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Air Force Agrees to Provide City of Portsmouth $1.3 Million to Continue Ongoing Pease Clean-Up Effort

 PORTSMOUTH, NH — Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Maggie Hassan, and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today announced that the U.S. Air Force has agreed to pay the City of Portsmouth $1.3 million to complete next steps in the ongoing Pease clean-up effort.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates a real and ongoing commitment from the Air Force to rid the Pease wells of dangerous water contaminants,” said Senator Shaheen. “Granite State families who are worried about their children getting sick from drinking contaminated water deserve peace of mind, and the additional funding for this carbon filtration system is an important step forward. I’ll continue to work to improve the safety of drinking water in New Hampshire communities.” 

“The announcement of this funding from the Air Force to address water contamination at Haven, Harrison, and Smith Wells  is a step in the right direction, but there is more work to do to ensure that all Granite Staters and their families have access to clean, safe drinking water,” Senator Hassan said. “Communities exposed to emerging contaminants in their water understandably have many concerns about their health, and I will continue working with the Congressional Delegation and federal partners to ensure that those concerns are urgently addressed.”

“Today’s investment by the Air Force is a good next step toward addressing unacceptable PFC contamination in our drinking water,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “I will continue to insist that the Air Force take financial responsibility for both cleaning up our water and for studying the health impacts of the level of PFC exposure that Pease-area residents have already experienced.”

Today’s Environmental Services Cooperative Agreement for Engineering Design Services will require the Air Force to provide the City of Portsmouth with funding to complete design plans for the carbon filtration system that will remove perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in water from the Haven, Harrison and Smith Wells, which are treated at the former Pease Air Force Base water treatment facility now operated by the City. This is the third agreement between the Air Force and the City for expenses related to mitigating PFC levels, which have been measured at levels exceeding the EPA’s lifetime health advisory in local drinking water. The first two agreements provided funding for preliminary design services and for a pilot project and demonstration of PFC removal. 

To date, the financial commitment of the Air Force for Pease mitigation activities totals $25 million. The Air Force’s projected $30 million investment in 2017 includes $13 million to retrofit the water treatment facility.

Last month, Shea-Porter’s amendments directing the Department of Defense to fund a CDC health impact study of exposure to PFCs in groundwater around military installations, as well as an amendment she cosponsored to fund ongoing mitigation efforts, passed the House with unanimous support as part of its annual Defense Appropriations bill. 

In April 2017, Senator Shaheen introduced the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation, which Senator Hassan cosponsored, that would help strengthen Federal and state efforts to improve drinking water systems. The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act creates a national strategy to coordinate the Federal response to emerging contaminants and provides state assistance in responding to related public health challenges. Shaheen also successfully included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that directs the Department of Defense to fund a nationwide health study on the implications of perflourinated chemicals in drinking water. Both Senators and the Congresswoman continue to work to ensure that the Air Force continues to engage with the Pease community and responds to their concerns.

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)

Sen. Maggie Hassan: Time To Focus On Bipartisan Health Care Solutions

Last week, three of my Republican colleagues — Sens. Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski — put the well-being of the American people before partisan politics, joining Democrats to defeat a health care repeal bill that would have raised health care costs and stripped health insurance away from millions.

Members of both parties defeated this dangerous bill, and it is going to take bipartisanship to move us forward. The Affordable Care Act needs improvement; we must move on from repeal and fix what’s not working with the law, and build on the progress we’ve made in order to bring down costs for hard-working people. Some of us have already started this conversation; I was part of a bipartisan group of senators who are also former governors who recently met to find common ground.

It is possible to find bipartisan solutions, even on an issue as complicated as health care. As governor, I worked across party lines to pass a bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan that is delivering quality, affordable insurance to more than 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters.

Medicaid expansion has made a real difference for communities across New Hampshire, particularly for people impacted by the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis. People like Elizabeth, who I recently met at Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth.

Elizabeth told us that she had been homeless and lost the custody of her son as a result of a substance use disorder. Now, Elizabeth is in recovery and working at the SOS Recovery Community Organization in Rochester, helping others get the support they need. She said that she owes her recovery to the insurance she received through Medicaid expansion.

Elizabeth’s story is a great example of what is possible when Democrats and Republicans work together to improve the health of our people.

