle that we are now undertaking, to guarantee health care to all Americans as a right and to substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs, will be opposed by some of the most powerful forces in America – entities that have unlimited amounts of money.  We’re talking about the insurance companies, the drug companies, private hospitals, medical equipment suppliers, Wall Street and other powerful entities.  

Let me make a prediction. In order to defeat the Medicare for All movement, powerful special interests will be spending millions on 30 second television ads, full page magazine ads, and corporate-sponsored “studies” to frighten the American people about Medicare for All – which is exactly what happened before the passage of Medicare in the 1960s. They failed then and they’re going to fail now.

And let me give you an example of the kind of money and power we are talking about. 

Over the last 20 years, the insurance industry and pharmaceutical companies have spent more than $330 million in campaign contributions and over $4 billion in lobbying to get Congress to do its bidding. 

The pharmaceutical industry alone has hired some 1,200 lobbyists – including the former leadership of both political parties.

I find it quite interesting that Billy Tauzin, the Republican Congressman who wrote the bill to prevent Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices and then went on to become the President and CEO of Pharma, received over $11.6 million in compensation in 2010.

That’s how business is done in Washington.  Well, I have a different vision of what a rational healthcare system is all about.  Instead of massive profits for the drug companies, the insurance companies and Wall Street, we must provide a healthcare system that provides quality healthcare to all in a cost effective way.

And that is exactly what Medicare for All does.

Under this legislation, every family in America would receive comprehensive coverage, and middle-class families would save thousands of dollars a year by eliminating their private insurance costs as we move to a publicly funded program.

The transition to the Medicare for All program would take place over four years. In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered. In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.

Medicare for All will reduce – let me repeat, reduce — overall health care spending while lowering the number of uninsured and underinsured people in this country to zero.   

We accomplish this because Medicare for All creates a system of health care insurance that isn’t designed to generate profits for insurance and drug companies — it will be a system focused on delivering actual health care. It will save lives, save money, and end the frustration of endless paperwork, denials, and desperate fights with an insurance company to cover medically-necessary medications and procedures.

Medicare for All will fully eliminate health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments. Make no mistake about it: These are nothing less than taxes on the middle class. 

And when we do that, the average middle class family will save an estimated $3,000 each and every year.

Further, unlike the current dysfunctional system, Medicare for All allows people the freedom to choose any doctor, clinic, and hospital without worrying about whether their provider is in-network or not.  People will be able to make the health care choices that are best for themselves and their families without some insurance bureaucrat telling them which providers they can see or not see. Medicare for All is at the end of the day empowering patients and health care providers. 

In addition, a Medicare for All system will allow us to address the serious problem of medically underserved areas. 

Just to demonstrate how absurd our health care system is, I was in Philadelphia two days ago rallying with the people of that city to try to stop the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital, an important, safety net hospital in that community.  Why do the owners want to close this hospital? Because they can make more money redeveloping that property into condominiums and hotels.

Let me address some of the half-truths, misinformation, and, in some cases, outright lies that people may be hearing about Medicare for All.  

Medicare for All critics tell us that Americans just love their private health insurance companies. We heard this most recently from UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann, who by the way, made $83 million in 2017 and who said Medicare for All would “destabilize the nation’s health system.” 

But let’s remember: the current system is already disrupting and destabilizing millions of people’s lives. In the current system, 50 million Americans every year lose their existing health insurance when their employer changes insurer, when they change jobs, or when they cannot afford their current plan. For many of them, they will no longer be able to see the doctor they have relied on for years.  For others, important treatments for long-term conditions or disabilities will be changed or stopped altogether.  

Here is the simple truth. The American people do not like their private health insurance companies. In fact private health insurance companies are quite unpopular.  What the American people do like are their doctors, nurses and other health care providers. 

While our opponents claim that Medicare for All is too expensive, the reality is that it is much more cost effective than our current system.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that, if we do not change the system, this country will be spending $50 trillion over the next ten years –19.4 percent of our nation’s GDP.  This is unsustainable and will be incredibly harmful to the people of our country, to the business community, and to the entire economy.

And the reason why we spend so much is obvious.  It is not just the huge profits in the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry, but it is the incredible and wasteful bureaucratic maze developed by thousands of different healthcare plans.  Today, hospitals and doctors must deal with patients who have different deductibles, different co-payments, different networks of coverage, and different coverage for pharmaceuticals, or no insurance at all.  All of this is not only driving doctors and nurses and hospital administrators to distraction, but it is wasting up to $500 billion a year on unnecessary administrative costs.

Unlike our current system, there is broad consensus – from conservative to progressive economists – that Medicare for All would result in substantial savings to the American people.  Two of the most recent studies on this issue have estimated that Medicare for All would save the American people between $2 trillion and $5 trillion over a 10-year period.

Let us be clear, the fight against Medicare for All today is not a new development.  Powerful special interests have always opposed healthcare programs that work for the people and not for corporate interests.

Let us not forget that when President Harry Truman first proposed a program guaranteeing health care to seniors that idea was billed as radical, “un-American,” and an attack on basic freedom. And because of that assault, the idea stalled in Congress for years — until voters made their voices heard.

In 1960, America elected John F. Kennedy after he campaigned in support of Truman’s idea. That election prompted serious work on universal health care bill, and Kennedy at the time noted that “what we are now talking about doing, most of the countries of Europe did years ago.”

Finally, following the 1964 Democratic election landslide, the new Congress was able to pass what is now known as Medicare despite intense opposition from the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies.

More than a half-century after that achievement, the time is now to go forward.  The time is now to expand Medicare to every man, woman and child in this country. 

Let us be very clear.  When it comes to health care, the insurance and drug industries have been able to control the political process.  

If we are going to break the stranglehold of corporate interests over the health care needs of the American people, we have got to confront a Washington culture that is corrupt, that puts profits before people.

That is why I am calling on every Democratic candidate in this election to join me in rejecting money from the insurance and drug industries. That means not accepting donations over $200 from health insurance or pharmaceutical company PACs, lobbyists or executives. Candidates who are not willing to take that pledge should explain to the American people why those corporate interests believe their campaigns are a good investment.

Of course, President Trump should do the same but I am not going to even waste my breath suggesting that he will.  His efforts to throw 32 million people off their health insurance to have it replaced with junk insurance shows exactly what side he is on.

Finally, let me say, eliminating health insurance and drug company money from the Democratic primary won’t solve all the problems, but it is an important step forward. Now is the time to tell the health care industry that your profits are not more important than the lives of the American people.

