Health Insurance in the USA: A Cheeky Explanation

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Surprise! your monthly health insurance premium just increased 600% You call your friendly health insurance company and receive the consoling explanation: “It’s Market Forces.”

Market Forces are capitalism at its best. The relationship of supply and demand, free of government meddling, will fix all economic problems. For instance when you go to buy a car, you can choose a Lexus, a Corolla, or if necessary a used Yugo. If many people want one model but there aren’t many of them, the price goes up appropriately. The system works.

But obtaining health isn’t like buying a car. Is there a real choice between good health, fair health and poor health? Good health generally means good medical care. Only one kind of medical care is available, and it is expensive. There are no healthcare Dollar Stores or cut rate Heart Surgery Outlets. Going back to the automobile analogy, you need transportation and the only car in the lot is a Lexus.

Good health isn’t even a product you can buy. It’s a probability. Good medical care just improves the odds. The market in its wisdom has devised insurance to deal such uncertainty. Insurance works because lots of low risk people pay in but few people take money out. The difference is profit for the company. It’s like auto insurance. The many people who will never be hit by a truck contribute to a pool that pays your claim when your car gets totaled by a semi.

The chances of needing healthcare is too high for insurance to work. Even the young get into nasty accidents. When you get older and sicker your risk of coming down with a costly condition rises inexorably. Of course, if you already have a chronic disease, your chance of having a medical problem is 100% and the insurance model hits the skids. The profit pool is fed by a trickle of premiums but drained by a river of claims. You can’t insure a car that has no brakes.

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What We Learned on June 23rd

21rosenthal-articleLarge.jpgWhat Health Care Plans are Proposed? Who Supports What? How does Medicare for All Differ from Medicare for America?

Despite health care being a winning issue for Democrats in 2018, people are more uncertain than ever about what is being proposed and how it will affect them. Instead of discussing how to improve the ACA, candidates are talking about Medicare for All and its variations. Many people assume that the ACA is no longer a factor. On May 16th the House passed legislation strengthening the ACA and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. However, because the Senate has declined to take up the bill, the conversation appears to have moved on.

On Sunday, June 23rd, Dr. Robert Kraig of Citizen Action of Wisconsin filled us in on the new debate, new legislation and its supporters, and which candidates might support various health care reform alternatives. Daniel Folkman (you can find him on YouTube and at Video Hub) recorded the presentation. He also recorded short videos of individuals’ health care (or lack of) stories. (We appreciate his help in making this more widely available).

Robert described the differences between Medicare for All, as introduced by Bernie Sanders, and Medicare for America. The major distinction between them is budgetary and financial, regarding who should pay how much, rather than major differences in coverage. Medicare for America has budgetary provisions that would pay for the legislation, while Medicare for All does not. Medicare for America offers full coverage with a robust public option but allowances for keeping private insurance, and financial support. Dr. Kraig noted that Beto O’Rourke supports Medicare for America. From recent statements, Kamala Harris also seems to support it. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders support Medicare for All. Biden supports what appears to be an upgraded ACA similar to Medicare for America. It is not clear yet whether there are other candidates who support Medicare for All but who would not support Medicare for America.

People with whom I discussed health care while canvassing tended to support fixes to the ACA, particularly in the area of drug coverage and subsidy categories. That was a topic used to our advantage in the 2018 elections. It remains to be seen whether the newer proposals will garner support or just increase the already high level of anxiety among voters.

The conversation within the Democratic candidate community and those who go out to work for them needs to shift to figure out how to fix the system without pushing our supporters to either fight or run. Good explanations of the alternatives followed by a poll would go a long way to help us finalize a position.

To view this talk (and there is a lot of information here), watch the video of the event plus health care stories by Mark Foreman, Eilene Stevens, and Pastor Ellen Rasmussen.

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Fair Elections Project: Statement on U.S. Supreme Court decision on partisan gerrymandering

“We are disappointed the Supreme Court ignored the overwhelming evidence in the Rucho case, which proved the constitutional rights of citizens were violated. We agree with the majority that now this issue is most likely to be addressed in the legislative process, as flawed as that solution is, especially for states like Wisconsin that don’t have citizen initiative.

