• Advertisement

Trump’s Sabotage Of The Affordable Care Act Will Hurt New Hampshire Families

Trump’s ACA Sabotage, Executive Order Will Gut Protections, Force Sickest to Pay Skyrocketing Prices, Destabilize Health Care for New Hampshire Families

Following an Executive Order that will increase junk insurance plans, news follows that President Trump will immediately end cost-sharing payments and destabilize health insurance markets

Concord, NH Yesterday, President Trump issued a new executive order that will expand the availability of junk insurance plans in a direct attempt to trigger the collapse of the entire private health insurance market and destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last night, the Trump administration signaled that it would also immediately end cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies, which analysts and advocates agree will destabilize health insurance markets in New Hampshire and across the nation.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated back in August that ending cost-sharing reductions would increase insurance premiums by 20% next year alone, effectively kick a million Americans off insurance, and add $194 billion to the deficit.

“These partisan, political acts are part of Trump’s relentless campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the contraceptive coverage mandate,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “These actions threaten the collapse of the entire individual health insurance market and leave our sick and most vulnerable to pay the price.”

“For years, Trump and Congressional Republicans have called for the repeal of the health care law without offering any viable replacement. Trump is now bent on destroying the one health care law that allowed millions of Americans to gain health insurance and improved coverage for essential health care benefits like maternity, mental health, and prescription drugs. Trump is stripping these important consumer protections and ending critical payments that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. Any problems in our health care system from here on out rest solely at the feet of President Trump and other politicians who have created instability and skyrocketing premiums, and allowed the sale of junk plans without the essential health coverage people need when they are sick,” Rice-Hawkins added.

“Last night, Trumpcare became a reality. By refusing to continue cost-sharing reduction payments, President Trump has committed his most shameful act of sabotage on the insurance markets, threatening the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans and making premiums skyrocket for millions more,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party.  “Governor Sununu’s self-proclaimed closeness with Trump and his administration hasn’t yielded any help for New Hampshire. Instead, Sununu’s constant praise and support of Trump is starting to look like blind flattery.”

Buckley continued, “Make no mistake, Governor Sununu has precipitated Trump’s sabotage by fueling the flames of ACA repeal,  opposing Medicaid expansion, supporting various forms of Trumpcare, proposing Medicaid block grants, rejecting a reinsurance program, and refusing to join a bipartisan group of governors in calling for the protection of key health care protections. Rather than actively campaigning against dangerous Republican health care ideas, Sununu has either stayed silent or belatedly voiced his opposition once and disappeared. That is not leadership. Sununu is engaging in political calculation when Granite Staters need its governor the most.”

In a letter to President Trump in August, Governor Chris Sununu called for Trump to continue the cost sharing reduction payments. One of the main requests in the letter:

“Commit to funding CSR reimbursements for 2017 and 2018: Carriers calculate their rates far in advance, so continued uncertainty about the reimbursements fuel dramatic increases and could lead them to exit the market. This hurts consumers – most of all, those who cannot get coverage through work and do not qualify for federal subsidies. While I am sympathetic to the argument that these payments are a subsidy, to withhold them at this late date as carriers are trying to calculate rates is resulting in significant instability and further rate increases and fewer options.”

“Despite the American people’s rejection of the Affordable Care Act repeal, this new order is part of a concerted effort by the Trump administration to unravel the law’s patient protections and to destabilize healthcare marketplaces,” said Senator Shaheen. “This order only introduces more unnecessary chaos into our healthcare system, which undermines the healthcare that Granite Staters, and all Americans, depend on. The President must abandon these political efforts to destabilize the ACA, and finally prioritize working with Congress to address and fix this manufactured crisis. There are Republicans and Democrats who are ready to move forward with bipartisan legislation that will provide stability in the insurance marketplace, increase access to care and lower cost sharing.”

Senator Shaheen is leading efforts in the Senate to provide marketplace stability by permanently continuing and increasing eligibility for cost-sharing reduction payments. Her bill, the Marketplace Certainty Act, would make cost-sharing reduction payments permanent and expand eligibility to more working Americans.