We need to take the same bipartisan approach in Congress that we took in New Hampshire, and I am eager to work with my colleagues to find areas of bipartisan cooperation so we can make key improvements to the Affordable Care Act.

To start, we must stabilize insurance markets and protect the marketplace from the Trump administration’s actions to sabotage it, actions that are increasing the cost of health insurance premiums.

One of these destabilizing actions is the administration’s ongoing threats to withhold payments — to fund what are known as cost sharing reductions — that help lower out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles and co-pays for individuals with health insurance plans in the marketplace. This creates uncertainty, which in turn drives up costs. That’s why I’m supporting a proposal from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, which would help lower premiums by ensuring that these payments get made.

I also joined my colleagues in introducing legislation to encourage the creation of reinsurance programs, which help reduce insurance premiums by lowering the risk to insurance companies associated with high-cost patients. At the state level, the New Hampshire Department of Insurance is also pursuing a waiver under the Affordable Care Act to establish a reinsurance program.

Additionally, we need to address the Affordable Care Act’s income cliff that currently blocks many middle-class individuals and families from receiving financial help to purchase insurance through the marketplace. This will help bring down the cost of premiums for middle class Granite Staters and allow more people to access affordable coverage.

While we work to ensure market stability and address premium prices, there are other steps we can take to bring down health care costs. One of the most common issues I hear about from Granite Staters is the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, and it’s long past time for Congress to act.

I joined my colleagues in introducing legislation to crack down on big pharmaceutical companies that hike the cost of prescription drugs that have been on the market for years or who game the system at the expense of consumers. I also believe that we should allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs and permit the safe importation of drugs from countries such as Canada.

There is more work to do, and these are important steps that we can take now to lower costs for consumers.

Every American deserves to have access to quality, affordable care so that they can be healthy and contribute to our economy. By working across party lines, we can take important strides toward reaching that goal.

Senators Urge Sec. Mattis Not To Enact Trump’s Discriminatory Anti-Transgender Policy

Shaheen, Hassan Join Bipartisan Letter Urging Secretary Mattis Not to Implement Transgender Ban

Last week, President Trump tweeted that transgender individuals could no longer serve in the US Armed Forces.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

If enacted this new policy against transgender individuals would reverse policies issued by Sec of Defense,, Ash Carter in 2015 that stated:

“No Service member shall be involuntarily separated or denied reenlistment or continuation of active or reserve service on the basis of their gender identity, without the personal approval of the Under Secretary of Defense for personnel and Readiness.”

However since Trump’s policy announcement on twitter, the White House and the Department of Defense have not issued any official policy changes, leaving the thousands of transgender Service members hanging in the balance.  Since the official policy announcement in 2015, there have been zero reported issues by any branch of the military.

Now, everyone is waiting to see what Secretary of Defense James Mattis will do next.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan joined a bipartisan letter signed by 43 additional Senators to Secretary Mattis urging him to advise the President against implementing the announcement he made via Twitter Wednesday that transgender Americans can no longer serve in the military.

“We strongly oppose this policy change, and urge you to advise the President against it,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “This announcement contradicts existing Defense Department policies, undermines our military readiness, and puts our transgender service members as well as their commanders in an impossible situation.”

“We appreciate General Dunford’s message that no policy changes should be made until implementation guidelines have been issued. We further write to request that, at a minimum, you do not separate any service member due to the person’s gender identity until you have completed the assessment that you announced on June 30, have reported back to Congress about any challenges that you foresee in the accession and retention of transgender troops, and determined the Department is unable to mitigate these challenges.”

Veterans like Jason Lindsay fear that this policy shift is a “colossal step backwards” in a statement issued Wednesday.

“As an Iraq war veteran and member of the LGBTQ community who was personally impacted by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I am appalled at Donald Trump’s announcement this morning banning transgender people from serving in the military,” said Jason Lindsay, Executive Director of Pride Fund to End Gun Violence. “This is blatant discrimination, full-stop, and a colossal step backwards for our country.”

“Trump vowed to protect the LGBTQ community during his campaign, but his methodical dismantling of LGBTQ protections and rights shows his true intentions. This morning’s announcement is a direct attack on the transgender community,” said Lindsay.

