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850% Increase To Seniors Healthcare: NH Congressional Delegation Responds To New CBO Report

Yesterday the non-partisan, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their report on the American Healthcare Act of 2017 (AHCA) and the news is horrifying to seniors and low income families.

The CBO reports:

  • An estimated 23 million people would lose healthcare coverage over the next ten years.
  • The cost of an individual plan would skyrocket by 20% in 2018, and an additional 5% in 2019.
  • Those 50-64 would be forced to pay drastically higher premiums, as much as 60% of their income.

VOX reports that this would be an 850% increase over what they would pay under the current ACA law.  You can see the breakdown of premiums based on 175% of the Federal Poverty Level ($26,500 per individual) and 450% of FPL ($68,200).

This new law makes healthcare completely unaffordable for millions of Americans, specifically older Americans.  These are just what people would be forced to pay to get “access” to healthcare. This does not include deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.   Nobody could possibly afford to pay 60% of their income to have the freedom to access healthcare.

“Today’s CBO report confirms that the Republican healthcare repeal bill is not only reckless, it would be devastating to Granite Staters’ health and wellbeing,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).”Throwing 23 million Americans off their insurance is not a successful healthcare plan. The Republican leadership’s repeal bill would result in many patients paying more and receiving less coverage, while eliminating protections that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions such as a history of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or postpartum depression. The repeal bill would be particularly harmful to New Hampshire’s response to the opioid epidemic, eliminating Medicaid expansion that has helped Granite Staters get the substance misuse treatment they need. I urge my Republican colleagues to commit to working in a bipartisan manner to improve the Affordable Care Act and ensure that more Americans have affordable, accessible care.”

“The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has confirmed what we already knew: Trumpcare would be devastating for hard-working people across New Hampshire and America, leading to higher costs for worse health coverage,” said Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH). “If you buy your own health care, Trumpcare means you will face 20% higher premiums in 2018, with especially high premium hikes for older Americans. And if you have a pre-existing condition, which under Trumpcare includes cancer, asthma or diabetes, you could once again be discriminated against with higher costs. Trumpcare would also lead to 23 million more uninsured Americans, and it would undermine our efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis – despite President Trump’s promises to take action against this crisis. I will continue to do everything in my power to stop this harmful Trumpcare bill.”

“Today’s estimate by the independent Congressional Budget Office confirms that the health care repeal bill Republicans pushed through the House earlier this month would kick a devastating number of Americans – 23 million people – off of their coverage, strip protections from people with pre-existing conditions, and raise their premiums,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) who voiced her opposition to this bill on the House floor.

“This estimate caps off a disturbing week where President Trump proposed devastating cuts to Medicaid, children’s health care coverage, and Social Security disability insurance, while continuing to destabilize insurance markets by denying insurers certainty about whether his Administration will honor its obligations. President Trump has broken his promise of ‘insurance for everybody,’” Shea-Porter added.

“This report affirms what we already knew, that the American Health Care Act would be a disaster for access to healthcare in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02). “It would take away protections for those with preexisting conditions, allow Americans over 50 to be charged more, hurt access to healthcare for seven million veterans, and jeopardize our response the opioid epidemic. I urge my Republican colleagues to abandon this legislation and come to the table in good faith to work on bipartisan solutions to improve access to healthcare for all Americans.”

No doubt the Republicans will try to say that the CBO confirms that this new healthcare bill will save taxpayers “$116 billion dollars” over the next decade.  But at what cost?  They are gutting Medicaid upwards of $800 billion with an addition $276 billion in tax giveaways to wealthiest Americans.

This new healthcare bill is a complete disaster. The Senate is our only hope to somehow fix this.  If the Senate passes this bill as it is now, people will die.  People will no longer be able to afford healthcare and they will no longer be able to afford their medications and they will die.

NH Congressional Delegation Adamantly Opposes Trump’s Budget Proposal

Today, #45 released his disastrous budget proposal.  The budget slashes major departments and includes cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Education, Student Loan programs, repeals the ACA, and guts worker health & safety programs.

Even though, Candidate Trump promised not to make any cuts to Social Security and Medicare, it turns out he was lying.

