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Politicians are Trying to Sell Off Veterans’ Health Care

Veterans_defend_the_promiseIt’s just… wrong.

It’s SO wrong, I’m having a hard time writing about it.

Politicians want to get rid of the VA healthcare system, and replace it with a system of vouchers that veterans would use “to purchase their own health insurance in the private marketplace.”

And they’re justifying this by pointing fingers at the VA system’s waiting lists. Nevermind that the system has a severe staff shortage, with 41,500 unfilled health care positions. Nevermind the amount of medical care that veterans need, since more than one-quarter of them are disabled. The politicians say it’s all the VA’s fault, and they’re using it as an excuse to privatize veterans’ health care.

So… who’s going to profit from this?

Probably all those special-interest campaign donors. (The health care industry spent more than $142 million on the 2014 congressional elections. Plus another $487 million lobbying, last year.)

And… how is this going to work?

Somebody – probably Congress – is going to decide how much each voucher will be worth. And then veterans will have to find their own health care. And if that health care costs more than the vouchers are worth… well, that’s not something that Congress will have to figure out.

Because by that point, the VA will be dismantled. Gone.

And it’ll just be a problem for each individual veteran… how to cover the gap between what Congress will pay, and what their health care will cost.

— — — —

Here’s what I think:

The idea of dismantling the VA healthcare system… it’s just wrong.

The thought of private healthcare corporations profiting off our veterans… it’s wrong, beyond words.

Want to know more about profits in the health industry? Start with this piece by whistleblower Wendell Potter.

Want to know more about the Koch-founded astroturf group “driving the VA scandal” for political purposes?  Start here.

— — — —

Veterans_deserve_quality_healthcareThis past week, two polling firms – one Republican, one Democrat – joined together to poll veterans about what they want, in their healthcare system.

The results shouldn’t be a surprise: Veterans want to keep their VA health care system – but they want it fixed, and properly staffed.

Veterans want health care providers who are specialists in veterans’ health care. They need doctors, nurses and support staff who already know about the health impacts of their military service. They don’t want to have to explain themselves – explain the circumstances and the consequences of their military service – every single time they need medical care. They want health care professionals who already know.

And veterans need 100% of their care covered. If the VA is replaced by a voucher system, that won’t happen.

You can read the full poll here. If you’ve talked with any veterans recently, none of it will be a surprise.

— — — —

This morning I am remembering particularly

  • two children of a veteran who committed suicide. Suicide is one of the least-discussed “health impacts” of military service. The Veterans Crisis Line is available here.
  • the veteran with PTSD who I spent time with, last weekend. Where to Get Help for Veterans with PTSD is available here.

To all of our veterans, thank you for your service.

You Will Not Believe What Wal-Mart is Doing

Image via WikiCommons

Image via WikiCommons

You have got to be kidding me.  

Wal-Mart is rewarding associates who donate money to the Wal-Mart PAC, which works to elect candidates like Speaker John Boehner and Senator Ted Cruz who vehemently oppose raising the minimum wage.

In this excellent article (Wal-Mart’s Unusual Rewards for Employees Who Give to Its PAC) by Josh Eidelson, he reports:

“Liberal groups and a union-backed Walmart worker group are asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate Wal-Mart Stores’ (WMT) policy of rewarding contributions to its political action committee with donations to charity. Under the policy, every $1 an employee donates to Wal-Mart’s PAC, which supports such probusiness candidates as Ohio Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and Arkansas Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, triggers a $2 donation to a charity for Wal-Mart employees in need.”

Using charitable contributions to reward PAC donations has become a widespread practice among U.S. corporations, which are restricted by law from donating directly to their PACs. At least seven times over the past two decades, FEC commissioners have been divided over whether to restrict companies from matching the political donations with philanthropic cash.

While such companies as Coca-Cola (KO) and Boeing (BA) also match PAC dollars with charity dollars, Wal-Mart’s policy is unusual. Rather than just a 1-to-1 match, it offers 2 to 1. And instead of giving employees a choice of charities to support, it sends all the matching money to its Associates in Critical Need Trust, which benefit employees facing “extreme economic hardship due to situations outside of their control, including natural disasters.”

That’s right, for every one dollar that workers give to the Wal-Mart PAC, the corporation will donate two dollars to their own charity organization for workers who are suffering financial difficulties.

The Associates in Critical Need Trust is a 501 (c)(3) charity that provides “up to $1,500 to employees facing challenges such as homelessness or illness.”

