Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I hate to start on a depressing note, but this letter in Berkeley Parents Network left an impression on me as we have a huge homeless population in Berkeley:

Helping homeless man with cancer
——————————————-
I recently ran into a man who grew up around the corner from me in Berkeley and attended the same alternative highschool. He was raised by his grandma who passed away when we were young and then I pretty much lost track of him. Over the years (we are now in our late forties) he would pass through the neighborhood (where I still live) to say hello. He never asked for anything but a bit of normal conversation with folks who knew him when he was young but I did get the sense that he was struggling and sort of off kilter. I saw him last night and he revealed that he has lung cancer and is sleeping in the bushes of local parks. Again he did not ask for anything, but when I asked about family he said “gone.” When I asked if he was receiving support from social services etc.. he shook his head as if I were a being naive. I asked how to locate him if I thought of a way to help, and he just sort of shrugged. It was a brief conversation as I was taken by surprise and in the middle of a minor family crisis. I really can’t say that I know him now or what other problems he may have and I currently have negative financial (or emotional) resources of my own to offer so I expressed as much sympathy as I could before he just wandered away. Now I am haunted by thoughts of that friendly neighborhood kid who had no one but his grandma and how he might be dying outside in the bushes of what used to be his own now affluent “village”. I think about trying to find him and offering….what? Money I don’t have, info. on resources I know nothing about, a warmer sleeping bag? I know there must be other terminally ill people living on our streets, and that better people than me are trying to meet their needs but after just letting him walk away like that I’m finding it harder to look in the mirror. Any thoughts on what to do or who to suggest he reach out to if I encounter him again?
–Useless Wannabe Samaritan

I am definitely going to read the responses. I pass about five homeless people — usually the same men — every day. I have opted to donate to organizations in my neighborhood instead, and will give to the occasional woman that I see because it is so shocking, and in my mind, more dangerous to live in the streets as a woman. We really need more resources for mental health services and affordable housing. Do any of you have a similar experience where you live?

In health news: the deadline to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is March 31st. I am enjoying the videos promoting the deadline, including this one with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards and sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer:

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Five Reasons This Progressive Is Smiling

As a progressive, I haven’t been jumping out of my chair in terms of our politics and legislation in this country. But lately, the good news just keeps on rolling in. Here are five reasons why I am sporting an ear-to-ear grin right now:

1.) The EPA implemented new mercury and air toxics standards. Woo-hoo! Despite vicious lobbying by Southern Company and some coal-powered electricity plants, the EPA and President Obama went ahead to implement new mercury and air toxics standards that promise to save tens of thousands of lives a year, not to mention, billions of dollars in health care costs. I, for one, am resting easier knowing that my kids aren’t inhaling unhealthy amounts of mercury, arsenic, chromium and other dangerous metals. Thank you EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and President Obama! Here is a photo, provided to me by Moms Clean Air Force, of Administrator Jackson tweeting:

2.) AZ Sheriff Joseph Arpaio was brought to justice. Besides the environment, I have been passionate about immigrant rights, and the rights of families in general. It was a good day to hear that the U.S. Department of Justice found Arizona Sheriff Joseph Arpaio guilty of “unconstitutional policing.” He has been vicious in his tactics from racial profiling of Latinos to breaking up families and retaliating against anyone who questions his policies. Here is a great MomsRising write-up of it. In related news, I wrote a letter to the editor to the New York Times that helped push the paper to update its stylebook and not use the made-up word “illegals” in its reporting.  

3.) Republicans cave on payroll tax extension. Just when I was starting to think that the Democrats were beyond weeny, I start reading headlines about how the Republicans “succumbed” to the Democrats’ plan to extend payroll tax cuts for 160 million Americans. Finally, the Dems have grown some cojones!

4.) Unemployment insurance extended for two months. Even the Republicans have to admit that leaving unemployed workers and their families in the cold this holiday season is beyond cruel. Unemployment insurance was extended for another two months. Whew!

5.) More people have health insurance because of healthcare reform. I wasn’t that crazy about this bill when it first came out, and would still prefer a single payer healthcare system. But it has insured 2.5 million more young adults and promises to insure even more people as all its components fall into place.

And I got a holiday bonus! Okay, this is more personal news, but I work closely with my co-workers on all the above issues. To be able to celebrate these victories and be rewarded for it with a call from the boss with a holiday bonus is beyond humbling and a blessing especially during these times. It’s been a great year for me, and I am so grateful.