See also: Biden Plan for Universal Healthcare: Protect, Build on Obamacare

Biden Plan for Universal Healthcare: Protect, Build on Obamacare

Vice President Joe Biden, in the race for the Democratic nomination for President, has staked out a position on improving on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as his solution to providing universal healthcare  – essentially, enabling people keep their private insurance but creating a new public option. That is more moderate than the Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who want a more extreme Medicare for All that replaces private insurance (though it is unlikely that there will not still be a market for supplemental private insurance, just as there is now for Medicare). Here, is the Biden campaign’s description and rationale for Biden’s plan to protect and build upon the Affordable Care Act: – Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Vice President Joe Biden, in the race for the Democratic nomination for President, has staked out a position on improving on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as his solution to providing universal healthcare  – essentially, enabling people keep their private insurance but creating a new public option. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, with Vice President Biden standing by his side, and made history. It was a victory 100 years in the making. It was the conclusion of a tough fight that required taking on Republicans, special interests, and the status quo to do what’s right. But the Obama-Biden Administration got it done.

Today, the Affordable Care Act is still a big deal. Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. Roughly 20 million additional Americans obtained the peace of mind that comes with health insurance. Young people who are in transition from school to a job have the option to stay covered by their parents’ plan until age 26.

But, every day over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act has been under relentless attack.

Immediately after its passage, Congressional Republicans began trying again and again to repeal it. Following the lead of President Trump, Republicans in Congress have only doubled down on this approach since January 2017. And, since repeal through Congress has not been working, President Trump has been unilaterally doing everything he can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to get the entire law – including protections for people with pre-existing conditions – struck down in court.

As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choicereducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.

For Biden, this is personal. He believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have access to affordable, quality health care. He knows that no one in this country should have to lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering, “what will I do if she gets breast cancer?” or “if he has a heart attack?” “Will I go bankrupt?” He knows there is no peace of mind if you cannot afford to care for a sick child or a family member because of a pre-existing condition, because you’ve reached a point where your health insurer says “no more,” or because you have to make a decision between putting food on the table and going to the doctor or filling a prescription.

In the coming months, Joe Biden will build on today’s plan by rolling out his proposals to tackle some of our greatest public health challenges – from reducing gun violence to curing devastating diseases as we know them like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and addiction.

I. GIVE EVERY AMERICAN ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE

From the time right before the Affordable Care Act’s key coverage-related policies went into effect to the last full year of the Obama-Biden Administration, 2016, the number of Americans lacking health insurance fell from 44 million to 27 million – an almost 40% drop. But President Trump’s persistent efforts to sabotage Obamacare through executive action, after failing in his efforts to repeal it through Congress, have started to reverse this progress. Since 2016, the number of uninsured Americans has increased by roughly 1.4 million.

As president, Biden will stop this reversal of the progress made by Obamacare. And he won’t stop there. He’ll also build on the Affordable Care Act with a plan to insure more than an estimated 97% of Americans. Here’s how:

Giving Americans a new choice, a public health insurance option like Medicare. If your insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have another, better choice. Whether you’re covered through your employer, buying your insurance on your own, or going without coverage altogether, the Biden Plan will give you the choice to purchase a public health insurance option like Medicare. As in Medicare, the Biden public option will reduce costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other health care providers. It also will better coordinate among all of a patient’s doctors to improve the efficacy and quality of their care, and cover primary care without any co-payments. And it will bring relief to small businesses struggling to afford coverage for their employees.

Increasing the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage to more working Americans. Today, families that make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level may receive a tax credit to reduce how much they have to pay for health insurance on the individual marketplace. The dollar amount of the financial assistance is calculated to ensure each family does not have to pay more than a certain percentage of their income on a silver (medium generosity) plan. But, these shares of income are too high and silver plans’ deductibles are too high. Additionally, many families making more than 400% of the federal poverty level (about $50,000 for a single person and $100,000 for a family of four), and thus not qualifying for financial assistance, still struggle to afford health insurance. The Biden Plan will help middle class families by eliminating the 400% income cap on tax credit eligibility and lowering the limit on the cost of coverage from 9.86% of income to 8.5%. This means that no family buying insurance on the individual marketplace, regardless of income, will have to spend more than 8.5% of their income on health insurance. Additionally, the Biden Plan will increase the size of tax credits by calculating them based on the cost of a more generous gold plan, rather than a silver plan. This will give more families the ability to afford more generous coverage, with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

Expanding coverage to low-income Americans. Access to affordable health insurance shouldn’t depend on your state’s politics. But today, state politics is getting in the way of coverage for millions of low-income Americans. Governors and state legislatures in 14 states have refused to take up the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility, denying access to Medicaid for an estimated 4.9 million adults. Biden’s plan will ensure these individuals get covered by offering premium-free access to the public option for those 4.9 million individuals who would be eligible for Medicaid but for their state’s inaction, and making sure their public option covers the full scope of Medicaid benefits. States that have already expanded Medicaid will have the choice of moving the expansion population to the premium-free public option as long as the states continue to pay their current share of the cost of covering those individuals. Additionally, Biden will ensure people making below 138% of the federal poverty level get covered. He’ll do this by automatically enrolling these individuals when they interact with certain institutions (such as public schools) or other programs for low-income populations (such as SNAP).

II. PROVIDE THE PEACE OF MIND OF AFFORDABLE, QUALITY HEALTH CARE AND A LESS COMPLEX HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Today, even for people with health insurance, our health care system is too expensive and too hard to navigate. The Biden Plan will not only provide coverage for uninsured Americans, it will also make health care more affordable and less complex for all. 
 
The plan’s elements described above will help reduce the cost of health insurance and health care for those already insured in the following ways:

All Americans will have a new, more affordable option. The public option, like Medicare, will negotiate prices with providers, providing a more affordable option for many Americans who today find their health insurance too expensive.

Middle class families will get a premium tax credit to help them pay for coverage. For example, take a family of four with an income of $110,000 per year. If they currently get insurance on the individual marketplace, because their premium will now be capped at 8.5% of their income, under the Biden Plan they will save an estimated $750 per month on insurance alone. That’s cutting their premiums almost in half. If a family is covered by their employer but can get a better deal with the 8.5% premium cap, they can switch to a plan on the individual marketplace, too.

Premium tax credits will be calculated to help more families afford better coverage with lower deductibles. Because the premium tax credits will now be calculated based on the price of a more generous gold plan, families will be able to purchase a plan with a lower deductible and lower out-of-pocket spending. That means many families will see their overall annual health care spending go down.

