In the Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday, Feb 14, we are hearing a long list of bills including two about health insurance.
HB2375 would extend short-duration insurance to three years. This insurance is currently capped at one year because it is seen as a stop-gap measure for people who are between jobs or disconnected from insurance for some reason.
HB2376 relates to association health care plans for small businesses and sole proprietors. This bill allows them to band together and buy insurance as a group. A concern with this idea is regarding the quality of insurance that will be purchased and how that will impact workers who will be included under these plan.
Will association health plans cover essential health benefits, like the Affordable Care Act does? Will they cover people with pre-existing conditions? Will they have lifetime insurance caps? Will coverage be determined by the employer’s “deeply held religious beliefs”?
These association health insurance plans will NOT be regulated by the Arizona Department of Insurance. I fear that this will be Wild West Health Insurance, which will be cheap but not comprehensive.
We still have a problem in this country with medical bankruptcy. People buy the insurance they can afford, rather than the insurance they need. Cheap plans don’t offer full coverage and can leave patients in dire financial straits.
On the macro-economic level, these plans could lure people out of the Healthcare Marketplace and weaken the system.
If you are on Request to Speak at the AZLeg website, please offer an opinion on 2375 and 2376.
This is the transcript of my opening remarks at the Arizona Public Health Association Conference on Oct. 3, 2018. A video of the speech is below.
It is an honor for me to address the Arizona Public Health Association, since I have a Masters in Public Health from the University of Arizona. I worked in health communication, medicine, public health and behavioral research for many years before deciding to run for the Arizona House in 2015.
In fact, it was my background in public health that prompted me to run for office. Many times since I moved to Arizona in 1981, I have found myself shouting at the radio or the TV or the newspaper or a social post about bad policy decisions made by the Arizona Legislature. Anybody else have that experience?
In the public health arena, the Legislature far too often makes short-term decisions to save a buck or make an ideological point, but in the long-term, these decisions cost money and lives. Do you remember Governor Jan Brewer’s Death Panels? Brewer knocked more than 250,000 adults off of Medicaid—including people on transplant waiting lists. That decision made national news as transplant patients began dying.
Another example of a short-term savings that caused long-term problems is the $80 million cut in childcare subsidies and preventive services for families in need. That recession-era funding sweep played a major role in Arizona’s foster care crisis. At its peak, nearly 19,000 Arizona children were in foster care. Most of those children were removed from their homes for “neglect”. Unfortunately, in Arizona, neglect is a catch-all term which could encompass anything from lack of reliable child care to drug abuse to domestic violence.
None of that $80 million in state funding for childcare has been restored. Why not? Because, of course, we have to cut taxes every year—regardless of the needs of the people.
When I ran for office in 2016, I said I wanted be your voice—the voice of the people—in the Arizona Legislature. And that is exactly what I did.
I used my voice, my votes, my amendments, and my bills to fight for the rights and wellbeing of workers, patients, teachers, students, women and the underserved.
Protecting your family…
I was a strong voice for public health and affordable access to care during the negotiations and eventual passage of both the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act and dental therapy. I also co-sponsored a bill to allow Arizonans to buy-in to Medicaid (AHCCCS). This is a potentially cheaper option for folks who are struggling with the cost of health insurance. House Democrats will be proposing it again in 2019.
On budget night 2018, I proposed an amendment to appropriate $56 million in federal child care subsidies to fill the $80 million gap left after Republicans swept the funds during the Great Recession. Arizona House Republicans voted to leave those funds unspent; Arizona is the only state in the country that didn’t use those earmarked childcare funds. (I’ll try again in 2019.) I also backed a bill for tiered reimbursement for childcare subsidies. This bill, which was signed into law, and the $56 million in subsidies would go a long way to help Arizona families and children.
Protecting your rights…
Also on budget night, at around 4 a.m., I defended the rights of pregnant homeless women to have access to abortion and abortion referrals. I have seen young homeless women with infants on the streets of Tucson. The streets are no place for adults– let alone children and babies. Because we are a state that does very little to help women once their babies have been born, I believe we should expand access to contraception and all legal medical procedures and teach medically accurate sex education in the schools.
Two years in a row, I proposed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona. Arizona women won’t have equal pay for equal work without passage of the ERA. Overall, women are paid roughly 78 cents on the dollar compared to men. Due to the intersectionality of race, class, ethnicity and gender, African-American women, Native American women and Latinas are paid far less than white men. Latinas make roughly 55 cents per hour for every $1 earned by a white man. Tucson’s population is 41% Latino. Just think of the economic impact to our city and our region if Latinas were paid fairly and if they were offered quality education for themselves and their children. It doesn’t do our community, our state or our country to force people to live in poverty and sickness.
I never imagined how wildly popular these videos would be. At the Capitol, #RedForEd advocates would randomly come up to me and say, “I love your videos!” Now that I am back in Tucson, people come up to me at events, at church and in stores, and say, “I love your videos!”
So… I will be keeping them up during the interim.
