Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Just a friendly reminder that MomsRising will be live-tweeting from the White House tomorrow — and you all are invited! To join us, follow the #MomsatWH hashtag on Twitter at 9 a.m. PT/ 12 p.m. ET. You can also ask questions via Facebook @momsrising. Thanks all!

Singing children’s praises to bolster their self-esteem is losing ground to more rigorous curriculums, in which praise is fine-tuned, according to a story in the Washington Post.

Parents published an article, “Six Secrets of Kids Who Rarely Get Sick,” which is timely considering I am desperately trying to avoid illness before my half marathon at the end of the month. So far a fever and cold have hit DH and DD. DS has a cold, and I am feeling rundown but have not had any other symptoms. Ugh!

In related news, Parents ran an article on natural remedies for everything from sore throats to head lice.

From the Boston Globe: A mom challenged Rick Santorum for his comment that no one in the United States dies from a lack of healthcare coverage. Good for her.

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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Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

A mother’s love is fierce: Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has co-sponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, which according to the Miami Herald, “would pave the way to make gay marriage legal within all 50 states by acknowledging that government should not define a couple by their sexual orientation.” The news story, which is worth a read, states that Ros-Lehtinen’s pro-gay marriage stance has stemmed from her parenting and accepting her transgender child. Good for her.

Follow the money: We really need to get the money out of politics. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and twenty of her fellow senators just introduced a bill that would prevent regulation of airborne toxins. As Think Progress pointed out, all of them have received campaign contributions from polluters. Blech.

My guess is that all that money spent on fighting health insurance reform was passed onto customers. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that annual premiums for family coverage jumped 9 percent this year compared to 2010 when they were raised by “only” 3 percent, according to the Associated Press. I once sparred with someone who I suspect worked for the health insurance industry who told me that the hundreds of millions of dollars in action taken against President Obama’s healthcare reform bill only came to $1 a customer. Yeah right.

Girl Power? Okay, I am just going to come out and say it. Thank God I am not a woman in Saudi Arabia. The king there just gave women the right to vote — in 2015 — and the driving ban is still in place. Here is a Washington Post article on it.

Trend Watch: Also in the Washington Post: Pet euthanasia at home is becoming a trend. Basically, the vet goes to the house as opposed to having human companions bring pets to the vet.

From BlogHer: “Another Jennifer” doled out tips on how to travel without children. Almost all the parenting articles have “don’ts” and “to-dos” for parents traveling with kids so I thought this was interesting.

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

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Healthcare Rant

Update: Good news! My sister was approved for a transfer to a hospital in Massachusetts. This facility has the expertise to tend to someone with her condition, and it is something my dad has been fighting for. We are all so thrilled. -Elisa

I need to vent.

Going through my sister’s illness right now — my family is trying to get Medicaid for her, as she has no employer-backed health insurance — I am really angry about our country’s lack of public health insurance. A friend of mine from Spain asked me why the United States still has no health insurance for its citizens, and I told her about the ugliness of the “Obamacare” debacle, in which the industry and the Tea Party came up with all kinds of excuses like “socialism” and coverage for abortions and the undocumented.

“We cover everyone, including the undocumented,” she told me.

Exactly. They may be a smaller country with less taxpayers and GDP, but they manage to give everyone healthcare, including immigrants and tourists. As for us, we continue to come up with excuses on why we can’t give even our own citizens this basic human right.

With that in mind, this story in the Washington Post came of no surprise:

The total number of people living in poverty — defined in 2010 as at or below an income of $22,314 for a family of four — is now at the highest level in the 52 years the statistic has been collected….The Census Bureau also reported that 16.3 percent of Americans are without health coverage, a share that officials called statistically unchanged from 2009.

Wow. That’s more people without health insurance after healthcare reform. I recently learned that the “pre-existing condition” stipulation doesn’t kick in until 2014. A friend of mine, her husband and their daughter are in this ugly situation, in which they lost their jobs and health insurance, and are covered by COBRA, which they can’t afford anymore. OTOH, they can’t get on California’s public health insurance, unless they drop COBRA for six months. Yet they don’t qualify for an individual private insurance plan to hold them over because of pre-existing conditions. “We’re screwed,” is what she told me.

WTF?

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Do Congressional Leaders Not Get Sick?

This week I wrote this story and helped solicit others like it for a blog carnival on Medicaid at MomsRising.org. It is appalling that congressional leaders would even consider cutting this vital program. Please check out all the stories, leave a comment or two, and forward to your family and friends. Thanks! -Elisa

The other day I witnessed a disturbing sight in my corner of the city on a street lined by multi-lanes and whizzing cars. A couple of kids about my kids’ ages – a 7-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl – were doing a big shopping – not candy! — at Walgreens.