“By deciding to stop payments for so-called cost-sharing reductions – which help lower deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket expenses – President Trump is cruelly and intentionally raising health care costs for millions of Americans,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that stopping these payments would cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket for millions of Americans while also ballooning the federal deficit, yet the President moved forward with this plan out of political spite. I have pushed for months to get Congress to act to provide certainty around these payments and help block the Trump Administration’s blatant sabotage attempts, and now is the time to finally stop this madness.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said that Trump should be “ashamed” for his actions that “will torpedo the individual insurance market”

“He is right to be so ashamed of this spiteful action he would only announce it in the dead of night. Stopping these payments won’t just hurt the lower-income people whose out-of-pocket costs are defrayed by CSRs, it will also hurt every one of the millions of Americans who buy their own coverage. That’s because insurance companies say they are going to charge everyone more to make up for the lost funding. Congress must act immediately to fund CSRs and protect our constituents from Trump’s vengeful and destructive actions.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also spoke out against the order.

“President Trump’s announcement today sadly continues to take us in the wrong direction on health care. During the last several months, I have been encouraged by conversations with both Republicans and Democrats about how we can address the ongoing challenges with the Affordable Care Act.  I believe that there are areas where we can all agree on solutions to fix issues faced by some Americans. Today’s executive order simply reverts back to the failed repeal and replace mantra. This executive order will result in higher costs to consumers and less access to health care for Granite State families. I will continue to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to look for commonsense solutions to stabilize the individual marketplace and strengthen our health care system.”

This executive order is not about helping people gain insurance coverage it is outright sabotage.  Millions of hard working Americans will be harmed by this executive order.  Some will lose their coverage. Some will be force to go without coverage because the costs are too high. Some will be forced to pay outrageously high premiums as they have no other option for coverage.

The American People spoke out loud and clear against the Republican healthcare plan. The Senate rejected the measure over and over because even some Republicans know that this plan will due massive harm to the American people.  But President Trump does not care about the will of the people, he is running the country like a unhinged tyrant.


UPDATED to include statement from NH Democratic Leadership

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, Senate Deputy Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff and House Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald issued the following joint statement:

“President Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction payments will dramatically hurt New Hampshire families’ ability to afford and access the health insurance they need. The Trump administration’s varied attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its protections are shameful and it is abundantly clear that this effort is an attempt to settle a political score rather than act in the best interest of the American people.

Today, we are calling on Governor Sununu and New Hampshire’s Republican legislative leaders to pass a reinsurance program to provide as much relief as possible to Granite Staters who will see premiums go up an average of 20% next year as a result of President Trump’s decision to cancel CSR payments. We are also calling on New Hampshire’s Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to join Attorneys General across the country who are promising to sue the Trump administration to protect cost-sharing reductions. We will work with anyone, anywhere to make sure Granite Staters continue to see the protections and guarantees they have received under the Affordable Care Act and fight back against President Trump’s destructive sabotage.”

The Republican Sabotage Of Healthcare

We can all agree that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect but it was a monumental step in the right direction at a time when insurance companies were raking in record profits, jacking up rates by double digits, making the cost of insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans.

Since the ACA passed, Republicans have been trying to repeal it. Over the last eight years, Republicans have made more than 60 attempts to repeal the bill and only in the last six months have they ever offered any type of replacement.

Their latest replacement plan, that was ironically killed by three moderate Republicans in the Senate, would have kicked an estimated 32 million Americans off of their healthcare plans and would have transitioned Medicaid into a block grant system.  Ending Medicaid would have left millions of children, seniors, and the disabled without out any coverage at all.

Medicaid is the largest single provider of insurance in the country.  Nearly 40% of all child births in New Hampshire are covered by Medicaid.  Medicaid covers the cost for millions of disabled Americans who use funds to live in their own homes.  This is why dozens of ADAPT (Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today) members protested during the Senate hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill.

