fresh voices from the front lines of change








Joy Blackwood

Is Speaking Up For Medicare For All A Crime?

As a longtime D.C.-area advocate, I’ve visited Capitol Hill and Members of Congress many times. But never before have I felt I might face arrest for exercising my constitutional rights! On Tuesday, I was on Capitol Hill with People’s Action and our coalition partners to deliver 2.2 million signatures to 13 Representatives, asking them to co-sponsor H.R. 1384 and pass Medicare For All. We came to the Hill with three-ring binders of these signatures, and our conviction that Medicare For All is the best solution to our nation’s health care crisis right now. We were cleared through security by Capitol police, then started to make our way through the halls of the Longworth Office Building. We were welcomed into the offices of multiple members, whose staffers listened attentively to our stories and promised to deliver the petition. But something odd happened when we got to the office of Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), who has not yet endorsed this bill. Upon entering his office, our group was stopped by Capitol police. “You can’t be dropping things off, it goes against building regulations,” said one officer. Before I knew it, I felt boxed in by this very tall police officer and then surrounded by another officer who had pushed through the crowd. I can’t say for sure why I felt nervous. It might have been natural instincts – the fear of getting escorted off the premises – or the fact that on my way to the Hill, I had been listening to news reports about the shooting by Fort Worth police of an unarmed African-American woman, Atatiana Jefferson, in her home. Either way, it was intimidating. I and other members of our group have delivered petitions on Capitol Hill countless times, and this has never happened. Why they chose to stop the group at Rep. Loebsack’s office is still baffling. But I held my ground, and was able to deliver the petitions and very short remarks to congressman Loebsack’s staffer. We preserved and completed our mission of delivering all 2.2 million signatures.

Joy Blackwood is D.C. Strategy Director for People’s Action, and a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

MD Rep. Elijah Cummings, Chair Of House Oversight, Dies

Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and House Oversight Chairman, dies at 68. NBC: "Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings died Thursday after what his office described as 'complications concerning longstanding health challenges.' He was 68. Cummings had represented Maryland's 7th Congressional District since 1996, serving 12 terms in the House, and was at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump in his role as House Oversight Committee chairman. He first ascended the heights of political power in his native Baltimore, never moving away from the inner-city, and serving for 14 years in the Maryland House of Delegates and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named Speaker Pro Tem. Cummings was one of seven children whose parents were South Carolina sharecroppers who moved north for better opportunities. The congressman credited his parents — both preachers — with instilling in him a moral code that led him into public service. Cummings, known for his soaring oratory, said during the pivotal hearing in February when the president’s former lawyer and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, testified before his committee, 'When we’re dancing with the angels, the question we’ll be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?'"

Chicago Teachers Strike

Chicago teachers’ strike: citywide scramble begins as classes come to halt. NYT: "A walkout in the nation’s third-largest school district canceled instruction across Chicago. It was uncertain how long the strike might last. Tens of thousands of public school teachers took to picket lines on Thursday morning as a strike in the nation’s third-largest school district canceled classes across the city, sent parents racing to find child care and left Chicago’s new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, grappling with her most significant crisis to date. City officials said schools would remain open to students, who would be fed three meals and supervised by nonunion workers like principals. But some parents were skeptical of that option, signing up for last-minute camps at community centers and local parks. Others said they would have to stay home from work or hire babysitters. School bus service was suspended starting Thursday."

Hospital Industry Leads Fight Against Medicare For All

Documents reveal for-profit hospitals' opposition to Medicare For All. The Intercept: "are leading the fight against the creation of a comprehensive, universal health care system, according to corporate filings reviewed by MapLight and The Intercept. Tenet Healthcare, the nation’s third-largest investor-owned operator of hospitals, has donated nearly $630,000 to the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, or PAHCF, a dark-money organization created last year to erode public support for Medicare for All, a government-run plan that would provide health care for all Americans. PAHCF’s incorporation records list a lobbyist for the Federation of American Hospitals, a trade organization that represents Tenet and other investor-owned hospitals, as one of its authorized representatives. While PAHCF’s membership roster includes dozens of health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital trade groups and companies, much of the criticism of the effort to block Medicare for All has centered around insurance and pharmaceutical interests. But corporate records highlight the integral role that the for-profit hospital industry has played in drumming up opposition to health care reforms. Hospitals are a big piece of a common nightmare for patients, obliquely known as 'surprise billing,' that occurs when a person visits a facility that’s included in their insurance network and is treated by an out-of-network provider. The massive bill, of course, is only a surprise to the patient. The hospital industry has warned that Medicare for All could affect their revenue and cause facilities to close."

Conservative Groups Push 'Alternative" Health Care Plan

Conservative Groups Push Health Plan They Say GOP Needs. RealClearPolitics: "With the presidential election year fast approaching, health care regularly ranks as one of the top issues for voters, and Republicans seem unprepared to create a contrast with their competition. Enter billionaire Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and personal friend of Trump. Marcus has funded a survey of more than 20,000 patients and doctors, other health care providers and small-business owners to develop a framework for a plan that his network hopes congressional and administration Republicans will adopt in time for the election. A product of the conservative Job Creators Network and Physicians for Reform, the blueprint is touted as a personalized plan to compete with Obamacare and Medicare for All. They call it 'Healthcare for You,' and they plan to spend a quarter-million dollars just rolling it out. The first television ad drops Thursday on the heels of the latest Democratic primary debate. So, what exactly are the two groups pushing as a health care alternative after Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare while in control of the House, the Senate and the presidency? According to literature reviewed by RealClearPolitics, the proposal is a grab bag of reforms aimed at restoring 'the doctor-patient relationship' by changing the way health insurance is bought and sold and regulated by allowing patients to purchase coverage across state lines while giving states more regulatory power, and targeting medical malpractice laws to better protect physicians from frivolous lawsuits and excessive awards. Some aspects of this GOP prescription are of Tea Party vintage. Other proposals, like ending legal exemptions for middlemen, are already being pushed by the Trump administration."

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