New exhibit opens at Modjeska Simkins House

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March 14 1-5pm: Historic Columbia opens New Exhibit, Making a Way Out of No Way – The Legacy of Modjeska Monteith Simkins at the Modjeska Simkins House, 2025 Marion St., downtown Columbia. Through this permanent exhibit, Historic Columbia tells the story of South Carolina’s most influential human rights advocate of the 20th century. This exhibit combines images, text, video and never-before displayed artifacts to offer unprecedented coverage of the activist, her life, work and lasting impact on the state of South Carolina. This exhibit is offered free to the public on five dates in March and April thanks to the generous support of our sponsors.

Additional Exhibit Viewing Dates: March 20, March 25, April 3, April 8. Private tours can also be arranged for groups of 10 or more.

The Modjeska Simkins House serves as office space for the SC Progressive Network.

Why isn’t this woman seeing a doctor?

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Dionysia LaBard is a 58-year-old substitute teacher who has devoted her life to educating children and improving our community through volunteering in her church and at the YWCA. Within the past two weeks she has had chest pains and dizzy spells. This morning on her way to work she had an especially nasty dizzy spell and suffered a fall.

Why isn’t she seeing a doctor? Because she earns less than $11,480 each year she is unable to qualify for assistance through the Affordable Care Act in South Carolina. Could she be covered? Sure! But not as long as Gov. Nikki Haley refuses to accept the federal funds for Medicaid expansion.

Call Gov. Haley’s office at (803) 734-2100 and insist she allow hard workers like Dionysia access to affordable care!

Loreen Myerson,
SC Progressive Network Navigator, Charleston
loreenjmyerson@gmail.com

Why did I get arrested?

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Pat Jobe (left) was one of 11 protesters arrested March 4 for blocking the road to the entrance of the SC State House on the day the Senate took up the “Nullify Obamacare” bill. With him are (from left) Wayne Borders, Kitt Grach, Jim Childress and Shawn Crowe. They are part of the Truthful Tuesday movement, which aims to educate the public about the Affordable Care Act and to pressure state lawmakers to expand Medicaid.

By Rev. Pat Jobe, Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

The young, Latino police chief, Ruben Santiago, could not have been more polite, more professional, more thorough. “I’m giving you one more chance to get out of the road and back on the sidewalk. You understand you are breaking the law and are about to be arrested?”

I will not soon forget the anger and frustration on the faces of the Capitol police, the black Smokey The Bear hats whose job it is to protect and assure smooth operations to the members of the General Assembly as they photographed us and ignored me when I said, “Thank you for being here. Thank you for your service.”

Had we chosen to disrupt the immoral actions of the General Assembly on its property, on the jurisdiction of the men in the black hats, we would have faced a possible $5,000 fine and three years in prison. By blocking the driveway on a Columbia city street, we faced a traffic ticket, handcuffs, a ride in a police car and about an hour of processing in police headquarters. We also have a court date of March 28.

There are so many vignettes, so many questions, so many stories to tell but I think I’m out of bed at five in the morning because of the questions. Why did we do it? The refusal of the legislature and the governor to take billions in new Medicaid money is dooming tens of thousands of poor people to less than the best medical care available to their wealthier neighbors. We have medicine that saves lives. In many cases, an estimated 1,300 this year in South Carolina, the result will be death.

People are going to die.

In addition to cancer survivor Jim Childress (and would he have survived had he been poor? Another question) a third Greenville UU made the trip to Columbia. She hopes to remain anonymous because she’s looking for work right now. But as we rode to Columbia she told of a friend who had stomach pain, was bent double with pain, was urged by his coworkers at Walmart to go the emergency room. He didn’t go. He failed to show for work for a few days and was found dead in his apartment. He had made it clear that he didn’t seek medical care because of the cost. He had made an earlier trip to the hospital and had received a bill for $30,000.

Did we do any good? If my Facebook page is any indicator, we got the attention of lots of folks who liked what we did. If the questions confronting Sen. Tom Davis as he walked into the Senate lobby Tuesday are any indication, yes, we did some good. Davis is seeking to amend the anti-Affordable Care Act law to prohibit any “public body” like the city of Greenville, or our libraries from helping anybody sign up for the Affordable Care Act. He would also like to make it a difficult, to impossible, for any private organization, like the SC Progressive Network, to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act.

Our immediate past president at the Fellowship, Richard Kelly, has encouraged me to consider a sermon on our becoming a police state. I wonder if I could be arrested for that?

But being an insufferable zealot, I also wonder why it took me 60 years to get arrested, to commit an act of civil disobedience. Why not in the 60’s and 70’s to support civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, gay rights, the environment, the poor, good nutrition, to oppose every corporate and government madness that seeks to disempower anybody and place the good of one group above the good of another? Why have I not grabbed every bullhorn, stood on every stump, and in the words of John Prine, “screamed and hollered and cried?”