“Graham-Cassidy is the worst bill yet that Republicans have come up with to repeal Obamacare. This wasn’t what they campaigned on; they didn’t campaign to strip away the services that disabled people and seniors rely on to live in the community,” said Bruce Darling, an organizer with ADAPT. “They campaigned on fixing Obamacare and I don’t understand why they continue to target our community with cuts that will steal disabled lives instead of actually fixing anything.”

Cuts to Medicaid funding will fall first and hardest on community based services, forcing disabled people into institutions which will be underfunded hives of abuse, neglect, and human misery.

“The cuts to Medicaid funding are cruel and un-American,” said Dawn Russell, ADAPT organizer from Denver Colorado. “Forcing disabled people and seniors into institutions just to pay for tax cuts, which is what this bill does, is not equality. It’s not liberty. Graham-Cassidy is a policy for a much crueler and meaner country than this one, and the people who support it should be ashamed of themselves.”

Recently, Senator Hassan shared the story of Bodhi Bhattari, a Concord boy who experiences spinal muscular atrophy and needs hundreds of thousands of dollars in life-saving drugs every year. Bodhi’s mother, Deodonne Bhattarai, told WMUR that under the Graham-Cassidy Trumpcare proposal, “If we sold our house, we could probably keep him alive for another year.”

Now, the New Hampshire Department of Insurance estimates that 25,000 people, who get their insurance from the healthcare exchange, will see a 52% increase.

“Among 97,000 people in the individual insurance market, the 74 percent who either get federal subsidies or are part of the expanded Medicaid program will likely see their premiums drop or remain flat in 2018. But the 26 percent who pay the full cost will see sharp increases,” wrote Holly Ramer of the Associated Press.

The news of this dramatic increase on those trying to provide healthcare for their families, outraged legislators.

“I am outraged that some middle-class New Hampshire families will suffer huge premium hikes next year because of the chaos D.C. Republicans have created in the individual insurance market,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.  “This is exactly why I spent the past year urging my colleagues to pass bipartisan marketplace stabilization legislation, which would have provided insurers with needed certainty, and also why Congress should pass my bill, the Medicare You Can Opt Into Act, and make sure every American has an affordable option that’s not vulnerable to profit-driven rate hikes.”

“That said, let me be clear: thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion, New Hampshire’s uninsured rate is at an all-time low, and I will not allow Republican state officials to use the disruption their party has caused in the individual market as justification to jeopardize that progress by ending an essential program that covers over 50,000 people in New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter added.

In the US Senate, Senator Shaheen has been working to avoid these rate hikes. Earlier this year, Senator Shaheen introduced the Marketplace Certainty Act to permanently appropriate payments for cost-sharing reductions to help stabilize state marketplaces and expand eligibility for hard-working Americans who need help paying their premiums.

“These rate increases for next year would be devastating, yet have always been avoidable,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This administration has followed through on President Trump’s threat to sabotage healthcare marketplaces as leverage to repeal the Affordable Care Act. New Hampshire families are now forced to pay the price for the Trump administration’s shameful behavior. I have been pleading with Republican leadership to allow bipartisan efforts to stabilize the healthcare marketplace to move forward, but instead, they chose to use this valuable time to make another attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act—a law that has helped tens of thousands of Granite Staters gain access to healthcare coverage. Republicans must return to the negotiating table and work with Democrats to craft bipartisan legislation that would stabilize the marketplaces. We need to work together to mitigate the harm caused by the Administration and help working families access quality and affordable insurance.”

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Maggie Hassan participated this month in bipartisan health care hearings focused on stabilizing the individual health insurance market and lowering costs.

At a press conference after the defeat of the Graham-Cassidy bill, Senator Hassan said:

“We know that there is more to do on health care. There isn’t a Democrat here who doesn’t know that there are improvements we need to make. I am committed to working with members of both parties on the HELP Committee and throughout the United States Senate to come together and find ways in the short-term to stabilize our markets and lower costs. We have to address pharmaceutical costs. We have to address health care outcomes. But as long as there is this threat out there of another Trumpcare attempt, it’s going to be harder for us to do that, and it’s going to cause disruption in the very lives of the people we were sent here to represent.”

