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Kuster Talks Healthcare at Lamprey Health Center in Nashua

(Nashua, NH) – Today Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined healthcare leaders and local residents to discuss her plan to improve the Affordable Care Act and increase access to quality health care at Lamprey Health Center in Nashua. The visit comes as Congress begins to look at solutions to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Kuster has been vocal about the need for Congressional Republicans to abandon their single-minded focus on repealing the ACA and instead work across the aisle to make meaningful reforms. Earlier this year, Kuster helped unveil a five-part plan to improve upon the Affordable Care Act and stabilize the individual marketplace.

  • Protect Plans for People with Pre-Existing Conditions
  • Keep Costs Down for Lower Income Families
  • Promote Enrollment and Ensure People Pay their Fair Share
  • Creating More Affordable Options
  • Technical Changes and Improvements

Read more about Kuster’s new plan here.

“The Affordable Care Act has made important progress in expanding access to healthcare and ensuring protections for tens of thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We need to defend the ACA from attempts to roll back critical protections for people with preexisting conditions and for those who have been able to access health insurance for the first time. But we also need to recognize the law is not perfect. I’ve put forward commonsense proposals to stabilize the individual market and contain costs. The perspectives of the people here at Lamprey Health Center are so critical for informing how we address these issues in Washington. In conversations with my Republican colleagues, I know there is much common ground and I look forward to working across the aisle to improve the ACA for all Granite Staters.”

“Lamprey Health Care has always been proud of our ability to care for all patients regardless of ability to pay,” said Greg White, of Lamprey Health Center. “Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and Expanded Medicaid, we have seen a tremendous reduction in our numbers of uninsured patients.  This law has opened up things beyond our walls such as specialty care, diagnostics, and medications.  We are thrilled that Congresswoman Kuster came here to Lamprey during Community Health Week to talk about these critical issues, and we are grateful for her work to improve this law and expand access to care.”

“Southern New Hampshire Health has worked hard to be a good steward of the community,” said Dr. Wolf-Rosenblum. “Anything that can be done to preserve the individual market allows resources to be deployed towards prevention rather than rescue. This enables us to reach more people and keep them healthier. We truly appreciate Congresswoman Kuster coming to Nashua and sharing the work she is doing to stabilize the individual market and improve our system of care.”

VA Secretary Meets With NH Congressional Delegation At Manchester VA Facility

Yesterday, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, joined New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation, Governor Chris Sununu, and VA leaders at the Manchester VA Medical Center to tour the facility and hold a town hall with employees. The delegation called for the visit following a Boston Globe Spotlight report that highlighed whistleblowers’ serious concerns about care provided by the facility.

In their meeting with Secretary Shulkin, the delegation stressed the importance of an independent medical review process, fixes to the Veterans Choice program, and improvements for services for women veterans at the facility. The Senator also reiterated her support for a full-service VA hospital in New Hampshire.

The Union Leader is reporting that the Sec Shulkin has promised nearly $30 million to fix the issues at the Manchester, NH facility.

The new spending will include a $5 million coordination of care center, $7 million to fix damage caused by recent flooding and another $18 million in construction projects on the campus.

Shulkin said the task force finding in a report due out by Jan. 1 may not be for a full-service hospital but rather giving veterans access to all services by networking with community hospitals.

“While many veterans receive quality care from the Manchester VA, there’s much work to be done to ensure accountability for substandard services,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “I applaud the courageous whistleblowers who bravely spoke out on behalf of patients at the Manchester VA and am glad they had the opportunity to speak directly with Secretary Shulkin. It’s so important that the VA rebuild trust with the veteran community by consistently delivering the quality care they deserve in a timely fashion. Secretary Shulkin’s presence today, and his attentiveness to care delivery issues at the Manchester VA, gives me hope that the VA will address any shortfalls at this facility. New funding for a coordinated care center is a very positive step in the right direction. And I’m very pleased that funding to repair water damage is being quickly provided. I also appreciate Secretary Shulkin’s commitment to establish a task force that will examine providing New Hampshire’s veterans with the full range of care services. All of New Hampshire’s veterans deserve high quality, convenient, accessible health care and I will continue to work with Secretary Shulkin, the VA and the delegation until we achieve that goal. ”

I appreciate VA Secretary Shulkin’s visit to Manchester and the commitments that he made, but this must just be the first step of many to address the reports of unacceptable quality of care and administrative indifference at the Manchester VA Medical Center,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “As I told Secretary Shulkin, we need a thorough and independent review process, which includes interviews with clinicians and patients, in order to address these claims and to prevent future failures in care for our veterans. I am going to continue to work with Secretary Shulkin and the VA, Governor Sununu, and our congressional delegation to ensure that all of our veterans receive the care that they need and have earned.”