What were some of your favorite news stories from the year?

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Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First of all, my heart and prayers go out to these moms mentioned in the Boston Globe. The end of the Iraq War is bittersweet for them because they lost children there and don’t think they should have been sent there in the first place. I wish them peace and solace.

Thank you for the great discussion about the CARD Act, which would deny stay-at-home parents a credit card using their employed spouse’s income. There was a major oversight in that article. I forgot to include the MomsRising petition to let Congress know it is not okay to treat stay-at-home parents like little kids. Thank you!

In other political news: the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” as it is sometimes called — is responsible for insuring 2.5 million young people under the provision that they can remain on their parents’ health insurance until they are 26, according to Political Correction.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Have any of you run a full marathon? Do you have any tips for beginners? I have my first full marathon scheduled for October 30 and I am nowhere near ready. Between all the trips I took in August, my husband’s surprise birthday party, a lingering cold the last two weeks and work and other responsibilities, I have totally slacked on the running. The most I have ever run is 14 miles, and lately, I have not been motivated to even run five miles. I’d still like to run the full marathon and reclaim my mojo, but I need some motivation. Here are some tips I found at Active.com. Any additional ones would be greatly appreciated.

The New York Times had a great story on how young people up to the age of 26 are benefiting from the new health care law. Also, the New York Times published a story on unscrupulous, for-profit colleges preying on G.I.s.

In case you are not on MotherTalkers’ Facebook page, this video on Education Week was posted there. It has to do with the importance of self control in children.

As a health conscious mom and activist, you could say I was pretty disappointed to learn that the cans of Annie’s organic kid pasta contain the synthetic, toxic chemical BPA. Boo them! Here is the MomsRising petition on it.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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What the Affordable Care Act Means for Latinos

Hey all! I thought I would share with you what I am working on at MomsRising.org. Our stories even got a mention in a White House newsletter. ¡Eso! -Elisa

At MomsRising.org, we’re starting to hear how the Affordable Care Act has made a real difference for Latino families. That’s why there is no turning back for Latina moms like Tracy Muñoz of Norfolk, Virginia.

“My 21-year-old is taking a year off from school,” she wrote MomsRising. “He is having to pay back school loans from the first year. He works a full-time job with a small business. He cannot afford health insurance on his own, and we cannot afford to pay for it for him. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we were able to add him onto my company’s policy. We were also able to stave off any premium increases, again, thanks to ACA. Health care reform has given us a sense of security that we all needed at a time when I have not had a pay increase in 2 years.”  

For Latina mothers with special needs children, or as the insurance companies saw them, “high-risk kids with pre-existing conditions,” the one-year anniversary of ACA’s passage is especially significant.

“I am the mother of a beautiful 6-year-old girl named Paloma,” wrote Magdalena Clark of Houston, Texas. “Paloma was diagnosed with severe Autism when she was 2-years-old.

“We recently found out that with the new Health Care Reform (Affordable Care Act) we are finally able to provide our daughter with the (therapy) that she desperately needs. We are so happy. It’s been the first great news we have received in these past 4 years.”

And there are so many stories like hers. My family, too, has been forced into bankruptcy in an attempt to pay for medical bills.

Growing up in a Cuban and Puerto Rican household in Miami in the ‘80s, I do not remember a time in which my hardworking parents did not struggle to pay bills. Oftentimes, we went without electricity or phone service due to inability to pay.

Like so many families in America, we were pushed to bankruptcy when my parents were unable to pay for overdue medical bills related to the premature birth of my baby sister, Nelsy. I remember attending college in the late ‘90s and working three jobs to help put myself through school. My parents were not allowed to own a credit card due to the bankruptcy.