I watched them check out, receive three bags of goods, change and a smile from the cashier. Then they struggled to take the bags outside, the little boy with two bags in his hands and the little girl with one. Once they were in front of the store, they attempted to reorganize their heavy load so that the little girl held none and the boy struggled with three bags.

I watched, hoping that they would go to a parked car with a loving adult in the driver’s seat. No. A woman – also a bystander – offered them help. Initially, the boy refused, but then accepted her help. She grabbed the bags and then walked away with them, presumably to their home.

On my way back home – approximately a three-block walk – I couldn’t stop thinking about them. What parent would allow two small children to go shopping alone? It was the 4th of July, perhaps the mother worked while the kids cared for themselves. Maybe a homebound grandmother had no choice but to let them shop for the family. I told my husband that I wished I had followed them home and let their guardian know that I was willing to do the shopping for them so that the kids wouldn’t have to. It really bothered me, as I cannot fathom giving my young children this kind of responsibility.

I found myself feeling the same way when I heard the stories of some of our contributing writers who depend on Medicaid to care for themselves or severely disabled children and/or their parents, too. What the heck are they going to do if they don’t have this lifeline? I can’t even fathom.

At the same time, I was in awe of their strength. These are strong women like Laura Tellado who has undergone 19 surgeries for spina bifida, a congenital disorder that often leaves the spinal cord unfused and causes paralysis. Despite a proposal to cut Medicaid by a third, Tellado continues to advocate and write on behalf of other spina bifida patients, and speak out against the cuts.

“My days of healthcare coverage are numbered—but I still have a voice, and I’m going to use it. I’ll use it fight for myself. I’ll use to fight for those who don’t have a voice,” she wrote here and at her blog Holdin’ Out for a Hero.


Then there is Emily Townsend’s heartbreaking reaction to the possibility that Medicaid may face devastating cuts. She has a severely disabled 17-year-old daughter who is in diapers and requires help with feeding. With sheer will and the help of Medicaid, Emily was able to work and gain a Ph. D. But how can we expect Emily’s family to thrive if her daughter is denied Medicaid coverage?

“It keeps me up at night,” Emily wrote. “For those of you who are reading this, please do not allow our leaders to balance the budget on the backs of the disabled. Medicaid is the main source of long-term care for people like my daughter and seniors. She and others like her are deserving of a long and dignified life.”

And for those of us who do not rely on Medicaid for health coverage, not only may we need it someday as it is the primary payer for 64% of nursing home residents, but we save money by cutting down on emergency room visits and investing in preventative care.

“Without it, my kids would be sicker and their lives in jeopardy – and those around them – as they would not be able to receive vaccines on time or wellness checkups,” wrote Katrina Alvarez-Hyman. “We would be in a whirlwind of trouble without it.”  

I, for one, am not willing to pay in the long-term for short-term savings on the backs of the disabled, seniors and children. The last thing I’d want to see in my community is for more small children to shop for homebound disabled and elderly people. Shudder.

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Health care has been on my mind lately. I know of a baby and a young adult — 22 — who require(d) major surgeries that are not fully covered by private health insurance. In the baby’s case, he received a cochlear implant because he is deaf. The cost of the surgery was $150,000, of which the parents must pay $1,800. Sure, $1,800 is a bargain compared to the actual cost of the surgery. But as I told my husband, basically, only people with $1,800 to spare could actually get their child a cochlear implant — never mind the uninsured.

The young adult’s case really worries me. Our dear friend’s daughter needs open heart surgery, and thankfully, she is on her mother’s health insurance plan until she is 26. (Thank you, healthcare reform!) But recently the mom and I were wondering what is going to happen when she is 27? She has a lifelong heart condition that is probably going to require surgery in the future, and she can’t work.

Then I read this story in the New York Times about how health insurance premiums are going up as hospitalizations are going down and the industry is raking in the profits. Healthcare reform is a good first step, but we really need to fix our broken healthcare system!

Also in the New York Times: John King, one of the original fathers of the charter school movement, was named education commissioner of New York’s public schools. King, who is the first African-American and Puerto Rican in the position, “was part of a circle of idealistic charter-school founders in Boston who experimented with longer school days, strict rules to guide student behavior and ways to hold teachers accountable for student performance. They raised expectations for poor students, and sought to form close relationships with children while reshaping teaching into a more quantifiable science,” according to the Times. He sounds like he has an incredible personal story as he was an orphan at 12 who eventually went on to Harvard and Yale.

In reading this story, one of the things that popped in my head was the lack of debate over a longer school day and/or school year in raising student achievement. It seems to me that there has been a lot of focus on teaching, when in fact, many low-income students lack reinforcement in the home, especially in the summertime.

