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Kuster Talks Healthcare at Lamprey Health Center in Nashua

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

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

Read more about Kuster’s new plan here.

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

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

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

The Most Terrifying And Important Video About #Charlottesville You Need To See

The rise of the “alt-right” has brought with it a rise in white supremecy and neo-nazism.  One of the people in the middle of this push to mainstream nazism and “ethnic cleansing” is New Hampshire’s own Christopher Cantwell.

Cantwell moved to New Hampshire as part of the Libertarian “Free State Project,” though the people at “Free Keene (online)” are claiming he was never one of their bloggers.

Cantwell hosts a podcast called the “Radical Agenda” from his home in Keene, New Hampshire.  (I am not linking to his blog on purpose, if you are really interested in finding it you can google it.)

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Cantwell’s show:

“On his show and in mordant essays published on his website Christophercantwell.com, this 36-year-old self-proclaimed fascist – whose style borrows from such mainstream shock jocks as Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony — argues for an Anglo ethno state free of African-Americans, Jews and non-white immigrants, save, perhaps, for the occasional exception.

In Cantwell’s world, Blacks are prone to violence and have lower IQs; Jews spread communism and can’t be trusted; immigrants are outbreeding whites; and a race war is all but inevitable.”

Cantwell’s words are vile and disturbing to say the least.  His hateful rhetoric actually scares.  The worst part is that he is not alone.

As the “Unite the Right” rally happening, Vice News, traveled to Charlottesville and followed Cantwell from the torch rally Friday night to the chaos that ensued on Saturday.

This 20 minute video from vice news very hard to watch, but some things must be seen.  Vice does an amazing job of showing the people in this “Unite the Right” rally and that while they claim to be promoting “free speech” their fascist message of violence and ethnic cleansing shows they did not go to Charlottesville to speak, they came prepared for a war.

 

In the most ironic turn of events, as the National Guard descended on Charlottesville and violence exploded Cantwell posted a video where he is crying and begging the police to protect him.  After all of the hateful rhetoric he spews in the 20 minute Vice News story it is hard for anyone to sympathize with his predicament.

 

Fascism is wrong. The thought of “ethnic cleansing” is appalling.  Nazi’s walking freely in the streets is disturbing.  My grandfather volunteered to service in World War II to destroy Nazi’s and fight the fascist regime.

We need everyone to stand up against hate. We need more white people, like me, to stand up against racism.

We beat the nazis before and we will destroy them again.

NEA’s Vice President, Becky Pringle, Delivers A Powerful Speech At Netroots Nation

Becky Pringle, Vice President of NEA. Image from Netroots Nation Facebook. Photographer Kerry Maloney – TravelerBroads.Com

While attending the Netroots Nation convention in Atlanta this week I heard from many different speakers and I have to say one of my favorite speeches came from Becky Pringle, the Vice President of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the country, with over 3 million members.

Her amazingly powerful speech called on the members of Netroots Nation to stand up and take action.

“It is you, who will engage and inspire; lift up and connect our collective voices to create the kind of schools and communities and country that reflect our hopes; our dreams; our possibilities.“

“We need you to stand in the gap for our children, when the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights refuses to protect their most basic of human and civil rights.”

She continued by showing how President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are working together to “decimate” our public school system.

“President Trump and Sec. DeVos made it very clear that their educational priority was to decimate our public schools, and destroy the dreams of those students who come to us with the greatest needs.”

She highlighted how the Trump/DeVos agenda attacks some of the most vulnerable children in our public school system. Together they slashed education funding by $10 billion dollars and repealed protections that provided a “safe learning environment for our trans students.”

“From jeopardizing Title IX protections to refusing to agree to not privatize the education of our students with special needs, to making the case for guns in the classroom to fight off the attack of the grizzly bears, Betsy DeVos demonstrated that she knew absolutely nothing about schools and kids and education.”

Once again she called on Netroots Nation to be bold and unafraid, to take a stand and to help fight to ensure that every child has healthcare, has strong civil rights protections, and to address the institutional racism.

“This is our time to demand what’s right, just like Mother Jones, that great labor organizer, who many called the most dangerous woman in America, because she proudly proclaimed: I’m not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”

“Netroots Nation, let’s be the most dangerous collective voice in this country. Let’s tell the truth wherever we please.”

