A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found that 67 percent of Texans support the expansion of Medicaid, which would allow 1.2 million in the state to afford health insurance.
Two-thirds of voters support giving states the option to expand their Medicaid programs for low-income, uninsured adults. That majority spanned the ideological spectrum on an issue that Texas lawmakers ducked last session, opting not to expand that coverage.
Republican Governor Rick Perry, who is leaving office in January 2015 after three terms, has refused Medicaid expansion at every turn. He has said expanding Medicaid would be “like putting another thousand people on the Titanic,” whatever that means. Past standard anti-Obamacare claptrap, he has not offered any solutions for the 1.2 million Texans who don’t have health insurance, the most of any state in the country. Perry’s refusal also leaves $79 billion in federal assistance on the table.
But the Perry administration’s opposition to Obamacare implementation goes past Medicaid. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is seeking to succeed Perry, has also placed additional restrictions on health care “navigators,” making it more difficult for Texans to obtain insurance on the state exchange.
More than any website glitch, the deliberate obstruction of politicians like Perry and Abbott is what stands between Texans and affordable health coverage. And public opinion stands firmly against this reckless, needless cruelty.
Take Action: Tell Gov. Perry to accept Medicaid expansion and allow 1.2 million Texans to afford health insurance.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Greg Abbott, Health Care, Medicaid, obamacare, Rick Perry, Texas
The nearly two-week-old government shutdown, engineered by House tea party Republicans, is hurting everyday working people and their families. The 800,000 federal workers and tens of thousands of government-contracted employees shut out of their jobs and others forced to work without pay perform vital duties for the public and now are struggling to keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables.
Here are five stories you need to read from shut-out workers and about shut-down services. Click here to share your story with us. We need to make sure the GOP understands who is hurt every day this shutdown continues.
Ona is a furloughed worker from a nuclear waste cleanup site in Georgia.
We were sent home on Oct. 3 and told not to come back until called back. This could be weeks….These people are the hands-on workers that are well trained to perform the difficult tasks of shutting down these waste tanks and setting things right so their kids and their kids’ kids don’t have to deal with it years down the road….I will not be surprised if some of them do not make it back and we will have lost some very well-trained and dedicated workers to this furlough situation.
Read more from Ona.
Jessica’s husband is the sole source of income for the California couple.
He works for a military base about half an hour from our home. After dealing with six weeks of furloughs from sequestration and losing $1,100/month, we fell behind in bills. Because of the shutdowns, we are now looking at our phones being shut off, cable and Internet being shut off and being left with no choice but to voluntarily repo our car.
Cesar is a furloughed federal worker in Florida.
I am the sole income earner in my family. I have two boys, and contrary to what is being said by right-wing talk show hosts, I and many of my fellow federal colleagues do not earn six-figure salaries. We are in the process of buying a home, and I will now have to dip into money that we have saved up to buy our home to get by until Republicans decide to re-open our government.
Read more from Cesar.
Emily is a young furloughed federal worker in Washington, D.C.
The sequester and now the shutdown have been disheartening and have strained my finances to the point that I will need to borrow from my parents—out of their retirement fund—to make rent. I’ve also had to put off seeing specialists for a chronic health issue that won’t quite be covered by my high-option insurance plan. Financial strain aside, public service is my passion, not just how I earn a paycheck—I love my job and just want to get back to work, doing my utmost to serve my fellow Americans and protect the environment for us all.
David is an organizer in New York.
I have been working with a group of residential workers who have been fighting for a year to form a union. The company has committed numerous illegal acts, attempting to intimidate and threaten workers. One employee illegally had his hours cut. The National Labor Relations Board just filed a complaint and was close to a settlement that would have gotten this worker over $1,500 in back pay that the company had kept from him. But with the shutdown, this worker won’t get his money any time soon. Additionally, the board cannot process the new charges filed. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Click here to share your story with us.
Photo from AFGE on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, California, DC, Florida, Georgia, Health Care, Jobs, NLRB, public workers, Rights At Work, shutdown
The health exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, opened on October 1, 2013. An analysis by Bloomberg Government shows that competition among health insurance companies on the Health Exchange Marketplace is driving down premiums by as much as a third.
Rates released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show that the price of policies offered in “rating areas” with 10 or more participating insurers are between 31 percent and 35 percent lower than those for the same policies in areas with only one issuer.
A preliminary review of rates in the remaining 14 to 16 states and the District of Columbia that will run their own exchanges suggests that a similar pattern holds in most.
