Newswire: Medicaid issues, not Medicare’s, get fixes in Biden budget;

By Associated Press
Medicaid issues are turning up as winners in President Joe Biden’s social agenda framework even as divisions force Democrats to hit pause on far-reaching improvements to Medicare.
The budget blueprint Biden released Thursday would fulfill a campaign promise to help poor people locked out of Medicaid expansion across the South due to partisan battles, and it would provide low-income seniors and disabled people with more options to stay out of nursing homes by getting support in their own homes. It also calls for 12 months of Medicaid coverage after childbirth for low-income mothers, seen as a major step to address national shortcomings in maternal health that fall disproportionately on Black women.
No Consensus on Lower Prescription Drug Prices

But with Medicare, Democrats were unable to reach consensus on prescription drug price negotiations. Polls show broad bipartisan support for authorizing Medicare to negotiate lower prices, yet a handful of Democratic lawmakers—enough to block the bill—echo pharmaceutical industry arguments that it would dampen investment that drives innovation. Advocacy groups are voicing outrage over the omission, with AARP calling it “a monumental mistake.” Some Democratic lawmakers say they haven’t given up yet.
The immediate consequence: Without expected savings from lower drug prices, Medicare dental coverage for seniors is on hold, as is vision coverage. The Biden framework does call for covering hearing aids, far less costly. Also on hold is a long-sought limit on out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare recipients.
While Medicare has traditionally been politically favored, Medicaid was long regarded as the stepchild of health care programs because of its past ties to welfare. Just a few years ago, former President Donald Trump and a Republican-led Congress unsuccessfully tried to slap a funding limit on the federal-state program.
In that battle, “many people realized the importance of Medicaid for their families and their communities,” said Judy Solomon of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income people. “I think there was a new appreciation of Medicaid, and we are seeing that.”
As Medicaid grew to cover more than 80 million people, nearly 1 in 4 Americans, it became politically central for Democrats. Biden’s Medicaid-related provisions have a strong racial justice dimension, since many of the people who would benefit from access to health insurance in the South or expanded coverage for new mothers across the land are Black or Hispanic.
Expanding Medicaid has been the top policy priority for Democrats in Deep South states for years, citing the poverty and poor health that plagues much of the region. The decision by some Republican-led states to reject expansion of Medicaid under the Obama health law meant that 2 million poor people were essentially locked out of coverage in a dozen states, and another 2 million unable to afford even subsidized plans. Texas, Florida, Georgia and Alabama are among the Medicaid hold-outs.
Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff campaigned on closing the Medicaid coverage gap, and it was their election that put the Senate in Democratic hands this year. Warnock made getting a Medicaid fix his signature issue.

Back to Obamacare
“Georgians showed up in historic numbers to change the shape of our federal government, and many did so with the hope that Washington would finally close the circle on the promise of the Affordable Care Act [otherwise known as Obamacare] and make health care coverage accessible to the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who are currently uninsured,” Warnock, the state’s first Black U.S. senator, said in a statement Thursday.
Delivering a big achievement is most urgent for the freshman, as he faces reelection next year in a quest for a full six-year term. Multiple Republican opponents including former football great Herschel Walker are vying to face him. Warnock argues that it’s unfair that Georgians can’t access the federally subsidized care available to residents of 38 other states that expanded Medicaid, calling it “a matter of life and death.”
Under the Biden blueprint eligible uninsured people in states that have not expanded Medicaid could get subsidized private coverage through HealthCare.gov at no cost to them. The fix is only funded for four years, a budgetary gimmick intended to make the official cost estimates appear lower. Biden would also extend through 2025 more generous financial assistance that’s already being provided for consumers who buy “Obamacare” plans.
Another major element of Biden’s framework would allocate $150 billion through Medicaid for home- and community-based care for seniors and disabled people. That’s less than half the money Biden originally had sought for his long-term care plan, but it will help reduce waiting lists for services while also improving wages and benefits for home health aides.
The plan “marks a historic shift in how our country cares for people with disabilities and older Americans,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Getting this crucial care won’t just be for the lucky few who can get off a wait list.”
About 4 million people receive home and community-based services, which are less expensive than nursing home care. An estimated 800,000 people are on waiting lists for such services.
The coronavirus pandemic underscored the importance of a viable home care option for elders, as nursing homes became deadly incubators for COVID-19.
In a coda of sorts, the Biden framework also provides permanent funding for Medicaid in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico. And it would permanently reauthorize the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, avoiding periodic nail-biting over coverage for nearly 10 million kids.

Newswire : 5 ways Trump’s over-inflated budget hurts Black Folks

Funding is being slashed for programs many African-Americans rely on.

By Bruce C.T. Wright, Newsone

It’s not a surprise that any political action supported by the president is bound to hurt people of color, but the extent to which his super inflated proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year affects Black people is impossible to ignore upon closer inspection.
Not only would the budget add $7 trillion to the already ballooning deficit – something Trump made a habit of chiding Obama for – it would slash spending for five programs in particular that have been crucial for Black people and people of color overall.