“It is us, who must stand and be a witness. We must use our collective power, and with righteous indignation demand justice for our children.”

You can see Ms. Pringle’s entire speech here or below thanks to Netroots Nation.

ACLU-NH Drops “Voter Information” Lawsuit After State Agrees To Mutual Resolution

NH Secretary of State Agrees to Resolve NH Voter Information Case

The Plaintiffs in this case are pleased that the Secretary of State will obey the law by only transmitting pictures of the publicly available marked checklists maintained by the town and already available both from towns and from the State Archives.  The original statements from the Secretary of State manifested an intent to release voter information in a searchable digital file, which the Commission stated would be made available publicly. Today’s resolution means that no digital searchable information will be released and the Secretary, who is himself a member of the Commission, has stated that the material submitted will not be made public.

Today the Secretary of State has elected to produce to the Commission, the distinct voter checklist-marked copies that are used by individual municipalities on Election Day and that are distributed to the State Archives after each election pursuant to RSA 659:102.  Critically, this information — unlike the current statewide checklist at issue in this litigation — is not aggregated on a statewide basis (but rather on a town-by-town basis) and is not text searchable.  This information — which only contains whether the voter’s name, domicile address, mailing address, party affiliation, and whether that voter voted — will be disseminated in the same manner in which they are made available today to anyone in the public the public requesting this information from the individual towns or from the Secretary of State.

In his ultimate response to the demands of the Plaintiffs and the ACLU, The Secretary of State wisely chose to limit his  transmission of voter information to that allowed by State law, conforming to limitations that exist to protect the privacy of the voters.

“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to not disclose the statewide public checklist.  The Secretary of State had no statutory authority to release digital information on  the statewide public voter data base to anyone other than a political party, political committee, or candidate for New Hampshire office,” stated Senator Bette Lasky (D-NH), a plaintiff in the case.

“The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of the statewide voter checklist—and limited to political entities—for good reason: to protect voter privacy by helping avoid the mass dissemination of statewide vote information in a form that represented a threat to the privacy of the voters,” stated Representative Neal Kurk (R-NH), another plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Representative Kurk was involved in the crafting of the relevant statutes under RSA 654:31, which limit the prospect of mass dissemination of this statewide voter checklist in order to ensure that it is only used for political purposes, and not for commercial gain. (RSA 654:31(VI) explicitly prohibits voter information from being used for commercial purposes.)

RSA 654:31(II)-(III) only allows requesters to: (i) view the current statewide public digital database on the statewide centralized voter registration database at the state records and archives center during normal business hours where requesters are prohibited from printing, duplicating, transmitting, or altering the data and (ii) obtain hard copies of the current public checklist from local municipalities on a town-by-town/ward-by-ward basis at a fee of at least $25 per municipality or ward.

“We are happy that the Secretary of State is not entitled to grant the Commission special, unwritten exemptions that circumvent New Hampshire law,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “He must apply the law to the Commission no differently than he would apply the law to a regular member of the public seeking this information.”

The Plaintiffs in this case are pleased that the Secretary of State will be obeying the law by only transmitting pictures of the publicly available marked checklists maintained by the town and already available both from towns and from the State Archives. The parties also believe that the laws relating to the disclosure of voter information need to be tightened so voters are even further protected in the future and pledge to work in a nonpartisan manner to bring about such changes.

After the case was dropped by the ACLU, Senator Laskey and Representative Kirk, Ray Buckley from the NH Democratic Party released the following:

“The state has agreed to limit the scope of information they are releasing to President Trump’s sham election integrity commission. While this is progress in protecting the personal information of Granite Staters, New Hampshire’s voter data in the hands of a leak-happy White House is a risky proposition, especially since the administration has already released unredacted complaints they’ve received about the commission from concerned citizens. This info was requested –and some will be handed over — under the false pretense of President Trump’s constant lies about massive voter fraud to soothe his own insecurities.

These are the same lies propagated by Governor Sununu, who claimed that Massachusetts voters were bused into New Hampshire to cast Democratic votes against him and Trump. As we learned yesterday, on WMUR’s CloseUp, Governor Sununu is still a strong supporter of President Trump despite his offensive statements about the state. Granite Staters need to remain wary of frivolous requests by this administration to pry into our personal information without giving any specific reason. The governor seems more than willing to blindly hand over info without studying up on the law and that speaks to his instinct of defending Trump over protecting New Hampshire.”

