Montgomery County HealthCare Town Hall

The Montgomery County Democratic Committee is proud to announce a Town Hall designed to take a look at what’s at stake with the future of American healthcare.

The second in a series, MCDC Town Halls are dedicated to exploring key issues that affect our lives.  The forum is free and open to the public.

The Senate’s secretive healthcare plan has finally been released, and it’s just as bad as many feared. Montgomery County won’t sit back and allow thousands of our friends and neighbors to lose their healthcare!

Whether you have questions about Washington’s health care plan itself, or want to know how you can help to stop it, join our town hall forum onJuly 18th to soak up some knowledge. We’ll have a panel of experts on hand to answer audience questions and guide discussion.

A featured panelist will be Dr. Val Arkoosh. A medical doctor by training, now Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, Val brings unique experience right at the intersection of politics, medical practice, and public health policy.

*Montgomery County Community College is not affiliated with this event and the College should not be contacted regarding the program. 

Please email zack@pennanurses.org with any questions.

Sign up here: bit.ly/MCDCHealthCare 

GOP Bill: Healthcare Cut for the Disadvantaged, Tax Cut for the Billionaires

Health care and money. Photo: Robin Fischer. Pills, blood pressure cuff, money.

Health care and money. Photo: Robin Fischer.

It’s out. The GOP  Healthcare Bill has been (finally) made public, and it is as bad as we expected. You can read the full text here. Cuts to Medicaid will mean that the 69% of nursing home residents whose stays are funded by Medicaid will no longer be able to remain in nursing homes; removal of funding for Planned Parenthood will cause women who depend on their services will not get the cancer screenings that will save their lives. Millions of people will be uninsured, and even more will get cheap health insurance which doesn’t cover doctors visits, ER visits, medications or mental health services, not to mention health insurance with $10,000 deductibles, and capped benefits. [Read more…]

Urgent Call to Action: Vigil to Protect Our Care

Word has it the Senate GOP is planning to vote on TrumpCare on June 29–yet Mitch McConnell and his band of 13 healthcare taskforce members still have not shown us the bill: Their plan is to end coverage for 23 million Americans in secret, slash funds for Medicaid, and then skip town for the Fourth of July recess.

Now is the time for us to take our message directly to Senator Toomey.

On Thursday, June 22, at 3:00 PM, Indivisible NW Philly will join PA Health Access Network’s (PHAN) 24-hour vigil outside Senator Toomey’s Philadelphia office at 200 Chestnut Street to stand with individuals and families at risk of losing care.

  • The vigil kickoff at 3:00 PM will be headlined by Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, leader of the Moral Mondays civil rights protest movement, and member of the NAACP national board. Reverend Barber has been a voice for social justice throughout the nation, and it will be a great honor to stand with him at this crucial moment for healthcare.
  • On Friday, June 23, at 8:30 AM, we will be holding a morning rally with the vigilers who spent the night standing up for our Medicaid and access to healthcare. Come rally with us as we head into the second day of the vigil! 

    You can RSVP with PHAN here or on their Facebook event page. Please share these links widely throughout your network of friends and family!

How can you show your support?

1. Sign up to fill a slot during the 24-hour vigil. We need people to be at the site to show their solidarity throughout the 24 hours. Signup form is here.

2. Come to the vigil prepared to tell your story or the story of a loved one:

  • Are you a parent with kids on Medicaid (PH95)?
  • Do you have a parent on Medicaid who lives in a nursing home?
  • Do you use Medicaid?
  • Has your life been affected by the Affordable Care Act?

3. Share your pictures and videos of the event on your Facebook and Twitter feeds and other social media. Use the hashtag #ProtectOurCare

4. Call Senator Toomey’s Philadelphia office on the day of the vigil:  Even if you can’t be there in person, it is vital that we keep those calls coming into the Philly office to let the senator and his staff know we stand with the vigilers. You can say:

“I understand Senator Toomey is part of the taskforce on healthcare in the Senate. It is unacceptable that he is going along with the plan to keep this terrible bill secret from me and all his constituents in Pennsylvania. As our elected representative in the Senate, he has the duty to represent us and our voices, not subvert democracy by legislating in the shadows. Show us the bill.”

