Friends,

This is not a drill!  After almost everyone (including Speaker Paul Ryan) had declared the GOP’s American Health Care Act dead, it rose from the grave last week, with the House passing it 217-213 on Thursday after some tweaks.  If the Senate votes with the House (which could definitely happen), this cruel bill will go to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

Despite what some Republicans claim, healthcare is a life or death issue – so we all need to fight this, now.

The stakes are so high, we decided to switch up our usual format this week to focus entirely on what to do about this one issue… and then yesterday happened. Now we’re facing an urgent double-barrelled threat to our health and our democracy.

So this week we have a single mega-action item on healthcare, and a smaller one in the aftermath of Comey’s dismissal. Please take the time to do [at least some of] both!

1) Defend our healthcare!
a) Learn more about the (revised) AHCA
b) Let the Senate know how you feel
c) Attend town halls, rallies, and protests
d) Take back the House
2) Defend our democracy!

And as usual, don’t forget our one-question survey!

—–

1) Defend our healthcare!

1a) Learn more about the (revised) AHCA

How does the new AHCA differ from the one that failed in March? Not that much. Most of what we told you then still applies, including the millions who would lose Medicaid coverage.   And the changes generally make it even worse.  Here are a few lowlights:

  • Some previously opposed Republicans supported the new AHCA with the addition of $8 billion in additional funding for “high-risk pools” to provide health coverage for those who other wouldn’t be able to afford insurance. But that amount of funding is woefully insufficient – the $8 billion over five years is only a small fraction of the $15 to $25 billion per year that conservative and nonpartisan analysts estimate would be needed. The result from underfunded high-risk pools has proven disastrous in state-level experiments: few people covered, exclusions of pre-existing conditions, and high premiums.
  • Speaking of pre-existing conditions, the new version of the AHCA won over the right-wing Freedom Caucus with an amendment replacing the AHCA’s flat 30% penalty for not maintaining continuous coverage with a provision allowing states to obtain waivers from the Obamacare rule (called “community rating”) against charging people in their state more for insurance based on pre-existing conditions.  While there is no official list of pre-existing conditions (because each insurer would decide for itself), likely candidates include pregnancy, acne, and even depression.  Even being a rape survivor could potentially increase premiums (although this is less likely as it is prohibited in most of the country by state law).
  • For those of you lucky to have employer-provided insurance, the GOP isn’t leaving you alone either.  The revised AHCA allows states to obtain waivers for another Obamacare requirement as well–the requirement that all insurance cover ten essential health benefits and not impose lifetime caps on coverage. There is uncertainty about how many employers would take advantage of the opportunity to cut back their employees’ coverage, but even the possibility of a small percentage doing so is troubling, with 160 million Americans receiving insurance through employer plans.
  • Last time, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the AHCA would cause 24 million people to lose their health insurance. This time? We don’t even know yet.  House Republicans took the remarkable step of passing the bill before the CBO could tell them just how bad it is, forcing it through without heed to actual cost or impacts.
  • The revised AHCA is just as unpopular with actual health care experts as the previous version was, with opposition from the AHA (hospitals), the AMA (doctors), and the ANA (nurses), along with many medical specialty organizations. Even the generally conservative AARP came out against it.
  • For additional information and ideas on what to do on this issue, check out this guide from Indivisible.

1b) Let the Senate know how you feel

The next stop for the AHCA is the Senate. For now, Senate Republicans say their plan is to largely start from scratch.  And these senators need to hear that we want something very different from what the House passed. It’s not promising so far: despite the number of health care issues specific to women (and ignored or denigrated by the House bill), the Senate working group assembled to do this consists of 13 men and no women.