The story is probably legend, but when Thoreau was jailed for refusing to pay a tax to support the Mexican War, Emerson is said to have passed the jail and seen Thoreau inside.

“Henry, what are you doing in there?” Emerson asked.

“Ralph, what are you doing out there?” Thoreau asked.

I don’t know when I will be back in police custody, and I fear it will cost more next time. But I know civil disobedience is an effective tool in the struggle for The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. I capitalize that phrase because it is the title of a good book by Charles Eisenstein that is challenging me to do all I can to get food to the hungry, healing to the sick, and peace to a world tortured by all kinds of silly wars.

Thank you for the huge wave of encouragement I have received for my time in handcuffs and my ride in the back of a police cruiser.

•••

Pat Jobe likes Mark Twain’s tease of Lord Byron, “On with the dance. Let joy be unconfined is my motto. Whether there is any dance to dance or any joy to unconfine.”

Why did they do it?

Outside the Senate chambers March 4, SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey explains to a reporter with The State why Truthful Tuesday activists blocked the road to the SC State House entrance. Eleven were arrested. (At the time of the interview, the protesters were still being processed at police headquarters, and Bursey thought 10 had been arrested.)

Truthful Tuesday Day of Shame in SC State House lobby on Feb. 25. Be there!

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In anticipation of the Senate taking up the Nullify Obamacare bill next week (H-3101, which passed the House last year), we are calling for a Truthful Tuesday Day of Shame on Feb. 25. We will gather in the upstairs lobby at 11am and greet the Senators as they go into session at noon. Bring signs and scarves (we’ll have some for folks who don’t.)

We will politely ask each one of them whether they support the Affordable Health Care Act and expanding Medicaid. If they say no, or refuse to answer, we will look them in the eye and simply say “Shame!”

We have been advised that disturbing a legislative session is punishable by three years in prison and a $5,000 fine, AND the Fifth Circuit Solicitor has advised our lawyers and the police that they WILL be using that charge should anyone violate 10-11-330. Given the unreasonable consequences, we are not calling for civil disobedience at this time and place.

We firmly believe that civil disobedience is a legitimate tactic that should be pursued. There are times when it is morally imperative for people to take a stand (or sit-in) against evil. It is what ended Jim Crow, brought an end to the Vietnam war, and is the people’s ultimate weapon against fatally wrong state actions. The primary beneficiary of CD is the participant whose principles are tested and found victorious. The tactic wakes the public, and forces the media to address why people are willing to get arrested.

If you are considering CD in the future, you must check in with our CD coordinator, Network Director Brett Bursey, for a briefing. Call 803-808-3384 for details.

We believe that when a majority of our legislators make partisan decisions that will cause hundreds of unnecessary deaths, it is incumbent on citizens to “disturb the orderly conduct” of such a body. We are committed to disturbing these politicians by exposing their shameless, petty, partisan self-serving conduct that violates their oath to serve the common good.

We have been reluctant to call shots when the legal liabilities were unclear, and our commitment to an open and democratic process has had us waiting for consensus from parties that are not responding.

We invite those allies who have fallen away from the effort to re-engage. The Moral Mondays spotlight in the regional and national media has given our own movement a boost, as the media has taken to linking our movements. We are resolved to press on. Please join us for the good fight and the long haul.

Bookmark TruthfulTuesday.net to stay connected. Finally, watch Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter in this clip at a Truthful Tuesday planning meeting, where she says she’s saving bond money in case she needs it. She’s stepping up. So can you.

It was a good day for SC voters

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History was made yesterday in the SC House Judiciary Election and Ethics Laws Subcommittee when Chairman Alan Clemmons approved two bills that the SC Progressive Network supported in hearings. These bills, which will make voting more transparent and accountable, are the first Network-promoted bills in 10 years to clear Rep. Clemmons’ committee. (He was the primary sponsor of the photo ID bill that the Network fought for several years.)

The first bill, H-3198, sponsored by Richland Rep. James Smith (D), will put the State Election Commission in charge of elections. The current voting system gives each of the 46 county Election Boards independence from centralized control. The system was designed by the state constitution of 1895 to disenfranchise black citizens by allowing the senator from each county to appoint the board. This was following a decade when the SC House was the only legislative body in the nation that was majority-black.

Rep. Clemmons signed onto the bill, stating that a centralized authority would make for more professional and consistent management of elections.

For years, the Network has advocated giving the State Election Commission authority over the county boards. “The SEC can only advise the county boards, and they often have different interpretations of the laws,” said Network director Brett Bursey. “It’s difficult to explain to people that no one is in charge of elections in South Carolina.”