Here are three suggestions for Walmart. 1) Start by paying your workers a living wage so they aren’t forced into homelessness. 2) Provide workers with paid sick time so they can heal without the fear of losing their job for being sick. 3)  Provide workers with healthcare so they will not be forced into financial ruin when they become sick or injured. (Note: Wal-Mart just cut another 30,000 part time workers out of their employee healthcare, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act they can get coverage through their state exchange.)

I hope the FEC tears Wal-Mart apart for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Failed CEO Walt Havenstein Falsely Claims Hobby Lobby ‘Would Never Apply’ in New Hampshire

In Temple Adath Yeshurun Debate, Havenstein Demonstrates His Cluelessness on New Hampshire State Law, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby Decision, and Workers’ Rights

MANCHESTER—Failed CEO Walt Havenstein doubled down on his support for the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that allows an employer to deny a woman health insurance that covers contraception. Havenstein also demonstrated his cluelessness on New Hampshire state law by falsely claiming the Hobby Lobby decision would “never apply to begin with” in New Hampshire.

“Walt Havenstein is either intentionally misleading voters, or he simply doesn’t understand New Hampshire’s laws,” said State Representative Candace Bouchard, who chairs the House Reproductive Rights Caucus. “Contrary to Havenstein’s false statements, the anti-choice Hobby Lobby decision does apply in New Hampshire and it means that certain employers here can deny women contraception coverage.”

At the Temple Adath Yeshurun debate, Havenstein reiterated his support for the Hobby Lobby decision. Adding, “In New Hampshire, because of our laws, [the Hobby Lobby decision] would never apply to begin with.” Havenstein’s Communications Director Henry Goodwin stated on Twitter that “No one would lose access” to contraception in New Hampshire under Hobby Lobby because the state’s “insurance mandates mean it can’t happen.”

Both Havenstein’s and Goodwin’s comments inaccurately describe New Hampshire’s laws, the Hobby Lobby decision, and the decision’s impact on New Hampshire women. The state mandate requiring health insurers to provide contraception coverage excludes employers that self-insure. The Hobby Lobby decision allows these self-insured New Hampshire employers to deny employees contraception coverage. Many large companies choose to self-insure, including Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which has a location in Manchester and no longer has to provide contraception coverage to its employees there under the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Not only did Havenstein double down on his support for the misguided Hobby Lobby decision, but he’s also said that the radical anti-woman NHGOP platform – which would outlaw some types of contraception and in vetro fertilization – would be his ‘guideline’ for decision-making. If one thing is clear, it’s that Walt Havenstein can’t be trusted on women’s health care,” added Representative Bouchard.

Click here for the full video of Havenstein’s false claims about the Hobby Lobby decision.

BACKGROUND:

Havenstein: “I can use that platform as the guideline for me for making decisions.”

“’I can use that platform as the guideline for me for making decisions.’ The platform is not binding, Havenstein added, but it forms as a “guideline” for decision-making. As the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Havenstein also said he has an ‘obligation’ to support the party toward victory.” [Concord Monitor, October 12, 2014]

New Hampshire GOP Adopts Fetal ‘Personhood’ Into Platform

“Fetal personhood measures, which have been defeated in several states, would grant legal rights to zygotes from the moment of fertilization. The measures are extremely controversial because they would criminalize abortion without exceptions and could ban some forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization.” [Huffington Post, September 22, 2014]

Havenstein Supports Limiting Access to “Life-Saving Aspect of Women’s Health Care”

“Contraceptive services are a fundamental and at times life-saving aspect of women’s health care. By ruling the way it did, the Supreme Court has opened the door for religion and politics to control access to those services. Despite their protestations to the contrary, that is exactly what Brown and Havenstein are championing.” [Concord Monitor Editorial, 7/2/14]

Havenstein Praises Supreme Court’s Decision on the Massachusetts Buffer Zone Law

“Havenstein praised the court’s decision and condemned the New Hampshire law Gov. Maggie Hassan signed that takes effect on July 10.” [Nashua Telegraph, 6/30/14]

Havenstein Unwilling To Comment On Anti-Choice Bills Before The Legislature

The Union Leader also reported that Walt Havenstein’s campaign would not answer a series of questions regarding Havenstein’s stance on various anti-choice bills before the legislature. [Union Leader, 4/21/14]

Havenstein Signed the Koch Brothers’ Pledge to Block Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion

Havenstein signed the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire pledge, which commits that he’d work to repeal Medicaid expansion and block measures that help women access affordable health services. [WMUR, 7/30/14]

Health Care and Election 2012: The Choice

Jonathan Gruber is a Professor of Economics at MIT and was a key advisor to both Governor Romney during the development of the Massachusetts Health Care Reform and President Obama during the development of the Affordable Care Act. He will provide a presentation on the differences in the post-election landscape for health care in America under an Obama vs. Romney Administration, focusing on both insurance coverage and costs.