“Today, Secretary Shulkin made a firm commitment to implementing needed reforms and investments at our Manchester VA with the urgency New Hampshire veterans expect and deserve,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “The current situation is clearly unacceptable, and I am insisting that the VA do everything in its power to provide New Hampshire veterans with timely, high-quality care and also to fully cooperate with the concurrent investigations so we can get to the root of these problems and make sure they never happen again.”

During her meeting with Secretary Shulkin, Shea-Porter requested several specific commitments, including sufficient funding to expedite community provider appointment scheduling and to establish a new Office of Community Care at Manchester as well as a firm timeline for filling each position required to sustain an effective care coordination model. Following the meeting, Secretary Shulkin announced an investment of over $30 million in the Manchester VAMC, including $12 million in new funding. Shea-Porter also reiterated her strong support for a full-service VA hospital in New Hampshire. In January, Shea-Porter reintroduced the Veterans Health Equity Act, a bill that would remedy New Hampshire’s status as the only state in the nation without a full-service VA hospital or equivalent access. The bill has been cosponsored by every member of the New Hampshire delegation, Republican and Democratic, since Shea-Porter first introduced it in 2008.

“I appreciate Secretary Shulkin coming to New Hampshire to address the very serious allegations regarding quality care at the Manchester VAMC and his announcement of a thorough new investigation into the charges brought by the whistleblowers,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “I’m encouraged that Secretary Shulkin is committing $30 million in funding for capital projects and quality improvements, including a new office of care coordination. It’s imperative that we get all the answers to what happened at Manchester and how we can improve access to care for our veterans moving forward. Next month, I’ll be convening a field hearing of the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in New Hampshire so that the VA Committee can hear directly from the whistleblowers about their experience at the Manchester VAMC and their thoughts on how we can improve access to quality care for our veterans.”

This week, Kuster, the lead Democrat on the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, announced that she will convene a field hearing on September 18th of the Subcommittee in New Hampshire to examine the allegations.

According to the Union Leader, management shakeups have already begun and new leadership will be appointed to run the facility going forward.

(Read the entire Union Leader article)

Kuster Announces Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Field Hearing in NH

Field hearing will examine issues at Manchester VA Medical Center, challenges to access to care for New Hampshire veterans

(Concord, NH) –Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the lead Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, announced today that she will convene a field hearing of the Subcommittee in New Hampshire to examine reports of quality of care issues at the Manchester VA Medical Center. Kuster will be joined by the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01). The field hearing will examine quality of care issues at Manchester VAMC as well as challenges in access to care for New Hampshire veterans. The whistleblowers who raised the issues of care at Manchester will be invited to testify at the hearing on September 18th. Time and location will be announced closer to the hearing date.

“The issues that have been raised about quality of care at the Manchester VA Medical Center need to be thoroughly examined and that means the VA Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee must hear directly from the whistleblowers,” said Congresswoman Kuster.I’m hopeful that by bringing the Subcommittee to New Hampshire we’ll be able to gain a greater appreciation for what went wrong in Manchester, how we can fix those issues, and how we can prevent this from happening in other areas. Granite State veterans deserve better, and we need to do all we can to ensure that they are able to access the services and care they need.”

“Congresswoman Kuster and I will hear directly from VA whistleblowers in Manchester next month,” said Chairman Bergman. “Our goal is to thoroughly examine the gross mismanagement and improper patient care at the Manchester VA Medical Center so this does not remain a problem for our Veterans. This field hearing will lead to greater accountability in the future within the Manchester VA Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs as a whole.”

Congresswoman Kuster wrote to Chairman Bergman earlier this month to request that the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hold the hearing to examine the concerns raised by the VA whistleblowers. In her letter, Kuster outlined the unique challenges faced by New Hampshire veterans.

“These concerns are especially troubling to me because New Hampshire is the only state, except Alaska and Hawaii, which does not have a full-service medical center,” Kuster wrote. “As the Boston Globe explained, that means New Hampshire must send veterans to private-sector community providers or other VAMCs. Given the realities of veterans’ medical care in a state without a full-service facility, we must examine the Manchester VAMC’s usage of these critical programs.”

Her full letter is available here and below.

Congresswoman Kuster has served on the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee since taking office in 2013, and has served as the Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee since 2015. As Ranking Member, she pushes for increased transparency at the VA and helps to lead the charge in Washington on the need to improve access to care for veterans across the country. The daughter of a WWII veteran, Congresswoman Kuster has long advocated for the needs of New Hampshire veterans, and she frequently holds veteran roundtables, forums, and job fairs for Granite State veterans across the district.

170718_LTR_OI field hearing request on Manchester VA

High Praise For The Passage Of The Veterans Affairs “Choice Program”

Friday Congresswomen Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter both voted “yes” on a bipartisan bill to extend the Veterans Choice Program for six months and make critical investments in VA health care, which passed the House with a unanimous vote of 414-0.

“I’m pleased that we were able to come together on the VA committee and in the House to pass this reauthorization of the Choice Program and bolster support for veterans,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “In a state like New Hampshire that lacks a full service VA hospital, we need to ensure that veterans are able to access care outside the VA in a timely and efficient manner. The Choice Program has been an important tool for many Granite State veterans, but not all veterans have found success in the program. I’m committed to working with my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to improve the Choice Program so that no veteran struggles to get the care they need.”

