Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

If Black Lives Matter, Racist Health System Must Be Priority

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, when he decided to protest, William Smith, 27, used a red marker to write a message on the back of a flattened cardboard box: “Kill Racism, Not Me."

As he stood alone, somber, he thought about George Floyd, a fellow black man whom he'd watched die on video as a Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck eight days earlier. “Seeing the life leave his body was finally the last straw that broke the camel's back for me," he said.

But he also thought about people he knew, a handful of them, who died after catching the new coronavirus. “They were living in impoverished areas. Couldn't get proper treatment. Lived in crowded conditions, so social distancing was hard to do. And they were still forced to go to work and be put in harm's way."

When speaking out against the loss of black lives, it is tough to separate those who die at the hands of police from those who die in a pandemic that has laid bare the structural racism baked into the American health system. Floyd himself had tested positive for the coronavirus. Eighteen black protesters interviewed by ProPublica were well aware that black lives were being lost to the virus at more than twice the rate of others, and that societal barriers have compounded for generations to put them at higher risk.

It was fueling their desire to protest and their anxiety about joining the crowd. But they flocked to the White House on Tuesday afternoon, one day after peaceful protesters there were tear-gassed so that President Donald Trump could hold up a bible for a photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church. There were tanks on the streets, along with a battalion of federal agents, military troops and police. Many of the protesters said they were willing to sacrifice their bodies, either to violence or the virus, to be heard.

In front of the White House stood Caleb Jordan, who turns 21 on Saturday. He showed up with an overstuffed backpack to make sure his 62-year-old grandmother, Carolyn Jackson, had enough water to drink and a hoodie to protect her arms in case of violence. “I don't know what I would do if anything happened to her," he said. Some people had on masks. Some did not. Some pulled their masks down to talk or breathe. “I'm not comfortable with that," he said. She's got a chronic lung condition, and he had been so worried about her catching the coronavirus in the past few months that he wouldn't hug her. But then she mentioned that she drove by the protests on Sunday, and immediately he asked, “Why didn't you take me?"

He had been losing sleep over what he was seeing in social media and on TV, having nightmares in which he was fighting a “real-Jim-Crow-looking white guy in a white button-down shirt, black tie, sleeves rolled up." His mom told him he was fighting racism. “It's like obstacle after obstacle," he said. “If it's not police beating us up, it's us dying in a hospital from the pandemic. I'm tired of being tired. I'm so tired, I can't sleep." It was something he continued thinking about until he couldn't help himself, sending a text at 3 a.m. asking his grandmother if they could attend together. “I thought about it and said, 'This is a teachable moment,' " she recalled.

So Jackson took the day off from her job as an accountant at a hospice organization and put on some peace sign earrings and a T-shirt from the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. On the car ride into the city, her grandson asked about her struggles with race. She explained what it's like being a professional black woman with over 30 years experience who still feels overlooked for opportunities because of questions about her qualifications. Her awareness of being treated differently dates back to how her white paternal grandmother favored her lighter-skinned cousins. She found solace in her black maternal grandmother, who would comb her hair while she sat between her legs. Jackson wants her grandson to feel that kind of comfort from her.

That desire extends to her mission to help the black community understand palliative care is an option that can offer dignity and support at the end of life. “Because when people hear hospice, their hands go up and they say, 'I don't want to hear it.'" She's also heard that resistance when it comes to getting tested for the coronavirus; she has gotten tested twice and plans to get tested again. She feared being exposed on Tuesday, but being here with her grandson was too important to miss. “We internalized a lot with my generation," she said, “but I think it's important for him to see this."

N.W.A.'s “Fuck Tha Police" blared from a nearby speaker outside St. John's Episcopal Church until an interfaith group of men and women bowed their heads and began to pray. Among them was Timothy Freeman, pastor at Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, who wore a brightly colored kente cloth-inspired mask, its vibrant yellows and reds standing in stark contrast to his ministerial black suit and white clerical collar.