This hour long presentation will take place at 6PM October 29th at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 58 Lowell St, Nashua, NH 03064

Thank You,

Mark King

603.998.2400

peregrine8@myfairpoint.net

For-Profit Health Care – Using Every Trick In The Book To Benefit The 1%

The corporate agenda has been crushing our economy in New Hampshire and throughout the country.  Corporations have yeilded record profits and workers have been struggling to pay their bills due to flat wages.  One of the biggest expenses for NH workers is health care, and now we are finding that our local hospitals are playing the same profit games.

Yesterday’s New York Times took an in-depth look at HCA (Hospital Corporation of America), which owns Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Portsmouth Regional Ambulatory Surgery Center, Parkland Medical Center (Derry) and Salem Surgery Center.

The Times’ analysis showed that

Profits at the health care industry giant HCA, which controls 163 hospitals from New Hampshire to California, have soared, far outpacing those of most of its competitors.

The big winners have been three private equity firms — including Bain Capital, co-founded by Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate — that bought HCA in late 2006.

HCA’s robust profit growth has raised the value of the firms’ holdings to nearly three and a half times their initial investment in the $33 billion deal.

Read the story here.

Last week, the Times reported on allegations that doctors at HCA hospitals were performing unnecessary cardiac procedures – and then billing Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers for the services.  According to the article, HCA “declined to provide evidence that it had alerted Medicare, state Medicaid or private insurers of its findings, or reimbursed them for any of the procedures that the company later deemed unnecessary, as required by law.”  Read last week’s Times story here.

Unnecessary medical procedures… and “robust” profit growth.

This isn’t the first time HCA has faced questions about its medical practices.  In 2003, the corporation paid a record fine of $1.7 billion for “false claims the government alleged it submitted to Medicare and other federal health programs.”  Read more  here.

But the corporation’s CEO, Rick Scott, was never charged.

A whistleblower in the Columbia/HCA fraud case said Rick Scott should have known of billing practices at his hospitals that cheated the federal government out of millions of dollars.  “He was a fairly hands-on CEO,” said John Schilling, a former reimbursement supervisor in the Fort Myers division office. “He should have known being CEO of a multibillion-dollar company. He should have known what is on his balance sheet.”

Read the Naples Daily News story here.

And now, Rick Scott is the Governor of Florida, overseeing the state’s Medicaid program.  How does that work?  Read the Miami Herald story “Scott’s Medicaid overhaul plan benefits HCA hospitals” here.

“Robust” profits, indeed.

Governor Scott is scheduled to be one of the speakers at the Republican National Convention later this month.

Is there any chance he’ll give an “insider’s perspective” on the health care system, and what’s really wrong with it?

 

RELEASE Legislator and Citizen Health Reform Education Day Held at State House in Honor of Second Anniversary of Affordable Care Act


Legislator and Citizen Health Reform Education Day Held at State House in Honor of Second Anniversary of Affordable Care Act
Health law provides important consumer protections for children, adults
Photos Courtesy of GSP

CONCORD, NH – Health advocacy groups hosted a Legislator and Citizen Health Reform Education Day at the State House today in honor of the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which is officially on March 23rd.

Under the health law, children in New Hampshire with pre-existing conditions are protected from having their coverage denied, and parents can access certain preventive services for both themselves and their young ones without co-pays or deductibles.

“Until March 2010, when some of the ACA’s key provisions went into effect, 12,000 of the state’s 300,000 children had no insurance,” said John DeJoie, coordinator of the New Hampshire Child Advocacy Network. “And though many middle-income families paid insurance premiums, when they actually made a claim, they were crushed by high deductibles. On this second anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we’re here to clarify the critical need for the health law and the concrete benefits it has delivered for New Hampshire children and families.”

Kimberly Morgan of Newbury is one of those who views the health law and its benefits as a positive development for her family. She attended the event with her three year old daughter Layla. According to guidelines by the Center for Prevention and Health Services, Kim knows that her daughter should receive 26 recommended immunizations by the age of 2, and another five before age 21.
Photos Courtesy of GSP
Under the Affordable Care Act, certain preventive services and doctors visits are provided without co-pays or deductibles. Kim and her husband estimate that would have saved their family around $200 by now – or two weeks worth of groceries – a provision they will be able to use going forward.
“The health reforms are making a difference for my family, and I fully support them,” Kim said. The event also included a health fair for citizens and legislators, with raffled prizes for those who completed a health law quiz. Young children enjoyed a special treat: the first 30 young children to arrive received a free “Born Covered, Affordable Care Act” or similar shirt and the opportunity to participate in the “Cover Me!” art project which traced their bodies on art paper and allowed them to color a paper “health care covered” version of themselves. The art work will be displayed at future events.