“I’m pleased that today’s bill includes an amendment I authored to improve VA hiring of mental health professions, who are on the front lines of our state’s efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis. Today’s bipartisan vote is an example of the good that can come when Democrats and Republicans work together to improve access to healthcare for our nation’s veterans. I was proud to support this bipartisan bill, which will extend the Veterans Choice Program for six months.  It makes much needed investments in the VA and includes several provisions that will help the VA fill its nearly 50,000 open jobs, most of which are in health care,” said Shea-Porter.

Both Congresswomen offered amendments that were included and approved in the final bill.

The new reauthorization also includes a provision from Congresswoman Kuster’s legislation, the GOOD Act, which will help improve veterans’ access to quality care by making the Department of Veterans Affairs more competitive when hiring physician assistants.

“I’m excited that this Choice Authorization includes language from my legislation, the GOOD Act,” said Kuster. “We need to make sure that the VA is competitive when hiring medical staff and my legislation will increase pay for VA physician assistants. I’m thrilled that earlier today the House passed additional provisions of GOOD Act and I urge the Senate to act on this commonsense legislation.”

For months, Shea-Porter has voiced deep concerns about failures in the administration of the Veterans Choice Program by the VA and its contractor, Health Net. In April, Shea-Porter sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling for the reorganization of VA’s Community Care programs, including Choice, into a permanent and sustainable program that meets the needs of New Hampshire veterans. The letter called on Congress to immediately address “problems with access to care as well as the Department’s inability to pay medical claims to community providers in a timely way.”

The legislation passed Friday will provide $2.1 billion for the Veterans Choice Program, funding the temporary program for another six months while the Veterans Affairs Committees continue work on a permanent solution to streamline and improve access to community providers, as Shea-Porter requested.

The legislation also included several provisions to improve hiring at the VA and makes critical investments in VA health care facilities. Several of the hiring provisions were passed by the House in March as part of H.R. 1367. That bill created a database to improve hiring for critical open positions. Shea-Porter successfully amended the bill to require that the database include mental health professionals. The database provision, and her amendment to include mental health professionals, were included in the bill passed today (Sec. 208).

Image from AFGE rally for the passage of the VA Choice Program

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal union which also represents civilian employees inside the VA, is “encouraged” by the passage of this bill.

“Today Congressional leaders came together, put party politics aside, and passed legislation that is vital to the future of the VA. We are very encouraged by the passing of this bill, which will allow additional investment in the VA, and allow the VA to manage non-VA care better than the broken Choice program,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr.

“While we still stand with the veterans who overwhelmingly tell us they want the VA for their healthcare, it’s important that those who cannot receive care at the VA have outside options. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act isn’t a cure-all for the VA or the Choice program, but is a temporary fix that will allow more veterans access to the care they need,” Cox added.

Cox also highlighted that many of the problems plaguing the VA come from years of neglect and austere cuts to funding.

“But after years of starving the VA’s funding for the Choice program, it’s the investment in veterans’ first preference for medical care that has us most in support of this legislation.”

“Infusing our nation’s largest healthcare system with $1.4 billion for hiring, workforce improvements, and the authorization of 28 new leases that increase the department’s internal capacity to deliver care will make a huge difference at a time when the VA is facing nearly 50,000 vacancies nationwide. With the VA now more able to gather data in recruitment, retention, and staffing, there will finally be some transparency – but it’s not enough.”

After praise the passage of the VA choice program, AFGE is also calling on Congress to take action of similar legislation to address the staffing needs of the VA.

“We at AFGE believe that for true transparency, and a fully-operational department, Congress must pass Rep. Anthony Brown’s bill, the VA Staffing and Vacancies Transparency Act of 2017. If Rep. Brown’s bill is passed, we will finally have transparency in the VA, and the ability to identify the necessary hires the department needs. That in turn will allow more veterans to receive more access to the only healthcare system created for veterans, and by veterans in this country.”

Republicans Fail (Again) To Repeal And Replace: NH Senators Respond

Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

Democrats stood united against the GOP ‘repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act” with the help of three Republican Senators, Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski they defeated yet another bill that would have stripped healthcare from 15 million Americans.

Last night’s version of the GOP plan to reform healthcare labeled the “Skinny Repeal” still gave massive tax cuts to the wealthy, would increase the cost of healthcare on working families, and make drastic cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

“Republicans released the skinny bill just three hours before voting began. It would have retroactively repealed the Obamacare penalty on individuals who do not purchase health insurance, repealed for eight years a penalty on certain employers who do not provide employees with insurance and repealed a medical device tax until 2020. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that if it became law, 15 million fewer Americans would be insured in 2018 than under existing law,” wrote the Associated Press.

