#COVID19 Shines Spotlight on Inadequacies of Profit-Driven Health Care (video)

hospital

As of today, June 8, 2020, there have been 7 million cases of COVID19 worldwide and 402,555 deaths. The US has the worst COVID19 track record with 2 million cases and 110,514 deaths. Although the US has 4.25% of the world’s population, we have had 28% of the cases and 28% of the deaths.

Why does the US have such a dismal track record in fighting the novel coronavirus? I thought we had the “best healthcare system in the world.” We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world, but when you look at our public health data and our response to COVID19, we definitely do not have the best system in the world.

The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not have a national health plan that guarantees care for all residents. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a nice try, but its efficacy and affordability have been whittled away by Republicans in Congress.

Why is the US response to COVID19 so disorganized and inadequate? Before the pandemic, we had an over-priced, inequitable system based upon profit and a just-in-time supply chain of personnel, equipment and beds. The novel coronavirus turned the spotlight on inadequacies and inequities of our health care system. In the United States, the health care you get depends on your income and your ZIP Code– not your needs. If you’re a resident of the United States you should have access to the same healthcare across the country. A person living in Chinle should have the same access to care as a person living in Paradise Valley. Now the person in Chinle not only does not have adequate medical care, they may not have running water or passable roads.

Continue reading #COVID19 Shines Spotlight on Inadequacies of Profit-Driven Health Care (video)

#AZ House Republicans Continue to Hear Pet Bills & Ignore #COVID19 (video)

Rep. Pam Powers Hannley

Today was another wacky day in the Arizona House.

We are back in session and primarily debating and voting on unnecessary Republican bills, as if the COVID-19 virus had never happened.

Yesterday, I posted about the unnecessary and non-emergency insurance industry bills that were passed, primarily on a party line vote. Today, May 20, was a repeat but not quite so ridiculous.

My deciding factor in voting is: Is this bill good for the people of Arizona? For example, I voted for the bill that allows rural electric cooperatives to offer broadband to customers in their service areas. I think it’s the great way to expand Internet access to some parts of rural Arizona, and this will help rural Arizona fight COVID19 by improving communication. I also voted for the bill that offers suicide prevention training for teachers; a bill that allows crisis helpline numbers to be printed on the backs of the student IDs; expansion of teacher training for blind and otherwise impaired students; and some relief for people whose property has been foreclosed upon, a lien placed on it, and auctioned off. I voted against deregulation of drone delivery devices and a few other bills.

Everything blew up when Reps. Travis Grantham and Steve Pierce conspired to stop debate on S1397 by having Pierce call the question before Rep. Kelli Butler could propose her amendment to improve SB1397. It requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions in the future, if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed by Congress. SB 1397 makes no mention of all of the other benefits from the ACA. Those are included in Butler’s amendment, but she was not allowed to present it, and we were not allowed to debate it at all.

Continue reading #AZ House Republicans Continue to Hear Pet Bills & Ignore #COVID19 (video)

#AZ House Passes Insurance Bills, Ignores Calls for #COVID19 Special Session (video)

OK, I’m back in the saddle again. Back in the Arizona House, that is.

To be safe, I am doing Floor sessions on the Floor with my mask and gloves but all other meetings remotely.

Today, we had a very interesting Democratic Caucus meeting in the morning. ASU data modeling scientists presented data and answered many questions about COVID19. Following that, the Grand Canyon Institute presented on unemployment insurance and what a mess it was in Arizona, even before COVID19. Both of these presentations were excellent; it was such a breath of fresh air to hear the Grand Canyon Institute speak, instead of the Goldwater Institute! It gave me a glimpse of what the Arizona Legislature could be if the Democrats took control this year. (The meeting will be available in the Capitol TV archived videos.)

At the beginning of the floor session today, Rep. Arlando Teller from the Navajo Nation proposed sine die. This would have ended the 54th session, as the Arizona Senate has already voted to do. The Navajo Nation now has a higher COVID19 infection rate than New York City. Both Teller and his seat mate Rep. Myron Tsosie talked about the friends and family who have been sick with the novel Coronavirus and those who have died. Several Democrats gave speeches about focusing on the pandemic rather than focusing on pet legislation that is not an emergency. Rep. Kelly Townsend accused the Democrats of politicizing the issue. Teller’s motion was vetoed on a party line vote.