The Biden Plan has several additional proposals aimed directly at cutting the cost of health care and making the health care system less complex to navigate. The Biden Plan will:

Stop “surprise billing.” Consumers trying to lower their health care spending often try to choose an in-network provider. But sometimes patients are unaware they are receiving care from an out-of-network provider and a big, surprise bill. “Surprise medical billing” could occur, for example, if you go to an in-network hospital but don’t realize a specialist at that hospital is not part of your health plan. The Biden Plan will bar health care providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when the patient doesn’t have control over which provider the patient sees (for example, during a hospitalization).

Tackle market concentration across our health care system. The concentration of market power in the hands of a few corporations is occurring throughout our health care system, and this lack of competition is driving up prices for consumers. The Biden Administration will aggressively use its existing antitrust authority to address this problem.

Lower costs and improve health outcomes by partnering with the health care workforce. The Biden Administration will partner with health care workers and accelerate the testing and deployment of innovative solutions that improve quality of care and increase wages for low-wage health care workers, like home care workers.

III.  STAND UP TO ABUSE OF POWER BY PRESCRIPTION DRUG CORPORATIONS
 
Too many Americans cannot afford their prescription drugs, and prescription drug corporations are profiteering off of the pocketbooks of sick individuals. The Biden Plan will put a stop to runaway drug prices and the profiteering of the drug industry by:

Repealing the outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. Because Medicare covers so many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for its beneficiaries. And it does so for hospitals and other providers participating in the program, but not drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers not facing any competition, therefore, can charge whatever price they choose to set. There’s no justification for this except the power of prescription drug lobbying. The Biden Plan will repeal the existing law explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.

Limiting launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced by manufacturers. Through his work on the Cancer Moonshot, Biden understands that the future of pharmacological interventions is not traditional chemical drugs but specialized biotech drugs that will have little to no competition to keep prices in check. Without competition, we need a new approach for keeping the prices of these drugs down. For these cases where new specialty drugs without competition are being launched, under the Biden Plan the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish an independent review board to assess their value. The board will recommend a reasonable price, based on the average price in other countries (a process called external reference pricing) or, if the drug is entering the U.S. market first, based on an evaluation by the independent board members. This reasonable price will be the rate Medicare and the public option will pay. In addition, the Biden Plan will allow private plans participating in the individual marketplace to access a similar rate.

Limiting price increases for all brand, biotech, and abusively priced generic drugs to inflation. As a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option, all brand, biotech, and abusively priced generic drugs will be prohibited from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. The Biden Plan will also impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase the costs of their brand, biotech, or abusively priced generic over the general inflation rate.

Allowing consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries. To create more competition for U.S. drug corporations, the Biden Plan will allow consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those drugs are safe.

Terminating pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break for advertisement spending. Drug corporations spent an estimated $6 billion in 2016 alone on prescription drug advertisements to increase their sales, a more than four-fold increase from just $1.3 billion in 1997. The American Medical Association has even expressed “concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.” Currently, drug corporations may count spending on these ads as a deduction to reduce the amount of taxes they owe. But taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these ads. As president, Biden will end this tax deduction for all prescription drug ads, as proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

Improving the supply of quality generics. Generics help reduce health care spending, but brand drug corporations have succeeded in preserving a number of strategies to help them delay the entrance of a generic into the market even after the patent has expired. The Biden Plan supports numerous proposals to accelerate the development of safe generics, such as Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposal to make sure generic manufacturers have access to a sample.

IV. ENSURE HEALTH CARE IS A RIGHT FOR ALL, NOT A PRIVILEGE FOR JUST A FEW
 
Joe Biden believes that every American – regardless of gender, race, income, sexual orientation, or zip code – should have access to affordable and quality health care. Yet racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination permeate our health care system just as in every other part of society. As president, Biden will be a champion for improving access to health care and the health of all by:

Expanding access to contraception and protect the constitutional right to an abortion. The Affordable Care Act made historic progress by ensuring access to free preventive care, including contraception. The Biden Plan will build on that progress. Vice President Biden supports repealing the Hyde Amendment because health care is a right that should not be dependent on one’s zip code or income. And, the public option will cover contraception and a woman’s constitutional right to choose. In addition, the Biden Plan will:

1) Reverse the Trump Administration and states’ all-out assault on women’s right to choose. As president, Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion, such as so-called TRAP laws, parental notification requirements, mandatory waiting periods, and ultrasound requirements.

2) Restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The Obama-Biden administration fought Republican attacks on funding for Planned Parenthood again and again. As president, Biden will reissue guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers that refer for abortions or provide related information and reverse the Trump Administration’s rule preventing Planned Parenthood and certain other family planning programs from obtaining Title X funds.

3) Just as the Obama-Biden Administration did, President Biden will rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded. This rule currently bars the U.S. federal government from supporting important global health efforts – including for malaria and HIV/AIDS – in developing countries simply because the organizations providing that aid also offer information on abortion services.

Reducing our unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, which especially impacts people of color. Compared to other developed nations, the U.S. has the highest rate of deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth, and we are the only country experiencing an increase in this death rate. This problem is especially prevalent among black women, who experience a death rate from complications related to pregnancy that is more than three times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white women. California came up with a strategy that halved the state’s maternal death rate. As president, Biden will take this strategy nationwide.

Defending health care protections for all, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could increase premiums merely due to someone’s gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Further, insurance companies could increase premiums or deny coverage altogether due to someone’s HIV status. Yet, President Trump is trying to walk back this progress. For example, he has proposed to once again allow health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate based on a patient’s gender identity or abortion history. President Biden will defend the rights of all people – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity – to have access to quality, affordable health care free from discrimination.

Doubling America’s investment in community health centers. Community health centers  provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations. The Biden Plan will double the federal investment in these centers, expanding access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most.

Achieving mental health parity and expanding access to mental health care. As Vice President, Biden was a champion for efforts to implement the federal mental health parity lawimprove access to mental health care, and eliminate the stigma around mental health. As President, he will redouble these efforts to ensure enforcement of mental health parity laws and expand funding for mental health services.

In the months ahead, Biden will put forward additional plans to tackle health challenges affecting specific communities, including access to health care in rural communities, gun violence, and opioid addiction.