Senator Pat Toomey: (215) 241-1090

Can’t wait till tomorrow to have your voice be heard? Click here for today’s Indivisible call script for Pennsylvania. TrumpCare will raise individual insurance premiums in PA by anywhere from $1,000 to $16,000 a year! And Senator Toomey will be directly responsible for these increases. It’s time to stop the bill.

Our First Stand: Rally to Save Health Care

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi have called for a national day of action, with rallies being organized across the country, including in Philadelphia. The goal is to stop GOP efforts aimed at destroying the Affordable Care Act and taking health insurance away from 30 million Americans, privatizing Medicare and making massive cuts in Medicaid.

The Philadelphia rally is being organized by Reps. Dwight Evans and Bob Brady, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). RSVP here to attend. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Day 2 and You Are There

orange barrietI attended two terrific events yesterday. A Taste of Emerge was an introduction from the group Emerge, which trains women to run for office. The Future of Healthcare was a panel discussion. They are each detailed below. At the end of the second event came the high point of my experience of this convention. A compliment I will not soon forget. [Read more…]

Affordable Care Act Brings New Health Care Options to Pennsylvania

— by Chris Lilienthal

Beginning today, Pennsylvanians who are working but lack health insurance will be able to shop for and compare options for affordable coverage, on a new competitive Health Insurance Marketplace established by the federal health care law.

Today marks the first day of a six-month open enrollment period, during which uninsured Pennsylvanians and their families will be able to buy coverage with the help of federal tax subsidies on the new Marketplace. It is the latest provision of the Affordable Care Act to take effect.

More after the jump.
Advocates and health care providers explained during a State Capitol press conference today that the new Marketplace will open the door to health coverage for hundreds of thousands of hardworking Pennsylvanians, who will be able to see a doctor for the first time in years.

Sharon Ward, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said:

This is the beginning of a journey toward meeting the health care needs of individuals and families across the nation. The Marketplace will give Pennsylvanians valuable new options, and allow them to decide which coverage best fits their family’s needs.

The Marketplace is designed for those who don’t have health coverage through their employers and are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program. Those with employer-offered coverage can keep it.

Insurance companies participating in the Marketplace will compete to provide the best product at the best price to consumers seeking health coverage. Tough rules will ensure that every package sold on the Marketplace covers the basics, like annual checkups and preventive medicine.

Pam Clarke, vice president of finance and managed care for The Hospital & Health System Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), said at the press conference:

Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems across the state stand ready to support consumers in this important enrollment process. We are committed to ensuring that more Pennsylvanians have access to affordable, timely, quality health care, which is so critical to their quality of life. The hospital community and HAP believe the Health Insurance Marketplace will be successful in enrolling many Pennsylvanians in viable health plans.

The Affordable Care Act will also make health care coverage more secure by ensuring that working families cannot be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, or lose their coverage or be forced into bankruptcy when someone gets sick. Lifetime caps on insurance benefits will also be a thing of the past.

Seniors who receive Medicare will be able to keep it and do not need to go through the new Marketplace for coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare will cover more prescription drug costs as the new law will close the donut hole.

Ray Landis, advocacy manager for American Association of Retired Persons Pennsylvania, said:

The beginning of the health exchange open enrollment process is especially important for those between the ages of 50 and 64, who are not yet eligible for Medicare, but who have had the most difficult time finding affordable health insurance, because of the chronic health conditions that affect many people in this age group.

Patricia Fonzi, vice president of customer service and relationship management of the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania, added:

The new law also improves health care for women and children. No longer will insurers be able to charge women more than men for the same coverage or deny coverage for maternity care.

Pennsylvanians should go to the Marketplace’s website to apply through the state’s federally-established Marketplace and to find additional information and help. Open enrollment runs from Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Applicants must apply by Dec. 15 to begin receiving coverage Jan. 1. People needing assistance can call 1-800-318-2596.  