What did the House Republicans do next? They put up 15-20 unnecessary, non-emergency bills for debate and a vote.

Continue reading #AZ House Passes Insurance Bills, Ignores Calls for #COVID19 Special Session (video)

#AZHouse HHS Committee to Hear Experts on Opening Economy on May 14 (video)

COVID19 computer models

Amid the nationwide controversy regarding when it is safe for states to open up their economies during a pandemic, the Arizona House Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee will meet to hear presentations from open up experts. What about hearing from the public health experts, too?

The HHS meeting will be Thursday, May 14 at 1 p.m. The meeting was a total surprise to the Democrats on HHS. Why is this a surprise? Because the House has been in adjournment, with committee hearings paused, since March 23.

The agenda just popped into our inboxes on Tuesday and in the past 24 hours additional speakers have been added. The meeting is a collection of presentations by out-of-state experts who support opening up Arizona’s economy: Aaron Ginn, who is the co-founder of the Lincoln Network; Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford Health Policy), who has developed an antibody test, conducted research on the spread of COVID19 in the community and death rates, and whose research methods have been critized; Dr. Neeraj Sood (USC Sol Price School of Public Policy), who also did research on COVID19 community spread and death rates and whose results were released prematurely and without his knowledgeLanhee J. Chen (Hoover Institute and Stanford University School of Public Policy), a FOX commentator and former Romney advisor, who has been critical of WHO and supports bring college students back to campus; Avik Roy, who is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and who advocates for young people going back to work because mostly old people will die from COVID19; Dr. Joel W. Hay (USC Shaeffer Center), whose Twitter feed rails against state economic lock downs and cites Sweden (who has a higher death toll than neighboring countries) and sparsely populated South Dakota as success stories because they didn’t lock down their economies to stop the spread.

HHS Dems sent a letter to HHS Chair Nancy Barto asking to hear from some Arizona experts, rather than just listen to people from California tell us what we should be doing. (What happened to “don’t California my Arizona?”) For example, the HHS Democrats also would like to hear from these Arizona experts and get their thoughts on what the others have to say: Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS); Will Humble, former ADHS director and current executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association; Dr. Dan Derksen, from the Rural Health Office; and Dr. Tim Lant, from Arizona’s university-based COVID19 modeling team.

Continue reading #AZHouse HHS Committee to Hear Experts on Opening Economy on May 14 (video)

#AZLeg, Inquiring Minds What to Know: Are We Done Yet? (video)

Arizona House

Many of you have recently asked me what the Legislature is up to. After all, we haven’t been at the capital since March 23.

Today’s video is meant to answer the question: Are you done or what?

OK. We’re not done for the year. On March 23, the Legislature passed a “skinny budget” with the Senate bipartisan plan that included $50 million to fight the Coronavirus. After that, we voted to adjourn until April 13 (or until needed or it’s safe). Legislators and their assistants are all working remotely.

There is a lot of speculation about the Legislature, now that President has given up on his prediction that everything will be back to normal by  Easter and is promoting staying at home through the month of April. The Legislature could vote remotely or come back with a skeleton crew and sine die (end for the year) or extend the adjournment.

The Capital Times is reporting that if we did indeed sine die now, only about 60 bills will have passed and been signed into law this year. Traditionally, the Legislature passes more than 300 bills a year. (More than 95 percent of these bills are Republican bills, even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Legislature.) As a long-time Arizona voter, I remember asking myself how in the world can they could pass so many bills every year, particularly when the Republicans promote themselves as party of small government, and they’ve been in charge for decades.

Now, as a two-term Democratic representative, I know that the vast majority of the new laws passed by Arizona Republicans are totally unnecessary and often harmful to segments of Arizona’s  population. They are NOT the party of small government, obviously,

I relish the idea of passing ~60 bills in 2020, rather than 300. Legislation to enable pet projects, pet vendettas and sweetheart tax deals for utilities and multinational corporations seem completely irrelevant and wrong-headed during a mismanaged public health crisis. 

It would be a great thing for the citizens of Arizona if the Legislature passed fewer bills. In 2020, Legislators proposed a record number of bills, more than 1700. If we end the session now, hundreds of bad bills that would have passed in a normal year will be dead! This includes ~20 voter suppression bills; >18 tax giveaways that could total a $1 billion per year of lost future revenue; a bill that allows pawn brokers to become payday lenders; a bill that criminalizes people from standing on the median; a bill that forces us to buy license plates more often just so 3M can sell the state of Arizona more reflective coating, the reefer madness ballot initiative, more vanity license plates; several one-off Republican pet projects related to education (other than public education, of course); multiple attacks on Clean Elections, the Citizens Initiative, representative government, local control, and professional credentials, and whatever else is on the Republican to-do list from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Goldwater Institute, the Institute for Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Arizona Tax Research Association, the Chamber of Commerce or President Trump. 