The second bill, H-4364, was drafted by Bursey and introduced by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter. He referred to the bill as a “State Section 5 Registry,” filed after the US Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of racial discrimination to “prefile” changes to voting procedures to insure that they did not negatively affect minority voters.

“With the loss of the federal Section 5 registry,” Bursey testified, “there is no public notice of voting changes.” Clemmons agreed with Bursey that citizens deserve to be notified of changes to election laws, and approved H-4364′s requirement that all changes will be reported to the SEC and posted on the its web site.

“This won’t keep bad things from happening,” Bursey said, “but at least voters and advocacy groups will be given notice before they take effect.”

Both bills have rare bipartisan support and a chance of becoming law.vote_clipart

Nullify “Obamacare” Senate debate coming soon

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Our Truthful Tuesday efforts have kept Medicaid Expansion a hot topic in South Carolina. As more people realize our political leaders have been lying about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, they also grow more skeptical about other extremist propaganda. Like why the state with the lowest individual taxes is too broke to afford to educate its children.

The Truthful Tuesday Coalition has decided to focus our immediate efforts on demanding that SC take our federal tax money back to provide health care for a quarter of a million of our poorest citizens. We will work on other issues, but see the crass immorality of refusing the healthcare funding as the worst symptom of the anti-government, anti-tax madness that is keeping us poor, sick and uneducated.

H-3101, the “Nullify Obamacare” bill that passed the House last year, will be up for debate in the Senate in the next few days. The bill that passed the House is considered, even by some Tea Party Senators, to be an unconstitutional rejection of federal law. We expect the debate to be another opportunity to expose the governor’s and the majority party’s anti-Obama position as political pandering. Their refusal to take the Medicaid expansion money will cause over 1,000 deaths this year. Enough is enough.

We encourage you to join us in lobbying Senators this week and next. The Senate will take up the ethics reform bill on Tuesday, Feb. 18, and may debate it all week. (“Enough” scarves and “Expand Medicaid” signs available at the Network office, 2025 Marion St. Call 803-445-1921 to arrange a pickup.)

As soon as we know when the nullify bill is scheduled for the Senate floor, we will send out a call for a mass turnout.

Gov. Nikki Haley bashes “Obamacare” in 2014 State of the State address

But let us ask a simple question. “Are taxpayers getting the most health for the money they spend on health care?” My answer is no – not by a long shot.

We spend more money for health services per person than any nation on earth. Year after year we devote a larger and larger portion of our paychecks, our payrolls and our state and federal budgets to health care services.

Maybe we wouldn’t worry about all of this spending if our outcomes were better, but they aren’t.

The United States is falling behind the rest of the world in infant mortality and life expectancy – and here in South Carolina we have one of the lowest life expectancies and highest infant mortality rates in the U.S.

With such high costs and such poor outcomes, why would we throw more money at the system without first demanding improved efficiency, quality, and accessibility?

The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, says expand first and worry about the rest later.

Connecticut expanded early under Obamacare and just reported a $190 million Medicaid deficit – in spite of subjecting their citizens to a massive tax increase.

California just raised taxes in part to cover their Medicaid deficit and yet needs $350 million more to pay for Obamacare next year.

That’s not us. That’s not South Carolina.

The federal government likes to wave around a nine-dollar match like it is some silver bullet, some extraordinary benefit that we cannot pass up.

But what good do the nine dollars do us when we can’t come up with the one?

And what good are any dollars when they come through a program that doesn’t allow us the flexibility to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the people of South Carolina?

In the end, I cannot support this expansion for a very simple reason: it avoids addressing our health system’s high costs and poor outcomes.

As long as I am governor, South Carolina will not implement the public policy disaster that is Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Instead, we need to improve health care value. And we will.

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Rally Jan. 14, the first day of the legislative session. Among the demands was that lawmakers accept the federal grant to expand Medicaid, a move that would save an estimated 1,400 South Carolina lives. Join the Truthful Tuesday movement! Details at TruthfulTuesday.net.

Family doctor can “no longer stand idly by”

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David F. Keely, M.D.
Family Medicine and Public Health, Rock Hill, SC

Remarks made at the Truthful Tuesday Coalition’s Enough is Enough rally Jan. 14.

On behalf of Healthcare For All – South Carolina, our state’s chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, it gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone today for this important message about health care, present and future, in our state.

As a family physician with additional training and experience in public health, I have come to the point in my career of 35+ years in South Carolina where I can no longer stand idly by.

The term “health justice” is not heard often enough or loudly enough nowadays. Today we have already heard the disturbing information about the number of individuals who die unnecessarily every year in our state because they lack access to affordable, basic health care services – where is the justice in that?