After all the cuts, #45 proposes more tax cuts to the ultra wealth, like himself, and to multinational corporations who are hiding trillions of dollars overseas already.

“According to Mulvaney, the proposal looks ‘at the budget through the eyes of the taxpayer’ instead of those who receive benefits from federal programs.” (RawStory)

“If I can look you in the eye and say I’m going to take this money from you so I can help this injured vet, I can do that in good conscience,” Mulvaney continued. “I am a lot less comfortable to the point of not wanting to look you in the eye and say, ‘Look, I need to take this money from you to give to this person over here who really isn’t disabled but is getting a disabled benefit or this person over here who is supposed to use the money to go to school but isn’t actually going.” (RawStory)

The New Hampshire Congressional delegation is united in their opposition to these cuts.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen:

“The President’s budget is even worse for New Hampshire than initially feared,” said Shaheen. “This budget would be detrimental to the health and well-being of Granite Staters. Among its many reckless provisions this proposal would throw millions of Americans off of Medicaid, a key program in our fight against the opioid epidemic and in making sure our children and seniors have the care they need. It also cuts funding for other mental health and substance misuse treatment programs. All in all, this budget completely ignores the urgency of the opioid crisis and would pull the rug out from under New Hampshire’s efforts to combat it.

“This budget also continues the Trump administration’s campaign to roll back women’s rights by defunding Planned Parenthood, jeopardizing vital preventive healthcare for nearly 12,000 women in New Hampshire. In a further assault on New Hampshire families, the budget cuts the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Similarly, it’s dumbfounding that this budget eliminates low income heating assistance for thousands of New Hampshire families and seniors, and economic development for the North Country.

“Fortunately, there’s bipartisan agreement that this mindless proposal should be rejected by Congress. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I look forward to working across the aisle on bipartisan government funding legislation that will responsibly fund key programs that many Granite Staters depend on. The budget is a reflection of an administration’s priorities, and what is clear from this budget is that the Trump administration prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthy over New Hampshire children, seniors, and families.”

Senator Maggie Hassan

“President Trump’s budget proposal would directly undermine our economy and the ability of New Hampshire families to get ahead and stay ahead. This irresponsible proposal would jeopardize critical economic priorities and hurt job-creating businesses in order to pay for tax cuts for corporate special interests and an expensive and ineffective border wall. I am particularly disturbed to see cuts to programs that are essential to our efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis. The drastic cuts to the Medicaid program in this proposal go above and beyond even the devastating cuts included in the Trumpcare bill, further hurting people struggling with substance use disorder, students who experience disabilities, and older Americans in nursing homes. President Trump’s proposed cuts to the Department of Education would also undermine our public education system and hurt efforts to develop the workforce our businesses need to thrive and grow. I will strongly fight this budget proposal and urge my colleagues to work across the aisle on a budget that strengthens our economy, invests in our businesses, and supports New Hampshire families.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01)

“A budget is a moral document, and this immoral budget does not reflect the values we share as Americans. The President’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal would hurt students, working Americans, seniors, and our most vulnerable citizens by slashing health care, nutrition assistance, medical and scientific research, education, and other programs. President Trump’s budget reveals his true priorities: giving huge tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations.

“Today’s budget abandons the bipartisan progress we made earlier this month, when I voted for and the President signed an omnibus spending bill. As Congress works through the Fiscal Year 2018 budget process, I will fight against reckless and irresponsible cuts that target working families and our most vulnerable citizens; against the President’s proposal to balance the budget on the backs of working Americans and our seniors while giving the wealthiest even bigger tax cuts; against a new BRAC round; and for the priorities that were reflected in this year’s bipartisan omnibus bill.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02)

“The budget proposal released today by President Trump confirms many of our worst fears about the priorities of his administration,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “This budget is cruel, shortsighted, and would be a disaster for efforts to strengthen the middle class. It would hurt hard working families and communities throughout New Hampshire and the country. From public education and student loans to economic development programs like Community Development Block Grants and the Northern Border Regional Commission, this budget would decimate programs for those who can least afford it. It would jeopardize clean air and water and our response to the opioid epidemic, all so that President Trump and his millionaire and billionaire friends can receive a massive tax giveaway. I’ll do everything in my power to fight the harmful elements of this budget and protect programs for Granite State veterans, seniors, and families.”