Cognitive Dissonance and Health Care

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

I have wondered aloud for years why people vote against their own self-interest. People tell me various answers but none that have ever made enough sense to me. So here's this:

Cancer patient Kathy Watson voted Republican in 2008 and believes the government has no right telling Americans to get health insurance. Nonetheless, she says she'd be dead if it weren't for President Barack Obama's health care law. Source.

You might think that Kathy would, in 2012, be thinking of voting Democratic and changing her mind about the individual mandate. But no. She's a small businesswoman, and doesn't want the government involved in telling business what to do (especially where the individual mandate is concerned) but that she should be able to buy health insurance even with her pre-existing condition. She doesn't realize that insurance is a business, too, and her cancer-riddled body does not fit within their money-making model. Without the government telling the insurers they must cover her, they will not, at least not at any affordable premium cost.

There you have it, a woman who would be dead now if not for ACA, and she STILL supports the people who worked to derail it.

The overall article in which Kathy's story appears is about the people across America who will likely die if the Supremes gut the ACA. They are cancer patients, AIDS patients, cardiac patients, the elderly relying on medications for chronic conditions, and this is not to mention the people who become sick or injured afterwards.

And that doesn't even touch the problems that doctors will face. Consider:

Imagine you’re a physician, and you have a full schedule of patients to see the day after the Supreme Court has thrown out the entire Affordable Care Act. Imagine you never liked “Obamacare” in the first place, so you are feeling pretty good about the Supreme Court decision.

Your first patient, an elderly retiree named Mrs. Jones, comes in for her annual Medicare wellness visit—one of the new Medicare preventive benefits offered at no cost to the patient. But this new preventive service benefit was created by the ACA, so presumably with the ACA overturned, Medicare no longer is allowed to pay for wellness visits. Do you tell Mrs. Jones that Medicare might not cover the visit? Provide the visit anyway, hoping that somehow Medicare will find a way around the Supreme Court ruling and pay for it? Offer it at no charge, or try to collect the 20% you would collect for a normal (non-preventive) office visit?

 Your second patient, Mr. Jones, another senior, comes in for a follow-up visit for an ongoing chronic condition. You decide to renew his expensive brand-name prescription drug, knowing that he is eligible for a 50% discount because he has fallen into the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole.” Oh wait … the Medicare Part D drug discount was part of the now-defunct ACA. So does that mean he now has to pay full price? Do you prescribe the drug anyway, knowing he can’t afford to pay the regular retail price? Prescribe a lower cost no-name brand drug that he doesn’t tolerate as well?

I read articles like these and wonder: the Supremes have access to the same sources I do, so do they read any of these articles? I have read, tagged, and made notes, on my printed copy of the Affordable Care Act. While I cannot recite it from memory, I know a lot about the law, its structure, and its interconnections. I know that none of the Supremes have read it, that was discussed at the hearing. 

If I were a Supreme, and was making a decision that affected the lives and deaths of millions of people, I know I would take the time to read the legislation. To rule without even knowing what the legislation says is to rule blindly. I would do everything I could to not only listen to the people who testified in front of me, but also to research, and have my staff research, everything I could about the impacts related to my decision. While I would certainly cede to the rule of law, I would want to know everything I could about the base data. To do anything less is a complete disservice to all Americans and the rule of law on which this country was founded.

Why do I care more about Americans and their health than the Supremes do? 

Today’s #HCR Moment: The Rebate Checks

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

Remember the ACA facet which says that health insurers must rebate to policyholders the amount of money policyholders paid in premiums that did not go to health care costs if those costs are less than 80%/85%? The percentage was dependent on whether it was a group or individual policy. Those checks are going to go out soon, and the first paragraph of the attached letter will say:

“This letter is to inform you that you will receive a rebate of a portion of your health insurance premiums. This rebate is required by the Affordable Care Act—the health reform law.”

Kaiser has done some work on the actual numbers:

The largest rebates overall are projected to go to consumers and businesses in Texas (total $186 million) and Florida ($149 million); Hawaii is the only state where no insurer is expected to issue a rebate.

