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?


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.



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?



What the Affordable Care Act Means for Latinos

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

At, 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,… (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.


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. 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?


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!


Senate Republicans Oppose Fair Pay for Women

In an effort to appease business interests, the Senate Republicans unanimously opposed passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have narrowed the pay gap between men and women. The bill fell short by two votes, 58-41.

Right now there is an oft-repeated 77-cent-to-a-dollar pay gap between men and women. The gap between mothers and non-mothers is even greater, which is why we are very disappointed at Here is an e-mail recently sent by our co-founder Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner:

The Paycheck Fairness Act was (and is) sorely needed to update the Equal Pay Act, which passed in 1963, and doesn’t reflect modern realities of a labor force that’s 50% women. Right now women make 77 cents to every dollar made by men and the pay gap has been narrowing by less than half a percent a year. [1] That means at this rate the pay gap won’t close until 2057. Forty-seven years from now! With more and more families depending on moms’ paychecks, American families simply cannot afford to wait that long.

Sign on to our short letter to all the Senators who voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act asking them to explain to their daughters, and ours, why in 2010 women don’t deserve the right to equal pay for equal work.

I did a quick google search on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and was disappointed that hardly any news organizations covered it. But there was plenty of gloating by the business community. Here is what one HR newsletter had to say:

Employers can breathe a little easier. The Paycheck Fairness Act — which one labor attorney said had “the potential to cripple companies, particularly smaller businesses” — has been scuttled.

My reaction? Eff you. This is about protecting BIG BUSINESSES who donated handsomely to the coffers of the Republican Party to kill this bill. It is unconscionable that in the 21st century, paying women for the same jobs that men do still sparks raucous debate and is somehow responsible for the crippling of our economy. As the mother of a daughter, I am saddened that gender bias in the workplace still exists. Otherwise, why would the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its ilk spend so much time and money to fight it?

What will it take for us to achieve equal pay for equal work in this country?

In related news, private health insurance companies gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million to fight healthcare reform legislation, namely a government-run public option to compete with them, according to Bloomberg News.


Healthcare Reform, “Killing Babies,” and Belated Election News

We are still licking our wounds in the Daily Kos household. We expected it, but I, personally, have been racking my brain on how to reason with well-meaning folks on a few things.

For example, I do know people who voted Republican because of gay marriage and abortion. Never mind they in no way benefit economically from the Republican Party platform, and all have benefited from lots of government services like unemployment, medicare and special education in public schools. But they voted on social issues because that’s what they feel that they have control over.

Then, I am not sure what to make of these news stories:

According to the Wall Street Journal, small businesses have begun offering health insurance to their employees thanks to tax credits awarded by President Obama’s healthcare reform bill. Yet, a majority of small businesses oppose the legislation.

A father in Minnesota wrote a diary for Daily Kos asking for help on how to explain abortion and abortion-related politics to his 9-year-old. She was told by a friend in school that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate wanted to “kill babies.”

Never mind the fact that a state governor has little to do with US Supreme Court decisions. Never mind the debate on when a fertilized egg cell becomes a baby. Never mind the revulsion at carrying your rapist’s baby to term. Because no matter what your view is on any of those things, why would you plant that image in your 9-year-old daughter’s head? What the f!*k was she thinking?

Part of me wants to end my daughter’s relationship with this girl, part of me wants to wring this woman’s neck, but most of me just wants to know how the hell we got here, and what, if anything, could ever possibly make this woman learn restraint.

The first comment to the post was, “You can just explain to children that some people believe crazy and unreasonable things. Then show them something about the Salem witch trials.”

But this seems too simplistic to me. From my perspective these fundies who burned witches in the 1600s have a lot of power. It seems like we should talk to them, but how?

Of course, we must keep in mind that many people also don’t bother to vote, which is a separate rant. What would the electorate look like if they did? How do we engage these folks?

I know this is just random rambling and ranting. What say you to any of this?


Latinas Speak Up on Health Reform!

Cross-posted at

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.  