My first interim video is on the passage of dental therapy. To catch up, I am doing a few videos on some of the bills we passed in a flurry at the end of the 53rd Session last week.
On the very last day, we passed dental therapy as a striker on another bill. I played an integral role in getting dental therapy out of the sunrise committee hearing last fall. I believe it is good public health policy because it will offer affordable dental care in rural and urban areas. This will expand access to care, prevent tooth loss and offer a new career to residents of Arizona.
To Learn more about why dental therapy is important, you can read:
January 25, 2018 was one of the most dramatic days at the Arizona Legislature, since I was elected.
Not only did we have ~75 Luchadores visiting their Legislators and five extremely aggressive anti-immigrant, pro-Trump protesters heckling them, we also had the big vote on the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act (SB1001).
We have been working on SB1001/HB2001 for weeks. Unlike much of what we do in the Arizona Legislature, the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was a truly bipartisan effort. The governor even gave the Democrats the bill language in advance and asked for our input. The Republicans included us in the bill development process because they needed our votes and because didn’t want us to blow it up on the floor with our speechifying, as we did with the stingy TANF and teacher raises in 2017.
As someone who worked in public health and nicotine addiction treatment for years, I was proud to serve on the Democratic Caucus team that reviewed the bill and offered suggestions for revision. It was very heartening that they included several Democratic ideas in this bill. Four of my suggestions were included: offering treatment instead of jail during an overdose situation, AKA the 911 Good Samaritan bill (HB2101), which has been proposed by Democrats for four years in a row; providing funds to counties for life-saving NARCAN kits (HB2201); providing a non-commercial treatment referral service; and offering treatment in a brief intervention after an overdose scare (when your doctor says, “You didn’t die this time. Maybe you should quit!”). The Democrats also suggested including the Angel Initiative (where addicts can drop off their drugs and ask for treatment, without fear of arrest) and $10 million for drug addiction treatment services for people not on AHCCCS (Medicaid) or private insurance.
On December 4, 2017, I gave a talk on economic inequality at the Democrats of Greater Tucson Luncheon. This is the text of that speech.
Economist Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, recently gave a talk which focused on solving economic inequality. He pointed to five key areas of the economy that keep the rich rich and keep the rest of us in our places:
Intellectual property rights;
Practice protection by highly paid professionals;
Financial regulation; and
Given this list, can a state legislator like me make a dent in economic inequality? I think so.
I ran on a platform that focused on economic reform and public banking; equality and paycheck fairness; and attacking the opioid crisis.
How does my platform dovetail with Dean Baker’s list? There is quite a bit of overlap—particularly in macroeconomics, intellectual property rights, and practice protection.
For months, the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have been trying every trick in the book to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”). Multiple repeal and replace bills died during the summer of 2017, thanks to public outcry against kicking millions of Americans off of health insurance while giving tax breaks and sweetheart deals to insurance companies and others. Overwhelmingly, Americans said: We want a health insurance system that is fair, affordable, and wide-ranging in its coverage.
Fast forward to November 2017, and the Republicans are at in again. Rather than hiding tax cuts for the rich in health insurance bills (as they tried last summer), they are hiding an ACA poison pill in the middle of a tax cut bill for the uber-rich.
Do the American people want to go back to market-driven health insurance with high costs and limited access to care and drugs? Do they want millions of adults to lose their insurance altogether– with the fight to rollback Medicaid expansion? Do they want poor children to lose their insurance– with the pending sunset of KidsCare? No! Citizen backlash on social media and in the streets has been strong and swift. In Southern Arizona, protesters have dogged CD2 Congresswomen Martha McSally, who voted for Republican plans to eliminate the ACA, kick millions of Americans off of health insurance, cut taxes for big corporations and the uber-rich, and raise taxes on the rest of us. Do Tucsonans agree with McSally and the Republican Party?
For the past 30 years, my career has focused on health promotion, disease prevention, behavioral research, and communications. I have seen, photographed, and written about the good, the bad and the ugly parts of our country’s healthcare “system”.
I saw the rise of HMOs (health maintenance organizations) in the 1980s. I cheered the Clintons for at least trying to fix the overly complicated mess in the early 1990s. I saw costs going up every year and service going down. I saw a health insurance system that was creaking under the weight of its own complexity, while big insurance and big pharma collected huge profits. As managing editor of the American Journal of Medicine, I stood proudly by the Editor-in-Chief when he and the Editorial Board called for Medicare for All on multiple occasions.
Along the way, I have heard stories about huge medical bills, uncompensated hospital care, outrageously expensive drugs, limited or delayed access to medical care, premature death and disease, medical bankruptcy, and the medical consequences of poverty.
Do you have concerns about the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and Kids Care? Is the cost of medical care or prescription drugs a worry for your family? How would dramatic cuts to these programs impact you? Come to the 200 Stories: Tucson Healthcare Forum on Oct. 29.