SUPPORTING HEALTH, NOT REWARDING WEALTH

Joe Biden believes in rewarding work, not just wealth – and investing in hard-working Americans’ health, not protecting the most privileged Americans’ wealth. Warren Buffett said it best when he stated that he should not pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.
 
The Biden Plan will make health care a right by getting rid of capital gains tax loopholes for the super wealthy. Today, the very wealthy pay a tax rate of just 20% on long-term capital gains. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the capital gains and dividends exclusion is the second largest tax expenditure in the entire tax code: $127 billion in fiscal year 2019 alone. As President, Biden will roll back the Trump rate cut for the very wealthy and restore the 39.6% top rate he helped restore when he negotiated an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in 2012. Biden’s capital gains reform will close the loopholes that allow the super wealthy to avoid taxes on capital gains altogether. The Biden plan will assure those making over $1 million will pay the top rate on capital gains, doubling the capital gains tax rate on the super wealthy.

WATCH: Joe Biden talks more about the need to build on and protect ACA in THIS new video.

See also: Biden Gives Speech on Foreign Policy that Defines His Quest for Presidency

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.

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.

A Day Without Women? Strike Sex Instead

The Capitol Building, still draped in flags for Donald Trump’s inauguration the day before, is backdrop for nearly 1 million who flooded Washington DC to stand up for Women’s Rights. The success of the march led organizers to call for “A Day Without Women” strike on International Women’s Day, March 8 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

For those women who flexed their liberated muscles by opposing Hillary Clinton (because after all, what did they have to lose?), two stories from this week stand out:

GOP Lawmaker Asks Why Men Should Pay for Prenatal Care

Judge resigns over rape trial comment: ‘Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?’

Trump has not only set back American progress on every aspect of civil, environmental, economic and criminal justice a century to the Gilded Age, but threatens to do the same with women’s rights and standing in society. And I’m not just referring to the fact that he has made it okay to be a misogynistic, sexist, racist, xenophobic bit.

Hillary Clinton in her campaign noted that it isn’t just “attitude” or “culture” that propagates bias, but systemic reinforcement in the economy, the tax code, the courts, the law, and most especially health care and reproductive rights, that, more than anything else for all practical purposes keep women down and lacking power.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), explicitly reversed those impediments, which allowed insurance companies to make women pay higher premiums for their pre-existing condition of being a woman.

The health care “reform” that Republicans are trying to ram through would not only restore that ability of insurance companies to charge women more so that they couldn’t actually afford prenatal care, or for that matter a delivery, or the necessary care for their infant, especially one that is born without all the advantages of its mother having had access to prenatal care, but they propose to defund Planned Parenthood, used by 4 million people (52 million visits a year), resulting in 551,000 fewer unintended pregnancies, and of course, they intend to end women’s reproductive rights altogether.

After the Women’s March on Washington the day after inauguration, which brought out millions across the US and the world, I proposed that women should strike to demonstrate how essential to the economy women were. On March 8, International Women’s Day, there was just such a strike, “A Day Without Women.” But as the big day approached, I realized it had to fail because women predominate in jobs that are life and death – nurses, teachers, home healthcare and daycare providers, legal services (the list goes on and on and on).

“My babies,” is how a Great Neck kindergarten teacher described her students during a school board hearing on the proposed bond, noting that there is a significant difference in learning readiness for children who come to kindergarten with or without having attended pre-K, which follows through throughout their elementary schooling. They don’t catch up. I am quite sure she was in her classroom teaching instead of joining the “Day Without Women” strike.

Moreover, unless a woman worked for a sympathetic boss, she likely could not afford to lose pay, and possibly her job.

Consequently, the full impact of women on the economy, and in society – that women comprise half of the entire paid labor force for the first time in history, mothers are now close to 50 percent of all primary breadwinners, and women drive 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchasing – went unnoticed, and women as a political force were pretty much told to sit down and shut up, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senator Elizabeth Warren.

But, as ever, Senator Warren expressed best why “women’s issues are economic issues” and how the system is rigged against them:

Women are the main breadwinners, or joint breadwinners, in two-thirds of the families in America, she said, but:

  • Having a child is the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.
  • Single moms are more likely than any other group to file for bankruptcy – more likely than the elderly, more likely than divorced men, and more likely than people living in poor neighborhoods.
  • Single moms who have been to college are actually 60% more likely to end up bankrupt than those with just a high school diploma.

“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.”

Warren noted:

Women struggle under the burden of student loan debt, child care costs that equal college tuition,  make 78 cents to the dollar of her male colleague and can be fired just for asking what the guy down the hall makes (Republicans are blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act).

Mothers are 10 times more likely than fathers to take time off when their kids are sick, and 60% are not paid for that time off. Too many women fear losing their jobs because they are stuck having to choose between work or caring for someone they love. (Republicans won’t even let us have a vote on paid sick time and family leave, and Trump rolled back Obama’s executive orders on parental leave and overtime pay).

Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women but the minimum wage hasn’t gotten a federal raise in seven years, and mothers of very young children disproportionately work low-wage jobs (Trump rolled back Obama’s executive order and Republicans have blocked every effort to raise it.).

Because women make less than men throughout their lifetimes, they receive, on average, about $4,000 less a year than men in Social Security benefits (as well as pensions). This really hurts because women are less likely to have other assets, so they rely more heavily on those Social Security checks to keep them out of poverty. Republicans still threaten to cut Social Security for women and families and raise the retirement age, while their health care plan would also increase the cost of having health care and likely toss off millions of women and children from any health care at all.

“Donald Trump was right about one thing: the game is rigged. It’s rigged for rich guys like Donald Trump. The system works great for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but it leaves women and families behind. A system in which Republicans work tirelessly to rip away health care from millions of women and defund Planned Parenthood health clinics, while giving away billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil. A system that cuts Head Start programs and NIH medical research, but protects tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations,” Warren stated.

And no where is this “rigged system” more apparent than in the Trump/Ryan plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a plan that will strip health insurance from millions, raise the cost for women, for older people, for the poor and sick, in order to give the 400 richest Americans—who averaged incomes of $318 million in 2014—a tax cut of about $7 million a year, a windfall that they will happily reinvest in buying the election of candidates who will do their bidding. (Trump doesn’t pay taxes, so this wouldn’t benefit him.)

Indeed, as it turns out, there isn’t a single “Women’s Issue” but rather, a broad gamut of issues are central to women: climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, gun violence prevention, food, water and drug safety, education, workers rights, health care and public health; infrastructure and mass transportation; immigration rights, criminal justice reform, affordable housing. What is there about life that doesn’t concern women?