Participants also had a chance to sign a Proclamation in support of the Affordable Care Act, promoted in part by the NH Children’s Alliance and Every Child Matters.

Groups participating in the health fair activities included American Cancer Society, Every Child Matters, Granite State Progress, Health Care for America Now! Coalition, Know Your Care, National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare, NH Children’s Alliance, NH Citizens Alliance for Action, NH Health and Equity Partnership, NH Public Health Association, NH Voices for Health, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Working Families Win and others.

Photos Courtesy of GSP
NH Citizens Alliance Director Sarah Chaisson Warner thanked families, organizations and legislators for attending and reminded them of the status of the health law right now.
Changing a broken system requires a lot of work, and we still have to battle against those who advocate to turn back the clock and leave families and small businesses in the same health care dilemmas they faced just two short years ago,” Chaisson Warner said. “Thank you for the work you do to educate yourselves and one another about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and to protect it for years to come.”
###

Press Release
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 
Media contact:
Zandra Rice Hawkins, (603) 892-2150

AFT-NH RED ALERT LEGISLATION — New Amendment Targeting Your Health Care Benefits

AFT-NH 
February 16th , 2012
 BREAKING NEWS —–RED ALERT
New Amendment Introduced at the State House
Targeting Your Health Care Benefits
Please contact House Labor Committee ASAP!
The Chairman of the House Labor Committee, Rep. Daniels has submitted an amendment to HB 1206 (which by the way had nothing to do with health insurance) which would drastically increase your cost of health insurance if your contract expires and there is no new contract in place.
           
Here’s an example of what would happen
under the current law and the proposed amendment:
Current law under your contract:
Assume you pay 10% of a family plan which costs $25,000 per year.
Your share is $2,500 per year.
If your contract expires on June 30th and you do not have a contract in place you continue to pay 10% of the total premium.
The health insurance rates increase on July 1st by 10%. Family plan now costs $27,500.
Your premium contribution would increase by $250 to $2,750 per year since you still pay 10% of the total premium.
Daniels Amendment to HB 1206 would do the following:
When your contract expires and no new contract is in place, the employee and employer would equally split the cost of the increase.
Instead of paying the $250 increase,  you would split the total increase of $2,500 for the plan and your increase would now be $1,250.
Are You Ready to Take Some Action Now?

A public hearing is being held on this bill on Tuesday, February 21st at 11:00am but the Committee is also meeting tomorrow to discuss all of the other damaging bills. They must hear from you and know that you are watching and that you have an opinion!

ACTION REQUESTED We need you to  emailthe committee members and ask that they ITL (Inexpedient to Legislate-defeat) the Daniels amendment to House Bill 1206 and all of the devastating bills which strip away collective bargaining rights. Please see sample letter below or use your own!

We need to defeat all of these bills aimed at repealing or eroding our collective bargaining rights.

Suggested Email to Committee members
or use your own script-
either way, please let them know you are opposed to all of these bills:
Dear House Labor, Industrial And Rehabilitative Services Committee,
I just learned that Rep. Daniels has put in an amendment which will drastically increase employee health insurance costs without bargaining my benefits. This is an attack on collective bargaining. Please defeat the Daniels amendment to HB 1206 on health insurance. I hope the labor committee also votes NO on all of the bills tearing apart collective bargaining. It works.
Please vote NO on the following bills—these changes are not necessary and interfere with local control:
HB 1163   (Union Dues)   Makes it illegal for an employer to withhold voluntary union dues from wages.
HB 1427  (Outsourcing)  Allows a public employer to contract out union work and it would not be considered an unfair labor practice. Prime Sponsor: Rep. Neal Kurk, Hills. 7 (R-Weare)   UPDATE: Another famous Kurk amendment! He submitted an amendment to this bill that would allow the public employer to break a contract and outsource during the term of a contract!
HB 1570   (Exclusive Representation) This bill states a union does not have to represent non-members. Sound good? Not at all. This means non-members would negotiate individually with the employer. We know what that means-unfairness, nepotism and chaos in the workplace. This will also lead to unnecessary litigation for cities, towns and school districts.
HB 1645(Repeals collective bargaining for public employees) The Study Committee on collective bargaining issued a report in December, 2011 that said “collective bargaining has worked fairly well for 35 years….” 35 years of good public policy should not be repealed. Please defeat the Lambert amendment as well.
HB 1663   (Right to Work “for less” for Public Employees and Exclusive Representation) This is not only RTW again but adds the provisions of HB 1570 that would deny non-members the benefits of the contract and would be costly, chaotic and confusing to public employers.
HB 1677  (Right to Work “for less” for Public Employees and Exclusive Representation)   Similar to HB 1663
HB 1685   (Changes definition of supervisors and excludes certain supervisors from being represented by a union -excludes firefighters and nurses) This bill would not allow supervisors from being represented by a union—this is a total repeal of collective bargaining for supervisors. There is a current process in place before the PELRB to determine whether or not supervisors should be included in a bargaining unit.
I ask that you defeat these bills and amendments.
Thank you for your support.
[Your Name and Address]
Please also note another “Kurk” amendment on HB 1427which allows public employers to break a contract and contract out your work anytime!
Please take action now!
Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
603-661-7293
“Fighting For Our Future”
Have you visited the AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”? Please do so today!
Late breaking news appears on Facebook!