40% Increase In Premiums Highlight Need For A Better Healthcare System

Below is the press release from the NH Department of Insurance explain the massive spike in healthcare premiums, specifically on those who get insurance through the ACA marketplace.  Below that is my opinion on what we can do to fix this problem. 


Federal Government Announces 2018 Rate Increases

CONCORD, NH – NH Department Of Insurance Press Release  The federal government today published information on proposed rate increases for New Hampshire’s health insurance exchange in 2018, showing that consumers in the individual market may face increases of more than forty percent.

“Today’s news about rates is alarming, especially for the 94,000 New Hampshire residents who obtain their insurance through the individual market, but unfortunately, it does not come as a surprise,” said Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “A number of factors have led to rate increases for 2018 in New Hampshire and across the country, most notably the continued uncertainty at the federal level. My staff and I have been actively engaged to identify options to lessen the impact on the thousands of families who rely on health insurance through the state exchange.”

The 2018 rate information released today by the federal government details proposed increases to benefit plans that are submitted by insurance companies operating on the exchange.  (The New Hampshire Insurance Department is prohibited by law from releasing rate information until Nov. 1.)  A benefit plan is a specific plan that a New Hampshire resident would select for enrollment, such as a bronze, silver, or gold level metal plan.

Three companies have announced their intentions to offer plans on the 2018 exchange in New Hampshire: Ambetter, Anthem, and Harvard Pilgrim. A fourth, Minuteman Health, also has proposed rate increases listed on the federal site, but those plans will not be available to consumers, as the company announced in June that it would stop offering plans in 2018.

The information published today by the federal government shows that some of the state’s insurers have submitted benefit plans for the individual market with substantial increases. The New Hampshire Insurance Department looks at premiums each year from a market-wide perspective, comparing the median premium for a silver-level plan covering a 40-year-old non-tobacco-user.  For 2017, the median premium at this level was $335; the median premium at this level for 2018 would be $479, based on the carriers’ initially proposed rates.  If these rates are ultimately approved, this would represent a 43% increase between next year’s and this year’s median premium in the individual market.

Today, the Department issued guidance permitting insurers to assume the federal government will not be funding Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs) in 2018.  In response, insurers might adjust silver level plan rates before the deadline for amending rate filings.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department has taken action in recent months to call policymakers’ and consumers’ attention to the impending rate increases and the possibility that companies might withdraw from the exchange in 2018. In June, the Legislature authorized the Department to create a market stabilization plan, and last month, the Department publicly shared its plan to reduce rates and promote stability in the individual market in 2018. Today, the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee authorized the Insurance Department to pursue federal waivers in support of a market stabilization plan, but without relying on an assessment of health insurance carriers.


A completely new healthcare system for all Americans

The above press release from the NH Department of Insurance shows that our current system of private insurance is unsustainable.  A 40% increase in one year. Seriously WTF?  What we do not even know yet is how much out of pocket costs will also increase next year.  Out of pocket expenses include co-pays, co-insurance deductibles, and prescription costs.  These can cost people thousands of dollars on top of their thousands of dollars in premiums.

There is no doubt that Republicans are going to blame Democrats and President Obama for this increase while Democrats will blame Republicans for failing pass meaningful changes to the ACA to stabilize the marketplace.

But while I blame both of them for failing to do what is best for America, the majority of the blame falls directly on the private insurance corporations.  They are raking in obscene profits, continually increasing premiums to maximize their profits.  Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield reported $1 Billion in profits during the first quarter of 2016. That is a 44% increase in profits.

The corporations are shelling out hundreds of millions to lobbyists and politicians to prevent them from passing meaningful legislation that would help solve our problems.  For example, Congress has failed to pass legislation allowing medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, which other countries do, saving them billions annually.  In 2016, the health products, insurance and pharmaceuticals industries spent a combined $400 million on their lobbying efforts.

Are you still surprised that Congress cannot pass meaningful healthcare reform?

This 40% increase combined with the insurance companies record breaking profits last year make it glaringly obvious that we need to move to a single payer system.  With a less than 2% overhead, Medicare is one of the most efficient programs in the government. With additional changes, like allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, the cost of healthcare would drop dramatically.