Many are praising Senator McCain for opposing this bill, however the real heroes are Sen Collins and Sen Murkowski who have been vocal opponents of the GOP repeal and replacement plans.  These two women have withstood attacks from their colleagues on the right and still found the strength to oppose these cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and specifically women’s health.

“I thank Senators Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, and Susan Collins for putting the health and well-being of the American people before partisan politics,” said Senator Maggie Hassan.  “I am also incredibly grateful for the brave Granite Staters and Americans who have laid themselves bare and shared their stories over the past months. Without you, this outcome would not have been possible. Now, it is time for Republicans and Democrats to come together and get to work on improving and building upon the Affordable Care Act in order to bring down health care costs for hard-working people.”

“Tonight, I’m very relieved that, for the time being, healthcare repeal has been set aside,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Republican leadership, through a reckless and partisan process, came dangerously close to undermining healthcare for millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Granite Staters. The American people have made their voices heard and deserve credit for defeating this dangerous legislation. It’s time for Republican leadership to finally abandon their attempts to repeal healthcare and begin working across the aisle to improve the Affordable Care Act. Healthcare is a life and death issue and it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to come together and do the will of the American people.”

“Last night was a win for the American people who are tired of partisan politics getting in the way of real solutions,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Everyone who took the time to call their members of Congress over the past several months has played an important role in defeating this misguided effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and I want to thank you all. I have also heard from Granite Staters who have faced challenges accessing healthcare through the ACA. I appreciate those concerns, and I recognize the ACA is far from perfect. I urge my Republican colleagues to abandon their focus on repealing the ACA and instead come to the table in good faith to improve our healthcare system so that everyone is able to access quality, affordable health insurance. I’ve outlined what I hope can be the basis for bipartisan conversations about commonsense solutions to fix problems within the ACA and look forward to working with my Republican colleagues on this critical issue.”

Last week, Kuster wrote an op-ed with Congressman Peter Welch (VT-At Large) in the Valley News on their proposal to improve upon the successes of the Affordable Care Act, like reducing the uninsured rate and improving the quality of health insurance, while fixing the remaining issues in our nation’s healthcare system. Kuster and Welch also highlighted how repealing the ACA and passing the Republican healthcare bill would harm their constituents.

After the first failed attempt to repeal the ACA, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter released the following statement:

“Senate Republicans took a vote to rip healthcare from millions of Americans without even knowing themselves what’s in Mitch McConnell’s latest repeal plan. In doing so, they not only voted to take health coverage and financial peace of mind from their own constituents — they also betrayed the fundamental values of transparency and openness that underpin our democratic system. I share the anger and frustration of the many New Hampshire families and health care providers whose voices were ignored by the Senate today. This is not how our government is supposed to work.”

The AFL-CIO Executive Council also spoke out against these attacks on Medicare and Medicaid and called for real reforms that help working people.

“Quality health care should be a basic right in the United States. It should not be a commodity that can be denied because you have too little income, do not have the right job or any job, or have a pre-existing medical condition. Republican leaders in Congress, however, are pursuing an agenda that attacks this principle and undermines everyone’s health care, whether you are covered through a job, an individual plan, Medicaid or Medicare. Each of their attempts, so far, to pass legislation that repeals major parts of the Affordable Care Act has failed, however, largely because tens of millions of Americans have spoken out against their proposals, and because some Republican lawmakers have stood up for working people against these health care cuts despite enormous pressure from within their party.”

The NH Democratic Party thanked Senators Shaheen and Hassan and highlighted Governor Sununu’s silence on the GOP healthcare reforms.

“Endless thanks are due to Senator Shaheen and Senator Hassan for standing up on behalf of Granite Staters in our nation’s capital. Last night, 51 Senator voted to do the right thing by rejecting a health care bill that would have kicked millions of Americans off insurance and hiked premiums by 20% just next year. New Hampshire voters delivered two of those key Senate votes by electing Democrats in competitive races in 2014 and 2016. This should underscore the importance of the Democratic energy that continues to grow in New Hampshire and across the country,” said NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley.

“Meanwhile, Governor Sununu refused to use his platform to stand up for the 73% of Granite Staters who don’t support Trumpcare. Instead, he said nothing. He had the opportunity to join five other Republican governors opposing this devastating bill. Instead, he did nothing. It couldn’t be clearer than it is today: Governor Sununu serves President Trump, Washington Republicans, and corporate special interests, not New Hampshire.”

It is clear that the Republicans are not interested in helping to ensure that more Americans have access to healthcare or god forbid have healthcare provided to them, they are only interested in tax breaks for the wealthy and the corporations who are bankrupting working people.

House Passes National Defense Authorization Act Include Amendments From Kuster And Shea-Porter

Amendments address opioid misuse, military sexual assault, outdated electronic medical records at the VA and address perfluorinated chemical (PFC) contamination around military bases

(Washington, DC) – Today the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation to fund the United States’ national defense and security operations. The 2018 NDAA includes amendments introduced by Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porte to improve the Department of Defense (DoD) response to opioid misuse, assist transitioning service members in receiving adequate care for addiction and chronic pain, address military sexual assault, and improve the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) outdated electronic record system, address perfluorinated chemical (PFC) contamination around military bases.

