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.

Medicaid expansion is a moral issue, says the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III

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The church is on trial when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, warns the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, pastor at Charity Mission Baptist Church in North Charleston. Will it move to protect “the least of these” or will it miss an opportunity?

A coalition of churches, organizations and individual activists is working together to expand Medicaid in SC in 2014. Get involved. See TruthfulTuesday.net for details, or call 803-808-3384.

Truthful Tuesday, the musical

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Written and performed by Dave Lippman

Whoa, where do you go when you want everyone to know
We’ll tell you tomorrow enough is enough

Hey Nicki Haley, education you shelve
Illegally low funding for K through 12
Funding for college, down 40%
Tuition through the roof, so much for food and rent

Gerrymandering without a true case
Vote suppression creeps in like a nun
But Tuesday’s wild, your party is a disgrace
We are not done

Truthful Tuesday, so good to me
Truthful Tuesday it was all I hoped it would be
Though Truthful Tuesday, Truthful Tuesday couldn’t guarantee
That Tuesday evenin’ South Carolina would be free

Every other day
Legislature gets away with crime, yeah
But whenever Tuesday comes, but whenever Tuesday comes
You can find me mopping up all the slime

Truthful Tuesday how I love Truthful Tuesday
Get to take back our state all day
Not like Monday, that no fun day
When they’re withholdin’ our Medicaid
On Wednesday, they cut what we need
We say enough is enough, we secede
‘Cause Thursday they raise what students pay
And Friday ALEC gets its way

Saturday mornin’, oh Saturday mornin’
All my health care has gone away
They got my money and my union, honey
And they’re buying’ elections every day

Sunday mornin’ I’m feelin’ bad
This is the worst government I’ve ever had
But I’ve got to get my rest
Cause Truthful Tuesday’s the best

Whoa, where do you go when you want everyone to know
We’ll tell you tomorrow enough is enough

Truthful Tuesday 101

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IMG_0949Enough is Enough Rally, SC State House Jan. 14

By Becci Robbins
Communications Director, SC Progressive Network

As Moral Mondays take off in North Carolina, the media has taken to linking our movements, along with Georgia’s Moral Mondays. But while the Truthful Tuesday movement has been informed and inspired by our neighbors, it is actually continuation of work a coalition of activists in South Carolina began in 2011 in response to proposed deep budget cuts to education and critical social services.

That year, advocacy and faith-based organizations planned a Moral Budget rally (a moniker our NC friends would adopt) followed days later by a visit inside the State House to Mob the Lobby.

At last year’s SC Progressive Network fall retreat in October, participants issued a call for a mass action at the SC State House on the opening day of the legislative session. Between then and January, organizers worked hard to make it happen. It paid off.

The Enough is Enough rally was powerful, providing enough fuel to launch “Truthful Tuesdays,” a sustained lobbying effort targeting SC lawmakers pushing an extreme agenda at the expense of the state’s most vulnerable: children, the elderly, the infirm and the poor.

This year, Truthful Tuesdays will be focused on getting lawmakers to expand Medicaid. Failure to do so will cost an estimated 1,400 South Carolinians their lives.

As each organization comes on board, the coalition grows stronger and more able to defend “the least of these.”

Join us! Call 803-808-3384 or email info@TruthfulTuesday.net for details.

The rally and lobby action were enough pressure for lawmakers to reduce their budget cuts by one-third. Rep. Joe Neal recounts how it went down in this clip, from the Network’s spring conference in June, 2011.

The South is rising, y’all!

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter: “Until the silent majority takes over, nothing in this state will change.”

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Orangeburg Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter tells Truthful Tuesday organizers at a meeting Feb. 4 that the SC Legislative Black Caucus fully supports their efforts, and that the Caucus is crafting a bill to expand Medicaid in South Carolina in 2014. There has never been a vote on the Affordable Care Act in South Carolina, so no lawmakers are on record supporting or opposing this landmark legislation.

In this clip, Cobb-Hunter delivers a powerful message to community organizers about this moment in time being an extraordinary opportunity. Highly recommended viewing for all members of the SC Progressive Network and Truthful Tuesday partners.