The fascinating thing about that ignorant lout who is unbelievably serving in Congress but can’t understand why a man should have to pay for prenatal care is that society has a collective interest in women’s health, and public health. If someone doesn’t go to the doctor and can’t afford to stay home from work, their communicable disease will spread. When people don’t go to the doctor for an early diagnosis, but only go when the condition becomes severe, society as a whole foots the bill for catastrophic care, and is deprived of that individual’s productivity.

Clearly, there should be a different sort of strike, one that would not require women to relinquish their work responsibilities: they should strike sex. Women are considered mere vessels to incubate an embryo (an elected official actually said that), a lesser person with fewer legal and political rights than a zygote. Women are singularly punished for having sex. Sex in Trump’s misogynistic RightWing America has come to mean enslavement. (And yes, I realize this sounds as crazy as Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who has taken over Housing & Urban Development, who equated the slaves who were brought to the US in chains at the bottom of boats to “immigrants” with their high aspirations.)

John Oliver, in his summation of International Women’s Day on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, said: “Every year, the best way of gauging not just how far women have come, but perhaps how far they still have to go, is by watching powerful men around the world trip over their dicks while talking about the day.”

He highlighted Vladimir Putin, who told his nation, “Women give us life and perpetuate it in our children. We will do our utmost to surround our dear women with care and attention, so that they can smile more often.”

Women in Congress (still only 20%) wore white to Trump’s joint address, to symbolize the suffragettes of a century ago and show solidarity.

“We wear white to unite against any attempts by the Trump Administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century, and we will continue to support the advancement of all women,” Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., the chair of the party’s Women’s Working Group, said in a statement.

See also:

Lessons From the Historic Women’s March: How to Counter Trump

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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

New York Blasts Republican Plan That Would Replace Obamacare; Singles Out Collins Amendment

Governor Andrew Cuomo commenting on the Republican plan to replace Obamacare: “I can’t make up 2, 3 billion dollars. It would wreak havoc in this state.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in response to a question posed by Mark Halperin on MSNBC, said:  “Obviously the consequences for a state like New York could be devastating. Depending on what they do, you have 3 million people who are insured under Obamacare. What are you going to do with the 3 million people? Medicaid is a big piece of our budget. They talk about block grants, turning it over to the state. That sounds great. The question is when they block grant it, do they actually transfer the money? Remember the old expression, passing the buck without passing the bucks. Governor of New York, my fear is the rhetoric of give it back to the states sounds great, but if they give it back to the states and they cut the funding, you put the states in a really terrible situation. So I get the political appeal of repeal Obamacare, but you know, be careful what you ask for and I think this is the dog that chases the car. What are they going to do? And you have millions and millions of people who are affected and you could devastate the budget. I just did my budget. I said, “Look, I don’t have a contingency plan.” Because I don’t know what they’re going to do, and frankly, they could take an action for which there is no contingency plan. There are rumors that they could cut the state of New York 2, 3 billion dollars. I can’t make up 2, 3 billion dollars. It would wreak havoc in this state. So it’s their move and I want to see what they come up with.”

Lt.  Governor Kathy Hochul, commenting on a proposed amendment from Congressman Collins (R-NY), said:

“Our Founding Fathers warned us this day would come. Partisan politics would overtake good government for the people.  The Medicaid changes being proposed in Washington would cut taxes for wealthy special interests while devastating New York State’s finances and all but eliminating health care for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

“What’s worse, a New York Republican Congressman, Chris Collins is offering an amendment that would wreak havoc on the state. While I understand that the Democrats in Washington are attacking Collins on ethics issues and are having a heated political fight, they shouldn’t be played out at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.

“Here are the facts: The overall Medicaid plan would cost the state billions of dollars of lost federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability.  As if that were not enough, Rep. Collins would have the state assume the counties’ share of Medicaid expenses outside of New York City. The current breakdown is 13 percent county, 36 percent state, and 51 percent federal. This ill-conceived plan would cost his home state approximately $2.3 billion. Unbelievably, that’s on top of the cost of the Republican Affordable Care Act repeal plan – another $2.4 billion.

“Translation: Rep. Collins is proposing a tax increase on New Yorkers to the tune of $4.7 billion.  This one-two punch would destroy all the hard work the Governor and Legislature have accomplished in the last six years to lower taxes across the board and achieve the lowest spending increases in recorded history. New Yorkers will be at risk of losing their healthcare, hospitals will be forced to lay off workers, and our vulnerable elderly will find it much harder to afford nursing home care.

“On the merits, the counties have no right to claim this is an undue burden. They paid a percentage of health care costs even before Medicaid – and in fact, currently have a more favorable agreement than in decades.

“In 1960 – well before New York State and most counties had any sales tax revenue to pay for it – Congress passed the Kerr-Mills Act, which created a national role in funding health care for the elderly. Under this program, the counties in New York paid approximately 44 percent of the cost of care, the state paid about 38 percent, and the federal government paid around 18 percent.

“In 1965, Medicaid replaced that program and the counties paid 25 percent. That same year, the state began giving counties the option of collecting sales tax on their behalf. Every county in New York has subsequently agreed to this option. Many counties in the nation don’t get sales tax, and most of those receive less than our counties. Moreover, the state recently agreed to give the counties additional help – after hearing the counties’ complaints of the growing Medicaid costs, the state has held them harmless for any increases since 2011.

“As a result, the counties’ share for Medicaid is down from 25 percent to 13 percent, and the state assumed this cost while still living within the 2 percent spending cap, and all while cutting taxes. The state is not asking the counties to do anything more than we have done ourselves. In fact, the state has done far more.  If the Collins amendment passed, the state would need to raise income taxes or the counties would have to forego their share of sales tax in exchange for the state picking up the additional Medicaid costs.

“In short, Rep. Collins’ amendment and the Affordable Care Act repeal would transfer $4.7 billion in costs to the state which would translate into a new tax for New Yorkers. I know firsthand that the people of the 27th Congressional District face enough challenges in their lives – they don’t need to worry about increasing health care costs or new taxes.

“Rep. Collins should stop prioritizing his wealthy friends and start helping his home state by protecting the most vulnerable from losing their healthcare and putting the state budget at risk. Remember, as my mentor Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to always point out, New York is a donor state – we pay more in federal taxes than we receive back.

“Mr. Collins, try practicing good government rather than partisan politics.”