The pattern shows that at least for 2014 exchanges probably will live up to one of their advocates’ key claims: that the ACA can expand coverage while constraining costs.
House Republicans and the Tea Party are going to extreme lengths to delay, defund, and/or repeal Obamacare. Our question is: Why? The health insurance exchanges are, in some ways, a triumph for market-based conservative ideals.
After all, Republicans supported Obamacare…before Obama. Seriously. Lots of them.
Quick history lesson: In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which required all hospitals participating in Medicare (pretty much all of them) to provide emergency room treatment to anyone who showed up. Policy experts began to worry about the “free rider problem,” where people wouldn’t pay for health insurance because they could just show up at the ER if they got sick (this was passed at the same time as COBRA, for those of you keeping score at home).
In 1989, Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, wrote a paper called “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” in which he proposed the “individual mandate.” That’s the idea, that ended up in Obamacare, that all Americans be required to have health insurance or pay a fine. It’s also the idea that makes the exchanges work: private insurance companies can accept the regulations and “managed competition” of the Health Insurance Marketplace because Americans are required to be customers.
During the health care debate in 1993, Republicans proposed an alternative to President Bill Clinton’s plan that included the individual mandate. Among these Republicans were Newt Gingrich, Orrin Hatch, and Chuck Grassley, who all now rail against Obamacare.
And, of course one-time Obama opponent Mitt Romney included an individual mandate in his health care plan as governor of Massachusetts. Here’s what he said in April 2006:
…we’ve come up with something that’s much closer to Republican ideals: reform the market to make the health-insurance marketplace work better. Insist on personal responsibility instead of government responsibility.
Now, since that time, Romney, Gingrich, and even Heritage’s Stuart Butler have twisted themselves into pretzels saying how different their ideas are from Obamacare, detailed here by Forbes’ Avik Roy. And yes, the Affordable Care Act is a large bill containing various components that some people like and some don’t. But the idea of private health insurance companies competing for customers in the free market is a (small-c) conservative idea, an idea supported by the Republican Party in various ways over the past 30 years.
So instead of shutting down the government and throwing tantrums, conservatives should be beaming with pride. You got Democratic President Obama and a Democratic Congress to pass one of your ideas into law. And so far, it ain’t half bad!
Get the most out of the Affordable Care Act. Sign up at WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org today.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, bill clinton, chuck grassley, Health Care, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, obamacare, orrin hatch, ronald reagan
After nearly a year of protests, rallies, marches and court battles demanding “Fairness at Patriot,” a settlement has been reached that will help cover future health care benefits for the retired coal miners affected by the bankruptcy of Patriot Coal.
The Mine Workers (UMWA) yesterday announced that it had reached a global settlement with Peabody Energy and Patriot that will provide more than $400 million to fund retiree health care costs through the Patriot Retirees Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA). Peabody will pay $310 million over four years while Patriot will provide the remainder through payments and production-based royalties.
UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts said:
This is a significant amount of money that will help maintain health care for thousands of retirees who earned those benefits though years of labor in America’s coal mines. This settlement will also help Patriot emerge from bankruptcy and continue to provide jobs for our members and thousands of others in West Virginia and Kentucky.
Patriot Coal was spun off from Peabody in 2007, and Peabody transferred the health care and other obligations of the former Peabody miners and retirees to Patriot. Patriot filed for bankruptcy in July 2012. In August, the UMWA reached a settlement with Patriot that restored many of the wage and benefit cuts Patriot instituted as part of its bankruptcy proceedings.
As part of the recent settlement, the union agreed to halt its months-long public relations and direct action effort related to Peabody in St. Louis and elsewhere regarding the effects of the Patriot Coal bankruptcy. Miners and their allies had held several huge marches and rallies at Peabody’s St. Louis headquarters and elsewhere.
Several thousand of Patriot retirees worked for Magnum Coal, a subsidiary of Arch Coal that Patriot acquired in 2008. Arch Coal, like Peabody, was accused of ducking its health care and other obligations of those miners by transferring them to the subsidiary. Arch Coal has yet to settle with the union, and Roberts said:
Arch still can step up and meet its obligation to these retirees. We will continue to encourage them to do so in the coming days.
Roberts said while the settlement with Peabody and Patriot is significant, it does not provide the level of funding needed to maintain health care for these retirees forever.
That is why we are continuing our efforts to pass bipartisan legislation in Congress that will put these retirees under the Coal Act, meaning their long-term health care benefits would be secured at no additional cost to taxpayers.
H.R. 2918, introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), has 24 co-sponsors from both parties; and S. 468, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), has six co-sponsors.