It is completely unrealistic that April 13 would be a safe return date to the capital. I think we should sine die by remote vote. We could come up with a bipartisan, mutually agreed upon short list of bills that deserve to pass. Let’s identify 10 bipartisan bills (other than Coronavirus response bills) that deserve to pass– including earned release credits, the grandparent stipend, more money for caregivers in the ALTCS system, and increased district direct assistance for schools. All the bad bills would die. We would leave a few hundred million dollars sitting on the table (because the tax giveaways wouldn’t pass).

With so little commerce going on right now because of the Coronavirus, there is little sales tax being collected. Our state runs on sales tax. We’re going to need those extra funds in the coming months, along with the billion dollars that we have in our rainy day fund.

The Legislature can always come back for a special session.

Parents, How’s It Going? ADE Offers Flexibility to Parents & Students (video)

Rep. Pam Powers Hannley and ADE Chief Kathy Hoffman

Parents, how are you all doing as you shelter in place in your homes with your children? I’d like to hear your stories.

I know that many of you led busy lives before the novel Coronavirus hit our state. You were probably rushing here and there… dropping off children at school or day care, driving to work, going to the store, going out to eat, watching a soccer game at the park, taking vacations, but now you’re home with each other. You may have work-at-home obligations, while at the same time you’re trying to help your children with their schoolwork.

So, how are you doing? How are your children doing? I have talked with many moms in the past week. They seem a bit stressed out with all of the things they are now juggling, on top of what they were juggling already. Their experiences with the schools has been mixed, but after all, the teachers and schools were also thrown into this. You don’t just set up an online learning curriculum with the snap of your fingers.

On Wednesday, the Arizona House Democrats had our weekly update phone call. This week our special guest was Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, (She and I are pictured here at the 2019 Arizona Public Health Association Conference, where she was honored as public official of the year.) We are lucky to have this woman heading up our educational system. She’s smart, and she has heart.

A few days earlier, she and Governor Doug Ducey announced that Arizona schools would be closed for the rest of the school year. School is still going on, but the buildings will remain closed. Initially, when the two of them announced the shutdown, they said that students would go back to school after Easter.

According to Hoffman, there is quite a bit of variability across schools, school districts, and geographic areas in the state. Some schools are attempting online learning. Some students are meeting with teachers via video chat, but no all schools districts, schools, teachers or students have the technology at home to do this. It is my understanding that 50% of the students in TUSD– and an unknown number of teachers– don’t have the Internet or the hardware to access online classes. Hoffman said TUSD reported needing as many as 11,000 laptops or devices for students to attend classes remotely.  Some schools are distributing paper packets– particularly to younger students.

Some parents are getting creative with nature walks — even if they are around the backyard– and old fashioned, hands-on learning about plants, animals, the weather, gardening and the environment. One parent told me last week that her son’s school was gearing up slowly for online learning but that she has her son on a schedule. (Go, Mom!) He has to do one worksheet of math, do one hour of silent reading, write a few paragraphs, and practice his trumpet for 30 minutes. I encourage parents to engage their children with other types of learning activities like journaling, science experiments, research papers, poetry, music, cooking, gardening, handicrafts, art. Children and young adults need ways to express themselves … and ways to stay busy. Why now combine learning with self expression?

Children will learn lessons during this time. It might not be book learning, but they will have experiences they will never forget. Parents, consider having your children write a paragraph a day in a journal about their lives. It will give them a record and a personal history of this time and also give you a glimpse into what they’re thinking and feeling.

Since I have been talking with parents and educators, I was interested to hear about her expectations. Basically, seniors who are on track to graduate will graduate. All students who are performing at grade level will progress. There will be no standardized testing this year. Hoffman and the school board are “trying to be as flexible as possible” with the parents and students.

I agree with Hoffman’s approach. In this difficult time, we all need to be kind and patient with each other. This includes parents, children and educators.

March 31 is my daughter Alex’s birthday. In her honor, this video focuses on families.