It is time for America to move to a national universal healthcare system. It is time for Medicare For All.

NH Senate Republicans Vote Down Proposal To Lower Insurance Premiums Statewide

The Reinsurance Program would allow the NH Department of Insurance to seek additional federal funds to stabilize the insurance marketplace.

Today, Governor Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans failed to fund the NH Insurance Department’s reinsurance proposal that would protect the benefits of tens of thousands of Granite Staters. The Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee moved forward with a proposal from the NH Insurance Department to create a reinsurance program, but failed to authorize any way to pay for it.

“Governor Sununu is shamefully choosing politics over people and New Hampshire will suffer as a result. President Trump’s unpopular decision to sabotage insurance markets in order to implement his even-less-popular plan appears to be spilling over to states with friendly governors like Chris Sununu,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley.

“Sununu’s blind cooperation with Trump ignores the fact that reinsurance plans have been successful in lowering premiums, keeping carriers in the market, and creating stability and certainty. By refusing to fund the proposal, the reinsurance program is set up for failure and shows Governor Sununu’s cooperation with Trump in undermining our healthcare system for political gain.”

After the vote, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), member of the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee, released the following statement:

“Given President Trump’s attempts to undermine our healthcare system and the failure of Republicans in Congress to act, states like New Hampshire need to be doing all we can do to stabilize our healthcare market, increase competition, and drive down costs for Granite Staters.”

“While the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee authorized the NH Insurance and HHS Commissioners to seek federal waivers to create a reinsurance program and to seek all federal funds available to help pay for the program, the Committee rejected, along party lines, the NH Insurance Commissioner’s proposal to help fund the program through an added assessment on our insurance carriers.”

“Without the certainty of funding and the refusal to add an assessment on our state carriers, there’s no way for insurance carriers to reduce premiums, despite the fact that insurance assessments in the past have been used to address failures in our healthcare marketplace. Governor Sununu and his Republican allies are playing dangerous political games with our healthcare system, risking insurance carriers leaving our state, risking higher premiums for our hard-working families, and creating more destabilization in NH’s healthcare system.”

“Healthcare is an issue that affects all Granite Staters and impacts us at all levels of state government. New Hampshire policymakers should not just throw up their hands and give up working on solutions to these problems just because they are hard. It’s disheartening that Governor Sununu and Republicans in the legislature are again defaulting to the dysfunction of Washington and standing alongside President Trump’s attempts to undermine our healthcare system rather than standing with the people of New Hampshire. Real leadership is needed to bring people together to find meaningful healthcare solutions, both here and in Washington. Unfortunately, today’s vote doesn’t solve any of our problems or find any meaningful solutions.”

In light of today’s votes the New Hampshire Insurance Department (NHID) is “cancelling the public hearings scheduled for August 2nd and August 3rd relative to its market stabilization plan and proposed 1332 waiver application.”

“Consistent with today’s vote of the Joint Health Reform Oversight Committee, the NHID will continue to explore options for the 1332 waiver, and will reschedule the hearings once there is more clarity about the specifics of the state’s approach,” wrote the NHID.

Alaska and Minnesota have successfully implemented and funded similar reinsurance programs that will net-lower premiums in their states.

In response to reports of significant projected increases in individual market health care premiums, and a party-line vote by the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee to block an Insurance Department proposal, Representative Ed Butler (D-Hart’s Location), a member of the Oversight Committee, released the following statement:

“President Trump has said repeatedly that he intends to ‘let Obamacare implode.’  In a belligerent act of sabotage, the President is threatening to withhold billions in cost sharing subsidies to insurance companies that are required under federal law.  The uncertainty that President Trump has created in the insurance market is a driving force in projected rate increases nationwide.”

“Instead of working with the Insurance Department to submit their full waiver request – including a 1% rate increase assessment on group markets – to achieve the greatest possible reduction in rates in the individual market, New Hampshire Republicans on this Oversight Committee have chosen the path of least resistance.”

“Republicans on the Oversight Committee voted on August 1st to prevent New Hampshire’s Insurance Department from submitting their full waiver request.  Instead the Committee authorized the Insurance and Health and Human Services Departments to request financial assistance from the federal government – without any seed money or contribution from NH insurance carriers.”