Photo by Missouri AFL-CIO on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Health Care, mineworkers, Missouri, patriot coal, pension, secure retirement, West Virginia
One of the best parts of the initial roll out of the Affordable Care Act this week has been the discovery of those who opposed the law – or those who just heard negative things about it – finding just how much they stand to benefit from its implementation.
Franci from Connecticut, via our Facebook page, brings us this great story:
I took my Republican brother in for surgery recently. When he came back from the recovery room, we were watching President Obama speak on the news about the shutdown and the need for Affordable Care Act.
My still-groggy brother starts spouting Fox News talking points about how he is never going to be forced to buy health insurance and how he would much rather pay the fine! Luckily, I had some empathy for the pain he was in so I didn’t rip his head off as I explained to him that the surgery he just had was courtesy of Obamacare! He said that couldn’t be because the ACA had not yet gone into effect.
He has been unemployed/underemployed since the recession hit. Because of the ACA, our state of Connecticut expanded access to Medicaid, which allowed my brother to have the surgery he has needed for years. Since he was a captive audience, I took an hour to explain all the parts of the law that have gone into effect over the last few years, what changes are still to come, how the law affects me personally and how the ACA affects my small business.
I’m sure his Fox News brain was ready to explode after that explanation. On the other hand, he had enough sedation that he may not remember the whole conversation as he returns to his tiny Fox News world!
Despite the tantrums of Congress and the misinformation on TV and radio, Working America is determined to make sure that working people get all they can from the Affordable Care Act. To learn more, visit WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, obamacare, Working America Health Care
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, took to the floor of the Senate today to stage a pretend filibuster. He’s been talking for a long time, and claims it’s his effort to derail the Affordable Care Act.
Fortunately, Cruz’s grandstanding will have zero effect on the new health care law. But as Tara Culp-Ressler notes, what Cruz is doing is just a distraction from the real attack on ACA. If you want to see a Texas Republican sabotaging the new law and preventing people from getting the coverage they need,
Millions of Texans go uninsured—it has one of the highest uninsured rates of any state. There are few places that need the ACA more. But Rick Perry is doing everything in his power to break the law and make it less functional.
That might play well at right-wing fundraising events. But it means people in Texas are going to have a harder time getting health care.
Ted Cruz is making a lot of noise. Rick Perry is actually, critically undermining the ACA.
Tell Governor Perry to accept federal Medicaid funds and help nearly 2 million Texans afford health insurance.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Medicaid, obamacare, Rick Perry, ted cruz, Texas
The AFL-CIO quadrennial 2013 convention in Los Angeles was a flurry of exciting activity that promises to remake the labor movement in the United States and build a movement for all working people to deal with the new challenges and political landscape working families must navigate. While there were many important discussions and plans made at the convention that will be expanded on in the coming months and years, here are 10 important initiatives that came out of the resolutions passed by the convention delegates that you should know about:
1. Opening Up and Broadening the Labor Movement: The delegates recognized the need to expand the labor movement to be more broad and inclusive and to recognize all working families, whose rights have been under assault. No fewer than six resolutions were passed to expand the labor movement and partner with allies in new ways. The first invites every worker in America to join the labor movement, either through affiliate unions or through Working America. Another one provides for supporting political campaigns that protect and expand workers’ rights to organize. A third related resolution calls for expanded efforts to help workersorganize around the globe. Other areas of renewed focus would be on organizing in the southern United States, in building lasting community partnerships with organizations that share our values and expanding and protecting voting rights so working families have a say in choosing those who pass laws that affect their rights.
2. Economics for Shared Prosperity: The convention delegates approved several resolutions that call for new ways of thinking and talking about the economy, moving away from the conservative, pro-corporate way of discussing the economy. The first initiative calls for an economics of shared prosperity, which focuses on creating living wage jobs for all who seek them, providing workers a voice on the job, health care for everyone, aging with dignity, jobs that support families and high-quality education for all children. The AFL-CIO also has committed to creating a curriculum and training program to teach working families how to talk about the economy in more accurate terms that don’t let pro-corporate interests drive the conversation. The federation also supports policies that will fix the parts of the economy that are having the biggest negative impact on working families. This resolution called for legislation that would create good jobs, improve economic security for all of America’s workers and make the tax system more fair through requiring Wall Street and the wealthiest 2% pay their fair share. Another resolution supported by the delegates focuses on the need to raise wages if we want to fix what is wrong with our economy, and lays out a broad agenda of efforts at the federal, state and local levels that aim to raise wages and labor standards for everyone who works in America.