In the U.S. House, Congresswoman Annie Kuster, who also saw the possibility of massive rate hikes looming, has been working to stabilize the marketplace. Earlier this year, Kuster and nine House Democrats unveiled a five-part plan to improve upon the Affordable Care Act and stabilize the individual marketplace.

“I’ve discussed with Republican colleagues various proposals to stabilize the individual marketplace and rein in costs. I genuinely believe that there are many areas of agreement that can be reached to improve our healthcare system and I’m hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will come to the table in good faith to get this done for the American people,” said Kuster.

Not only has the President and the Republican leadership actively worked to repeal the ACA, they have been ensuring its failure by slashing funding to the program.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter pushed back by calling on the President to release funding allocated for the exchange “navigators” program.

“Navigators are an essential resource for the American people, and the Navigator program is critical to the success of Open Enrollment. We urge you to unfreeze these funds immediately,” Shea-Porter wrote. “Americans already face a number of new hurdles to enrolling in coverage during the upcoming Open Enrollment period, including an enrollment timeframe that has been cut in half and a 90% cut to the outreach budget that could have informed consumers about this significant change. Destabilizing the Navigator program could further compound the challenges consumers will face in understanding when and how to enroll.”

Shea-Porter also submitted an amendment that would save the Navigator grant program from elimination in House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

We have known for a while that the ACA needs adjustments, but you would not toss out your car because of a loose spark plug.  We need to stop this ideological and political attack on the ACA and do what is really needed to help working families.

Of course there are many among us who believe the best way to solve the entire insurance issue is to eliminate private insurance all together and move to a national single player system.

Kuster Leads Roundtable in Salem on Youth Opioid Education and Prevention

(Salem, NH) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, lead a roundtable discussion at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem on youth opioid education and prevention. The discussion, which drew an audience of community members, brought together local and state leaders addressing the opioid crisis and centered on the often overlooked impact of the epidemic on New Hampshire’s youth. Prior to the discussion, Congresswoman Kuster was given a tour of the Boys & Girls Club facility.

“The opioid epidemic is taking a toll on families and communities in every corner of our state,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We know the impacts of the opioid crisis go beyond those suffering from substance use disorder, it extends to children and family members as well. We all have a role to play in tackling this crisis and I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss programs aimed at protecting our youth with leadership at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem, law enforcement, and educators.  I will continue working in Congress to strengthen education, prevention, treatment and recovery services for Granite Staters of all ages.”

“The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem wants to thank Congresswoman Kuster for having an important discussion regarding the impact that opioids are having in our community,” said Marco Abreau, COO, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem. “The opioid epidemic that is hitting our communities is an unfortunate reality for many of our Club members.  Many of our members are dealing with the cruel circumstances of their loved ones falling victim to addiction.  The task at hand is definitely a challenge, however the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem will not waiver as we continue to push forward in the support of all our members and their families.  Our mission states we will be here for the youth ‘who need us most’, and this holds true for the fight against the opioid epidemic.”

In June, the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force released its legislative agenda for the 115th Congress. The agenda includes the Stem the Tide of Overdose Prevalence from Opiate Drugs (STOP OD) Act, which authorizes up to $75 million in educational grants to prevent opioid abuse, and the Synthetic Drug Act, which requires the Surgeon General to submit a report to Congress on the health effects of the rise of synthetic drug use among young people aged 12 to 18.

New Hampshire has been on the front lines fighting back against the opioid epidemic.  New reporting from The Daily Beast showed that under the new GOP proposed healthcare plan, funding for opioid addition, recovery, and research would vanish.  The bill would slash Medicaid, which many claim is the biggest asset to fighting opioid addiction, as well as cut “$45 million” in addition funds earmarked for opioid treatment.