Affordable and accessible quality health care for all should be the end goal in our country – and the Affordable Care Act [ACA] is a step in that direction.
In our current U.S. healthcare “system”, over 1,000 insurance companies offer a complex array of coverage plans; disgruntled physicians struggle daily with all the different private insurance “rules”; and, the administrative overhead of it all costs us as citizens about $400 BILLION each year! That’s enough “wasted money” to provide ongoing, accessible, affordable, quality healthcare (both preventive and sick care) for ALL 48 million Americans who are currently uninsured.

Over the past year, HFA-SC has reached out to community organizations, the faith-based community, and young physicians – newly-trained nurse practitioners. The ongoing debate in South Carolina about ACA-related Medicaid expansion has helped energize HFA-SC’s grassroots advocacy efforts. Yes, clearly the “new Medicaid” in South Carolina under the ACA brings essential health benefits that are not part of “existing SC Medicaid” – and what is at stake? — the current health and future welfare, educability, and productivity of South Carolina’s people all over the state! And I am here to say that our state’s physicians really need to speak out on this.

Officially, the South Carolina Medical Association’s Board of Trustees is staying neutral, despite our important grassroots voices gaining steam on the “new Medicaid” expansion issue in our state. From the SCMA website last legislative session, where it addressed the Affordable Care Act’s “new Medicaid” expansion, I quote: The SCMA’s Position The SCMA agrees with finding solutions to provide health care to all South Carolinians. However, we are concerned that the Medicaid expansion is a temporary and unsustainable fix that is not the solution for the long term health issues facing South Carolina.

This statement came across to me as the SCMA backing Governor Haley — I have to wonder though that that is not the true voice of physicians practicing in this state – and so I am glad that we are having this rally today to shed further light on that.

As a family physician (and small businessman), sure, I see existing South Carolina Medicaid insurance as needing to be more efficient — but HHS Director Tony Keck is already making good progress on this front, so existing SC Medicaid inefficiency is NOT a reason for refusing the “new Medicaid” expansion opportunity. Saving the lives of needy and deserving South Carolinians is what this debate needs to be about, first & foremost! That indeed is a smart investment!

As a family physician (who is active in the faith-based community in Rock Hill), I shudder and bleed compassion when I have to look into the face of medical bankruptcy and then also the ravages of totally preventable, advanced chronic disease in both rural and urban areas of our state.

Stories abound, as my colleagues gathered here today can well attest – economically-struggling, hard-working South Carolina adults with a poverty-level income, without dependent children, and thus no access to affordable health care due to the refusal of our state to extend the “new Medicaid” under the ACA to them.

In his guest op-ed in The State last year, Dr. Jeb Hallett (a seasoned surgeon practicing in Charleston), put into words very well what I believe so many physicians can no longer tolerate… I quote: “It is helpful to have an image of what rejecting Medicaid expansion will really look like. Forget the green Medicaid dollars that are the focus of too many lawmakers’ conversations; for them, this is all about a news conference where they politicize their loyalty to fiscal restraint.

As a health-care provider, I imagine the limbs of diabetics that will be amputated; I envision the twisted faces of those who forever will be changed by disabling strokes. Yes, leaving the most vulnerable citizens in our state uncovered results in greater expense for us all – as the uninsured often go without preventive care and proper ongoing treatment, that leads to emergency situations where much higher costs to treat are passed on to insurance companies – and then ultimately to policy holders as higher premiums. We all lose.

You should know that current South Carolina Medical Association President, Dr. Bruce Snyder, a vascular surgeon in Greenville, issued a call for “community action” to all SC physicians in April 2013 – it is published on the SCMA website.

I quote: “I challenge the physicians in South Carolina to be the leaders in their communities and in the state that I know they can be… Every physician in South Carolina knows an issue that is important to them which would have a positive impact on our state. Individually and collectively we should make sure our voices are heard on every subject, yes, every subject that has an impact on the health of South Carolinians.”

As concerned citizens, we need to echo this call loudly in our local communities. Yes, all of you, talk to your primary care and specialty physicians – now is the time!

So, in closing, please join HFA-SC and help us get the “silent” physicians around our state to speak up! Thank you!


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Navigators latest target in Right’s war on “Obamacare”

The SC Progressive Network‘s Charleston Navigators are featured briefly in this MSNBC piece on the right wing’s latest war on “Obamacare.”

We anticipate legislation in January that will require Navigators to be licensed by the state Dept. of Insurance. ALEC-crafted bills requiring licensing requirements to make it almost impossible for anyone other than an insurance agent or broker to serve have passed in a number of “refusnick” states, and are expected here soon.

A bill to make it illegal for the City of Charleston (local governments) to offer space to Navigators, or help in anyway to implement the ACA, passed the SC House last session. The “Nullify Obamacare” bill is number two on the Senate’s agenda when it reconvenes Jan. 14.