3. A Road Map to Citizenship for Aspiring Americans: At the convention, the AFL-CIO recommitted to its ongoing support for and leadership in creating an immigration system that protects U.S. workers, reduces the exploitation of immigrant workers, reduces employers’ incentives to hire undocumented workers, keeps families together, creates a road map for aspiring Americans and contributes to shared prosperity for all.
4. Embracing and Including the Diverse Workforce: The AFL-CIO embraced diversity at its convention as never before, with people of color and women representing 46% of delegates. An inclusion conference held before the convention kicked off ways to work more closely with communities of color, young workers and the LGBT community. In addition to the resolution on the road map to citizenship for aspiring Americans and the resolutions on expanding the labor movement, the delegates passed resolutions on:
- Working women: focusing on equal pay for equal work; respect for the balance among work, family and community; forging and expanding partnerships with allies; and increasing equality and building women’s leadership within the labor movement.
- Young workers: including recognizing the importance of young workers in the current and future economy; expanding young worker programs to all levels of the federation; and giving young workers a seat on the AFL-CIO General Board.
Delegates also voted to add gender identity and gender expression to the federation’s constitutional equality section.
5. Retirement Security for All: With seemingly endless attacks in recent years on retirement security, the AFL-CIO calls for strengthening and improving Social Security benefits, much stronger protections for private and public pension laws and other legislative improvements to laws that protect working families in their retirement years. Any proposal to cut Medicare or Social Security to fund lower taxes for corporations and the 1% is immoral and unacceptable.
6. A New Approach to Trade and Globalization: The convention also passed a resolution calling for improvement in international trade deals, with a focus on protecting workers’ rights around the world, environmental protection, preventing corporations from interfering with national sovereignty and public interest regulations and making it clear that the AFL-CIO would oppose trade deals that don’t live up to these ideals.
7. Opposing Mass Incarceration for Profit: The AFL-CIO recognizes that the private prison industry, which pushes for laws that increase incarceration rates so they can pad their profits, creates negative incentives for state and local governments to lock up more people, even when crime rates are low. Such policies also harm communities, are unsafe for both inmates and prison employees and have a strongly disproportionate effect on people of color.
8. Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education: As a key component of any strategy of improving the lives of working families, the AFL-CIO supports a broad range of educational reforms that ensure that all children have the opportunity to attend safe, high-quality schools. The delegates also condemned the attacks on public education by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D).
9. Implementing the Affordable Care Act: The convention delegates passed a resolution that supports the responsible implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the protection of workers’ rights in any health care changes made by government or private corporations, and continues to support the ultimate goal of a single-payer system.
10. State Federation, Central Labor Council and Affiliate Accountability: Because of the importance of effective state federations, central labor councils (CLCs) and affiliates in fighting back against right-wing attacks in the states and the possibilities for expansion of workers’ rights at the state level, the AFL-CIO is moving forward on several initiatives to maximize efforts in the states. The first is to require state federations and large CLCs to hire qualified campaign managers and develop and implement strategic plans that include community engagement programs. The second is to create a special committee that will develop and monitor the performance of state federations, CLCs and affiliate unions. Each year, 10 states will undergo a thorough peer review and the findings and recommendations of the review will be reported.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, aflcio13, Health Care, immigration, Jobs, Retirement Security, Rights At Work, women, youth
Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled that states could reject federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. And until recently, it seemed that Michigan would be one of them.
But then something incredible happened. You started to speak about how unacceptable it was that the poorest of Michigan’s residents, an estimated 470,000 people, would needlessly lack access to health care. You started to ask why Michigan would miss out on millions of dollars every day in Medicaid funds just so legislators could look tough in their opposition to President Obama. Over 7,000 people signed our petition to Gov. Rick Snyder and the legislature, and even more Michiganders called, wrote, and rallied for Medicaid expansion.
It worked. First, in February, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder changed his tune and supported Medicaid expansion. Then, in dramatic fashion, expansion passed the Senate on a narrow bipartisan vote in August. It then sailed through the House, and was signed into law by Gov. Snyder on Monday.
This didn’t happen by accident. We’ve been through enough battles to know that politicians don’t do the right thing on their own, especially when it involves going against members of their own party. It happened because you demanded it. This is a victory you won, and hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan are going to benefit from it.
We’ll keep holding Michigan lawmakers accountable. In the meantime, we’re gearing up to make sure everyone in Michigan knows their rights and opportunities under the Affordable Care Act.
Sign up to get the best information on what’s happening with healthcare and how to make it work for you.