The full text of the Senators’ joint letter is included here and below.

Letter to Mattis on transgender troops

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.

In Exeter, Senator Hassan Talks About Opposition To Trumpcare

Senator Hassan Visits Exeter Hospital, Joins Medical Professionals to Discuss Need for Bipartisan Action to Lower Health Care Costs for Granite Staters

EXETER – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan joined medical professionals at Exeter Hospital to discuss the need for members of both parties to come together to lower health care costs for Granite Staters and to build on and improve the Affordable Care Act. Senator Hassan and other attendees also highlighted how Senate Republican leadership’s various plans to repeal the ACA would result in higher costs and rip insurance away from Granite Staters.

Senator Hassan was joined by Exeter Hospital President and CEO Kevin Callahan, Exeter Hospital Vice President of Strategic Planning Mark Whitney, New Hampshire Health Care Association President and CEO Brendan Williams, Multiple Sclerosis Society Member Dennis Murphy, and other medical professionals and patients.

“It is long past time that Democrats and Republicans in the Senate come together to build on and improve the Affordable Care Act,” Senator Hassan said. “Without any public hearings, Senate Republicans will attempt this week to pass a version of Trumpcare that will lead to higher costs and rip insurance away from millions of Americans. Instead, we must work together in a bipartisan manner to lower health care costs for hard-working Granite Staters and Americans, stabilize the insurance market, and protect the markets from sabotage attempts by the Trump Administration.”

“This has been a terrifying moment for those I represent,” said New Hampshire Health Care Association President and CEO Brendan Williams. “It’s absolutely unsustainable that we should bear such cuts. This is immoral, it’s absolutely immoral to attack the residents that we care for and the caregivers that we employ, to devastate their dreams and hopes for dignity in their later years.”

“The high cost of prescription drugs is a major reason New Hampshire families are seeing their overall health care costs rise, forcing many patients to make difficult decisions about the care they can receive,” said, Dennis Murphy, a resident of Londonderry who lives with multiple sclerosis. “The price of the MS drug I take, for instance, has escalated $40,000 in the last 7 years. Something must be done to stop this trajectory. I thank Senator Hassan who has made this a top priority by co-sponsoring the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act that would bring transparency to these price increases.”

Senators Share Real Life Stories Of Granite Staters Highlighted In US Senate Fight Against Trumpcare

WASHINGTON – Last night, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan went to the Senate floor together to highlight a few of the stories they heard at an emergency Trumpcare field hearing they held last Friday in Concord. The Senators also emphasized that even though Republican leadership has delayed a vote on Trumpcare this week, the fundamentals of what is wrong with Trumpcare will not change.

“The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and radically cut Medicaid is a clear and present danger to the State of New Hampshire and to every other State,” said Senator Shaheen. “I am grateful to the Granite Staters who attended our field hearing on Friday, and I was particularly struck by the many parents who expressed their fears over what ACA repeal would mean for their children’s healthcare. In other States, too, large numbers of people are attending town hall meetings to express overwhelming opposition to the Republican leaders’ bill.  We need to listen. We need to stop this headlong rush to pass a cruel and heartless bill.”

During her remarks on the Senate floor, Shaheen highlighted the stories of Paula Garvey from Amherst who is worried that insurance companies would impose lifetime limits on benefits for her 19-year-old daughter Rosie, who has cystic fibrosis; Sarah Sadowski from Concord whose daughter has cerebral palsy; and Melissa Fernald from Wolfeboro whose patients rely on Medicaid expansion for their health insurance.

“Trumpcare would be a disaster for people in New Hampshire,” said Senator Hassan. “Granite Staters know this and they have been standing up and speaking out against this dangerous bill. As Senator Shaheen discussed, we held an emergency hearing last week in Concord to hear from our constituents about how Trumpcare would impact them. We held this emergency hearing at 2 p.m., on a Friday afternoon in the summer, with just a day’s notice – yet hundreds of people showed up. […] They told us what their lives were like, and why Trumpcare would be devastating to them and their families. I’d like to share some of those stories here today.”

