Weekly Action Recommendations: Week of June 25, 2017

ACTION: Advocate for the Healthcare Bill You Want

The Congressional Budget Office released its scoring of the Senate’s healthcare bill, the Better Care through Reconciliation Act. According to the CBO estimate, a whopping 22 million people would lose health insurance between now and 2026—only 1 million fewer than under the House Bill (AHCA). While we at MWEG recognize that the Affordable Care Act has flaws and we support thoughtful bipartisan reform to strengthen the market and decrease personal medical costs, we cannot support a bill that will leave so many vulnerable patients without protection.

Please reach out to your senators daily and urge them to vote against this bill. Tell them that we MUST NOT ALLOW important patient protections such as the Medicaid expansion and the current definition of “essential health benefits” to be lost. We also ask that you consider sharing information about the CBO report with your friends and family and encourage them to contact their senators as well.

Our issues with the bill are:

—Under the Senate’s BCRA, after seven years the ACA’s Medicaid expansion (allowing Medicaid programs to cover many “working poor” families) will end and the Medicaid program itself will be tied to the rate of inflation rather than medical inflation (which rises much faster), which means that the funds available for the program will be outpaced by the need for it. (I’m going to be doing a non-Code Purple education post about what the Medicaid expansion is and why the BCRA’s Medicaid cuts go beyond simply taking the program back to where it was pre-ACA soon.)

—The Senate’s bill will also disqualify patients from the Medicaid expansion (while the expansion lasts) if they are over 65, or if they are pregnant women. In many states, disabled retirees and pregnant women comprise the bulk of Medicaid enrollees.

—In addition, the Senate’s AHCA will allow states to “redefine” the phrase “essential health benefits,” giving them the option to opt out of crucial health coverages like prescription care, maternity benefits, inpatient and outpatient care, mental health care, pediatric care, and more. As Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said, “If [the] GOP repeal bill ends essential benefits protection, it also ends preexisting conditions protection.” While insurers will still be required to cover people with preexisting conditions, they will have the ability to offer plans to sick people that don’t cover treatment of their conditions, and impose lifetime spending caps on specific aspects of a person’s health plan, such as prescription care. They will also be able to deny or charge more for plans with maternity coverage to all women, based on the possibility that they *might* become pregnant.

—The ability to opt out of essential health benefits will also open up insurers to the possibility of imposing lifetime caps on specific aspects of employer-sponsored group health insurance plans, something that could be catastrophic for people with expensive health conditions who rely on employer health insurance to cover their treatments.

—Costs for older Americans will rise steeply under the BCRA, as insurance companies will be allowed to charge them much more than they do currently. According to the CBO analysis, a 64-year-old making just under 60k will end up paying more than 20k in insurance premiums, compared to just 5k currently

 

ACTION: Express Gratitude to the CBO

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) does some of the government’s most important work, but they don’t get a great deal of thanks for their clear-eyed assessments. Let’s send them a note in appreciation of the work they do.

Congressional Budget Office
Ford House Office Building, Fourth Floor
Second and D Streets, SW,
Washington, DC 20515-6925

 

ACTION: Respect for All Religions

The last three administrations have held an annual iftar dinner during the month of Ramadan with members of the Muslim-American community. While the WH released a statement to commemorate Eid last Saturday evening, we should be aware that they are choosing not to continue the tradition. This is unfortunate, especially since the event could have acted “as a symbol of unity after a spike in hate crimes against the community, the highest level since 2001.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/eid-al-fitr-donald-trump-white-house-stops-tradition-muslim-american-ramadan-fast-religious-freedom-a7806836.html  Let’s let the White House know that their failure to hold the event speaks volumes about their lack of support of the Muslim-American community — and true religious freedom: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.

 

ACTION: Support Sanctions Against Russia

The Senate’s Russian sanctions bill (S.722) has stalled due to a procedural snafu http://time.com/4831779/house-russia-iran-sanctions-bill/ The Senate can now either tweak its bill, introduce a new one, or the House can introduce identical legislation to ensure there is no further delay. We can:

  • Call our Representative to let them know that we support sanctions against Russia.
  • Call the House Committee on Foreign Affairs (202-225-5021), the committee which would help forward the legislation, and tell them that we support legislation which would impose sanctions against Russia.
  • Call Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to reject the President’s weak response and #StandUpToRussia. Let them know you support moving forward with strong sanctions against Moscow and its violations of American sovereignty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAxuP1VBhmo&feature=youtu.be