Do you have concerns about the Affordable Care Act and repeal attempts; about the future of Medicare and Medicaid; or about access to care or the cost of drugs?
Whether you are a patient or a provider, we want to hear your medical and health insurance stories. The LD9 and LD10 Legislators are holding an open mic forum in which we listen, you talk, and we all learn.
This is a free educational community event for residents of Pima County. It’s about listening and learning from each other. Senators David Bradley and Steve Farley and Representatives Kirsten Engel, Randy Friese, and Pamela Powers Hannley have confirmed their attendance. (Rep. Todd Clodfelter was invited but has a scheduling conflict.)
In the news, we hear what politicians and big corporations think should be done with our country’s overly complicated and extremely expensive health care system. At this event, the people of Southern Arizona will have an opportunity to tell us their stories and help shape future policy.
Mark your calendars for October 29, 2017. The event will be held 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, 4831 E. 22nd St.
Please take a few minutes to register with EventBrite by clicking here. We want to make sure we have enough seats.
Watch Facebook and other social media for updates.
Jim and I attended the Pima Democratic Party Unity Party at Brother John’s Beer, Burbon & BBQ. Once Jim entered the place and smelled BBQ, he decided he had to try some. We were in the dining room off to the side of the big party, when one of my stalwart supporters came into the dining room and said, “You’re WINNING! You need to get in there.”
I went into the party room to see that I was 2000 votes ahead of Matt Kopec as soon as the early ballots were reported, and my lead increased to roughly 2200 as the night went on. (The final updated figures show that I beat Kopec by 2651 votes, and Friese beat me by 3364.)
Tuesday night, I won the second slot on the LD9 Democratic Party ticket with 33% of the vote in LD9. Rep. Randy Friese and I will advance to the general election on November 8, 2016.
My race is the only Southern Arizona race in which a challenger took down an incumbent. Although this is the third time that a Pima County Supervisors’ appointee has been defeated by a challenger, many in the news media and the party establishment are scratching their heads in amazement at my win. One local writer said that “maybe voters knew and loved Pamela Powers Hannley” but suggested that the likely reason that I won is that “Women have an edge in ‘low-information’ races”. So– more 11,630 people voted for me just because they didn’t know any better? If people were doing eenie meenie miney moe in the voting booth, the vote would have been closer.
I’m not buying the idea that the LD9 race was a “low information” race. My website stats show that people were researching my ideas and my background throughout the month of August and particularly on August 30. Also, LD9 voters many opportunities to hear us answer the same questions in the same venue. We had one Clean Elections debate, one candidate forum, radio interviews by Bill Buckmaster, television interviews by Jim Nintzel, and a sets of interviews by the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Weekly– plus all of the social media and events. This would have been a low information race if there had not been a primary challenge. In fact, the very last person I called on August 30 in a GOTV effort was a woman who had not voted yet. She complained that too many down-ballot candidates didn’t have any (or enough) information on the Internet, and she wasn’t voting for anyone she couldn’t learn more about. (Of course, I referred her to this website.)
Not only did I beat Kopec, I beat him with Clean Elections funding. Kopec raised ~$31,000 and spent ~$28,000 of it. With my seed money + family money + Clean Elections money, I had ~$20,000, and I spent ~$19,000. I was outspent– but not by a lot. For the general election, I will receive another installment from Clean Elections.
Friese and I will face Republican Ana Henderson in the general election. Henderson is a political newcomer, a right wing activist, and a Clean Elections candidate.
The primary differences between Henderson and me are that she is anti-choice (when it comes to women’s bodies) but pro-choice (when it comes to schools and vouchers). She’s also so against marijuana legalization that it borders on Reefer Madness. (I posted this story about Spice in reaction to Henderson’s Facebook post mixing up Spice and marijuana.) In addition, she also speaks out against the Affordable Care Act and wants “greater competition in the insurance marketplace so that you have more options and better prices.” (This is right-wing dog whistle lingo for dumping the the Affordable Care Act and going back to the good old days of denial of care based upon pre-existing conditions, increased medical bankruptcy, and cheap insurance that doesn’t actually pay for anything.)
I don’t know about you, but I think there are already too many anti-choice, pro-privatization, Reefer Maddness Republicans in the Arizona Legislature.
I am indebted to my supporters who signed my petition, gave me $5 for Clean Elections, hosted or helped with events, canvassed, phone banked, mailed postcards… and voted for me. Thank you all so much.
We can do this! Onward to victory in November.
UPDATE, SEPT 7: The Final figures from the Secretary of State’s office show: Friese 14,994 (42%); Powers Hannley 11,630 (33%); and Kopec 8979 (25%). Looking at the precinct data, I beat Kopec in all be four precincts (mostly located in the same general area of the Foothills. I beat Friese in seven precincts (three in poorer areas and four in the Foothills). Friese and I were within a few votes of each other in many precincts. I won 2651 more votes than Kopec, and Friese got 3364 more votes than me. (For the record, Ana Henderson got 15,640 votes, running unchallenged in the primary.)