White House Only ‘Listening’ to Conservatives on Repeal of Obamacare

Donald Trump and Mike Pence are only courting right-wing conservatives on policies that impact all Americans’ lives, including health care and women’s reproductive health.

The only ones the Trump/Pence/Ryan/McConnell Administration care about, speak to are the ultra-rightwing conservatives.  This from the White House, Friday, March 10:

READOUT OF THE VICE PRESIDENT’S LISTENING SESSION WITH CONSERVATIVE LEADERS

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price assembled dozens of conservative leaders today at the White House to discuss the multi-faceted effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Vice President and the Secretary highlighted the work being accomplished through legislative and regulatory efforts to end Obamacare’s government takeover of healthcare and provide market-based reforms that will lower costs and provide more choice to Americans. They also invited conservative groups to continue offering their ideas for improving healthcare in America and agreed to keep communication channels open as the President and Congress work to fulfill the promise of repealing and replacing the flawed Obamacare law.

The following individuals participated:

Thomas Binion, Heritage Foundation
Melissa Ortiz, Able Americans
Mia Heck, ALEC
Jason Pye, FreedomWorks
Brian McManus
Matthew Schlapp, American Conservative Union
Nan Swift, National Taxpayers Union
Richard Manning, Americans for Limited Government
Grace Turner, Galen Institute
Kenneth Cuccinelli, Senate Conservatives Fund
Jennifer Butler, State Policy Network
Daniel Schneider, American Conservative Union
John McKechnie, ABA Health Savings Account (HSA) Council
Stephen Keen, National Federation of Independent Business
Lisa Nelson, ALEC
Jennifer Hatten, ABA Health Savings Account (HSA) Council
David Bozell, ForAmerica
Phil Kerpen, American Commitment
Peter Sepp, National Taxpayers Union
Timothy Chapman, Heritage Action
Bradley Close, National Federation of Independent Business
Kent Lassmam, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Jennifer Martin, Tea Party Patriots
Shonda Kalra, Tea Party Patriots
Amanda Moorhead, National Federation of Independent Business
Bill Pascoe, Tea Party Patriots
Christopher Jacobs, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks
Michael Cannon, CATO
Bob Carlstrom, Association of Mature American Citizens
Andy Roth, Club for Growth
Heather Curry, CATO

Republican Health Care Plan is Prescription for Bankruptcy, Premature Death – And They Don’t Care

At a Save Obamacare rally on Long Island in January, Ron Motta kisses his 11-year-old son, Robbie, who was born with a congenital heart defect. He worries about losing access to affordable health care © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

During the Presidents Week recess when Congressmembers are supposed to meet with constituents, I attended two jam-packed rallies focused on saving Obamacare (this followed the rallies held coast-to-coast in the days before the inauguration). In each of these, desperate people (dismissed by Republicans as “paid professional agitators”) stood up to preserve the Affordable Care Act.

While not perfect (after all, how could it be when Obama had to thread a ridiculously tiny needle to get anything passed the Republican wall of opposition), Obamacare has brought coverage to 20 million previously uninsured people, reducing the percentage of uninsured Americans to a historic low of 8.6%, allowed children up to age 26 stay on their parents’ plan, mandated coverage for preexisting conditions, ended lifetime caps, capped the amount of premium that for-profit insurance pocketed for non-patient purposes at 20% (versus 97% that Medicare spends on patient care ), instituted basic standards of coverage that included, for the first time, wellness visits, coverage for certain regular tests (mammograms, colonoscopy).

The secret sauce? Mandating coverage or else pay a penalty, but if you didn’t earn enough to pay, you would be able to get subsidies from the government Why? Because the whole thing revolved around the idea that young and healthy people would pay into the system, bringing down the insurance premium for everyone. And every policy would cover certain basics, like child birth and prostate cancer, mammogram and colonscopy (ending the higher premiums for a woman).

And it was working: in the first place because if people can go to their doctors earlier, get diagnostic tests and catch illnesses earlier, they are less expensive to treat, let alone reduce the amount of suffering while increasing a person’s productivity during their prime years.

Let’s review: before Obamacare, nearly 50 million people were without health insurance and tens of thousands of families were losing health insurance as they were losing their jobs (and homes) to the Bush/Cheney Great Recession.  20,000 people a year were dying needlessly simply for lack of access to affordable health care.

And, for years, for-profit insurance companies, with a 33% margin, were raising premiums at three to five times the CPI each year; routinely dropping doctors, denying coverage, throwing people off for “preexisting conditions.”  Companies were dropping health benefits for employees.

“Preexisting condition? Life is a preexisting condition, resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death,” Dr Martha Livingstone,  vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program, told an overflow audience at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Huntington. “We all have a preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings. How we will get it?”

Congressman Tom Suozzi, who stood in front of SRO town hall at the JCC in Plainview, and again at the Huntington health care rally, and back in January, with Kathleen Rice, at a massive health care rally, said about Obamacare, “Mend it. Don’t End it.”

Ron Widelec of LI Activists and Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-LI 3) at a packed rally to save Obamacare and support universal health care, Huntington, Long Island, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The key problems with Obamacare, people complained, are high deductibles (for the cheapest plans), that premiums rose significantly (after rising at the slowest rate of increase in 50 years and mainly because of the Republican sabotage that prevented the full implementation), and that doctors, and even insurers would change (which happened before, as well).

What Republicans are proposing now, though, doesn’t “fix” any of these problems. In essence, the Republican plan favors the healthy and the wealthy, shifting the burden of payment while providing fewer benefits onto working people, low-income people and the elderly, while – and here is the added bonus – exploding the budget deficit. Millions will lose insurance; costs will skyrocket, and Republicans are ramming it through without “scoring” its impact on the budget or people.

They concocted the bill in secret, are ramming it through without proper analysis, scrutiny or debate, or even “scoring” by the Congressional Budget Office, and here’s the added subterfuge: they are repealing the elements in stages: by 2018 for the first parts (to minimize impact on midterm elections) and by 2020 for the complete repeal (to ease the way for Trump’s reelection).

The Republican plan begins with ending that “freedom killing” mandate, which is the hinge upon which access to affordable health care rests, because by requiring everyone – young, healthy people who might otherwise defray health insurance costs – to purchase, the pool is large enough to keep premiums down for everyone, while covering everything from child birth to mental health to pre-existing conditions.