“Importantly, though, something has changed because of these cases decided today, the Wisconsin case that started this decade’s trend, and the immense interest and activism of citizens across the country. People now know that partisan gerrymandering exists, and they hate it. Three-quarters of Wisconsin citizens want reform, and they are willing to hold elected officials accountable on this issue. So our work continues.” -Sachin Chheda, Director, Fair Elections Project

Sachin Chheda serves as director of the Fair Elections Project, which organized and launched the Whitford case, and as chair of the WI Fair Maps Coalition, which includes 15 organizations committed to nonpartisan, independent redistricting reform. 

More information about the lawsuit and campaign can be found at the Fair Elections Project website at fairelectionsproject.org, at Facebook.com/wifairelectionsand on Twitter at @WIFairElections and @FairElections.

Contact: Mary McCarthy
815-236-2845

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Debate Watch Parties!

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Grassroots North Shore is hosting or co-hosting three sets of debate watch parties on Wednesday, June 26, and Thursday, June 27. We hope lots of people enjoy the evenings rooting for their favorite candidates with friends. You can sign up for these events, or just come.

Mequon at Ferrante's Restaurant (10404 N Port Washington Rd.):

Wednesday, June 26

Thursday, June 27

Glendale at Bar Louie (5750 Bayshore Dr)

Wednesday, June 26

Thursday, June 27

Milwaukee at Art Bar (722 E. Burleigh):

Wednesday, June 26

Thursday, June 27

There's nothing like a good party to put us in the right mood to take back the White House in 2020!

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What Did Reggie Jackson Tell Us about the Hidden Impact of Segregation in his May 5th Presentation?

“You may have heard of ‘self-segregation,’ the idea that black people wanted to be in segregated housing.” said Reggie Jackson, speaking at “The Hidden Impact of Segregation,” his address at Plymouth Church on May 5. “That has not been the case in Wisconsin. Housing is segregated by intention and policy.”  According to Jackson, housing segregation has been institutionalized by a history of corporate influence and government policy at every level. Jackson is Head Griot of America’s Black History Museum, Adjunct Professor at Concordia University and a frequent researcher and speaker on housing and social justice issues (“Griot” (Gree-yoh) is a west African term for storyteller or teacher). Over one hundred people attended the discussion and met with representatives from organizations working to address racism and segregation.

Milwaukee ranks as the  “most segregated” metropolitan area in the U.S., and Wisconsin is the second most segregated state in the nation, said Jackson.  Jackson reviewed the history of Wisconsin housing segregation progression, citing policy specifics at both local and national levels. He noted effects of contracts for individual sales restricted sales to “Caucasian” buyers; the conracts were legally enforced until 1948. On the Federal level, an agency called the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation shaped real estate reality, and gave realtors and lenders resources to implement color-coded maps for discriminatory purposes.

On 1938 housing maps, designed according to federal policy, designated red or yellow areas to guide home lenders and insurance companies to charge higher interest rates. In his research Jackson found maps with neighborhoods colored red  because of the “detrimental influence” of Polish residents, “infiltration of Mexicans,” “Negro slum residents and lower-type Jews.” This structural discrimination suppressed home values in those areas and prevented many black, Latinx, and other families from obtaining loans and taking the first step to securing a place in the middle class. In addition, educational funding based on property values causes schools in historically redlined districts to be chronically underfunded, compounding institutionalized barriers. The accrual of wealth of whites based on home ownership was promoted by these maps, while the lack of home ownership by Blacks resulted in long-term economic disparities.

In a Q&A session, Jackson responded to written questions from the audience. To one query about effective ways to repair and respond to racism and housing segregation, Jackson mentioned a number of strong organizations. On the question of reparations, Jackson stressed that “people think that reparations is writing a check,” but emphasized that reparative justice needs to focus on housing and education. Members of Bridge the Divide (info@BridgetheDivide.life); RID Racism (www.ridracismmke.org) and SURJ (showingupforracialjustice.org) staffed tables to give relevant volunteer information to Grassroots North Shore membership. All of us at Grassroots North Shore thank those participants for their time, with a special thank you to Reggie Jackson for his effort and leadership.  

