Another Truthful Tuesday; 17 more arrested

Rev. Tom Summers leads a prayer with healthcare advocates, ACA navigators and concerned citizens kneeling in the road outside the SC State House March 18, the third week in a row of civil disobedience led by the SC Progressive Network.

More at TruthfulTuesday.net.

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Photos on Flickr.

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 activists keep pressure on SC lawmakers to expand Medicaid

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On Feb. 25, advocates for Medicaid expansion in South Carolina gathered at the State House for a “Day of Shame,” targeting senators as they went into session. The Senate is expected to take up the “Nullify Obamacare” bill as early as this week.

Organizers Brett Bursey and Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III remind us why we are there.

See news coverage: WIS-TV, The Buzz, The State.

Visit TruthfulTuesday.net to learn more about the movement and see a calendar of next steps. Or you can call the SC Progressive Network at 803-808-3384 or email info@truthfultuesday.net.

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.

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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.

Medicaid expansion would benefit SC’s small businesses

By Frank Knapp
President, S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce

The debate is underway over whether to expand the federal-state health insurance program, Medicaid, to more uninsured low-income South Carolinians.

Opponents of expansion, made possible by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, are led by Gov. Nikki Haley’s director of Health and Human Services, Tony Keck, who runs the state’s Medicaid program. Mr. Keck’s public position is that the issue is not about cost but about making more of our citizens healthy. He argues that expanding Medicaid is an inefficient way of achieving that goal.

In December, I attended a forum where Mr. Keck explained that having health insurance was not a good predictor of health outcomes. Therefore the state would do better in promoting health by concentrating on education and jobs while encouraging our citizens to make better personal choices about their behavior.

But in response to a question I posed, Mr. Keck admitted that a low-income person’s health would be better if he had Medicaid than if he did not. “But at what cost?” he quickly added.

Mr. Keck’s almost reflexive response reveals that the tactic of arguing that Medicaid isn’t the best way to improve health is really an effort to misdirect the debate away from the real issue — cost.

If we remove the partisanship over Obamacare and admit that improving the level of education, size of paychecks and behavioral decisions of the state’s low-income citizens is an admirable but daunting goal that will take decades to achieve, the primary objection to expanding Medicaid to improve health today is cost.

Opponents of expansion say that the state can’t afford its eventual 10 percent share of the Medicaid expansion. Mr. Keck’s actuary projects that the cost to the state could be up to $1 billion by 2020.

Proponents of expansion point to a study that projects that economic activity in the state will increase by $3.3 billion and 44,000 jobs will be created from expanding Medicaid. This increase in economic impact would result in the state actually taking in more revenue than it would spend on the expansion through 2020, contradicting Mr. Keck’s analysis. After 2020 the state’s budget would experience a small net loss due to expansion.

Unfortunately, this cost debate has largely overlooked an important factor associated with not expanding Medicaid — the cost to our small businesses.

Many low-income employees work for our state’s small businesses, and expanding Medicaid will result in reduced costs to these employers.

First, there is a significant cost to a small business when workers are not on the job because they are sick or have to care for family members who are ill. Even employees who don’t miss work when they are sick are less effective. Workers with health insurance for themselves and their families miss less work due to illness and are more productive. Clearly expanding Medicaid to cover low-income workers will economically benefit their small-business employers.

Second, small businesses that want to offer health insurance to employees will find it more affordable under a Medicaid expansion. Small employers with Medicaid-eligible workers will have fewer employees to cover on a private group health plan and thus have less in premiums to pay. In addition, with expansion the cost of the employee’s private insurance will drop due to a reduction in the hidden tax on every health insurance policy, which pays for the uncompensated care for the uninsured. Based on projections by Milliman, the actuarial firm used by Mr. Keck for his cost projections, the reduced premiums could be up to $1,000 per year for family coverage.

The third benefit of a Medicaid expansion involves the requirement of the Affordable Care Act that businesses with 50 or more employees either offer health insurance or pay a penalty. Workers on Medicaid are not counted toward the total number of employees, so the Medicaid expansion would mean that even many small businesses with 50 or more employees could avoid paying a penalty for not offering health insurance.

While our state officials continue to debate the cost of expanding Medicaid, that debate must include the cost to small businesses for not doing so.