On the Senate floor, Senator Hassan highlighted the stories of Ariel, a mother from Rochester who has struggled with substance misuse and is now in recovery because of services she received through Medicaid; Jeff, who has muscular dystrophy and discussed how Medicaid covers critical services for people with disabilities that private insurance doesn’t cover; and Enna, who is self-employed and purchases health insurance through New Hampshire’s Marketplace, providing affordable care for her and her family that she couldn’t get before the Affordable Care Act.

Senator Hassan Joins Prominent Doctor Organizations to Speak Out Against Trumpcare

WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) joined doctors from the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, Americans College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Psychiatric Association, and the American Osteopathic Association, to speak out against the dangerous Trumpcare proposal in the Senate, which would harm millions of Americans.

“The reason there are so many physicians here from so many different specialties is because these doctors know firsthand that Trumpcare is bad for America’s health,” said Senator Hassan. “The decision to delay the Senate vote does not change the fact that under Trumpcare, Americans would pay more for worse health coverage, and it’s all in order to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to corporate special interests – including Big Pharma – at the expense of hard-working Americans and the programs they rely on.”

Senator Hassan highlighted how Trumpcare would make things worse for most Americans, regardless of whether they get insurance through an employer, buy it individually, or have Medicaid. The Senator also emphasized how Trumpcare ends Medicaid expansion and makes massive cuts to the Medicaid program, threatening efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis, as well as the health and well-being of children, pregnant women, seniors who require home care or nursing home care, and Granite Staters who experience disabilities.

Democratic Senators Demand Answers To Policy Changes To Civil Rights Protections In The Dept of Education

Shaheen, Hassan Join Senate Democrats to Call Out Secretary DeVos for Harmful Actions on Civil Rights Protections, Enforcement 

Betsy DeVos
Image by Gage Skidmore Feb 2017

Senators highlight numerous steps taken by Secretary DeVos to roll back civil rights enforcement and protections for students 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined 33 Senators today in sending a letter to Secretary DeVos citing major concerns with steps the U.S. Department of Education has taken under her leadership to diminish civil rights enforcement for students across the country. The Senators highlight a number of alarming steps Secretary DeVos has taken, including hosting events with anti-LGBTQ hate groups, proposing to slash the budget of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and scaling back OCR’s civil rights enforcements, among others.

Your testimony in front of Congress, your continued association with groups with records of supporting discrimination, and two memos written by the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, have reemphasized longstanding concerns about your dedication to the idea that all students, no matter their race, religion, disability, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a right to receive an education free from discrimination,” wrote the Senators.

In the letter the Senators continued to press DeVos on her failure to protect transgender students.

“We are also extremely disappointed in the Department’s failure to take actions to protect transgender students.  More than a third of transgender students report being the subject of harassment or bullying in school,[5] sixty percent of transgender youth report being forced to use bathrooms inconsistent with their gender identity,[6] and half of transgender children have seriously contemplated suicide.[7] Despite these shocking statistics, on February 22, 2017, the Department withdrew joint guidance on transgender students’ rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”).

On March 10, six Senators wrote you expressing outrage at that decision and asking how you intend to enforce civil rights protections for transgender students. While you have not yet answered that letter, recent steps by the Department suggest you will not act to protect transgender students. In fact, the Department has already abandoned its defense of some students who have experienced discrimination or harassment by dismissing or closing at least two cases involving transgender students and withdrawing previous findings of discrimination against the school districts.[8] ” 

The Senators are also demanding answers to open cases and policy changes within the Department of Education.

In order to fully understand the impact of recent policy and civil rights investigatory and enforcement changes at the Department and the Office of Civil Rights, please provide the following information and documents by July 11, 2017:

  • A list of all open OCR cases involving a transgender student as of January 30, 2017, disaggregated by the nature of the complaint, and the current status of each of these cases.
  • A list of all open OCR cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment as of January 30, 2017 and the current status of those cases.
  • A list of all cases OCR has closed or dismissed between January 1, 2017, and today, and the specific reason each case was closed.
  • A complete, un-redacted copy of the manual used by investigators.
  • An explanation of how the Department intends to ensure that OCR investigators are making determinations about transgender students’ rights based on binding legal precedent in their region. 
  • An answer as to whether the Department will continue to post all resolution agreements online.
  • Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, policy changes affecting civil rights enforcement by the Department.
  • Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, proposed budget cuts in OCR.
  • A list of all metrics that will be used by the Department to assess effectiveness of civil rights enforcement.