Healthcare reform helps us in more ways than one. Even as Latinos comprised a third of the U.S. uninsured population in 2009 (1), an additional 1.4 million Latinos—nearly 13 million total—were covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, an increase of 12.1% from 2008. The Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law by President Obama a year ago, promises to expand coverage to even more families so that they won’t be placed into a bind like my parents. Thanks to the passage of ACA, in 2014 all U.S. citizens who earn 133% above the poverty line (currently about $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. That means that a family of four earning up to about $88,000 a year will qualify for subsidies to buy health insurance. (2)

In addition, the ACA already assures all parents that their children may remain on their company-sponsored health insurance until they are 26. ACA also offers tax breaks to small businesses to insure their workers, and ends a discriminatory policy that allowed insurance companies to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and asthma – two illnesses that disproportionately affect Hispanics and their children. (3)

While more needs to be done to address the health care needs of immigrants, including permanent resident Latinos who are not U.S. citizens, the ACA is definitely a step in the right direction. As a mom of two, I am grateful to at least have the peace of mind that my children won’t be kicked off our policy when they graduate from high school, or God forbid, get sick. For that, I celebrate ACA’s one-year anniversary.

1.) National Council of La Raza calculation using U.S. Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey (CPS) Table Creator,“ 2010 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, http://www.census.gov/… (accessed September 2010). The CPS data estimate the number of people who were uninsured for the full year and may differ slightly from the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey data, which measure uninsurance at a point in time.
2.) http://www.kff.org/…
3.) http://www.healthcare.gov/…

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URGENT: Vote to Repeal Health Reform Scheduled on January 12th!

Like so many Americans, I have major reservations about President Obama’s healthcare reform law, like, having no public option and mandating that people buy private health insurance.

But I also acknowledge that there is a lot of good stuff in the bill, like, banning health insurance companies from refusing or dropping people from coverage when they become sick. Their vendetta against people with “pre-existing conditions” is sickening and very much resemble real-life death panels.

For that reason alone I do think the Republican Party should be stopped from repealing healthcare reform in a planned vote on January 12th. MomsRising.org has been collecting stories from parents across the country as to why we must not let this happen. Read on:

We’re standing up for two year old Violet who has a life threatening form of epilepsy and will likely hit her lifetime limits by age four if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.  As her mother, a MomsRising member from California, starkly points out, “Unless a cure is found, our daughter will be admitted to the hospital throughout her lifetime and a lifetime limit on insurance would limit her lifetime on earth.”

And we’re standing up for seven year old Klaus, who has been battling a rare cancer called sarcoma for over three years.  Tracy, his mother says, “As the mother of a child fighting cancer, I know that we absolutely can’t return to the bad old days when insurers could drop us when we got sick or exclude our children from coverage because of pre-existing conditions.”

And we’re standing up for four year old Wesley, whose mother Dawn, a MomsRising member from Florida, is self-employed and finally this year gained coverage for Wesley’s eye condition, strabismus.  Dawn was elated when her insurance company informed her that Wesley’s condition was finally covered because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act which makes it unlawful for insurers to exclude pre-existing conditions for children.

Heck yah, we’re standing up for America’s children and families.  Repeal of the health care overhaul law would take away personal freedoms of actually having access to reliable health insurance when we or our children get sick, and put power back in the hands of insurance companies.

New benefits under the law have freed millions of Americans from worry that they’ll lose or be denied insurance, made it easier for small businesses to sponsor coverage for their employees, and provided more affordable prescriptions for seniors on Medicare.


MomsRising is collecting stories and circulating a petition that they plan to deliver to members of Congress in both their D.C. and district offices, which will be paid a visit by children and their family advocates. Here is the petition, by the way.

While I am incredibly fortunate that none of my children are sick, this piece of news made me think of how difficult it was to attain health insurance when my husband and I started working for ourselves back in 2003. We were interrogated by a private health insurance company and had to undergo blood tests. An agent even told us that if our son had been a “sick baby” we wouldn’t have qualified for health insurance. In other words, if our son had been born sick — or if any of us had a “pre-existing condition” — we would not have been able to pursue our dreams of owning a business. Surely, Republicans and Democrats alike can agree that this is NOT the American Dream.

Do you have your own stories to share? What do you think about the January 12th vote?

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New Year Ushers In New Health Rules

New rules from a health insurance reform package signed into law by President Obama has kicked in, according to the Washington Post. They are:

• Limits on how health insurance companies spend customers’ premiums.

The rule requires that insurers spend at least 80 percent of this money on the customers themselves….For policies that are sold to large groups instead of small companies and individuals, the number is even higher: 85 percent. The remaining 15 or 20 percent of the money can be used for a company’s salaries, marketing and overhead – or kept as profit.

• Pharmaceutical companies must give seniors in Medicare’s “doughnut hole” a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs.