What You Can Do:

  • Call your senators! You can get more information on calling, including scripts, here.
    • Are your senators Republican? Call and mail them to let them know you’re opposed to the House’s AHCA and why.  
    • Are your senators Democratic? Urge them to fight hard against taking healthcare away from millions.  
    • Do you have a personal story to share, that’s even better!  For example, are you a student who relies on birth control coverage to ensure that you will be able to continue your studies through an advanced degree that may last well into your 20s? Tell ‘em!
    • If your senators’ phone lines are jammed, you can also pre-record a message to be sent at night (and to auto-dial until it gets through) with the Stance app. (More info available here.)
  • Reach out to your governor, especially if your governor is a Democrat and one or both of your senators are Republicans (see list below). Governors often have some influence with their state’s senators. Also, many of the AHCA’s provisions rely on implementation at the state level, so governors’ opinions really matter!
    • Democrat governors with Republican senators:
      • Colorado, Montana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia – 1 Republican senator
      • Louisiana, North Carolina – 2 Republican senators

1c) Attend town halls, rallies, and protests

Since House Republicans voted to repeal and replace critical parts of Obamacare, there has been a powerful backlash, even in many red states (This NYTimes article gives a several key examples).  The legislation will need to return to the House for concurrence even if it passes in the Senate, and it is crucial to voice your opinion to any Representatives who might withdraw support from the bill, or who might influence their colleagues to do so.  As the House will be in recess until May 15th, this week is prime time to share your concerns in person.  

What You Can Do:

  • Find town halls near you and contact information for your representatives by entering your ZIP code here.  If you have a personal story about how Obamacare has helped you, or how the repeal would hurt you, tell it if you can. If not, your presence itself is important.
  • If your Representative is not holding town halls, you can still rally outside their office.  A local Indivisible group may already be planning a rally near you.

1d) Take back the House

Frustrated with the House for passing this abomination? Vent your anger by supporting candidates running against the Representatives who passed it!

It won’t help directly with the AHCA, but it’s important that we keep one eye on 2018 – taking back Congress then will be hugely helpful for preventing repeats of this sort of atrocity. Plus, the knowledge that angry constituents will support their overthrow will make some Reps think twice about supporting further abhorrent legislation like this.

What you can do:

  • Check how your Representative voted with the NYT vote tracker
  • Donate to the candidates challenging the Republicans who voted for Trumpcare. There’s a centralized donation page here, or go through the SwingLeft version here.
    • Ideally, focus on the race in your own district if applicable, or at least races in your own state.
  • While you’re at it, call your Representatives – ideally their local office – to express your displeasure (or thanks, if applicable). 5Calls makes it easy to do so – script and instructions here.
    • Even better, tell them you’re donating to their opponent – nothing scares them quite as much!
    • If you don’t like talking to humans, check out Stance, a new tool that lets you record a message and leaves it on your Congresspeoples’ voicemails – no staffer interaction required!
  • Finally, don’t forget to support Jon Ossoff in the Georgia Sixth District special election!
    • The AHCA passed by 217-213 votes, which means just a few more votes would’ve stopped it – a sharp reminder that every single seat really counts!
    • The special election run-off is not June 20, but with voter registration closing May 21, there’s an urgent push to get more people registered – so any contributions of time, money or effort now will be helpful.

2) Defend our democracy!

Yesterday, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey – the very man who’s in charge of the ongoing investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. This is, without exaggeration, a threat to the most basic principles of our democracy.

Details are still emerging, and we’ll bring you more information next week (or sooner, if the circumstances dictate) – but the incident has already drawn strong suspicions of a cover-up and clear comparisons with Watergate.

(One striking parallel – in the Watergate incident, then-Attorney General Richardson resigned rather than break his promise not to fire the head of the investigation, in spite of the President’s direct orders; this time, it seems Attorney General Jeff Sessions helped the President fire the head of the investigation, in spite of his recusal from the investigation – a direct promise not to interfere.)

For now, urgent action is needed – we need a special independent prosecutor to continue the investigation into the links between Trump, his campaign, and Russia.

—–

That’s all for now – given how this week has unfolded, though, we may have more soon. Regardless, keep encouraging people to take the pledge as usual, and please share any thoughts or questions with us at solidarity@mit.edu!

Stay strong, stay vigilant!

Solidarity MIT
solidaritypledge.com

 

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