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Restoring Access to Driver Licenses

Restoring Access to Driver Licenses for Immigrants and Low-Income U.S. Citizens Vital for the Economy, Public Safety and Keeping Families Together
By Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera
Voces de la Frontera is a nonpartisan organization engaged in advocacy on issues of civil rights and equity that does not endorse or oppose any candidate, party, or political committee. This column was republished here at no expense to the charity.

Thousands of immigrants, African American and Latinx citizens are currently disenfranchised from Wisconsin driver licenses with severe consequences. Lack of a valid driver’s license is a major barrier to employment, contributes to mass incarceration, undermines public safety, and leads to the separation of families. According a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee report, across the state of Wisconsin only 53% of black adults and 52% of Latinx adults hold valid licenses compared to 85% of white adults.

In 2007, after the passage of federal legislation, Wisconsin took away the ability of undocumented immigrants to renew or apply for a driver’s license. Under the Trump Administration's anti-immigrant agenda, traffic stops for driving without a license are leading to more deportations and the separation of immigrant families. Not only do immigrants face the burden of expensive fines and car confiscation, stops are the primary means to identify and deport immigrants.

In Waukesha, a father of four who came to the U.S. when he was 13 was detained by ICE after going to court for driving without a license.  The number of deportation cases has grown significantly as ICE agents go into courtrooms, dairy farms and around schools to detain people.

For Black and Latinx citizens, inability to pay fines for driving without a license can lead to a suspension and jail. People lose the ability to get to jobs located far from segregated neighborhoods, locking them into poverty, unemployment and the stigma of a criminal record. This problem affects around 300,000 people, disproportionately Black and Latinx.

For 13 years, Voces de la Frontera has fought so that no one is denied the right to drive because of income or immigration status and this year we are poised for a breakthrough. Governor Tony Evers included measures to restore driver licenses for immigrant Wisconsinites in his 2019-21 state budget proposal. Voces will demand driver licenses for all at Joint Finance Committee hearings throughout the state, building towards a May Day mobilization. You can help:

  • Call Senator Alberta Darling, Chair of the Joint Finance Committee, representing much of the North Shore, tell her that you support restoring access to driver licenses for undocumented people and low-income U.S. citizens at (608) 266-5830.
  • March with us on a “Day Without Latinxs & Immigrants” on May 1st, 11am at the State Capitol in Madison. More info at vdlf.org/mayday2019.
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NEW NAME, SAME VALUES, ONGOING MISSION

In the past two years, Grassroots North Shore has partnered with Wisconsin Conservation Voters (then called the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters) to help elect environment-friendly candidates and to affect environmental legislation and policy.

The group just changed its name and branding this year to more accurately represent its mission of engaging voters to protect Wisconsin’s environment. The conservation voter movement is inclusive and welcomes everyone. The new name and logo communicate that better than the old “league” name.

Wisconsin Conservation Voters advocates for sound environmental laws and policies, holds elected officials accountable for their votes and actions and elects pro-conservation candidates who will champion our priority issues.

What are their priorities? They align well with those of Grassroots North Shore. They advocate for clean drinking water, public lands, and moving local communities as well as the state toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Those are the broad strokes of their work this year. But, as always, they will watch every bill that’s working through the State Capitol.

Their upcoming Conservation Lobby Day is a biennial event that brings conservation voters from across the state to Madison, where people learn more about conservation issues, speak with their legislators in person, and enjoy guest speakers and fellowship with their peers. It’s a crucial step to shaping the next two years of conservation work in the legislature.

Before being elected, all of the state’s executive officers signed the Wisconsin Conservation Voters Conservation Pledge. It’s a new day for Wisconsin’s environment, but the work is just beginning. As they help conservation voters across the state take action in the short term and on issues that demand a longer commitment, we think that some of our membership in Grassroots North Shore will want to join in.

For more information, you can visit their website at conservationvoters.org.

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