• Free preventative screenings for seniors as well as one free wellness visit per year for Medicare beneficiaries.

• The creation of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

This new agency is aimed at slowing down the rapid rise of health-care costs. It is supposed to foster innovation in both caring for patients and processing their payments and claims.

I, for one, look forward to the changes. Happy new year all!

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Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

My thoughts exactly:

Where was the “deficit commission” when President Bush started two wars and gave tax cuts to millionaires?

Since there is no free public option available under the Affordable Care Act, this is probably a good thing: a federal judge in Virginia just ruled that Congress could not force people to buy private health insurance, according to the Washington Post.

Prehistoric humans ate each other 12,000 years ago, according to research cited by Discovery News.

In other freaky news: a North Carolina teenager died after falling out of a plane in the sky, according to the Washington Post. Delvonte Tisdale, 16, managed a breach in airport security to hide in the plane’s wheel well, which is partially left opened during a flight.  

Check out this train wreck of a story: Kate Gosselin apparently stormed off of Sarah Palin’s reality show because she didn’t want to camp overnight in Alaska. Her kids wanted to stay, but she whined about everything from the bugs to the cold and packed them off on a plane.  

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?

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Latinas Speak Up on Health Reform!

Cross-posted at MomsRising.org.

Right before college, my parents had to file for bankruptcy protection due to overdue medical bills related to my little sister’s premature birth. I worked three jobs to get myself through school, even getting a bout of mononucleosis because I was so run-down.  

The situation of my parents — I was born to a Cuban father and a Puerto Rican mother — is, unfortunately, not unusual in our community. As many as a third of the 45 million Latinos who live in the United States have no health insurance, making us the group most likely to be uninsured, according to the Hispanic-themed Poder 360 magazine. The Affordable Care Act President Barack Obama signed into law six months ago promises to insure as many as nine million more Latinos.

While I am blessed today to have good health insurance, I, too, have struggled to maintain affordable health coverage. That’s why it so important for our community to remain engaged in discussions regarding health care reform. Voices like:

Liz Cerezo,
“For 5 years now, my husband and I have not had any type of medical insurance….What my anticipation is holding off for, is the Health Care Reform.  If this should play out, the way the “Suits“ in the casa blanca say it will, then Glory be to God. Not only for my sake, but for the sake of others, who also fall in between…The fine line. “The Fine Line”

Luz Villafana,
“Ahora que vamos tener elecciones, estamos en una posición de poder para poner presión a los candidatos y ver si están con nosotros o contra la reforma médica. Tenemos la oportunidad de votar por candidatos que estén de favor a asegurarnos todos.” “Tenemos Que Seguir Luchando Por La Reforma de Seguro Médico”

Dariela Cruz,
“I know that the new health reform is still the first step and it is not perfect, but little by little it will be much better. I trust that when my kids are adults they will have a better health system, one with more options, one that they can rely on and one that they can trust. A Health Care option that doesn’t depend on jobs or on maybe luck.” “Familes Need More Health Care Options”

Saray Hill,
“Section 4207 from the Health Care Reform is a huge first step to ensure that babies are not deprived from breastmilk because their mothers have to go back to work. This gives society hope that a healthier generation will be raised and that, slowly but surely, breastfeeding will become the norm.” “Health Care Reform and Breastfeeding”

Xochitl Oseguera,
“Health insurance has become more difficult than putting tortillas and milk on the table for my child. I am happy for now. I definitely hope this Administration’s healthcare reform bill will support small businesses and their employees. I am not sure if next time I am unemployed I will be as lucky as I am today. “Will Work for Healthcare Reform”

Natalia Bonilla,
“Barack Obama’s healthcare reform will benefit Puerto Rico with $6.6 billion more than the $4.8 expected for Medicaid between 2011 and 2019. After the healthcare bill passed on March 21, Puerto Rico began to look at the next decade which will be crucial for the Island to step up to the demands for accessing healthcare funds. Among the priorities will be creating by 2014 a new market for health insurance, also known as the Centers for Health Insurance Exchange.” “Puerto Rico: Now, It’s the Island’s Turn to Work on Health Care”

Together we must ensure that Latinos truly benefit from health care reform and understand new consumer protections for health care consumers in the law. For more great blogs on health care reform see MomsRising’s health care blog carnival here.  

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