Instead of a mandate, enforced with a modest tax penalty, to insure that enough healthy, young people are in the pool to lower everyone’s premium while expanding care and access even if there is a pre-existing condition, the Republican plan provides for a 30% “surcharge” if you have let insurance lapse more than 60 days. So if you have lost your job, and therefore your health insurance, and can’t pay, you will only get further and further behind.

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo warns that 2.7 million New Yorkers would lose health coverage if Republicans repeal Obamacare; the impact on the state’s budget would be $3.7 billion © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The other prime elements:

Instead of subsidies for people who don’t earn enough to purchase health insurance, Republicans want to give tax credits, which only are beneficial if you earn enough to pay. What is more, they want tax credits not to be based on income at all, but on age, so a 60 year old  would get $4000 in tax credits while a 30-year old minimum-wage worker would get $2000 –still only a fraction of the cost of a minimally basic health plan – up to $14,000 in credits for a family.

The other big idea to “afford” health care is the Health Savings Account, which Republicans have wanted forever – another scheme to bolster Wall Street donors, and provide yet another device for the wealthiest to shield income from tax. The flaw is that you need to have enough money to stash away in HSA to begin with. But suppose you get a cancer diagnosis or are hit by a car before you have accumulated sufficient funds? Or you contract some illness that blows through your HSA?  Tough luck.

The GOP plan would  end the Medicaid expansion – when the federal government paid 90% instead of 50% of the state’s Medicaid cost — which will result in 10 million people in 31 states losing health insurance.

Another keystone of the GOP health care con is to give states block grants – a fixed amount that has no correlation to actual need. The interesting thing is that Governors tend not to use the money for its purpose (health care for the poorest residents), but for pet priorities like lowering taxes for businesses.

The Republicans say they want to shift “power” back to the states. But states always had the ability, before, to devise their own health care plan, as long as it met basic standards of the Affordable Care Act. What states want is the ability –and the excuse – not to provide universal coverage.

Republicans will claim that their plan will continue to cover pre-existing conditions. But their idea is to stick people with pre-existing conditions into high-risk pools, which could put the cost out of reach.

Indeed, no one has bothered to mention that Obamacare capped the amount that the for-profit insurance companies could charge for non-patient services – it was at 33% (versus a 3% administrative budget for Medicare) before the ACA, which required 80% of the premium to go to patient services. That is out the window.

An added zinger, just for good, is that the plan ends federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Gotcha!

Rallying for Planned Parenthood at a Save Obamacare rally on Long Island in January. The Republican “repeal and replace” plan calls for total defunding Planned Parenthood. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump proposes to cure the cost problem making it possible to buy insurance across state lines, without saying how that would actually reduce the cost of the premium, under the pretext that “competition” will lower the cost. Except that the same few companies dominate the market in most states, and like airlines, can just raise premiums as they like. Also, this would negate New York’s ability to set standards on insurance companies. And wouldn’t it also mean that New Yorkers would pay the higher premium for Southern obesity?

Most of the changes are phased in – they don’t get implemented until after the 2018 midterm elections, and Obamacare is not completely repealed until after the 2020 elections.

But what Republicans claim is the “unsustainability” of Obamacare is the result of Republicans efforts to sabotage it from day 1. And the first thing that Trump did? Ended enforcement of the mandate and issue a proposal to cut next year’s enrollment period in half allow insurance companies to easily raise deductibles, limit patients’ choice of doctors, and restrict others from getting covered mid-year — even if they have a child or lose their employer-based insurance. Insurance companies are pulling out because the Republicans are intentionally making it impossible for them to do business.

By immediately repealing the mandate as well as the taxes that support Obamacare, it is truly unsustainable and more insurance companies that are planning premium rates and participation now, will either pull out or hike up premiums to ridiculous levels because essentially, they are only insuring sick, older people.

The taxes that pay for the Obamacare health care benefits are also being immediately repealed which will explode the budget deficit, which somehow, Republicans only care about when a Democrat is in the Oval office.

And here is the stunner: the Republicans, who have worked this up in secret, without any debate or public commentary (they dismiss the millions who have come out to town halls, rallies and protests as “paid professional agitators” instead of people with real concerns), plan to shove the legislation through without even scoring by the Congressional Budget Office.  They can’t say how much health insurance will cost in TrumpWorld, or how many people will wind up losing health insurance or who wind up being woefully uninsured because they can only afford a minimal policy that doesn’t actually cover anything. They can’t say how many more employers (only about half were offering health insurance benefits before ACA) will simply stop providing any health care benefit at all. That’s Freedom! That’s Choice!

“Do we want people to have socialized medicine or individual accountability, personal choice, where businesses decide?” Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY) asked hypothetically.

Obamacare did not just benefit the 30 million people who were able to afford health insurance, 20 million of them for the first time. It benefited every American who also has insurance, and every American who has Medicare, as well. And remember the complaints with Obamacare? That deductibles were too high; premiums went up significantly from the first year (except they had traditionally gone up at 3 to 5 times the CPI, without any limits). That doctors left the plan or insurance companies changed the plan to exited the exchanges? The Republican plan does not improve any of this. Instead, it returns health care to the total control of for-profit companies, who can raise premiums at will, drop doctors at will, set lifetime caps or refuse to cover certain procedures.

Health care should be a right, not a privilege reserved with the means to pay for it.  But the Republican mold would create a system of unequal protection throughout the land. If you happen to live in New York State, you are likely to have better access to life saving, life-affirming care for your family than if you live in Texas.

The Republican plan is a prescription for sicker people who don’t get the checkups, early diagnosis and wellness care to prevent more serious (and costly) and deadly maladies. But they don’t care. Indeed, the rightwingers like Freedom Caucus who are howling mad at the American Health Care Act are upset that it is not draconian enough, that it is “Obamacare Light”.

In TrumpWorld, people are back at the mercy of the for-profit health insurance and health care industry, back under the thumb of employers and abusive spouses. Now that’s freedom-killing, as much as it is a death penalty.

It is as Alan Grayson said early in the Obamacare debate: “The Republican health care plan: don’t get sick. The Republicans have a back-up plan in case you do get sick … Die quickly!”

Rightwingers, conservatives don’t hate Obamacare because it smacks of “socialized medicine.” They hate it because they believe when everyone is entitled to health care, there will be a shortage of doctors, of hospital beds. They will have to wait for appointments. They fear “rationing,” not caring that to avoid that feared scenario, it means that 50 million people will be excluded from health care system altogether.

The solution to having truly universal health care is to reform the health care system – more physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, online diagnosis and triage, more early diagnosis and wellness care.