As if the above cuts were not enough already here are more details on the draconian cuts that Trump is proposing.

  • A $610 billion cut to Medicaid over 10 years, which combined with House-passed American Health Care Act cuts would slice total Medicaid funding almost in half by 2027. About 65 percent of nursing home residents are supported primarily by Medicaid;
  • A $5.8 billion cut to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
  • A $7 billion cut to National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provided $98.9 million in critical medical research funding in New Hampshire for Fiscal Year 2016, supporting approximately 1,300 jobs;
  • A 10.7% cut to the National Science Foundation, which provided 125 awards totaling approximately $42 million to New Hampshire institutions in Fiscal Year 2016;
  • A 31.4% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including cutting critical climate science research;
  • Authorization for a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC);
  • A 29% cut to State Department funding, crippling our nation’s ability to exert soft power and respond to humanitarian crises worldwide;
  • A $193 billion cut over 10 years to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helped 93,302 Granite Staters afford food as of February 2017;
  • $72.5 billion cut from programs that support people with disabilities, including Social Security disability insurance;
  • Elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a critical fuel assistance program for low-income households in New Hampshire;
  • A $143 billion cut over 10 years to student loan, financial aid and repayment programs that facilitate access to higher education;
  • A reversal of a proposed 95% cut to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). After reports indicated that the President’s budget would include severe ONDCP funding cuts, which the NH delegation has already opposed.

This immoral budget must not pass.  We need to stop trying to balance our national budget on the backs of working people and specifically by taking from those who need it the most.  We must stop this tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans and corporations who already fail to pay their fair share of tax and hide profits overseas to avoid being taxed at all.

The government should be working together to help all of the people, not a select few of ultra wealth, (most likely Trump) campaign donors.

New Hampshire Congressional Delegation United Against Cuts To Office Of National Drug Control Policy

New Hampshire Congressional Delegation Writes to President Trump in Opposition to ONDCP Cuts

(Washington, DC) – Today Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, along with U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) wrote to President Donald Trump to express their opposition to proposed cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The letter highlights the importance of ONDCP to addressing the substance misuse crisis in New Hampshire. Recent reports cite up to 94% in cuts to the office, which is critical to coordinating the federal response to the opioid epidemic that is negatively impacting communities throughout the state and the country. The letter comes as the Trump Administration continues to pursue policies that would undermine efforts to address the opioid crisis.

“We write to you as the federal delegation representing New Hampshire, one of the states suffering most from the nation’s opioid crisis, to express our concern after recent reports indicated that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) could face severe budget cuts in fiscal year 2018,” wrote the members. “These cuts would eliminate important programs that improve the ability of local law enforcement to respond to the opioid crisis in our communities. Programs like the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and the Drug-Free Communities Support program provide local law enforcement and public health officials the flexibility needed to tailor appropriate responses to challenges facing their communities.”

The delegation continued, “We urge you to reconsider any proposed cuts to ONDCP that would undermine federal response to the ongoing opioid crisis.”

The proposed cuts to ONDCP include the Drug-Free Communities Support program and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, which coordinates drug trafficking activities in designated areas. Last year, the New England HIDTA region received nearly $4.5 million in funding, including nearly $250,000 specifically for Hillsborough and Rockingham counties in New Hampshire.

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

 

Trump Letter ONDCP May 19

Senate Democrats, Underscore Dangers of Cuts to Medicaid Under Trumpcare

Trumpcare Would End Medicaid Expansion and Cut the Program by More Than $800 Billion

Democrats, Educators, Parents Outline the Harmful Impact Cutting Medicaid Would Have on Students and Their Potential in the Classroom

Children Make Up Almost 50% of Medicaid Beneficiaries, Highlighting the Disproportionate Effect Trumpcare Would Have on Children

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey, Maggie Hassan, and Michael Bennet outlined the harmful effects of Trumpcare on children and students as a result of Republicans’ plan to make cuts to Medicaid.  Senate Democrats will fight to ensure every child is afforded the care they need. The senators were joined by Marbea Tammaro, longtime occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins and Virginia public schools, and Julie Gerhart Rothholz of Souderton, PA, whose son, Evan, is six years old and has Down Syndrome.