Consumers receiving rebates in the individual market are projected to receive $127 on average, with amounts varying significantly by insurer and state. The average rebates for individual purchasers expected to receive them range from just a few dollars in some states to as much as an average of $305 in Alaska, $294 in Maryland, $243 in Pennsylvania, $241 in Idaho, and $236 in Mississippi.

If you have a WSJ subscription, you can see the full breakdown by type of policy, amount of average rebate and state here.  That chart indicates that the total number of Americans who will receive rebate checks is:

Individual policyholders: 3,360,858
Small Group policyholders: 4,932,786
Large Group policyholders: 7,475,657
Total:  15,769,301

That's almost 16 million people. Trying to find the number of people who have private health insurance is a little tricky. We know that about 87 million people have insurance, but many of them are covered by government programs (Medicare, Medicaid, SChip, military benefits, government workers). Depending on whose statistics you believe, the number of people covered by employer plans runs between 42% and 48%. Thus, the overall conclusion is that as health insurance rates keep climbing, and the number of uninsured keep rising the premium dollars are NOT going to health care costs, but rather to the companies. Which, ahem, now have to send that money back.

So let's recap: the Affordable Health Care Act is working! It's decreasing the amount of money that just gets kept by the insurance companies who keep saying they need to raise premiums to cover costs. (Liars.) This is in addition to the other benefits of covering more people including offspring in their 20's, people with pre-existing conditions, people who don't receive employer benefits and cannot afford individual plans on the open market, plus the decreased Medicare donut hole, and free preventive services. And yet, people seem not to like this, according to most polling. Yet another Ich Kreplach moment, but a win for most Americans nonetheless. 

If you miscarry, you can go to jail

I'm not joking. In Tennessee, there's a new law that has passed both chambers which allows prosecution if a pregnant woman miscarries. Even in the first few weeks when she is carrying an embryo. Let's be clear: about half of all fertilized eggs never become babies, as per NIH.

It is estimated that up to half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among those women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is about 15-20%. Most miscarriages occur during the first 7 weeks of pregnancy.

Some common causes include, but are not limited to, obesity, maternal age, diabetes, physical problems with the egg, and physical problems of the mother. Suddenly, this is a crime. Miscarriage can also be caused by accident, exposure to toxins and chemicals and all sorts of other things. For example, if you have cancer and are undergoing chemo and get pregnant, a miscarriage is likely. You're in a car accident. Or you accidentally fall down the stairs. Like this:

Life can't get much worse for Christine Taylor. Last month, after an upsetting phone conversation with her estranged husband, Ms. Taylor became light-headed and fell down a flight of stairs in her home. Paramedics rushed to the scene and ultimately declared her healthy. However, since she was pregnant with her third child at the time, Taylor thought it would be best to be seen at the local ER to make sure her fetus was unharmed.

That's when things got really bad and really crazy. Alone, distraught, and frightened, Taylor confided in the nurse treating her that she hadn't always been sure she'd wanted this baby, now that she was single and unemployed. She'd considered both adoption and abortion before ultimately deciding to keep the child. The nurse then summoned a doctor, who questioned her further about her thoughts on ending the pregnancy. Next thing Taylor knew, she was being arrested for attempted feticide. Apparently the nurse and doctor thought that Taylor threw herself down the stairs on purpose.

Amazing? No – the far right in action in Iowa. 

Let's say you're a drug addict who is raped and gets pregnant. You go for drug treatment so that the baby can be born clean. In Alabama, you can be arrested for child endangerment since you exposed the fetus to drugs, even though the intent is to protect the pregnancy. It's happened to 60 women to date. 

It's hard to know what to say here. You've got a bunch of far right teabaggers who care about cellular clumps, which is what a 2 week old embryo actually is: undifferentiated cells. Care more then they do about actual people. Look at all the couples who try in vitro: most of those embryos are lost. Should they be prevented from trying because of the fear of jail?  Should a woman immediately go to bed and stay there once she knows she's pregnant to avoid any potential threat? The people who write these laws are insane, and devoid of any knowledge of science. And yet they get re-elected. Get up, get angry, and make sure everyone you know knows what they're voting for when they vote for a Republican.