“Over 35,000 Granite Staters will be subject to spikes in rates of as much as 30 to 40% in the individual market.  By opposing commonsense efforts to bring stability to the market, Governor Sununu and Committee Republicans appear willing to use our citizens as scapegoats to achieve President Trump’s desired ‘implosion’ of our health care system.”

For more information on the waivers read the detailed reporting from Manchester Ink Link

The Real Risk To Our Voting Process Is Not ‘Voter Fraud’

The goal of technology is to make our lives easier. With the invention of computerized voting machines calculating votes at the end of the day has become drastically easier but the use of these machines can cause additional problems and threaten the security of the ballot.

Over the last three presidential elections there have been multiple reports of malfunctioning voting machines.  Some touch screen voting stations would select the wrong candidate and the voter would have no way to change their vote.

Other issues stem from a lack of paper ballot backups. If a person challenges the vote count, election officials cannot go back and count the votes by hand because their are no paper ballots.

In Wellington Florida, election officials certified the wrong candidate based on incorrect computer tabulations of votes cast. The results were corrected after a hand recount of paper ballots was used to verify the results.

Some states have even gone so far as to allow their ballots to be transmitted over the internet leaving them susceptible to tampering.

Right now, President Trump created a Voting Integrity Commission to address voting laws and requirements under the guise of protecting us from non-existent voter fraud. This commission is a sham and way for Trump to validate his lies about millions of votes being cast illegally and to push for stronger voter ID laws that have been proven to suppress votes.  It is highly unlikely that Trump’s commission will suggest that “motor voter” registrations be mandatory, or that states should move to voting by mail to expand voter participation.

While in person voter fraud is a more of an urban legend than reality (literally a handful of cases in hundreds of millions of ballots cast), there are a few areas that have the potential to compromise our voting process, swaying results and it revolves mostly around the ballot itself, counting ballots, and the electronic transmission of voting data.

Yesterday, The Hill released an article  showing how hackers corrupted voting machines at a cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas.

One of the nation’s largest cybersecurity conferences is inviting attendees to get hands-on experience hacking a slew of voting machines, demonstrating to researchers how easy the process can be.

“It took me only a few minutes to see how to hack it,” said security consultant Thomas Richards, glancing at a Premier Election Solutions machine currently in use in Georgia.

…The conference acquired 30 machines for hackers to toy with. Every voting machine in the village was hacked.

The Hill also notes that the vast  majority of the machines used in actual elections are not interconnected or connected to the internet making it harder for potential hackers to corrupt voting machines on a large scale.   However, small scale or isolated tampering could sway the results of a single polling place.

But what about those states that are toying with some form of online voting or voting machines that are connected to the internet to transmit votes?  These actions put our votes at risk and the security of the ballot box in serious jeopardy.

“Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia allow some form of Internet voting – transmitting votes either via email, electronic fax, or Internet portal – typically for use by overseas and military voters. Because of current technological limitations, and the unique challenges of running public elections, it is impossible to maintain separation of voters’ identities from their votes when Internet voting is used,” wrote Caitriona Fitzgerald, Pamela Smith, Susannah Goodman in their report The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy

In 2016, Common Cause released a report focused on protecting the vote and ensuring everyone has the ability to vote. They reviewed laws and procedures for voting in 11 “swing states” to see if our votes were at risk.

“Once voters learn laws they thought made elections safer, like voter ID requirements, actually prevent hundreds of thousands of eligible people from voting, they are more likely to see it as a manipulation of the system and reject it.  It is critically important that voters exercise their constitutional right, so take a few minutes to learn more, because the best way to fight back against politicians gaming the system to silence your voice is to make a plan to vote,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn.

The report showed that my home state of New Hampshire faired very good when it came to tracking and protecting the votes after they have been cast through the use of paper ballots but was seen as “unsatisfactory” when it came to accessing the ballot box due to poorly written voter ID laws and inability of voters to register online ahead of time.

New Hampshire does not accept any form of “electronic” ballots and in-person voting is done on paper, though still calculated by a “scantron” machine.  Computer tabulation machines have been known to cause errors in voting results, but with a paper copy hand recounts and audits can be used to verify computer data.  Overall Common Cause rated New Hampshire as “excellent” in ensuring that our votes were not susceptible to outside hackers.

Other states did not fair as well.  Common Cause gave an “unsatisfactory” rating to Iowa, North Carolina, and Nevada when it comes to the potential of votes being tampered with after being cast.