Watch video of the press conference here beginning with Senator Maggie Hassan.

“Decimating Medicaid, as Republicans are scheming to do, will have devastating consequences for children in schools,” Senator Bob Casey said. “School districts in Pennsylvania need Medicaid funding to provide services for vulnerable children, yet Republicans are cutting these funds to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.”

“As the mom of a son who experiences disabilities, my family has experienced firsthand the strengths and flaws of our health care system,” Senator Maggie Hassan said. “Children like my son are able to go to school and participate in their communities because of the Medicaid program now under threat by Trumpcare. Without the support from Medicaid, school districts would be faced with cutting services that help integrate students with disabilities. We cannot afford to go back to the days when we marginalize or don’t assist some of our most vulnerable students, and I will stand strong with the people of New Hampshire, my colleagues, and educators across the nation in fighting against this dangerous bill that would pull us backward.”

“The Republican health care plan will cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, threatening basic health care services for many children, including more than 400,000 kids in Colorado alone.” Senator Michael Bennet said. “Medicaid also supports critical services that kids receive in schools, including vision tests, screenings for mental health, and assistance for disabilities. Medicaid funding also allows schools to employ the nurses and therapists responsible for helping our kids. The extreme cut to Medicaid is one of the most harmful parts of the Republican bill, and I will continue to fight back against this assault on our children’s health.”

Marbea Tammaro said, “In our area it’s difficult to find the funding and staffing to cover the mandatory services for students with special needs. Medicaid funding in the schools provides reimbursement to school districts for these expenses…Not having access to Medicaid funding would mean fewer service for all students, both students with disabilities and students in a general education setting. We encourage continually funding of Medicaid in the schools.”

Julie Gerhart Rothholz said, “What I fear every day as a parent is that I’m going to wake up one day and we’re going to be faced with the reality of block grants, reduced funding, and health services are going to become a business decision. Every business decision doesn’t necessarily consider the student, the person that needs help as an adult. My thought is, if we’re going to talk about business, we should probably talk about investing early to save later; that we should talk about the law of unintended consequences, and that we should talk about how these are people and what we do now can promote their independence as an adult.”

Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 95% of students now have health coverage. Republicans’ plan to make devastating cuts to Medicaid under Trumpcare threatens the achievements made in children’s care. Care now jeopardized under Trumpcare includes vision tests in school, prescreening and treatment services for students, services for students with disabilities, and mental health services, as well as the ability for schools to employ nurses and therapists through Medicaid revenue.

Shaheen, Hassan Join Senate Democrats to Introduce Student Loan Refinancing Legislation

Student loan debt has swelled to $1.4 trillion, surpassing total amount of credit card debt

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined 34 of their Democratic colleagues today to reintroduce the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. The legislation would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the interest rates offered to new federal borrowers in the 2016-2017 school year. A previous version of the bill was voted on in the 113th Congress, and every Senate Democrat and three Senate Republicans voted to move the bill forward.

“Throughout New Hampshire, Granite Staters are struggling with the increasing costs of higher education and it’s hurting students, their families and our economy,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Students should be able to refinance their loans just like homeowners can refinance their mortgages. This legislation will help borrowers save thousands on their loans, continuing our effort to make college more affordable and help save students from a mountain of debt.”

Senator Maggie Hassan

“One of the biggest issues I hear about from students, families, and businesses across New Hampshire is the increasing burden of student loan debt,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “This common-sense measure helps students struggling to make their loan payments by allowing students to refinance their loans at the current federal rate. We know that there is far more we must do to make higher education more affordable and to strengthen job training programs, and I will continue fighting to move this important legislation forward.”

Since the original bill was introduced in 2014, student loan debt has gone up more than $200 billion. In 2015, 70% of college seniors graduated with debt. And this year, more than one in four borrowers are in delinquency or in default on their student loans. One in seven borrowers defaults on federal student loans within three years of beginning repayment, and according to a recent analysis, a quarter of borrowers default over the life of their loans.