Wal-Mart Puts More Pressure on Struggling Workers!

By Matt Murray
for the NH Labor News
10/23/11


Photo from NYT Article

Here in Red Sox Nation we refer to the New York Yankee’s as the Evil Empire.  In the world of Labor, Wal-Mart is our Evil Empire.  It was announced on 10/22, that Wal-Mart, the nations largest employer would be making significant changes to their employee health care program.  While the changes have not been fully released the New York Times has reported on some of these changes.

The first of the three major changes is that Wal-Mart will no longer allow part time employees (emps. who work less than 24 hours per week) a health care option.

The second is that if you work between 24 and 33 hours per week would qualify for health insurance coverage.  The change is that now only employee’s and their children would be covered.  Spouses are no longer covered.

The third change is to the full time employees.  They will still qualify for health insurance, however they will be paying more per week and have significantly higher deductibles. Some of the deductibles are near $5000 per year.

In Wal-Mart’s 2012 health offerings, premiums will increase for some plans by more than 40 percent, although many of their workers pay relatively low premiums in comparison to more generous plans offered by other employers. But many Wal-Mart employees complain that their low premiums are accompanied by high deductibles that sometimes exceed 20 percent of their annual pay. (NYT)

Why is this happening? Well we all know health care costs have risen, and Wal-Mart is no exception.  Is Wal-Mart in finical trouble?  Well the fact is that Wal-Mart is the number one of the Fortune 500 companies. Last year alone they made 14.3 Billion dollars in profits.  That is operating costs for the employment of 2.1 million workers nationwide. In times of economic depression, like we are in now, people are racing into Wal-Mart stores to save ten cents on a box of pasta.  They are trying to save pennies where they can, and every penny counts right now.

So what can the Wal-Mart employee’s do about these changes?  Right now, nothing.  In my opinion the workers really only have one option, UNIONIZE!  A few years back there was a bill in the US Congress that would make it easier for workers to unionize.  It was called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).  While it was supported by workers and labor unions, corporations like Wal-Mart feared it.  Wal-Mart knew that if workers unionized it would cut into their profit margins, and they would have less “flexibility” to institute changes like these on Wal-Marts employee’s.  So after months of fighting EFCA seemed to disappear after the 2010 elections.  Now with an anti-union Tea Party in Congress we are not likely to see anything like EFCA again anytime soon.

So why should the workers unionize Wal-Mart?  Unions have always fought for workers over profits. Without the protection unions provide we are likely to see more changes as Wal-Mart paves the way for Corporate America steamrolls its workers.  Combined with low pay and no benefits some Wal-Mart employee’s are force to get programs like Medicare and Medicaid to get any health coverage.  The same people in Congress who are making it hard to unionize are now also trying to take away their Medicare too.  This will cause great social problems.  Workers without health coverage are one hospital trip away from bankruptcy. So they will avoid going to the doctor knowing they can not pay for it.

Unions have always fought to ensure that every worker gets a decent pay and health coverage.  Before the Unions fought for it health care options were not even offered.  In 1997, the Teamsters went on strike agains UPS because UPS would not cover part time employee’s health care.  Now all workers at UPS receive the company funded health benefits.  With such friendly corporations like Wal-Mart it is no wonder that workers are protesting Wall Street.  We need corporations like Wal-Mart to care more about their workers and less about their stock prices!

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