She also says she’s gathering bond money in case the time comes for civil disobedience.

Bookmark TruthfulTuesday.net, and stay in touch with a growing coalition of people from across the state who refuse to be held hostage by state lawmakers pushing an extreme agenda in South Carolina. Enough is enough.

See photos from the first Truthful Tuesday lobby outside the Governor’s Office Feb. 4.

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.

rally crowd

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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South Carolinians to rally at State House Jan. 14!

ft adOutraged by lawmakers’ refusal to fund education and health care, South Carolinians from across the state will rally at noon on the south side of the SC State House Jan. 14 to demand that lawmakers quit grandstanding and start governing.

The Truthful Tuesday Coalition – a grassroots campaign led by members of the faith community and advocacy organizations – is working to hold lawmakers accountable and to help the public understand the truth: South Carolina is not too broke to fund these core services. It simply lacks the political leadership to properly fund and manage responsible government.

“These are not political issues,” said Rev. Brenda Kneece, Executive Minister of the SC Christian Action Council. “These are moral issues we are called on to address.” The Council’s 16 denominations have endorsed the rally.

Gov. Nikki Haley led the opposition to reclaiming billions of our federal tax dollars to provide health care for South Carolina’s poorest citizens by refusing to participate in “Obamacare.” These federal funds would have expanded Medicaid to 250,000 people living below the poverty level.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was intended to provide health insurance to working people by subsidizing policies for people earning less than $45,000 a year, and to provide free coverage to those earning less than $11,490.

Refusing $1.4 billion to expand Medicaid this year means our state’s citizens will continue to have difficulty in accessing affordable care for costly chronic conditions and in accessing the ACA’s “essential health benefits” — not the least of which is cost-effective preventive care, warned Dr. David Keely, who heads the state’s chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.

The SC Hospital Association estimates that the $11.7 billion in federal funding being refused through 2020 would create 44,000 jobs and generate enough tax revenue to completely offset the state’s 10 percent match required in 2020.

Dr. Robert Oldendick, Executive Director of the USC Institute for Public Service and Policy Research, reviewed a Harvard School of Public Health study on the consequences of states refusing the Medicaid expansion. “The study concluded that every 176 adults covered by Medicaid prevents one death each year. So if we assume that all 250,000 eligible South Carolinians were covered, about 1,420 deaths would be prevented annually.”

“It is unacceptable that our lawmakers are willing to throw our neighbors under the bus to make political points,” said SC Progressive Network Cochair Virginia Sanders, who works as one of the Network’s trained navigators helping people secure insurance through the health exchange. “It’s heart-breaking to tell people they are too poor to receive help. These are human beings; not numbers. They shouldn’t be political pawns.”

All 170 legislators and the governor have been invited to descend the State House steps at 12:30 to join the rally. Rep. Joe Neal will make a statement on behalf of legislators.

“One of our goals is to put a face on what is too often just an ideological debate,” said SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey. “We need 1,300 people to stand together on the State House grounds to symbolize the human cost of playing politics with people’s lives.”

The rally will also address lawmakers’ continued refusal to adequately fund education. “In 2013, K-12 funding was nearly $500 million below what is required by state law,” said Jackie Hicks, Executive Director of The SC Education Association. State higher education funding is 40 percent lower than it was in 2002, and tuition at our state colleges is among the nation’s highest.

The Coalition will be calling on legislators to address the fact that our state has the nation’s least-competitive elections, with nearly 80 percent of lawmakers facing no major opposition in the general election. “With only about half our citizens voting, and most of us only having one choice at the ballot box, it’s a shame that the legislature keeps trying to make it harder to vote rather than easier,” said Dr. Lonnie Randolph, President of the SC NAACP.

“The rally is a continuation of the work for sound public policies and a moral budget that we have been doing for years,” Bursey said. “The rally is not just an event; it is the launch of the next phase of our ongoing efforts.”

The hour-long rally will take place on the south side of the State House at noon on Jan. 14. The initial conveners are the SC Christian Action Council, The SC Education Association, SC NAACP, National Association of Social Workers, the SC AFL-CIO and the SC Progressive Network. Dozens of sponsoring organizations and churches, as well as information on the rally, transportation and parking, can be found at the coalition’s web site: TruthfulTuesday.net.