In addition to Shaheen and Hassan, original sponsors of the legislation in the Senate include Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Yesterday, Congresswoman Annie Kuster announced her support for this legislation in the House.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter previously her support for this legislation.

Senator Hassan Delivers Floor Speech Highlighting Importance of Net Neutrality

 Speech Emphasizes Benefits of Net Neutrality to Granite State Entrepreneurs, Small Businesses, and Underrepresented Populations 

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan delivered remarks on the Senate floor, highlighting the importance of net neutrality to promoting innovation, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, and encouraging economic growth in New Hampshire and across the nation. The Senator also underlined the critical role of net neutrality in protecting consumers from unfair practices.

Senator Hassan delivered the speech in light of a vote the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will take tomorrow on a notice of proposed rulemaking, which begins the unravelling of common-sense consumer protections that enhance the online experience for Internet users.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should provide equal access to all applications, content, platforms, and websites, and cannot discriminate against content or content providers by making certain web page, applications, or videos load faster or slower than others. The FCC adopted rules to provide a level playing field and protect against content discrimination, and these rules went into effect in June of 2015.

Key Quotes from Senator Hassan’s speech: 

  • “In giving entrepreneurs a level playing field to turn an idea into a thriving business that reaches a global audience, net neutrality helps promote innovation and boost economic growth.”
  • “Net neutrality isn’t just great for startups and entrepreneurs, it has also created a platform for traditionally underrepresented voices – including women and minorities – to be heard – and as importantly, to add to our economic strength.”
  • “The National Women’s March in January brought together hundreds of thousands of people to raise their voices and organize in marches across the country – and around the world – largely through online activism.”
  • “I will continue fighting to ensure that our regulatory environment is one that spurs innovation, fosters economic growth, supports our small businesses, and allows the next young person with a big idea to prosper.”

 

Click here for video:

 

Progressives In The Senate Push To Expand Employee-Owned Companies

Senator Hassan Joins Senator Sanders, Lahey, and Gillibrand To Introduce Legislation To Encourage and Expand Employee-Owned Companies 

WASHINGTON – Today, building on her efforts to expand middle class opportunity and support innovative businesses in New Hampshire, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined in introducing two pieces of legislation to help encourage and expand employee-owned companies.

Senator Hassan joined Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in introducing the WORK Act and the U.S. Employee Ownership Bank Act.

“Studies have shown that employee-owned companies have more productive workers, better working conditions, and greater shareholder returns,” said Senator Hassan. “New Hampshire has innovative businesses that are setting a great example of the benefits of employee-owned companies. I am proud to support these two bills that will help encourage these efforts, boost economic growth and expand opportunity for hard-working Granite Staters.”

Broad-based employee ownership has been proven to increase employment, increase productivity, sales, and wages in the United States. Employee ownership boosts company productivity by 4 percent, shareholder returns by 2 percent and profits by 14 percent, according to a Rutgers University study. Nationally, there are already nearly 10,000 employee-owned businesses which employ roughly 10 million people.

The WORK Act would provide more than $45 million in funding to states to establish and expand employee ownership centers, which provide training and technical support for programs promoting employee ownership. The bill is also co-sponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

The U.S. Employee Ownership Bank Act would create a U.S. Employee Ownership Bank to provide $500 million in low-interest rate loans and other financial assistance to help workers purchase businesses through an employee stock ownership plan or a worker-owned cooperative.

Senator Hassan Co-Signs Letter On Importance Of Net Neutrality

Image by John Ward (Flikr CC)

Senators Hassan, Cantwell Lead Letter to FCC Chairman Highlighting Importance of Net Neutrality to Women Across America 

In letter, Senators urge Chairman to Reconsider Proposal
Undermining Online Protections for Consumers

WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) led a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai highlighting the importance of net neutrality to women across America and urging him to reconsider the proposal he outlined last month to roll back critical online consumer protections by dismantling current net neutrality rules.

The letter was also signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

“Net neutrality is particularly important to women, as it affords women-owned businesses and startups an even playing field when competing with more established brands and content,” the Senators wrote in the letter.

“The Internet is a powerful tool for civic engagement, as well as a means for economic and social mobility. We cannot overstate the importance of a free and open Internet to our nation’s economy, innovators, entrepreneurs, and consumers – including women and girls,” the Senators added. 