Remember the fabulous book review and Q&A our brave had with mother of 9 and author Melissa Faye Green? The Progressive Reader just interviewed her about her life and new memoir, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet. I loved There Is No Me Without You, which was about her adopting children from Ethiopia, which means I will have to add her memoir to my reading list! Have you read it?

I can’t say that I am totally surprised by this, but Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to fathering a child with a household staff member who worked for the family for 20 years, according to Slate.

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

 

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Who Is Most Affected by Cuts to Planned Parenthood

Finally, someone in the traditional media mentioned the people who will most be affected by cuts to Planned Parenthood’s budget: low-income women. From The Monitor of Texas:

McALLEN — Jamie Henry, 24, is enrolled at South Texas College, has two children and gets by on government assistance and a $540 disability check her husband, a veteran of the Marines and National Guard, receives every month.

Henry, who gave birth to a baby girl four months ago and does not want any more children in the near future, is the type of woman Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County is fighting to protect from an onslaught of legislative attempts to cut basic family planning services at the state and federal level.

“I have a 7-year-old boy and a 4-month-old girl, and I probably would have had 10 kids in between that if I didn’t come here and get my (contraceptive) shot,“ Henry said Tuesday morning as she waited for her appointment at Planned Parenthood’s McAllen clinic.

The association sees about 23,000 patients a year throughout its 10 centers in Hidalgo County, with the exception of one center in Rio Grande City, said CEO Patricio C. Gonzales. If the proposed cuts are approved, eight of every 10 women who visit the centers would be cut off from services, which most can’t afford for lack of private insurance, he added.

Sometimes I feel like we have to go back to our roots and teach ourselves what we teach our own children: put yourself in other people’s shoes. Just because you have health insurance, doesn’t mean that other people do. Just because you have food to eat, doesn’t mean that other people do. Just because you can feed, clothe and educate your own children, doesn’t mean that other people can. Argh!

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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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Trans-partisan Politics, Children’s Health Insurance and More

What a week. Markos has been gone and I am juggling many balls in the air. The good new is my baby sister Nelsy is back from South America and has been staying with us so she has helped me with the kids. Whew!

As for the projects, I am working on three major ones. One, is a trans-partisan living room conversation in New Hampshire as part of a pilot program launched by Joan Blades of MoveOn.org and MomsRising.org. Our cranky yankee in New Hampshire, Katie, has heard all about it. :)

Anyways, the purpose of the conversation is to get people of different political persuasions or no party affiliations to discuss a topic. This one is on climate change and renewable energy.

I tapped several high school friends and other folks I know. It will take place on February 21 when I go and visit my parents for winter break. I will definitely keep you in the loop as to how it goes!

Also on my plate: I am helping obtain health insurance for children in California. Thanks to new federal regulations, children can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Also, rates are expected to go up after March 1 so NOW is the time to enroll children if they are uninsured OR parents feel like they are paying too much for coverage. Here is the info.

Finally, I agreed to help our school launch a capital campaign to fund a new building, an endowment and scholarships for low-income students. I admit, I have never participated in such an ambitious endeavor, but I am starting to organize with other parents and figure out our next steps. We are thinking a combination of direct asks and a benefit concert.

Have any of you participated in a capital campaign of this magnitude? Advice?

Okay, enough about me. What’s up with you? What are you working on?

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need help

Does anyone here have experience appealing an insurance company decision?  I just got a call saying that my son’s new pain med is not covered by our insurance company for his disease.  It is covered for diabetic neuropathy, and my son’s neuropathy is more or less identical to diabetic neuropathy.  But for him coverage was denied.


This medication is a longer acting and more stable version of an older (and cheaper) med that is used successfully and I believe is covered (though I haven’t verified this).  The alternative is an older related medication that has to be taken several times a day, which would require a dose during school.  I don’t know if the rotating nurse would take care of this or if our one remaining full time secretary would have to handle it.  And since it is unstable at room temperature it has to be kept cold at all times, which means I can’t carry it with me.  We’d be tied to a fridge or at least a cooler at all times.  Yes, I know diabetics manage to live like that; it’s doable.  But it’s unnecessary.

The neurologist’s assistant says our insurance provider is known for being particularly stubborn.  So I want to approach this very carefully.  There are only a handful of pediatric cases in the country – less than 200 total age 0-18 – and my son is on the severe end of the spectrum.  And I’ve never seen this med mentioned on our sparsely attended online support group.  It’s quite possible there is no direct precedent for prescribing this med for this disease at this age.  In which case denial of coverage for a variable symptom of a rare and poorly understood disease is understandable.  

But I need to appeal.  Any hints, tips, suggestions, or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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