Housing
Renters receiving public assistance for housing will have their benefits cut by 11 percent, the Associated Press reported. While that news might please Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, the fact of the matter is that “Forty-eight percent of public housing households are black compared to only 19 percent of all renter households,” according to statistics compiled by HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research. With Black unemployment remaining high despite recent, yet overstated, progress on that front, the plight for Black folks to secure adequate housing could get much tougher in the near future.

Food stamps
Black people have been the disproportionate recipients of food stamps, with nearly 25 percent of African-Americans being sent the public assistance each month. With Trump’s budget cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits program by $213 over the next decade, the move will almost certainly be devastating to the Black folks who depend on them. To add insult to injury, Trump has proposed replacing food stamps with a “Blue Apron-style” system that would deliver boxes of food to families, introducing a number of potential cultural, personal and social conflicts.

Law enforcement
The rise of Trump and his White nationalism has likewise meant the rise of Jeff Session, America’s top law enforcement official who has doubled down on his decades-long reign of racist terror against Black people. He just vowed Monday to protect the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” which is not-so-coded language that could be translated to mean its open season on people of color. Beyond that, Trump’s budget “seeks more than $109 million for crime-fighting efforts,” according to the AP, which only empowers the same police departments that routinely terrorize Black communities.

Education
As if the above wasn’t bad enough, Trump’s budget would also make student loan debt forgiveness by the government a thing of the past. That would be terrible on face value alone, but when you factor in how nearly half of all Black student loan borrowers end up defaulting on what the borrow — never mind the negative implications for Black borrowers’ financial futures because of those loans — enrolling in, let alone graduating from, college becomes an even higher hurdler Black folks to clear than before.

Health Care
Even though just 10 percent of African-Americans depend on Medicare, Trump’s proposed budget cuts would force those senior citizens to pay much more for their prescription drugs, according to the AP. With the health discrepancies between Black people and other races being well documented, expanding, not reducing “health coverage among African Americans is critical,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Doug Jones meets with ANSC delegation to discuss plans and priorities

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ANSC delegation members who met with Senator Doug Jones are left to right: Dr. Carol P. Zippert; John Zippert, ANSC State President; Gus Townes; Senator Doug Jones; Karen Jones; Attorney Everett Wess; Robert Avery; Attorney Faya Rose Toure; Attorney Sharon Wheeler; Senator Hank Sanders.

Special to the Democrat
By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Doug Jones, Alabama’s newly elected Senator, met with a delegation of Alabama New South Coalition members on Saturday, January 6, 2018, in Birmingham. All of ANSC delegation members played an active role in the ‘Vote or Die Campaign’ to register, educate, mobilize and turnout voters in the December 12, 2017 Special Election, in which Jones defeated Judge Roy Moore.

Jones was coming off his first week in Washington D. C. where he was sworn-in to his new position. Jones was accompanied to the swearing-in ceremony by former Vice President, Joe Biden. Jones was sworn-in along side Tina Smith, a new Senator from Minnesota, who will fill the un-expired term of Senator Al Franken who resigned. Smith was accompanied to the swearing-in by former Vice President Walter Mondale, from Minnesota.
Jones thanked the ANSC and the Vote or Die Campaign for their support and help in winning a closely fought contest with Judge Roy Moore. He said he appreciated “the early and continuing efforts of ANSC, ANSA and Vote or Die from the beginning of the race, starting at the first primary and continuing all the way through.”
Members of the ANSC delegation expressed congratulations and support to Senator Jones and indicated that they realized that “ a movement orientation was needed not just an ordinary political campaign, to create the excitement and interest, to generate the kind of turnout that was required to win this election.”
Jones said that he would work to represent all of the people of Alabama and he was looking for priority issues to work on that would unite voters – Black and white, urban and rural – in the state.
Jones said he was definitely going to push for reauthorization of CHIP – Children’s Health Insurance Program, which serves 150,000 children in Alabama and 9 million nationwide.
Another priority was working to keep rural hospitals open, which would help places in north Alabama, as well as the Alabama Black Belt, from losing their hospital and having to travel long distances for medical services. Jones said he would work with Congresswomen Terri Sewell, who has proposed adjustments to raise the low reimbursement rates paid to rural hospitals under Medicare and Medicaid.
Jones said building, repairing and improving infrastructure, including more than roads and bridges, and extending to water and waste water systems, broadband communication services and other community facilities. He said that he was trying to get assigned on Senate committees that dealt with these issues.
Jones indicated that he does not support cuts to “entitlement programs” like Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamps which help low income people to balance the budget.
On Monday, it was announced by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that Senator Jones would serve on the: Housing, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Banking, Homeland Security and Government Affairs (HSGAC) and Aging Committees.
Senator Jones assured the ANSC delegation that he would have an active and robust staff around the state to provide information and constituent services to people in Alabama. He was still staffing his offices and was still receiving resumes from persons interested in serving on his staff in the state and in Washington. As reported last week, he has chosen Dana Gresham, an African-American, to serve as Chief of Staff. Jones indicated that he might develop a mobile office to travel to rural and more remote communities to provide services to constituents that cannot easily travel to offices in larger cities.
Senator Jones said that he would continue to communicate on a regular basis with the delegation about the upcoming state elections in 2018 and his own re-election campaign in 2020. Jones said that he would participate in the upcoming Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, the first weekend in March, and other activities related to supporting voting rights.