Free food and beverages will be available. Attendees are asked to wear black as a symbol of mourning for the 1,300 who will die this year is South Carolina because of petty partisan politics.

Contact the Coalition at 803-808-3384 or info@TruthfulTuesday.net.

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.

South Carolina press and Nelson Mandela: Give credit where credit is due

By Kevin Alexander Gray
Columbia, SC

I was truly surprised that all our major daily paper could offer South Carolinians and the world after Nelson Mandela’s death was a 1998 picture of a 95-year-old Strom Thurmond holding up Mandela’s arm as though he’d just won a prizefight. The photo was snapped during the South African President’s visit to Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Conservative hardliners like U.S. Senators Thurmond of South Carolina and Jesse Helms of North Carolina, among others, supported Reagan’s position against the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, which called for economic sanctions against the racist apartheid regime. Reagan vetoed the act when it came before him. He insisted that the 16 percent minority white population in power were “strategically essential to the free world,” although the 84 percent majority of black South Africa’s citizens (to include Coloureds and Asians) were being violently kept un-free.

Reagan and his supporters were on the wrong side of history. Fortunately, Congress ultimately overrode his veto.

Doubtless, Thurmond changed in later life from the segregationist firebrand he was a younger man — but not very much. I thought: Is this photo all the most widely circulated paper in South Carolina had to offer? Surely they had on file countless stories of the anti-apartheid activities in South Carolina.

Maybe someone thought the photo of Thurmond was funny or ironic. Maybe the person who posted the picture was at best, ignorant of history or, at worst trying to revise history by giving the photographic impression that Thurmond supported Mandela and the anti-apartheid cause. It would have been more accurate to locate a picture of Democratic Senator Ernest F. Hollings, who voted to override Reagan’s veto.

For me, telling the history of what was done in our state to advance the cause of freedom is a better story to tell.

A lot happened in the 1980s in the fight against apartheid that Columbia can be proud of. Like in 1985 when the City of Columbia barred any city investments that would benefit or encourage the racist South African government. The unanimously passed measure was introduced by then Councilman Luther Battiste.

Battiste’s counterpart on Council Rudy Barnes at the time said, “This is not a partisan or racial type motion at all” and that the “resolution sends the signal to politicians that we must distance ourselves from this type of oppression.”

Another council member, William Outzs added, “[T]his is further indication of this city’s support for human rights.”

Imagine trying to get City Council to pass a measure condemning a foreign government today.

Maybe there could have been mentioned how a year after the City of Columbia took action that then-South Carolina State Treasurer Grady L. Patterson withdrew $43 million in state investments from companies doing business in South Africa. Or, State Senator Theo Mitchell of Greenville’s efforts to pass an anti-apartheid bill in the State Legislature.

I’m sure somewhere there are pictures of the weekly pickets at what used to be the C&S Bank on Sumter Street to force them to stop selling the South African gold “krugerrand” coins. The picketers won.

There were also the Friday noon pickets on Pendleton Street in front of the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation offices that corresponded with the Carolina Peace Resource Center’s legal maneuvers to force the university to disclose and withdraw their holdings with companies that did business with South Africa. I believe that effort was the beginning of the end for then President James Holderman, who resigned in 1990 under fire over his hidden financial dealings.

Then there were the numerous student marches and rallies at the State House, along with participation in various regional and national marches. Students from Benedict, USC, South Carolina State, College of Charleston and many other campuses across the state took part.

There’s an activist history yet to be written. When it is, it will include familiar names like Modjeska Simkins and Nelson Rivers, then executive director of the state NAACP, Brett Bursey and his Grassroots Organizing Workshop [which grew into the SC Progressive Network], the USC Free South Africa Alliance, which at one point built and occupied a shanty in front of the Russell House to demonstrate and condemn bantustan living conditions of poor black South Africans.

There are lots of heroic people to write about in our local anti-apartheid efforts. They are “part of the collective,” which is how Mandela said he wanted to be remembered. Those are the people who should be highlighted. Strom Thurmond shouldn’t be our state’s reflexive default.