There is no more serious responsibility of the Department than to ensure consistent, vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and protections for all students.”

Due to the disturbing actions of the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has opened a multi-agency investigation into whether the Trump Administration’s proposed budgets, staffing cuts, and policy priorities have increased the risk of discrimination.

The full letter is attached below.

062717 - Betsy DeVos ED Office of Civil Rights (OCR)

Trump Renegs On Campaign Promise To Lower Prescription Drug Prices, Progressives Push Back

Image from healthmindandlife.com on FLIKR

Group Urges President to Support Landmark Proposal to Address Skyrocketing Drug Prices, A Major Driver of Health Care Costs

WASHINGTON –It appears that Donald Trump is preparing to give a massive gift to the pharmaceutical industry with an executive order that reportedly favors the industry over consumers,

The New York Times reports that the report “is light on specifics but clear on philosophy: Easing regulatory hurdles for the drug industry is the best way to get prices down.”

This is just more “free market” mythology: If you remove regulations, business will thrive.  The executives and hedge fund managers that own all the stock in these pharmaceutical companies may thrive, but at what cost? Is it acceptable that a few wealthy executives make even more money or that millions of Americans see relief from the ever climbing cost of prescription drug prices?  The worst part is that all of those newly found profits will come from the taxpayers like you and me who pay into the Medicare system will now be forced to pay even higher rates for the same medications.

The New York Times further explains:

“The document directs the United States trade representative to conduct a study of price differences between the United States and other countries, and to review trade agreements that may need to be revised “to promote greater intellectual property protection and competition in the global market.”

If you read between the lines, the pharmaceutical industry wants to force other countries, who are already paying drastically lower drug prices, to bring prices more in line with the prices here in the United States.

The order specifically targets low income families in an effort to boost Big Pharma’s exorbitant profits.

“The draft order targets a program, 340B, that requires the drug industry to give discounts to hospitals and clinics that serve large numbers of low-income patients. The industry has complained that the program is being abused, while hospitals say they would have to cut services without it.”

Yes, the proposed order would take away the “requirement” to provide low income families with low cost medications and allow the pharmaceutical industry to jack up the prices on those drugs at the same time.

On Friday, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined progressive Democrats from the Senate and House in urging President Donald Trump to get behind real solutions to bring down the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs, one of the central reasons why health care costs are rising.

Senator Hassan recently helped introduce the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act, a comprehensive piece of legislation that the group pressed President Trump to support in a letter sent Friday (attached below). This commonsense legislation would help ensure that drug companies put patients before profits and bring much-needed relief to families and seniors, including many who have had to make the impossible choice between paying for a life-saving drug and putting food on the table.

“We hear time and time again from our constituents across the country about how high prices for life-saving and life-sustaining treatments force patients to choose between their health and their economic security,” the lawmakers wrote to President Trump. “Now is the time to address the American people’s concerns in a meaningful way. We urge you to stand up to the pharmaceutical corporations and put the needs of patients first and to support a comprehensive approach that offers real solutions that will make a real difference in peoples’ lives.”

The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act has already gained the support of a broad range of organizations and patient advocacy groups and runs in contrast to the executive order that’s being prepared by the White House.

These legislators are also holding Trump accountable for his campaign promise to reduce prescription drug prices.

On the campaign trail, then candidate Trump said, that the pharmaceutical industry is “getting away with murder.”  He implied that the pharmaceutical industry is gouging people and gouging federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid with outrageously high drug prices.

Trump also promised to change the law to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices as they do in other countries around the world.”We are going to start bidding. We are going to save billions of dollars over time,” he said.

Between the newly proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in the Republican’s new healthcare proposal and President Trump’s proposed Executive Order to reduce regulations on the Pharmaceutical industry, it is abuntantly clear that Trump has no intention of upholding his campaign promise.

 


The letter to the president was led by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), was also signed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.),  Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

It also was signed by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ari.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Kathy Castor (D-Fl.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Sanders Levin (D-Mich.), and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).

You can also read the open letter of support from groups like Public Citizen, the Alliance for Retired Americans, The National Center for Health Research, and many more, here


170623_TrumpRXLetter
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