Thank you for everything you’ve done to expand health care access in Michigan. Together, we’ve proven that we can win.
Photo by swskeptic on Flickr
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Medicaid, Michigan, obamcare, Rick Snyder
In a humorous treatment of a serious subject, AFSCME is using GIFs—those ubiquitous, short animated photos—to tell the story of Detroit’s bankruptcy.
Featuring goofiness from cat boxing, to “Seinfeld’s” Newman, corgis on a treadmill, Eminem’s out-of-it halftime interview with Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger and 20 more, GIFtroit outlines the facts behind Detroit’s bankruptcy, including Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) hijacking of state revenue due Detroit, his financial “martial law” edict that strips cities of the power to govern themselves, Wall Street’s role and more.
GIFtroit also explains how more than 21,000 city retires are threatened with pension and health care benefit cuts while current city workers, including firefighters and police officers, face wage, benefit and job cuts.
While retirees and workers are the targets of the budget-gutting advocated by Snyder’s appointed “emergency financial manager,” Kevyn Orr, GIFtroit points out that Orr is:
Living in a taxpayer-funded hotel penthouse suite, spending extravagant amounts on room service and hiring assistants at $225,000 salaries.
Click here to see all of GIFtroit and share it on Facebook and Twitter.
AFSCME and other Detroit unions are challenging the city’s claims in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and Judge Steven Rhodes is expected to rule on the city’s eligibility for bankruptcy protection later in the fall. Today, more than 100 Detroit workers, retirees and residents who filed objections to the bankruptcy are getting a chance to speak out before Rhodes.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, afscme, Detroit, Health Care, Jobs, Michigan, Retirement, Rick Snyder, Rights At Work
Workers, businesses and community groups in Tacoma, Wash., have made that Northwest city the latest to mobilize around a paid sick days campaign. Meanwhile, the Washington, D.C., City Council is exploring strengthening the district’s paid sick leave law.
The group Healthy Tacoma says that two out of five of the city’s workers—about 40,000— don’t have access to paid time off for an illness or if a family member gets sick. Nationally more than four in 10 private-sector workers and 81% of low-wage workers do not have paid sick days. Says the group:
Customers shouldn’t get sick from visiting restaurants and stores, and workers shouldn’t have to choose between their health and paying their bills.
Alma Gutierrez, of Tacoma, a single mother of three and former server, told KING5 News that during a shift, she fell and broke a bone in her foot. Her company did not offer her paid sick leave.
Less than two weeks later they called me and said you have to show up tomorrow, otherwise you’re fired.
In fear for her job, Gutierrez used a knife to cut off her cast and showed up to work the next day wearing a splint. The bone didn’t heal properly and still gives her problems.
The goal is to get a paid sick leave ordinance allowing workers to earn sick days before the Tacoma City Council meets as soon as possible. Read more from Healthy Tacoma.
In 2008, the District of Columbia enacted a paid sick days law but it excluded tipped wait staff, including most servers, bussers and bartenders. A bill to add those workers to the law’s coverage is expected to be introduced at tonight’s City Council meeting.
Most business groups oppose paid sick leave laws, claiming they would harm businesses and lead to employers leaving or not locating in jurisdictions. But recent studies back up earlier analyses that show paid sick leave laws do not negatively impact businesses.
A just-released study by the Economic Opportunity Institute of Seattle’s law passed last year found that businesses did not leave and revenue has not dropped since passage of the paid sick days law. Seattle’s economy showed stronger job growth and business formation in the first half of 2013, compared to the same time period in 2012:
There were 7,200 more retail jobs and 3,200 more jobs in food services and drinking places in King County during the first seven months of 2013 than for the same period of 2012.
A D.C. government audit released in June concluded that the requirement “neither discouraged business owners from locating in the District nor encouraged business owners to move their business from the District.”
In March, the New York City Council passed a paid sick days bill and San Francisco and Portland, Ore., have implemented paid sick leave requirements. Connecticut is the only state with a paid sick days law. Campaigns or legislative initiatives are under way in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington State and Wisconsin.
But also as Bryce Covert at Think Progress reports Republican lawmakers backed by their business allies and corporate groups have pushed a number of so-called pre-emption bills, which block the ability of cities and counties to enact paid sick days legislation. Such laws have cropped up in at least 14 different state legislatures and enacted in nine: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
On the federal level in March, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced theHealthy Families Act, which would give workers the opportunity to earn paid sick leave they could use for personal illnesses or to take care of sick family members, among other uses.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Health Care, Jobs, Paid Sick Days, Rights At Work, tacoma, washington