Freeman, 42, knows eight people who have been diagnosed with the virus; one died. For two weeks, a sick friend had a fever and could barely move from fatigue but refused to get tested, running through all the scenarios of what might happen if he had it: What if he wound up isolated in an ICU with no one to advocate at his bedside? Another sick friend worried an ambulance would take him to a hospital that he didn't trust. These conversations, the pastor said, are always infused with an awareness of the medical system's record of neglect and abuse of black people, from dismissing their pain to using their bodies for research without consent. The virus has forced this all top of mind.

A licensed occupational therapist for 19 years who spent a decade managing a skilled rehab facility, Freeman said he has seen racial disparities in health care firsthand and that access to adequate insurance coverage is crucial. “I have seen diagnostic tests not performed … and hospitalizations cut extremely short — or not happen at all — because of insurance." COVID-19 is affecting black and brown people in disproportionate numbers, “and not just because we're black and brown, but because of the social and economic conditions people are forced to live in," he said.

“All of it comes together. What happened with George Floyd publicized to the world the experience that we live," he said. “It's a conglomeration of everything."

A block away from the prayer group, Elizabeth Tsehai, 53, drove slowly in her BMW SUV, honking her horn, as federal agents in riot gear began to march past the crowd just behind her. She had a Black Lives Matter T-shirt displayed on the dashboard and a bike rack on the top of her car that she joked made her look like the “caricature of a soccer mom."

She stopped her car on the road and remained there as protesters to her left took a knee. There was some heckling from the crowd but no one was in anybody's face. A Secret Service agent warned her to move. Her response: “Arrest me. I can't breathe!" Agents then pulled her from her car and to the ground and handcuffed her. “I didn't resist because I know they just arrest you for resisting arrest," she said. “But the minute they pulled me up on my feet, I was talking all kinds of trash."

Her car was left unlocked in the middle of the street, where it was protected by protesters. She was questioned and released. She said agents told her they were afraid she was going to hit protesters because people have been using their cars as weapons. They told her to move it and leave. The Secret Service did not respond to questions about this incident.

“Ordinarily, I would not get involved," Tsehai said. But George Floyd's death was enraging, as were “all of the things that came before it."

All of the things.

How a white nurse looked her up and down when she arrived at the hospital to give birth to her son and sneered, “Can we help you?"

How her brothers, who live in Minneapolis, recount being pulled over by police for driving while black.

How a black man couldn't watch birds in Central Park last week without having the police called on him.

“The pandemic is hitting black people hard and exposing these structural inequalities," she said. “Then on top of that, you get Amy Cooper … weaponizing her white privilege at a time when he might end up in jail, where infection is rife.

“But when they manhandled protesters who were peaceful, that was a bridge too far," said Tsehai, who grew up in Ethiopia under an authoritarian regime during a period known as Red Terror. She didn't know life without a curfew until she moved to the United States to attend Georgetown University 35 years ago.

“Moments like this are quite unusual," she said. They can also inspire change, a message she shared with her children, ages 12 and 14, when recounting her ordeal with them. “I want these children to live in a different world. It's not enough to read about it and get outraged and talk about it at the dinner table. Silence makes you complicit."

Report: Trump’s Health Care Failure May Hurt Him With Rust Belt Voters

President Donald Trump had a lot to say about health care when he gave his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, February 4, claiming that he was determined to protect coverage for preexisting health conditions and that “socialist” Democrats were trying to rob Americans of the health plans they love.

Problem: the Trump Administration is very much on board with a Republican lawsuit that seeks to abolish the protections of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare — including coverage of preexisting conditions — and rip health insurance away from millions of Americans by arguing that the law is unconstitutional. And journalist Daniel McGraw points out in a February 10 article for The Bulwark that health care could be a major liability for Trump in the Rust Belt states that he needs to win in order to be reelected in November.

The Bulwark is not liberal or progressive. Founded by Never Trump conservatives Bill Kristol and Charlie Sykes in late 2018, The Bulwark has a right-wing point of view but is passionately anti-Trump. On the surface, it might seem strange that a conservative site would be sympathetic to Obamacare. But in fact, the elements of the ACA were greatly influenced by the “universal health care via the private sector” approach championed by President Richard Nixon, the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney (now a U.S. senator) in the past. Nixon never would have favored the type of Medicare-for-all proposal that Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing for, but the health care overhaul he proposed in the early 1970s and worked on with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was comparable to the ACA yet more aggressive.