From https://5calls.org/issue/recgJ9hzeJ68f1unI:  On June 15th the Senate found common ground and passed a new sanctions bill targeting Russia and Iran with an overwhelming majority (98-2). The bill (S.722) codifies into law sanctions the Obama Administration imposed by executive order at the end of last year, it extends sanctions to Russian individuals engaged in malicious cyber activity or selling weapons to the Assad regime in Syria, and it defines new sanctions to be enforced against Iran for violations of human rights and continuing weapons program activities. Critically, the bill gives Congress the ability to review and reject any proposed lifting of sanctions against Russia by the Trump Administration.  Despite the overwhelming bipartisan support, President Trump opposes this bill and is rumored to be pressuring House Republicans to “slow and block” the legislation. This is specifically concerning given the ongoing investigations into the administration’s dealings with Russia and the Russian interference in the US election.

Possible Call Script: [Name, from where you are calling] I’m calling to urge [REP NAME] to support limiting the removal of Russian Sanctions as proposed in S.722. The ongoing investigations into the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia make congressional oversight on any changes to the sanctions absolutely critical.  Thank you for answering the phones!

 

ACTION: Support an Independent Commission

While the Russia investigation has been appointed a special counsel, we still do not have an Congressional independent investigation or an independent commission. While the special counsel is beneficial in seeking criminal charges, the independent commission does not have to answer to the DOJ, and would be able to make public even non-criminal actions.  http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/340091-can-congress-access-evidence-uncovered-by-the-special Let’s call our MoC and let them know that we have not forgotten about the need for an independent commission. Let’s also make sure that our Representatives have signed the discharge petition for the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 356) https://5calls.org/issue/recywt9vEUNwAsZOo

 

ACTION: Ask that Courthouses Be Off-Limits to ICE

Although chief justices of the Supreme Courts of California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island (so far) have publicly condemned it, ICE continues to stalk and arrest immigrants in courthouses across the country—most recently in a NY Human Trafficking Intervention Court meant to protect the victims of human trafficking.  Though ICE insists that they pursue only those who threaten the public safety, the presence of their plainclothes agents have deterred immigrants, documented and undocumented, from appearing in court for fear of deportation: http://www.thedailybeast.com/legal-immigrants-fear-getting-arrested-in-court-by-ice  There are two things we can do: press the chief justices of our states to voice their opposition to ICE’s tactics and urge our state legislators to insist that courthouses, like schools and hospitals, be made off-limits to ICE.

 

ACTION: Advocate for Townhalls

It’s important that we continue to hold our Senators accountable for their actions when they return to their states during the July 3-7 recess. One way we can do this is by making sure that our senators are having town halls to hear what their constituents have to say. Let’s give them a call and ask when and where they will be hosting their town halls. 5Calls has a call script available: https://5calls.org/issue/rec5jkLPZfOmcKC1Z  For those Senators who refuse to host town halls, the Indivisible Guide team has a Missing Member of Congress Action Plan we can check out: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/resource/missing-members-action-plan/

“Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [CITY].  I’m calling to ask if Senator [NAME] is planning to host a town hall during the July recess to discuss Trumpcare and its effects on healthcare access and cost.

“[IF YES] Great, I’d like to RSVP. May I please have the details?

“[IF NO] I would like to request that Senator [NAME] schedule a town hall immediately. I’m very concerned about the passage of an Affordable Care Act repeal bill and what it will mean for my family and our community.

“[IF non-committal to scheduling a Town Hall] Would Senator [NAME] or their healthcare legislative aide be available to meet myself and other constituents to talk about [specific element of Trumpcare you find most concerning]? We have serious concerns we’d like to discuss in depth.

“Thank you for your hard work in answering the phones.

“[IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied]”

 

ACTION: Protect Voting Rights

Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, which will meet in July and is chaired by Mike Pence, with Kris Kobach as vice-chair, is requesting full voter rolls, including names and party affiliations, from every single state.  The purpose of the group is to “promote fair and honest Federal elections”, however most of the members believe that voter fraud is rampant and that voting guidelines need to be more stringent.  http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/29/534901343/white-house-panel-asks-states-for-their-voter-rolls  At least California and Virginia have already refused on the grounds that it would be costly and unnecessary. Let’s ask our governors, secretaries of state, and state MoCs to join in with other states and not comply with this request unless there is some validation of voter fraud. We can find our secretary of state here:  https://www.thebalance.com/s