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should provide equal access to all applications, content, platforms, and websites. The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to provide a level playing field and protect against content discrimination, and these rules went into effect in June of 2015.

 

 

Click here or see below for the full text of the letter:

May 8, 2017

The Honorable Ajit Pai

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street Southwest

Washington, DC 20554

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

 

We are extremely concerned by your recently announced proposal to roll back critical consumer protections by dismantling the Federal Communications Commission’s current net neutrality rules. This announcement comes mere weeks after President Trump and Congressional Republicans eliminated key online privacy protections for Americans. A free and open Internet is vital to ensuring a level playing field. By preventing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from discriminating and blocking content, net neutrality helps provide the opportunity for every voice to be heard and every business, no matter how small or new, to thrive.

Net neutrality is particularly important to women, as it affords women-owned businesses and startups an even playing field when competing with more established brands and content. Between 2007 and 2016, while the total number of firms increased by 9 percent, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45 percent – meaning that over this period the number of women-owned firms grew at a rate fully five times the national average.[1] This growth mirrors the emergence of the Internet as a platform for economic growth.  The online sales platform, Etsy, is another example of how women thrive under a free and open Internet. Under the current net neutrality regime, Etsy has empowered sellers in every state across the country, 87 percent of whom are women.[2]

An open Internet is also vital to providing a platform for elevating voices that are underrepresented or marginalized in traditional media, an experience many women in media know well. When turned away by traditional media outlets, many female creators have found a home and an audience for their stories on the open Internet. The vast array of online media platforms enabled by net neutrality give creators permission-less access to viewers, providing autonomy for women of every color and creed to tell rich, compelling stories in their own voices.

In addition, an open Internet has allowed women to organize and create positive change in their communities. This is exemplified by the National Women’s March, which took place in January of this year. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in this March in the United States, as well as abroad, and the movement was largely generated through online activism. The Internet is a powerful tool for civic engagement, as well as a means for economic and social mobility. We cannot overstate the importance of a free and open Internet to our nation’s economy, innovators, entrepreneurs, and consumers – including women and girls.

The net neutrality protections you seek to undo were adopted after a lengthy notice and comment period in which a record-setting 4 million people participated. These rules have withstood legal challenges, and despite claims from net neutrality opponents, investments in broadband have remained at record highs. We hope that you will listen to our constituents who oppose changing the free and open Internet to a “pay-to-play” system with Internet fast lanes and slow lanes. Rather than rolling back protections that help provide an essential platform to creators and innovators, we urge you to instead focus on finding ways to bring more American consumers online with faster and better quality broadband.

As champions of women and girls, the families they support, and their economic opportunities, we will continue to fight for Internet freedom and online fairness. Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

 

HHS Secretary Tom Price Visit NH Trying To Peddle The AHCA

Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came to New Hampshire to host a roundtable discussion on the American Health Care Act and it impact on access to healthcare and substance misuse treatment in New Hampshire.

The AHCA has very little support, except for those inside the Republican Party, for its cuts to programs designed to help states combat the growing opioid addition.  This include NH’s Governor Chris Sununu.

Over the weekend, Republican Governor Chris Sununu praised the recently passed Trumpcare bill, calling it a “great message” to the American people and saying he was “glad they pass something.” The governor also wanted to see Congress give him the power to opt-out of providing coverage for substance abuse treatment.

New Hampshire has the third-most per capita deaths by drug overdose and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) called the state “ground zero” for the opioid epidemic. Sununu is welcoming Trumpcare architect, Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price to the state on Wednesday to discuss the opioid crisis just days after the governor expressed interest in cutting off coverage for substance abuse victims.

“It’s a mystery what exactly made Governor Sununu throw his support behind the most recent and cruelest version of Trumpcare, but it could do with the amendments that allows states to deny coverage and hike up premiums for more Americans,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Sununu’s idea to give states the option to deny coverage for substance abuse treatment is heartless. The governor’s purely ideological stance would weaken New Hampshire’s ability to combat our largest and most urgent issue.”