Demonstrating why health care could be problematic for Trump in the 2020 election, McGraw cites the results of Baldwin Wallace University’s Great Lakes Poll (which was published on January 21). Only four states were included in the poll, all of them Rust Belt States that went from voting for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 to favoring Trump over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.

McGraw explains, “One question in the poll was especially relevant to health care, and unlike the questions in most previous national polls, phrased very directly: ‘Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling health care policy?’ The results show Trump and the Republicans have a big problem in these key states.”

Respondents who said they “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove of how Trump has handled health care, McGraw notes, include 53 percent in Michigan, 56 percent in Wisconsin and 51 percent in Pennsylvania. Those figures include both men and woman; among women, the numbers increase to 59 percent in Michigan, 58 percent in Wisconsin and 53 percent in Pennsylvania.

“Exit polls in 2016 showed Trump lost to Hillary Clinton among women in each of those states: by 42-55 in Pennsylvania, 42-53 in Michigan and 43-53 in Wisconsin,” McGraw points out. “He can’t afford to lose even more ground.”

Robert Alexander, an Ohio State University political science professor and one of the people who oversaw the Great Lakes Poll, told The Bulwark that health care is a high priority among older votes in Rust Belt states.

“The aging population in these states is big in terms of numbers, and (health care) is a big issue for them,” Alexander explained. “These people in these states aren’t looking 20 years down the road on how they get health care; it is much more immediate for them. This is a very real issue, and instability doesn’t sell well. Trump’s policy seems to be based on more chaos, and while that might be appealing to some voters on other issues, it doesn’t seem to be that way for the people we polled.”

According to Lauren Copeland (a political science professor at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio who worked on the Great Lakes Poll), public support for Obamacare has continued to grow.

“People are really skeptical of new policy changes that are imposed upon them,” Copeland told The Bulwark. “What seems to have happened is that the voters (still) saw Obamacare as a new policy in 2016, and were a little leery of it. But now, it is the standard in many ways — and most people don’t want to lose it now.”

If independent voters in the Rust Belt believe that Trump is hostile to their health care needs, McGraw explained, they might swing Democrat.

“Much will depend on who the Democratic candidate turns out to be, but whoever it is, Trump will need to get the independents on his side by at least the same margins as he did in 2016,” McGraw writes. “If health care is, as these independents say, their most important issue — and if they disapprove by large margins of Trump’s handling of health care —  his challenge is formidable.


Trump Claims To ‘Protect’ Healthcare Protections He Tried To Gut

Donald Trump falsely claimed on Monday that he “was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare,” despite his well-documented push to eliminate the existing health care law barring insurance companies from denying coverage on that basis.

Trump made the claim while attacking Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare, you have it now, while at the same time winning the fight to rid you of the expensive, unfair and very unpopular Individual Mandate,” he tweeted, adding that if “Republicans win in court and take back the House of Represenatives [sic], your healthcare, that I have now brought to the best place in many years, will become the best ever, by far.”

Trump concluded by stating that he “will always protect your Pre-Existing Conditions, the Dems will not!”

This claim flies in the face of Trump’s own record since taking office.

Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, it was legal for insurance companies to discriminate against patients who had preexisting medical conditions, such as a history of high blood pressure or even being a woman.

Despite unanimous Republican opposition, a Democratic Congress later passed the ACA and Barack Obama signed it into law in March 2010. The law both banned discrimination based on preexisting conditions and included mandates to make that workable for insurance companies.

Trump fiercely opposed the bill and vowed vaguely to “repeal and replace [it] with something terrific” during the 2016 election. He said this would happen “Immediately. Fast. Quick” if he were elected.

In 2017, after taking office, Trump pushed the Republican-controlled Congress to pass his Trumpcare legislation to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that would leave tens of millions uninsured. While the legislation required insurers to offer some form of insurance to those with preexisting conditions, it did not prevent discrimination against them and did not include any system to make such coverage affordable for patients or insurers.