“Opioid addiction is taking lives and tearing apart families. But instead of fighting to address the problem, Republicans in Congress want to ram through this partisan bill to take away people’s health care and slash billions in funding for addiction treatment,” said Tom Perez, chair of the DNC. “Just over a month after calling the opioid epidemic a national emergency, President Trump has done nothing to help those affected. Now he’s leading the Republican charge to strip protections and resources from the working families who need them most.”

“This issue knows no party. From New Hampshire to Nevada, the opioid crisis has ravaged communities across the country. And without the Affordable Care Act, things will get even worse. Democrats believe that this urgent crisis demands urgent action. That’s why we will keep working to give families the resources they need to fight back. We cannot sit idly by while Republicans choose cruelty over compassion and destroy the lives of millions,” added Perez.

Trump’s Sham Commission On Voting Integrity Meets In New Hampshire

Yesterday, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voting Integrity convened their second official meeting at St. Anslem College, in Manchester, New Hampshire. The group, led by right-wing extremist Kris Kobach, who is currently the Kansas Secretary of State, continued to take aim at our voting rights.

Kobach gained local notoriety over the past week as he made the claim that Senator Maggie Hassan only won because of thousands of illegal votes from out of state residents. He claimed that because 3,000 people voted in NH with out of state licenses that their votes were examples of voter fraud. The claim was quickly debunked due to the fact that NH does not require voters to have NH drivers license or to register their automobile with the state in order to legally vote.

“It’s alarming to see New Hampshire being singled out by the national voter suppression movement,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “This Commission has no claim to credibility after failing to condemn last week’s out-and-out lies from Vice Chair Kris Kobach about our state’s voters. Granite Staters should consider any claims made during this meeting with extreme skepticism.”

“Study after study, report and report, and even previous commissions have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare and always very isolated,” said Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State. “That is proof that the current protections are working, but we have policies and technologies in place to allow us to facilitate the participation in the political process to more and more citizens. We have a moral obligation to do that.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is currently serving the people of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C, submitted written testimony to the commission.

In her testimony, Senator Shaheen condemns the commission’s clear intention to make it more difficult for Granite Staters to vote, writing, “The truth is that, here in New Hampshire and across the nation, voter fraud is extremely rare. I am deeply concerned that falsehoods about illegal voting are being spread as a pretext for restricting access to the ballot box. This risks disenfranchising eligible voters and undermining faith in our democracy.”

“Granite Staters take pride in our state’s brand of open and direct democracy, which encourages maximum participation, including by college students and active-duty members of the military who live in our state.  It is not the New Hampshire way to make voting unnecessarily difficult or to target specific groups of voters with deliberately onerous ID laws,” Shaheen wrote.

Senator Maggie Hassan joined Senator Shaheen in submitting legislation to disband the commission.

“I am deeply concerned that since its inception President Trump’s voting commission has attempted to mislead voters and erode trust in the voting process by pushing misleading claims that have been debunked time and again. It is clear that this commission is simply a partisan exercise to lay the groundwork for new attempts at voter suppression, which is why I joined Senator Shaheen in cosponsoring a bill to disband the commission.”

“President Trump’s voter commission has been formed with the predetermined conclusion that voter fraud is a widespread problem and that restrictive voter ID laws are necessary to safeguard our democracy,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This is despite the fact there is no evidence of such fraud. Rather than protecting our democracy, voter suppression efforts threaten to undermine the legitimate right of people to exercise their self-determination at the ballot box.”

Kuster added, “The accusations levied by Secretary Kobach are an insult to thousands of local officials and volunteers, both Republican and Democrat, who ensure our free and fair elections in New Hampshire and make the Granite State worthy of being the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”

“Our elected officials should be working to facilitate civic involvement and build voter participation, especially amongst college students and younger voters,” said St. Anselm student Olivia Teixeira on behalf of the NH Young Democrats. “Instead, with sham commissions like the one meeting today on my campus and through bills like SB 3, Republican’s are using baseless lies of voter fraud in an attempt to suppress voter turnout.”

“If we want to  attract and retain young people to our state, we should be working to empower younger voters to take part in our state’s proud democratic process by advocating for modernizing our voting systems and registration,” Teixeira added.