This weekend, the New Hampshire Hospital Association called the bill “a significant step backward.” New Hampshire Health Care Association said they couldn’t “imagine how care in New Hampshire ultimately survives this blow,” and the CEO of Catholic Medical Center said the bill would “result in dramatic increase in uncompensated care costs.”

Two new reports analyze ways in which Trumpcare would damage Granite Staters. Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of the AHCA found that a 60-year old in New Hampshire making $20,000 a year would pay 607% more in premiums than under the ACA. New Futures calculated the cost of substance abuse in New Hampshire as upwards of $2 billion annually, underscoring the need for federal assistance. Rather than increase federal money, Trumpcare would cut Medicaid by $880 billion and phase out Medicaid Expansion by 2020.

Sununu also asked for the power to opt-out of providing mental health coverage. The Trumpcare bill that just passed the House offers two key opt-out provisions. One provision would allow states to opt out of guaranteeing “essential health benefits” and the other would effectively allow insurance companies to charge an unlimited amount in monthly premiums to those with preexisting conditions.

In advance of Secretary Price’s visit, Congresswoman Annie Kuster wrote to the Secretary and inquired about the Trump Administration’s commitment to ensuring coverage for those with preexisting conditions, protecting rural hospitals, supporting treatment and recovery services for substance misuse, and avoiding cost increases for older Americans.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to express my concerns about the American Health Care Act with Secretary Price this afternoon,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “In New Hampshire, Medicaid expansion offered through the ACA has played an important role in getting thousands of Granite Staters seeking recovery services the treatment and care they need. Nearly every participant at today’s listening session highlighted the critical need to continue Medicaid expansion in our state. The Republican healthcare bill poses a serious threat to efforts to address the opioid crisis in New Hampshire and across the country. I hope that after hearing from people in New Hampshire, Secretary Price will have an appreciation for the importance of preserving access to treatment and recovery services that were established by the ACA. Rather than pursue partisan efforts to repeal the ACA, I urge my colleagues to come together in good faith to work to improve access to healthcare for all Americans.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the AHCA “decimates Medicaid” and removes requirements for insurance companies to “cover substance misuse” treatments.

“Considering Secretary Price played a lead role in crafting the Republican leadership’s healthcare repeal bill, I hope that he will take to heart the significant concerns of Granite Staters who are extremely alarmed about the impact that this legislation would have on their lives,” said Senator Shaheen.

“Today, Secretary Price said the Trump administration’s focus is to provide coverage and care to every American, but his words don’t match the administration’s actions. The Republican leadership’s healthcare repeal bill decimates Medicaid, and eliminates the program’s expansion and the federal requirement that insurance plans cover substance misuse treatment.  Taken together, these policies would not only take a wrecking ball to our state’s progress to address the opioid epidemic, but put us in a far worse position than ever before. These tools are fundamental to New Hampshire’s efforts to provide treatment to Granite Staters who desperately need it. Needless to say, a listening tour would have been much more appropriate prior to pushing this healthcare repeal legislation through the House of Representatives without any hearings,” Shaheen added.

 

Senator Maggie Hassan is also opposed to the AHCA and is “deeply concerned” about the cuts to the office “tasked with coordinating the federal government’s response to the substance misuse crisis.”

“While I appreciate Secretary Price’s visit to New Hampshire to highlight the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid epidemic devastating our state, there remains a troubling disconnect between the Trump Administration’s words and its proposals, which would significantly harm our ability to combat this crisis. The Trumpcare proposal being pushed by Secretary Price would be devastating to those on the front lines of this crisis – from slashing the traditional Medicaid program, to ending New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan and undermining the requirement that insurance companies cover substance use disorder treatment. I am also deeply concerned by reports that the White House is considering effectively eliminating the office tasked with coordinating the federal government’s response to the substance misuse crisis.”

“I hope that Secretary Price listened closely and learned from the discussion in which participants largely focused on the importance of Medicaid expansion and the critical role it plays in our efforts to combat substance misuse and save lives.”

 

As the day moved on, Secretary Price continued his listening tour but decided to lock out local media outlets.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter blasted them in her statement.