The bill failed after a handful of Senate Republicans joined every Senate Democrat in voting no.

That same year, Trump told his supporters to “not worry” about his failed bid to replace the ACA. “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE,” he tweeted in March 2017.

Since then, Trump has tried other tactics to implode the ACA. Last March, he endorsed a lawsuit by Republican state officials aimed at eliminating every word of Obamacare and replacing it with nothing. He has embraced allowing states to sell junk health insurance plans that exclude people with pre-existing conditions.

In the meantime, by repeatedly working to undermine Obamacare’s mandates, Trump has hurt the system that makes the law work. Last May, Politifact ruled Trump’s claim that he would “always protect patients with preexisting conditions, very importantly” to be false, stating that his administration’s trajectory would do “exactly the opposite.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) slammed Trump’s dishonesty on Monday, calling his latest statements an “Orwellian lie even for him.”

“Trump is in court right now trying to destroy protections for preexisting conditions,” the longtime lawmaker tweeted, adding that the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court just last week to delay action until after the 2020 election “so he doesn’t get blamed for stealing your care.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Healthcare Costs Impacting Children Nationwide

As healthcare costs continue to climb into the new decade, many families are feeling the strain more than ever. Unlike other insurances like life insurance, which 60 percent of Americans have, health insurance is essential for people of all ages to have access to. This necessity puts a huge weight on parents’ shoulders. While some protections are in place to support those in need of assistance, gaps in coverage and certain restrictions can leave middle-class families and their children in a precarious position. The new year will undoubtedly be a notable year for American politics. With this in mind, only time will tell what the future holds for the nation’s healthcare.

Healthcare Access Limited, Harming Children

With healthcare costs climbing rapidly for both the insured and uninsured, many parents are being forced to make incredibly difficult decisions when it comes to the care and protection of their children. In some cases, parents are unable to afford basic healthcare costs for their children, veering into a state of neglect. Neglect was the top reason why Kentucky children were removed from their homes between 2010 and 2015, making up 68.6 percent of removals. However, this is not always due to genuine malintent on the part of the parents. In some cases, costs have simply spiraled out of control, and they’re no longer able to support their children as well as themselves.

The result is a young population with worsening healthcare. Children in lower-income communities often lack resources such as mental healthcare support, routine exams, and more. However, this lack of resources isn’t exclusively due to an increasingly high cost; some areas simply lack the staff to support these services.

Staffing Shortages Despite High Costs

While costs remain high, the funds aren’t always directed where they need to be in order to provide more support for struggling communities. Many areas, particularly when it comes to psychiatry and psychology, are critically understaffed. Some studies show there are about 7.2 million open healthcare positions available in the world today because of staffing shortages. Shortages tend to be particularly high in low-income communities, as the positions often pay less than the average salary for the job. This pushes doctors and medical professionals to wealthier communities, rather than to communities that are most in need of additional medical services.

Long-Term Impacts On Population

Over time, the lack of medical resources in necessary areas could lead to long-lasting consequences. Being healthy doesn’t just consist of eating nutritious food and going on hikes, a mile of which can burn over 500 calories. To have the best chances of living a healthy life, you need easy access to professional healthcare. Children who grow up in communities that lack vital health resources will likely be less healthy than their peers. The cycle tends to perpetuate itself, as those who are less healthy may struggle with maintaining long-term jobs or higher-paying careers.

In theory, various government-supported programs exist to interrupt this cycle. However, these programs often are difficult to access and can have vital gaps in coverage. The Americans with Disability Act provides that reasonable accommodations must be provided to individuals who have a qualifying disability, absent a hardship caused to the employer. However, not every disability will qualify, and assistance may not be available to those who make just enough to not meet financial assistance requirements.

As 2020 quickly approaches, it’s uncertain what the future of the nation’s healthcare holds. The upcoming year will be an important one for American politics, and the debate over healthcare will continue up to and beyond the next presidential election. With so many of the nation’s most vulnerable population riding on the healthcare debate, hopefully a solution to the dilemma will be reached soon.