Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Action Report: Stop Trump's #SwampCabinet Rally

Over 200 people turned out at noon today for a "Stop the #SwampCabinet" rally in front of Senator Feinstein's West LA office. It was encouraging to see such a good turnout in the middle of a weekday. The crowd and its signs were very visible on the busy corner of Sepulveda and Santa Monica Blvd, and many cars honked their horns in support as they passed. News cameras were there and they interviewed a few people. The theme of the rally was opposition to Trump's cabinet nominees, an unprecedented parade of unqualified, extreme, conflict-of-interest ridden, big-money donor, all-white, mostly-male billionaires. This is not draining the swamp, as Trump promised, nor championing the working people. In addition to the prevalent official "Stop Trump's #SwampCabinet" signs, there were a great array of handmade signs for the occasion, as well as a Trump piƱata. (Among my favorite signs: "Betsy DeVos is more dangerous for our children than grizzly bears" and "I (heart) facts".) The organizers collected signatures, as well as letters to the senator that many had brought, and were going to bring them to a 1pm meeting with the Senator's staff. While we were at the rally, we got the word that Senator Feinstein had requested a one week delay in the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, which was scheduled for today. In her remarks requesting the postponement, she talked about the impression that the Women's March had made on her. Let's keep that feeling up, and give her the courage to vote NO to this #SwampCabinet! (See photos from the rally.)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

ACA: The Dog Caught The Car

Like a dog chasing a car, the GOP has been barking about repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "ObamaCare") for years, but now that the dog has caught the car, the Republicans have no idea what to do. They don't know how to repeal the ACA, and moreover, they don't even really know why they want to repeal the ACA. Do they want to go back to allowing insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions? Or do they want to go back to allowing insurance companies to have lifetime caps? ("Sorry you need that life-saving medicine, but you've hit a lifetime cap so we're not going to pay for it anymore.") Maybe it's the part about allowing parents to cover their children up to age 26 that they want to eliminate? Or maybe they want to go back to the Medicare "donut hole", so that seniors might be on the hook for thousands of dollars in medication costs? Do they hate that more than 20 million people who previously couldn't obtain insurance now have coverage? Or that states are saving hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated care because fewer uninsured people are using emergency rooms as last resorts? Maybe they don't like the primary care coverage, which helps reduce costs in the long run? Or maybe they don't like the mental health and substance abuse treatment coverage, that allows people to get into rehab programs rather than just showing up at the hospital when they overdose. (And note to the smug morally superior folks who might think substance abuse is a problem for "those other people": google "opioid epidemic".) Pretty much every feature of ObamaCare is popular when people are surveyed about it. When it comes down to it, the only thing people truly hate about ObamaCare is the name. Here's a pro tip for members of Congress: Americans don't really hate ObamaCare, what they really hate is disruption in their health care. If over 20 million people lose their insurance because the ACA is repealed, and if millions more lose benefits they currently have from the ACA, those people are going to blame this Congress. You break it, you own it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Highlights of President Trump's Inaugural Address (Annotated)

  • "The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world" (by my Treasury nominee)
  • "Americans want great schools for their children" (but my Sec Education nominee will dismantle them)
  • "Every decision ... will be made to benefit American workers and American families" (as my Sec Labor nominee takes away worker protections)
  • "there is no room for prejudice" (so my Attorney General will make sure that minorities access to vote is unprotected)
  • "We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" (well Russia anyway; China, Europe, and others not so much)
  • "Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength" (because tariffs worked out so well in the 1930s)
  • "our government is controlled by the people" (by a minority of people in carefully gerrymandered districts)
  • "And now we are looking only to the future" (but willfully ignoring the environmental cataclism predicted by our scientists)
  • "Every decision on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and families" (but my Sec State will focus on benefit to Exxon)
  • "We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow" (like coal, Arctic oil)
  • "there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land" (so my 1st act: raise mortgage costs for struggling families)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Action Report: Congressman Schiff Forum on ACA

Congressman Adam Schiff (CA-28) held a forum on the Affordable Care Act at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. The auditorium held a couple hundred people, but it was packed and they had to use an overflow room. Schiff headed a panel that also included leaders from Healthcare Access California, Planned Parenthood, and the LGBT Center. Several people shared their stories of how the ACA has benefitted them. Many moving stories about the barbaric pre-ACA days of pre-existing conditions and lifetime limits. One person talked about losing their job and their coverage at age 60, just a few years shy of Medicare eligibility, and trying to find coverage on the independent market before ACA. "When you're 60 years old, you are a pre-existing condition." The forum included time for audience questions. One of the interesting questions asked was what can people in "blue" states do? Schiff said that we should reach out to our friends and family in other states, and we should support organizations with national reach. He reminded that not only do we need citizens to lobby GOP members of Congress, but it is important to strengthen and encourage Democratic senators from states that aren't quite as deep blue as ours. Someone else asked if Schiff would give up his own health insurance if the ACA was repealed. He answered that he would lose his coverage like everyone else on an ACA plan, because he buys his insurance through the Covered California ACA exchange. Another person asked if they should be worried about Medicare. Schiff replied that the ACA had taken several steps to strengthen Medicare, both in terms of benefits (e.g., closing the prescription coverage "donut hole") and in making the program more fiscally sound by effectively slowing the growth of costs. He also noted that repeal of the ACA would add significant costs to the federal budget, and normally the Republicans have always insisted on having the CBO score the "budgetary impact" of every piece of legislation, but they passed a rule to exempt ACA repeal from CBO fiscal impact analysis. They want to sweep the costs of repeal under the rug. (See photos from the forum.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Action Report: Our First Stand Rally

It was energizing this afternoon to join a large crowd who rallied at the LA County / USC Medical Center for #OurFirstStand to save our healthcare. The rally was well-organized and had a number of good speakers on the theme. Dan Castillo, CEO of the LAC+USC Medical Center, observed that thanks to ACA, the number of uninsured patients coming into their system has dropped from 16% to 2-4%. Mitch Katz, director of LA County Healthcare said that 1.2 million LA County residents had gained coverage under the ACA, while SEIU Local 721 leader Bob Schoonover noted that 63,000 jobs had been created. (It was good to see the "boss" and the union leader speaking side by side on this issue.) Dr. Ronald Brown, the chief resident of psychiatry, spoke about how helpful the ACA's provisions for mental health and substance abuse care have been in helping people with those issues get effective solutions, who in the past would be repeat clients at the emergency room for their symptoms but never getting their root cause problems solved. A couple of individuals spoke about how the ACA has been a lifesaver for them. One was a self-employed insurance broker who had a major medical issue, the other was a daycare provider with a chronic thyroid "pre-existing condition". These woman ran small businesses, the sort where most of our economic growth comes from, and the sort that helping should be a bipartisan issue. They spoke about how the ACA helped keep them on their feet, able to work and to keep their families together, against forces that before the ACA would have been crushing. (See photos from rally.)