“If an HHS Secretary hosts a so-called ‘opioid listening tour’ and doesn’t allow the public or press to hear it, does it make a difference? People in New Hampshire are tired of hearing all talk on the opioid crisis and no action from Washington Republicans – and in fact, Secretary Price has spent the last few weeks pushing policies that would send us backwards in this fight. Perhaps Secretary Price kicked the press out of his roundtable because he knows his support for kicking millions off health care and ending key heroin-fighting programs is indefensible. Maybe he didn’t want to face the Granite Staters who now have access to treatment for opioid misuse, but who would lose coverage under the Republican health care bill, which repeals the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Or maybe he didn’t have an explanation for why just last week, the White House proposed drastic cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the office that has been coordinating the federal response to the opioid emergency, and proposed ending the award-winning New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. Secretary Price and the Trump Administration should get to work on concrete actions that show a real commitment to turning this tide, and to making sure nobody in New Hampshire loses their health care.”

The AHCA would kick an estimated 24 million off their healthcare. It would gut Medicare and give massive tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy.

 

Hassan And Shaheen Vote Against Scott Gottlieb’s Confirmation To Head The FDA

Today, prior to the confirmation vote, Senator Maggie Hassan spoke on the Senate floor, voicing her opposition to President Trump’s nominee for Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb. (Video below)

“Gottlieb, a physician and venture capitalist with long ties to the pharmaceutical industry, served as a deputy FDA commissioner and a high-ranking official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the George W. Bush administration,” wrote the Washington Post. 

“It is the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration – starting with its Commissioner – to protect consumers and stand up for public health. I have serious concerns about Dr. Gottlieb’s record… [and] his stances on critical priorities for people in New Hampshire and across the nation,” Senator Hassan said on the floor today.

In her remarks, Senator Hassan highlighted the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid epidemic that is devastating communities and the economy in New Hampshire, stemming in part from the overprescribing of opioids. The Senator emphasized the importance of the FDA in helping to combat substance misuse through the creation of risk evaluation and mitigation strategies (REMS), which include prescriber training. Senator Hassan voiced concern with Gottlieb’s opposition to the creation of REMS, raising questions about what strategies the FDA would support under his leadership if confirmed.

“[The] FDA should be making REMS stronger and make sure that all opioid medications have REMS – we don’t need a Commissioner who opposed the very creation of the REMS program…In the midst of a public health challenge as serious as this epidemic, we should be taking – and we have to take – an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Senator Hassan added.

Additionally, Senator Hassan expressed concern with Gottlieb’s record of “putting politics ahead of science when it comes to women’s health,” noting that during his time in the Bush administration, Gottlieb was involved in a controversial and unscientifically-based delay in approving the emergency contraceptive Plan B for over-the-counter use.

“Unfortunately, [the Trump] Administration has made clear that it is focused on an agenda that restricts women’s access to critical health services, including family planning. Dr. Gottlieb’s record has demonstrated that he supports this backwards agenda… I am concerned that under his leadership, the FDA will play political games with women’s health once again,” Senator Hassan said.

Noting Gottlieb’s troubling record of neglecting science at the expense of protecting public health and consumer safety, Senator Hassan concluded, “Mr. President, Dr. Gottlieb’s nomination raises too many questions about whether he will put political interests ahead of science and ahead of the safety of consumers… In voting today, I cannot overlook that record, so I will vote against his nomination, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen also opposed Gottlieb’s nomination and followed through by voting no on his confirmation.

“It’s the job of the FDA, at the direction of the commissioner, to protect American consumers and ensure our food and drugs are safe. After reviewing Dr. Gottlieb’s record, I am not confident that his policies and vision for the FDA align with the needs of my constituents in New Hampshire,” said Senator Shaheen. “When Dr. Gottlieb enters the FDA as its commissioner, he will bring with him a complex web of conflicting interests with the pharmaceutical industry. Just as alarming, he holds antiquated beliefs about contraception and family planning based on politics, not science.”

“Dr. Gottlieb has advocated for a pharmaceutical company to obtain additional fentanyl for a consumer product and has voiced strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which has helped tens of thousands of Granite Staters receive treatment for substance misuse. His troubling negligence towards America’s opioid crisis confirms that I cannot in good conscience support his nomination.”

The Senate did vote to confirm Dr Gottlieb with a vote of 57-42, largely along party lines.

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