“I’m pleased that today the House came together to fund important operations central to the security of our nation,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “This year’s NDAA includes several provisions I authored that will improve our response to the opioid epidemic within DoD, continue our effort to end military sexual assault, help care for our nation’s brave men and women once their service is over, and support the necessary work of improving the VA’s outdated medical record system.”

“We know that the opioid epidemic, in addition to impacting communities across the country, is posing a particular challenge to our service members and veterans,” Kuster continued. “Two of my amendments would direct the Defense Department to study the effectiveness of their opioid prescriber education policies and require Department providers to counsel or give referrals to the VA for transitioning veterans who suffer from addiction or chronic pain. We’ve seen the VA and DoD take important steps to support those suffering from substance misuse and these provisions will help bolster those efforts.”

On her amendment to address military sexual assault, Kuster said, “I’m encouraged that my Amendment to direct the Department to analyze sexual coercion in the military is part of its annual report on sexual assault. While I commend the Department for their progress in reducing the occurrence of sexual assault in the military, more work needs to be done. Understanding sexual coercion is important for the safety of our brave men and women and important for national security.”

“It’s long past time the Department of Veterans Affairs update its electronic medical records system,” Kuster said of her final amendment. “The men and women who serve our nation in uniform should not be relying on decades old computer systems that are woefully out of date and incapable of performing to the standards our veterans deserve. The American taxpayer should not continue to fund poorly implemented VA efforts to improve its health record. I’m hopeful this Amendment will lead to greater accountability of the VA’s latest endeavor to implement an improved and integrated system that will allow the VA and DoD to operate together seamlessly.”

The text of Kuster’s Amendments are available below:

Beginning in the 1970s, more than 600 U.S. military fire training sites used Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), a firefighting foam that contained perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Testing conducted by the Department of Defense at many of these sites has found PFC groundwater levels that exceed EPA guidelines many times over. At Pease, it is 12.5 times higher than the health advisory. In fact, a 2016 study by researchers at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health and Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences found that public drinking water for six million Americans exceeds the EPA’s lifetime advisory limits for perfluorinated chemicals.

Because of the broad scope of PFOA and PFOS use by entities including the U.S military, contaminated drinking water now poses a nationwide public health threat. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), PFOA is especially problematic “because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time.” Numerous peer-reviewed studies indicate health dangers of perfluorinated chemicals, including links to testicular, kidney, and thyroid cancer and impaired immune system performance, decreased fertility, and harm to a developing fetus or child. However, ACS says “more research is needed to clarify these findings,” because a comprehensive, long-term study of the health impacts of PFOA and PFOS has not yet been conducted.

“Community members who live near contaminated sites like Pease deserve answers about how they and their children may be affected by perfluorinated chemicals, and guidance on what steps they can and should take to protect their health,” said Shea-Porter. “Bipartisan support for the provisions secured today reflects the national scope of PFC contamination around military bases across the country.”

The annual defense authorization bill, which Shea-Porter helped to write as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, includes:

  • An Shea-Porter cosponsored amendment directing the Department of Defense to conduct a health impact study on the effects of exposure to PFCs at affected military installations, including Pease.
  • Shea-Porter’s provision directing the Secretary of Defense to brief the House Armed Services Committee on:
    • The locations near current and former military installations where the Department has tested drinking water system PFC levels and a summary of the results of those tests, including whether they exceeded lifetime health advisory levels;
    • The Department’s short-term mitigation actions in locations where elevated PFC levels have been identified, such as Pease; and
    • The process and timeline for long-term remediation actions in locations with elevated PFC levels.
  • A Shea-Porter cosponsored amendment requiring a report on the Department of Defense’s progress developing and implementing alternatives to firefighting foam containing PFCs that was used at more than 600 U.S. military fire training sites, including Pease.

Congresswoman Kuster Leads Heroin Task Force To A Bold Agenda For Next Two Years

Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Releases
Legislative Agenda for the 115th Congress

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force led by Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Donald Norcross (D-NJ) released its legislative agenda for the 115th Congress. The agenda includes commonsense, bipartisan legislation to address the opioid epidemic from the perspective of law enforcement, prevention, treatment, and recovery.

The bills included in the agenda include Jessie’s Law, the STOP OD Act, the Addiction Recovery Through Family Health Accounts Act, Road to Recovery Act, the INTERDICT Act, the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act, the CRIB Act, and the VA Prescription Data Accountability Act.

Full details of the legislative agenda are available here.

“The opioid addiction epidemic is a crisis that transcends politics,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We know that tackling substance use requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account law enforcement, prevention, treatment, and recovery. The legislative agenda we released today represents the commonsense approach that the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force is committed to pursuing. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues on the Task Force to announce this agenda and look forward to working across the aisle to make progress in addressing the opioid epidemic.”