Ballots cast online simply cannot be protected from undetectable tampering. Foreign or domestic hackers can access these ballots and alter their contents.

…Four of the states we reviewed put ballots at risk by allowing the ballots to be sent over the internet, where they are vulnerable to remote interception and undetectable altering. These states do not acknowledge the risks involved in internet voting.

Two of our swing states, Iowa and North Carolina, put ballots at risk by allowing overseas and military voters to vote via email. A third, Nevada has created its own internet portal for voter use.

(Note: The fourth state, not mentioned in the above quote, is Florida who allows absentee ballots from military service members to be cast via fax.) 

Ensuring everyone has access to the ballot box and that our votes are secure is the foundation of our democracy.  Voter ID laws block access to the ballot box and internet or computerized voting can put our ballots at risk.

What can we do to fix this?

Go back to paper ballots and count them by hand.  Eliminate the potential for hackers to tamper with voting machines by eliminating voting machines completely.  Going back to the old school way of doing it will protect our votes but it will take longer to get results. As a political junkie like myself, this means staying up till 2am to get results, and that is fine with me.

We need to focus our efforts to ensuring greater access to the ballot box and ensuring that our votes our secure and free from potential tampering

Will Gov Sununu Save The NH Health Protection Program?

In Wake of Republican Healthcare Repeal Failure, Democratic Leaders Renew Call for Governor Sununu and Republicans to Work Across Party Lines on Healthcare

State Senator Jeff Woodburn and Rep Steve Shurtleff Push for Reauthorization of NH Health Protection Program

As millions of Americans are waiting with baited breath to see whether or not the Republicans in Washington D.C. are going to strip away their healthcare, the 50,000 Granite Staters who rely on the ACA’s expanded Medicaid program are waiting to see what Governor Chris Sununu will do.

From early on in his campaign, he has opposed the Affordable Care Act and has called for a repeal and then after he was elected, and the GOP took control in Washington, he began calling for a full repeal & replacement.

“To be clear, reform without an adequate replacement is not an acceptable option. Any repeal of the ACA must be simultaneous with a replacement,Sununu wrote in a letter to US Senate Majority Leaders.

“Reforming our nation’s health care system is imperative and our leaders must take swift, but thoughtful bipartisan action that is transparent and welcomes all sides to the table,” he added.

Now the Democratic Leaders in the NH Legislature are calling on Governor Sununu to put his words into action. Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn and House Democratic Leader Stephen Shurtleff urged Governor Sununu and legislative Republicans to finally get to work on reauthorizing the NH Health Protection Program:

“We are relieved that Republican attempts to undermine healthcare have failed and given that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, we urge Governor Sununu and his Republican leaders to begin negotiations with us to improve our healthcare system and bring down healthcare costs.”

“The most critical thing we need to do is reauthorize the NH Health Protection Program (NHHPP), which is scheduled to end next year, as soon as possible. The NHHPP is a uniquely New Hampshire solution that more than 52,000 Granite Staters rely on for their health care, drives down costs for our businesses, hospitals, working families and our state, stabilizes our insurance market, and plays a vital role in combating the opioid crisis.”

“Democrats have attempted to work with Governor Sununu and the Republican majorities in the legislature to reauthorize and improve this successful program all year, but have been brushed aside as they waited on their Republicans allies in Washington to act. Its time to do what’s right for the people of New Hampshire and we call on Governor Sununu and his Republican legislative majorities to stop putting partisan politics above the health and well-being of hard-working Granite Staters, stop dragging their feet, and begin working with us to renew this successful program as soon as possible.”

As the US Senate voted to give tax breaks to billionaires while slashing Medicaid and Medicare on their Healthcare plan, Governor Sununu remained completely silent.  In a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell on June 27th, he voiced concern over the cuts to Medicaid and NH’s ability to keep the 50,000 Granite Staters currently relying on the program insured.  Ensuring that the current recipients of insurance through the Medicaid Expansion would not be kicked off their healthcare was a cornerstone of Sununu’s campaign.

However Governor, it is time to put up or shut up.

Governor Sununu must work with both sides of the aisle and find a way to ensure that the NH Health Protection Program becomes permanent until such time that all Americans are fully covered.

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.”

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
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