Dr. Martha Livingstone, vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program: “Life is a preexisting condition, resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death. We all have a preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Contrary to the rightwing hysteria (death panels!) Obamacare is not socialized medicine because it bent health care into a pretzel in order to retain for-profit health insurance entities as the gatekeeper between patients and health care. But the epic failure of the Republican plan, which more than restores ultimate control over people’s lives and quality of life to for-profit companies and employers and abusive spouses, will likely result in a true universal, Medicare-for-All, single-payer system.

Trouble is, that won’t happen for decades more, and not until after hundreds of thousands of people have suffered miserably, died needlessly, prematurely, for lack of access to timely, affordable, quality health care.

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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

New Yorkers Mobilize for Single Payer, Medicare-for-All Health Care

Republicans may have overplayed their hand: when they sweep Obamacare away, Progressives like Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists intend to push for universal health care: single-payer, Medicare-for-All © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

With the chaos and uncertainty at the federal level, New York Progressives see an opportunity to push for single-payer health care in the state – a plan that has been approved by the Democratic-controlled Assembly, but has been defeated by the Republican-controlled Senate (with the help of the so-called Independent Democratic coalition of state senators who were elected as Democrats but caucus with Republicans).

Hundreds crammed the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington (UUFH), Long Island, under the aegis of Long Island Activists, to build the movement for the state to adopt single-payer health care. (See: Long Island Activists Mobilize to Save Obamacare, Push for Single Payer in NYS)

Long Island Activists rally for universal health care, Huntington, Long Island, Feb. 25, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Irrespective of what Republicans do in Congress, Ron Widelec, a member of the steering committee of Long Island Activists (LongIslandActivists.org) said, “There is a lot we can do in New York – people forget we can act locally, not everything happens in Congress. Single payer is a real possibility in New York.”

Widelec exposed the lies that are used to beat back universal health care, despite the fact that every other industrialized nation has such a system:

That universal health care is too expensive, will add trillions of dollars to the national debt – but that is belied by the fact that the US spends twice as much on health care as any other industrialized nation, health care amounts to 1/6 of the entire economy, and the outcomes are poor, with the US ranked 32nd among nations, contradicting the claim that the US offers “the best health care in the world.”

Another lie is that universal health care will result in rationing, ”as if 20 million people with no insurance isn’t rationing, or people who have insurance but can’t afford deductibles or copays isn’t rationing, or insurance companies denying care isn’t rationing,” he said.

Janet Green tells of her experience living under Canada’s universal health care system: “We lived it, loved it – you could choose any doctor you like, be rid of billing, deductibles, copays; to be covered regardless of age, job status, preexisting conditions, personal wealth.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Janet Green, a nurse who lived in Canada for two years and now lives on Long Island, spoke of the difference: “We lived it, loved it – you could choose any doctor you like, be rid of billing, deductibles, copays; to be covered regardless of age, job status, preexisting conditions, personal wealth. No wonder the Canadians love their single payer universal health insurance system with private provision..

“When we moved to Long Island, the unfairness and inefficiency of an increasingly corporatized health care system was increasingly hard to take because I knew another system. I had coverage through husband’s job – but I was angry, not lucky, to be part of such an unfair system.” That included problems with doctors in/out network; merger/replacement of insurance plans, with changing rules, preferred provider lists not once but twice in 4 years. “There is none of that on single payer, no deductibles or copays or networks.

“I saw the misinformation spread by those most affected, the insurance industry –myths about Canadian system.

“North of the border and throughout the rest of the world, it is understood that to be a compassionate, enlightened society, there must be universal health coverage.

Dr. Martha Livingstone, vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program: “Life is a preexisting condition, resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death. We all have a preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Dr. Martha Livingstone,  vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program, also spoke from experience about Canada’s health program, because she lived in Canada while getting one of her degrees.

“There are only two reasons we don’t have national health insurance Medicare for All – it is 1/6 of the economy and very powerful people are arrayed against us who will do everything in their power to persuade us we can’t have it. And our failure of imagination.

Indeed, it may well be that Republicans have overplayed their hand and the pendulum will swing back much more forcefully. If they succeed in repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Trumpcare, it can cost Republicans to lose Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020, just as Obamacare cost Democrats control in 2010. Instead of Obamacare, which was Obama’s attempt to appease conservatives who demand a for-profit health care system, there will be universal health care, single-payer Medicare for All, a socialized health care system.

She told of a Victoria BC woman whose son had to go to five specialists before a rare brain tumor was diagnosed, treated, so he could survive. “In the states, he would have been one of 45,000 Americans dead of treatable medical conditions because he didn’t have access to timely medical care.

“Preexisting condition? Life is a preexisting condition, resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death. We all have a  preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings. How we will get it?

“We are the 99%. We don’t mind paying taxes when they provide for things we need. Who doesn’t want to pay taxes? it’s the billionaires – they want us to be uneducated, unhoused, unfed and if sick, they like us to die [and not be a burden on society]. It is a life/death fight.

“We have to protect the Affordable Care Act, but frankly my dears, ACA was written by the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank. It is a Republican plan first put into place by then Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.  You have piece a that‘s public, that funds the majority, and the piece that’s private.

“What Romneycare did, then ACA, was to build on the wildly expensive private for-profit sector of the system. We want to build in the wildly successful, inexpensively administered Medicare program…

“There are only two things wrong with Medicare: it doesn’t cover everything, doesn’t cover everybody. So improve it, Medicare for all.”

But regardless of what happens at the federal level, the state can create its own single-payer plan.

“Let New York be the first to have single-payer.  What it will do for us in New York State is save us $50 billion, and save everybody but the very wealthiest New Yorkers money over what paying now for lousy access to care, where we have narrow networks, where some insurance genius can tell us at any moment, ‘Well, if you looked at p 793.’ The bill gets rid of all that – no copays, deductibles for a human right. We have to reinforce that. We know we won’t get it through the New York Senate this year, but 2018 if we hold their feet to the fire.”

Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists is mobilizing push New York State to adopt universal health care: single-payer, Medicare-for-All © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“This event left me hopeful,” Widelec said before sending everyone off to their breakout sessions to come up with local actions. “The election of Trump wasn’t a hopeful time, but I am hopeful. I believe this is not a matter of left versus right, this is a matter of right versus wrong. One good thing about the 1%: we outnumber them 99 to 1.

“Everybody forward, not one step back.”

Widelec said that events will be posted on LongIslandActivists.org.

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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