Aside from the continued discussion on the non-existent voter fraud problem the commission also discussed possible solutions to “strengthen” the integrity of the election process.

At one point, John Lott, a right-wing shill, proposed the idea of using the same background check system we currently use to buy firearms to verify a voters’ eligibility.  Lott is new to “voting rights” advocates however he is well know in “gun rights” circles.  Even before Lott presented his skewed testimony, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a warning, not to believe Lott’s “fuzzy math.”

“Lott’s statistical analysis includes far too many variables and controls – a tell-tale sign of statistical chicanery,” wrote the Brennan Center for Justice.

Additionally, Commission member and former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, suggested that long lines at the polls were a “good strategy.” This is the same man who “distributed voter lists with the Social Security numbers of 5.7 million voters.”

“Today, we met the various characters who decorate Trump’s sham commission. Unfortunately, their fringe conspiratorial thinking is not a caricature but an understatement,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley. “From absurd proposals to run registered voters through background checks to one commission member calling the creation of long voting lines a ‘good strategy’ to Kobach re-asserting his claim of voter fraud in New Hampshire, it’s clear this commission has an agenda, the focus of which is voter suppression. Kobach showed he was willing to lie to the Granite Staters’ faces about New Hampshire law and embarrass Secretary Gardner in his own state by delegitimizing election results.”

“This is a commission that welcomes, absorbs, and operates in conspiracy. President Trump is getting his way when this commission entertains baseless voter fraud claims, muddying the waters and creating uncertainty and distrust in our election system.” Buckley added.

Outside, over a hundred people gathered to protest Trump’s “sham commission.” Among the protesters were members of the NH Chapter of the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of New Hampshire, America Votes, the NAACP, Granite State Progress, Mayday.US, and the national group Let America Vote.

The protests also garnered a special appearance from Cleanup Carl. “Cleanup Carl is a 12 ft tall superhero for democracy. Committed to taking on the dirty villains trying to destroy our democracy with their toxic anti-voter influence.” Cleanup Carl is project of grassroots democracy organization MAYDAY America.

“This commission is the real threat. It’s a toxic mix for our democracy!” said Cleanup Carl through his spokesperson MAYDAY National Campaign Director Chris Tallent. “New Hampshire residents and Americans should take caution! Some of the most dangerous contaminants known to democracy, Kris Kobach, Mike Pence, and the rest of the sham ‘election integrity’ commission will be in New Hampshire this morning to try to advance their dirty agenda. That’s a volatile mix for democracy! Time to clean ‘em out of our democracy and uphold the right for everyone’s voice to be heard!”

Many of the people outside were also calling on NH’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, to resign from this “sham” commission.

“One thing is clear: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner doesn’t belong with this cast of conspiratorial misfits,” said Buckley. “He has carried out free and fair elections for over four decades and any suggestion to the contrary is offensive, incorrect and dangerous. Gardner cannot risk sullying New Hampshire’s sterling reputation by remaining on a commission that is willing to travel to our state to insult us in service of a baseless conspiracy designed to suppress votes.”

Gardner, who is currently the longest serving Secretary of State, is “being used by the Trump/Pence sham commission,” said a group of New Hampshire Voters who recently started a petition calling for Gardner to resign his position in the commission.

In response to Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, the Democratic National Committee joined with allies and created the Commission to Protect American Democracy from the Trump Administration. The DNC held a press call to explain how the Trump administration’s voter fraud commission is working to suppress the fundamental democratic rights of Americans and to lay out the steps that Democrats are taking to fight back.

“Make no mistake: this isn’t a war on voter fraud, it’s a war on voters. And it’s only being waged by Republicans, and we will not let our guard down for a moment.  As Democrats, our goal is the engage every eligible American voter as an active participant in our democracy,” said Tom Perez, Chair of the DNC. “We want to make it easier for people who are eligible to vote, not harder for them to vote.  And that means fighting voter suppression tactics to create free, fair, and accessible elections.  We must protect the one right that preserves all others—the right to vote.”