The Affordable Care Act Is a Good Start

Editor’s Note: This piece is part of’s healthcare blog carnival, which also includes a post by our very own Gloria Riesgo and will run until the end of this week. We are still accepting submissions so if you’d like to participate e-mail me at elisa at mothertalkers dot com. Also, actress and health advocate Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”) will “tweetchat” with MomsRising members tomorrow (Thursday), 12 p.m. PST/3 p.m. EST. If you’d like to join Fran at the live tweetchat, go to and use the hashtag #hcrparty. Thank you! -Elisa

Update #2: The House Democrats just sent me additional information on how healthcare reform will help uninsured pregnant women and newborn babies as early as TOMORROW (Thursday):

The NEWBORN Act builds on the benefits provided under the Affordable Care Act for moms and their kids. Through the Act, affordable health insurance will be more accessible for the estimated one in five women of childbearing age who are currently uninsured, and the following benefits will become available in new plans starting September 23, 2010:

• Well-baby and well-child visits, including a doctor’s visit every few months when your baby is young, and a visit every year until your child is age 21

• Special, pregnancy-tailored counseling from a doctor that will help pregnant women quit smoking and avoid alcohol use

• Screening for conditions that can harm pregnant women or their babies
Counseling to support breast-feeding and help nursing mothers

It is no secret that I am in favor of healthcare reform in the United States. Approximately 46 million Americans do not have coverage, and at some point or another, I was one of those Americans, relying on Planned Parenthood for free pap smears and heavily subsidized birth control pills.

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. Except for about four years, in which I had health insurance through my company, I have always had a rocky relationship with the private health insurance companies.

Here are two things I have learned from our stormy marriage: If you have no health insurance, you need to be comfortably middle class to be able to afford it. $1,500 for COBRA is ridiculous. If you do have health insurance, you need to be comfortably middle class to afford it. By that, I mean, even if you are paying steep premiums, don’t get sick. Private insurance companies, whose purpose is to make as much money as possible, will find a way not to pay for things.

Just a year ago when my healthy family of four were individual subscribers at Blue Cross Blue Shield, I saw our monthly premiums double in five years, while our services declined. Who knew that the only hospital in Berkeley, California — a city of 100,000+ people — had no “in-network” BCBS anesthesiologists? BCBS covered my “unnecessary” epidural alright. After I broadcasted their smarminess on the blogs, including the heavily-trafficked Daily Kos of which my husband is the founder. But how many people have this kind of platform to pay their medical bills?

Considering all my baggage with former sweethearts BCBS and now Kaiser Permanente, I should be thrilled that healthcare reform passed, right? Hell yeah, although I am waiting for more competition in the marketplace.

Last month, Kaiser raised my family’s premiums by 39 percent. Yes, you read that right. My healthy family of four that actually dumped BCBS in favor of a plan at KP, is facing a 39 percent increase in premiums. Now is the time for us to join the public option, but oh wait a minute, there is no public option! There are no price controls or competition to keep the private insurers honest. We are stuck paying the 39 percent increase whether we go to the doctor or not. Or, we just don’t insure our family, which is unacceptable with a 7-year-old and 3-year-old. What if they fall and break an arm on the playground?

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with our doctors and the services I receive at Kaiser. Also, there is plenty to like about the Affordable Care Act, such as preventing private health insurance companies from discriminating against sick people — “pre-existing conditions” — allowing college students to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26, more choices within the private sector, and subsidies to help people buy insurance. But most of these provisions do not kick in until 2014.

And without a public option, there is no guarantee that private health insurance companies won’t continue to charge whatever they’d like. Also, there is nothing keeping them from bleeding us the next few years before the law takes place. Who was looking out for us when this bill passed?

I have never held elected office, but I always fantasize about what my bills would look like if I were in charge. My healthcare proposal would have been three words total: Medicare For All.

Think about it. Seniors like their Medicare. It already exists, so you wouldn’t need to create another health insurance company or exchange. Let those who like their private insurance plans keep them. But let those of us who are unhappy with our current plans or uninsured, buy into Medicare. I can feel the power I’d wield, if upon receiving a letter from Kaiser informing me of my 39 percent increase in premiums, I could walk away.

It would very much work like public school. You want private school — and there are plenty of people who do — then you pay for it, or apply for financial aid, the equivalent of a subsidy for private health insurance. If you don’t like your private school, or can’t afford it, go to public school. But everyone would get schooling, and competition only improves the quality of education — including in the private sector.

As for the argument that it will put private insurers out of business and lead people to the unemployment line, I doubt it. Just like there are plenty of people willing and able to pay for private school tuition, there are always going to be folks who want the exclusivity of a private insurance plan. Also, in expanding Medicare, you would create jobs, albeit in the public sector. A full-time job with benefits is — a job, right? How many people, especially if they are unemployed, are going to say “I refuse this $50,000 a year job because it’s in the public sector!”

It sounds like the companies in the private sector don’t want competition. Here is an idea: Improve the quality of your services and lower costs. Heck, offer your services when people actually get sick!

As many of the much-needed reforms take place, I hope Congress continues to build on the current bill.