“The opioid crisis has touched so many families and communities across the United States,” said Congressman MacArthur.  “It has always been my belief that we must find a balance between showing compassion for those suffering with substance abuse, while stopping the flow of drugs into our communities and those who profit from other people’s misery.  I believe our legislative agenda represents this balance and I’m grateful members from both sides of the aisle could come together on this critical issue.  The agenda released today is a crucial step in our fight against drug abuse.”

“Drug overdoses involving prescription opioids and heroin have nearly quadrupled since 1999 and are now the leading cause of accidental death. In my home state of Pennsylvania, drug-related deaths and opioid addiction rates were among the highest in the country – rising 20 percent in one year, including a 50-percent increase in my district alone. It’s clear this epidemic is destroying precious lives and costing us resources,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “Fighting back against this addiction crisis requires a multi-faceted approach and the bold, bipartisan legislative agenda laid out by the Task Force responds to the real-world concerns expressed by local lawmakers, community leaders and healthcare professionals across the county who endeavor to tackle this epidemic each day. Together, we can win this fight.”

“In Williamstown, NJ – a town in my district – the heroin death rate is nearly 25 times the national average. It’s tragic and unacceptable. We need to take collaborative, bipartisan action to help the people in Williamstown and every town around the country,” said Congressman Norcross. “Last year we saw the largest annual jump in overdose deaths ever recorded in our country – it’s clear we must cross party lines to curb the opioid epidemic. The Bipartisan Heroin Task Force is standing together to offer commonsense legislative solutions because one preventable death is too many.”

The co-chairs of the Task Force were joined in today’s announcement by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and John Sarbanes (D-MD).

Full details below.

170627_FINAL_Legislative Agenda

NH Elected Officials, Seniors Group, And Labor Unions Speak Out Against Senate Version Of Trumpcare

By now you have probably heard about the Senate Republicans plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a terrible new bill called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017“.

The text of the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” was released yesterday and it is worse that we thought it would be.  ThinkProgress laid out some of the details in their post last night.  Here are a couple of the top issues with the new legislation from ThinkProgress.

  • The bill would strip health care coverage from millions of low income Americans by rolling back the expansion of Medicaid — and then making even deeper cuts.
  • The bill would follow the Obamacare subsidy model, but help fewer people.  Subsidies would only be available to those making 350% of poverty instead of the ACA’s 400%
  • The Senate bill is a massive tax cut for the rich. Rolling back taxes on those who make $200,000 a year.
  • The bill will mean higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many people with insurance.
  • The bill will seek to limit the ability of insurers to provide coverage for abortions.
  • The bill will hit older Americans especially hard. Rates for older Americans raise astronomically, making healthcare completely unaffordable.

New Hampshire’s elected leaders are speaking out against this new GOP plan.

“The Senate Republican’s secretive healthcare repeal bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that would be devastating to the health of Granite Staters,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “If passed, it would mean less coverage for fewer people at higher costs, all while giving a tax cut to the wealthy. It would significantly cut Medicaid and the program’s expansion, hurting our state’s response to the opioid epidemic, place an age tax on New Hampshire seniors, and take aim at women’s health by defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides vital healthcare services to more than 12,000 Granite State women. Taken together, this is a bad deal for New Hampshire and a bad deal for the American people. I will do everything that I can to fight it, which is why I am holding an emergency field hearing in Concord tomorrow with Senator Hassan to hear directly from Granite Staters. I will also continue to urge my Republican colleagues to work across the aisle to make needed fixes to the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it, so that more Americans have affordable, accessible healthcare.”

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans took the House Trumpcare bill, which even President Trump admitted was ‘mean,’ and managed to make it even more heartless,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “Under the Senate Trumpcare bill, if you buy your own insurance, you could have to pay more for your coverage. You could face an age tax, which would be especially harmful if you are between the ages of 50 and 64. And you could see states undermine the requirement that insurance companies must cover the most important services.

“The Senate Trumpcare bill also ends Medicaid expansion and makes even deeper cuts to the Medicaid program than the House bill, jeopardizing care for tens of thousands of Granite Staters including children, people struggling with addiction, seniors in nursing or at-home care, and people who experience disabilities. Trumpcare also fulfills Washington Republicans’ partisan agenda of defunding Planned Parenthood.

“There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved, but Trumpcare would make things worse for most Americans – whether they currently get their insurance through their employer, buy it privately, buy it through the exchange or have Medicaid. Trumpcare would raise costs, take away coverage, and hurt people across New Hampshire, all to give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. I will do everything in my power to stop this devastating Trumpcare bill from ever becoming law, and I urge all Granite Staters to continue telling your stories and making your voices heard about how harmful this bill would be for you,” concluded Hassan.

Senator Shaheen and Senator Hassan are holding an emergancy field hearing on the Senate version of Trumpcare, today June 23rd, at 2pm, at the UNH School of Law. (More info here)

“Senate Republicans have crafted a cruel healthcare bill behind closed doors that would threaten access to healthcare for thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This misguided legislation would be a disaster for hardworking families in New Hampshire and cannot be allowed to become law. I’m eager to work across the aisle to repair, not repeal the Affordable Care Act. There are members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, who want to work in a bipartisan way to make constructive improvements to the Affordable Care Act to expand access to care and lower costs. It’s long past time Republican leadership abandon its single-minded focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act and instead got down to the hard work of actually improving our healthcare delivery system for all Americans.”

“I am appalled by today’s Senate Republican healthcare repeal bill,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “Like the House bill I vehemently opposed, it would kick millions off their coverage, charge older Americans more, and leave people who have pre-existing conditions without coverage for the care they need. The bills don’t stop at repealing the Affordable Care Act – they also end Medicaid expansion and drastically reduce funding for Medicaid. Ending Medicaid as we know it would set our state back in the fight against the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis and put millions of kids, seniors in nursing homes, and people with disabilities at risk of losing their care.

“Senate Republicans know the majority of Americans oppose their plan, so they wrote it in secret sessions and are now trying to rush it to a vote next week. Every person in New Hampshire who gets health coverage through the individual market, Medicaid, or the New Hampshire Health Protection Program will be affected by this bill if it passes. Even people with coverage through their employer aren’t protected because states could strip back requirements that plans cover essential benefits like hospitalization, prescription drugs, or maternity care. Over the coming days, we must all speak out and make our voices heard,” Shea-Porter added.

The Alliance for Retired Americans represents over 4 million older Americans and “stand fervently against this legislation” calling the legislation as “mean” as the House version of Trumpcare.

“We all heard President Trump say he hoped the Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would be less ‘mean’ than the House version. Today, we finally got to see the secret Senate version, and it is still ‘mean’ by any reasonable test,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “No wonder Majority Leader McConnell hid this dangerous plan for so long. It will cause harm to millions of older Americans, all for the sake of tax breaks for the wealthy.

“The Senate bill decimates Medicaid. In this respect, it is worse than the House bill, enacting even deeper long-term cuts. Medicaid covers long-term care for millions of seniors and health care for people with disabilities, making this bill devastating to older and vulnerable Americans. President Trump promised on the campaign trail that he would not cut Medicaid and Medicare. He should promise to veto a bill that does not keep that promise.”

“The 4.4 million members of the Alliance for Retired Americans stand fervently against this legislation and urge senators to vote ‘no’ for the sake of seniors, the disabled and millions of working families,” Fiesta concluded.

Labor unions were quick to point out how terrible this legislation would be for working people across the country.

“The Senate’s bill follows the same failed approach as the House-passed bill. It would deny health care coverage to millions of Americans in order to lavish huge tax cuts on corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent,” said David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees National, that represents over 700,000 workers. “The Senate may have written its health care bill behind closed doors, but the harmful effects this bill would have on millions of Americans could not be clearer. What Congressional leaders are doing is shameful and disgusting, and anyone with an ounce of compassion for their fellow humans should be outraged.”

“I wouldn’t have believed it possible but the health care proposal released today by Senate Republicans is in many ways worse than the version that House Republicans adopted,” Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. “This plan, drafted in complete secrecy by a handful of Republican leaders – all men – would leave millions of Americans without health care coverage. It allows states to drop coverage for services like maternity care and emergency services.”

“Many states would be forced to kick low-income and disabled people off their health care coverage once federal funding for the Medicaid program is cut, as this Senate bill would do. The Senate’s attack on Medicaid is even worse than that of the House bill,” Shelton added 

The Communication Workers warned that union members would be punished under this new proposal as well saying “it is a slap in the face to millions of hard-working Americans who need and want access to quality, affordable care.”

“Health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers and of course the wealthiest Americans still would get tax cuts, just like in the House version.  Union members fortunate enough to keep their coverage, however, will be punished with higher costs under the “Cadillac tax” that Republicans left in place. Many Americans will find the cost of health care premiums simply unaffordable.”

The good news is that Democrats in the Senate are united against this horrible piece of legislation, but Republicans should also be outraged at this bill and take a stand for the American people.

“It’s time for those Republican Senators who today are expressing such concern about the impact of this shameful plan on ordinary Americans to show the courage of their convictions,” Shelton concluded.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster, “Trump Undermining His Promise to American Workers”

(Washington, DC) – As President Trump highlights a week focused on “workforce development,” Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) is calling out the hypocrisy of the President’s policies, which would reduce access to workforce development programs.  President Trump’s proposed budget includes a 35 percent cut to the programs authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which streamlined and modernized our workforce training programs.  This 2014 law was a significant bipartisan accomplishment, passing the House by a vote of 415 to 6 and the Senate 95 to 3.  A study by the Center for American Progress found that President Trump’s proposed cuts would end access to job training for more than 6,500 people in New Hampshire.

As part of her efforts to enhance worker training and domestic manufacturing, Kuster recently introduced the Workforce Development Investment Act, which would create tax incentives to encourage companies and educators to partner in training programs to help workers gain the skills needed for careers in the 21st Century economy.  The bill would also provide a tax credit to companies that participate in qualified apprenticeship programs, which are a proven tool for developing worker skills and improving wages.

“In a state like New Hampshire that has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, job training and workforce development is critical,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We know that too many people are underemployed or working two jobs and if we can help them get the skills for the careers they want, it will be a win-win for workers and employers. It’s disappointing but not surprising that President Trump is undermining his promise to American workers. This week, he’s touting the need to expand workforce development programs while at the same time cutting critical resources for these initiatives. It’s a pattern that has become all too familiar with this Administration; say one thing and do another. We need to invest in the programs that are going to help grow our workforce and economy.”

Kuster’s recently introduced legislation would create a credit to encourage employers to partner with community colleges and career and technical training schools to develop workforce training programs for skills that are in demand within their community or region.  It would also create a separate credit for the cost of direct training conducted as part of an educational partnership or licensed apprenticeship program.

New Hampshire Delegation Strongly Opposes Governor Sununu’s Decision Not to Join U.S. Climate Alliance

Delegation writes to Sununu to express support for
New Hampshire joining U.S. Climate Alliance

(Washington, DC) – Today, New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation wrote to Governor Chris Sununu to express their support for New Hampshire joining the United States Climate Alliance. The Alliance, which has grown to include 12 states, governed by both Republicans and Democrats, is committed to upholding the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. In the letter, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) highlighted the importance of striving to meet the ideals of the Paris Climate Accord for the benefit of both the environment and economy in New Hampshire. Yesterday, Governor Sununu said that New Hampshire would not join the U.S. Climate Alliance.

“Governor, we write in support of New Hampshire joining the U.S. Climate Alliance. It is vital that the Granite State continues to be a leader on climate change and clean energy,” wrote the members. “Just as the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord cedes American global leadership, New Hampshire’s refusal to acknowledge the clear consensus on climate science will similarly damage our state’s reputation.”

The members continued, “New Hampshire can strengthen its commitment to combatting climate change by joining the United States Climate Alliance, which Republican and Democratic governors from 12 states – including Massachusetts and Vermont – have already joined.  We believe that Granite Staters would be best-served if New Hampshire joins this coalition and upholds the standards of the Paris Climate Accord for the benefit of our environment, our economy, and our future.”

The states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance include California, New York, Washington, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii, Virginia, Minnesota, and Delaware.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

June 7, 2017

Dear Governor Sununu:

On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States will begin the withdrawal process from the Paris Climate Accord, a historic agreement signed by 195 countries to undertake the important effort of combatting the dangerous effects of climate change. This reckless decision threatens America’s credibility abroad and puts us on the wrong side of history as the Granite State, the nation, and the world continue to experience the negative impact of a changing climate. Yesterday, we learned that you followed President Trump’s example when you declined to join the United States Climate Alliance – a new coalition of states that are committed to upholding the standards of the Paris agreement. Governor, we write in support of New Hampshire joining the U.S. Climate Alliance. It is vital that the Granite State continues to be a leader on climate change and clean energy.

Just as the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord cedes American global leadership, New Hampshire’s refusal to acknowledge the clear consensus on climate science will similarly damage our state’s reputation. In your statement on why you would not commit the Granite State to the principles of the Paris accord, you said that you did not know what the impact would be on our environment or economy and that it was not your job to know. We respectfully disagree and believe it is all of our responsibilities to safeguard New Hampshire’s natural resources and prepare our economy for the future. Furthermore, our state’s colleges and universities are blessed with some of the top scientists and economists in the country who agree that climate change is real and has a real economic impact on New Hampshire.

We are proud that New Hampshire is already a national leader in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollutants through participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  By placing a regional cap on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can emit through the issuance of tradeable allowances, RGGI’s market-based approach has improved energy efficiency efforts in the Granite State, invested in clean and renewable energy and reduced power sector carbon pollutants by more than 45 percent in all of the partnering states.

The negative impacts of climate change are already being experienced in New Hampshire. From last year’s extreme drought that hurt our agriculture sector to rising sea levels and heightened smog levels, climate change is a threat to our local communities, our families and our economy.  President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord puts America at a competitive disadvantage with foreign nations who are committed to transitioning to a clean energy economy and undermines our collective ability to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

New Hampshire can strengthen its commitment to combatting climate change by joining the United States Climate Alliance, which Republican and Democratic governors from 12 states – including Massachusetts and Vermont – have already joined.  We believe that Granite Staters would be best-served if New Hampshire joins this coalition and upholds the standards of the Paris Climate Accord for the benefit of our environment, our economy, and our future.

Sincerely,

 

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