“Instead of building themselves around policies that reach out to communities like minorities and low incomes folks and the elderly and the disabled, instead of doing that, they’re just going to exclude those folks from democracy.  That’s their solution.  And it’s cynical, and it’s wrong, and it’s un-American,” Jason Kander, Chair of the DNC commission, former Missouri Secretary of State, and President of Let America Vote. “We’ve had this argument before in America.  Folks marched across a bridge, American heroes did, in Selma.  And they faced batons, they faced down dogs and hoses, and it was all for the simple idea that in America everybody counts.  We shouldn’t go backward.  We should only go forward on these issues.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed public comments outlining the glaring problems with the Commission including its lack of ideological diversity or commitment to transparency in accordance with federal law.

“Today’s Commission meeting in New Hampshire lacked diversity, facts, or actual solutions to support our democracy and combat voting discrimination that we know prevents racial minorities from voting,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Instead, Kris Kobach and his colleagues continued marshaling data in misleading ways to continue building a false narrative that voter fraud exists.  This myth has been widely discredited, and yet we listened to commissioners reiterate these claims in ways that proved truly irresponsible.”

“Today’s Commission meeting must be viewed in the context of a Justice Department that has all but abandoned its obligation to enforce laws that would eliminate voting discrimination.  The Commission is part of the administration’s broader agenda to promote national policies that would make it harder for minority communities to vote,” Clarke concluded.

NH’s Congressional Representatives Decry Trump’s Decision To End DACA

Today, it was announced that President Trump will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that protects 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children.

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA is cruel, inhumane and completely unnecessary,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This decision drives hundreds of innocent Dreamers in the Granite State, and hundreds of thousands across the country, into the shadows of our society. I’m encouraged that several Republicans, including Speaker Ryan, have voiced their support for legislative action to continue DACA. Congress should immediately get to work on a bipartisan plan that protects Dreamers.”

“This decision is morally wrong and cruel. It also would hurt our economy, which is why a wide range of American businesses are speaking out,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “I agree with Speaker Paul Ryan: decisions about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should be made by Congress. These are young people who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own. They are showing their dedication and commitment to our country by pursuing higher education, working in our communities, or serving our nation. Penalizing the 966 New Hampshire young people who take part in this program is harmful to our local economies and denies these students, workers, and veterans the opportunity to strengthen the communities they grew up in.”

“Immigration enforcement should focus on people who are criminals and threats to public safety, not young people who often have no significant connections to the countries of their births, and whose energy, hard work and innovation are vital components of our economic future,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “President Trump’s decision to go back on his word to protect these young people is harmful and wrong. I strongly support the bipartisan DREAM Act and previously joined my colleagues in urging President Trump to protect these young people who have great potential to continue contributing to our society and economy. Members of both parties have expressed support for continuing this program, and I urge my colleagues to come together across party lines immediately to support these young people.”

“I’m deeply disappointed by President Trump’s decision to end DACA, which allows people brought to the United States as children the opportunity to work legally and live without fear of deportation,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “The young people protected by DACA are contributing to our nation in countless ways: they are serving in our military, paying taxes, and helping to create jobs and grow our economy. Diversity strengthens our fabric as a nation and this ill-advised decision is nothing more than political pandering that will hurt real people and families. Congress must act as soon as possible to reform our broken immigration system and extend protections to Dreamers across the country, including the hundreds in New Hampshire.”

Last week, a group of business leaders sent an open letter to President Trump expressing their opposition to ending DACA. In the letter the groups writes, “All DACA recipients grew up in America, registered with our government, submitted to extensive background checks, and are diligently giving back to our communities and paying income taxes. More than 97 percent are in school or in the workforce, 5 percent started their own business, 65 percent have purchased a vehicle, and 16 percent have purchased their first home. At least 72 percent of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies count DACA recipients among their employees.

The letter continued, “Unless we act now to preserve the DACA program, all 780,000 hardworking young people will lose their ability to work legally in this country, and every one of them will be at immediate risk of deportation. Our economy would lose $460.3 billion from the national GDP and $24.6 billion in Social Security and Medicare tax contributions.”

“DREAMers, many of whom are still children, are a part of our American family,” said NH Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.  “Today, the Trump administration kicked this hardworking, inspiring group out of our shared home. So many DREAMers know no other country, flag or allegiance and came here through no fault of their own. DACA is simply a chance for DREAMers to work hard and stay in the country they deservedly call their own. Today’s decision by the Trump administration and the way in which they handled it are vindictive, cowardly, counterproductive and wrong-headed. It’s not how we’ve ever behaved in America and it is hypocritical for a country founded by, built by, and prosperous because of immigrants.”

The people at United We Dream put out a guide about what this new news means for Dreamers.

Rep Kuster Explains How Trump’s Budget Cuts Hurt Students At Keene State

Kuster Discusses President’s Proposed Budget Cuts to Higher Education Affordability with Students, Higher Education Leaders at Keene State College 

(Keene, NH)- Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined Granite State students and higher education leaders at Keene State College to discuss President Trump’s proposed budget cuts and their impact on higher education. Kuster heard directly from students and education stakeholders on how the President’s proposed budget reductions to critical higher education programs would impact access and affordability for students across New Hampshire.

“Access to quality, affordable higher education is one of the best ways to provide opportunity for our young people and maintain our state’s economic competitiveness,”said Congresswoman Kuster. “The budget proposed by President Trump would decimate critical financial aid programs and be a disaster for Granite Staters who want to pursue higher education. Our young people deserve the opportunity to access the educational opportunities that will help them achieve their goals, which is why I’m pushing legislation to increase financial support and address the costs of education. I will continue to advocate for policies that expand access to education and skills training programs and against President Trump’s harmful cuts.”

“Keene State College is pleased to host this important conversation about the need to keep the cost of college affordable,” said Dr. Melinda Treadwell, President of Keene State College. “As the state’s only public liberal arts college, we are guided by our mission to provide a high quality educational experience that is both accessible and affordable. We deeply appreciate Congresswoman Kuster’s leadership in this area and in other matters of importance to higher education here in New Hampshire and across the country.”

“I welcome the opportunity to join with our counterparts at Keene State to share key insights and information with Congresswoman Kuster,” said Dr. Kim Mooney, President of Franklin Pierce University. “I am encouraged by her interest in talking with us and with our students as budget cuts loom on the horizon that could have a deeply negative impact on our state and our country. New Hampshire has a long tradition of public and private colleges and universities collaborating around common higher-education issues and challenges in the best interests of our students and for the good of our state.”

Congresswoman Kuster has been a strong advocate in promoting college affordability during her time in Congress. She is currently supporting legislation to strengthen and expand Pell Grants through the Affordability for Constant and Continual Education to Enhance Student Success Act and the Year-Round Pell Grant Restoration Act. She has supported the Perkins Loan Program and funding for Pell Grants through her role as a member of the Higher Education Caucus.  This spring, Kuster helped reintroduce the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act to allow students to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates.

Kuster has also worked to expand access to community college and job training programs for Granite Staters. Earlier this year, she introduced her Workforce Development Investment Act, which would create tax incentives to encourage companies to partner with education providers 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.

Kuster was joined at today’s discussion by Dr. Melinda Treadwell, President of Keene State College; Dr. Kim Mooney, President of Franklin Pierce University; Steve Goetsch, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management and Director of Student Financial Aid at Keene State College; Ken Ferreira, Associate Vice President of Student Financial Services at Franklin Pierce University; Debby Scire, Executive Director of Campus Compact for New Hampshire; Tori Berube, Vice President for College Planning and Engagement at New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF); Jay Kahn, State Senator for New Hampshire District 10; Bailey St. Laurent, resident of Chicester and student at Keene State College; Luke Parkhurst, Littleton resident and student at Franklin Pierce University; and local students and higher education leaders, among others.

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.”

  • Subscribe to the NH Labor News via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 12,447 other subscribers

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement