What Healthcare Means to Me

This essay is by RAD member Katie McCurdy and focuses on the importance of having pre-existing conditions covered by insurance. "The threat of being denied coverage for a pre-existing condition is real, and I remember those days when I had to worry about gaps in coverage because then I would be considered to have a pre-existing condition and insurance could refuse me," Katie writes on her blog, which she's allowed us to republish here.

Since I was 13, I’ve had autoimmune conditions that negatively affect my health. The first to appear was Myasthenia Gravis, which causes muscle weakness through my whole body and especially impacts my ability to smile and make facial expressions. I also was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes dry eyes, muscle aches, neuropathy (numbness, burning and tingling in my fingers and toes), heart palpitations, and more.

1-m-U0-sjgSIdVlwaoXE4GSA.jpgFor the most part I took my medication and went about my life. I’ve been able to study abroad, be a ski bum, go to grad school, hold a job, and speak at conferences and events. But there has always been a very emotionally painful aspect to my condition, which is social awkwardness and anxiety due to facial weakness. The feeling of trying to smile in conversation, and instead looking like I’m grimacing (like a dog baring its teeth), and seeing that flash of confusion on the other person’s face. Or posing for a group photo and being singled out — ‘Smile! Try harder!’ When I wasn’t feeling strong (my symptoms vary by the hour), I’d avoid people in public for this reason.

In addition to smiling problems, I’ve also struggled with my voice. It can get weak and turn nasally after about one or two minutes of speaking. It’s hard to get the words out. This has caused a large amount of anxiety with any public speaking I’ve done, and I’ve dealt with it in the past by pre-recording some of my slides to give my voice a break.

Last winter, my colleague and I were accepted to present on our hospital design work at the global Interaction Design Conference, which was a huge honor. As the date approached, I became extremely anxious because my symptoms were flaring considerably, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to talk for the full duration of our presentation.

I made a special appointment with my doctor, we talked about options, and decided to try IVIG, Intravenous Immunoglobulin. This is an IV infusion of pooled donor plasma that can temporarily strengthen the immune system. The stated cost at my hospital is over 30 thousand dollars for a round of treatment, which I would need to receive on a monthly basis. Luckily I have great insurance, and after covering the relatively low yearly deductible, there would be no cost to me for these treatments.

My first round of treatment was in January, and I felt the effects almost immediately. My joints felt ‘cooler,’ and my smile and voice were stronger. My level of stress about my upcoming presentation plummeted. We practiced our talk many times and I was confident we were going to nail it (which we did, and you can check out our talk here if you’re interested.)

Since that time I’ve been getting IVIG treatments regularly. I call it my go-go-juice, or my crystal pepsi, and it has made an enormous impact on how I feel. The interaction of talking with someone face-to-face and smiling, joking, laughing and not hiding my face out of embarrassment — that hasn’t happened for 25 years. I don’t hide from people in public, I don’t feel so self-conscious, and I feel more confident at work.

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All of this is why the upcoming vote on the American Health Care Act is on my mind. The threat of being denied coverage for a pre-existing condition is real, and I remember those days when I had to worry about gaps in coverage because then I would be considered to have a pre-existing condition and insurance could refuse me.

If denied coverage, I couldn’t afford to continue the IVIG treatments that have made such a drastic improvement on my wellbeing. I would likely need to increase my use of prednisone, which has many long-term side effects.

I stand to lose a lot. Potentially my job, I suppose, but also my confidence and social ease. They say smiling makes you happier, and happier people are more productive, and, well, they say a lot of things, but dang it don’t take away my healthcare.

If you care about helping out people like me (and your own future self, be real) give your senators a call today and tell them to reject the current form of the AHCA (now called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which would devastate people with pre-existing conditions.

 


National Healthcare Day of Action: Don't End Medicaid To Give Millionaires Tax Breaks!

Democracy_Summer.pngWe want more Medicaid, not Millionaires!


Join Rights & Democracy for a rally and press conference this Wednesday in Burlington to denounce the GOP attack on Vermonters' healthcare and hear from the people most affected by the deep cuts to Medicaid.

Join us at 11:30 AM, 199 Main Street, Burlington, in front of the Democracy statue

Speakers will include representatives from Rights & Democracy, the Vermont Office of Health Care Advocate, Vermont Center for Independent Living, Disability Rights Vermont, as well as representatives from the offices of US Sen. Patrick Leahy and US Sen. Bernie Sanders.

 

Hear the stories of those most impacted by these devastating plans to gut Medicaid and other healthcare protections in order to provide tax cuts to the wealthiest among us and learn what we can do next to fight back!

 

Rights & Democracy is joining its national partner Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and HCAN state affiliates across the country to send a message to Congressional members as well as Gov. Phil Scott to stop the GOP proposals to gut Medicaid.

If you can't make Wednesday's event, here's how YOU can help now:

Call Republican Gov. Phil Scott to sign onto a bi-partisan letter of US governors who oppose the Senate plan and want to see a more collaborative process to improve the health of their residents and hold their state budgets harmless. Scott has a chance to be a national Republican leader, like other Vermont Republicans before him, but we need to let him know that we want him to act.

Add your name to the list! More than 3300 Vermonters have asked Scott to stand up for healthcare.

Call the offices of US Sen. Patrick Leahy and US Sen. Bernie Sanders and tell them to do everything they can to stop this bill from becoming law.
Let them know that we have their back to pull out the stops to halt this bill in its tracks and protect Medicaid.

Those numbers:

Gov. Phil Scott: (802) 828-3333

US Sen. Patrick Leahy: (800) 642-3193

US Sen. Bernie Sanders: (800) 339-9834

Last week, Rights & Democracy members, health care advocates and others likely impacted by Republican plans held a National Day of Action rally at the Vermont State House [click to watch our video].

Before Wednesday, if you have a healthcare story that you want to share with our elected officials, tell us and we'll pass it along.

In Solidarity,

Rights & Democracy

UPCOMING EVENTS & ACTIONS - SIGN UP TODAY!

 

THURS, JUNE 29 – Burlington Climate Action Meeting!

6:30 PM - 8 PM, Champlain Senior Center, 241 N Winooski Ave
What can we do to reduce Burlington's impact on the climate? How can we transition from fossil fuels and also reduce energy consumption? Our electricity sector is powered by renewable energy but our home heating and transportation is almost entirely powered by fossil fuels. We have a long way to go right here in our hometown. Let's make it happen!



FRIDAY, JUNE 30 – How to Kill a City

6:30-8 PM, SEABA Center, 404 Pine Street, Burlington

Join a discussion about how development as a strategy for economic advancement needs to be balanced by policies that prevent the otherwise inevitable geographic inequity of displacement, along with an overview of Memorial Auditorium's history in Burlington. The main speaker is Peter Moskowitz, author of the new book How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood. The event is free and open to the public.

MON, July 3 - Canvass with us at the Burlington Waterfront Celebration!

 

TUES, July 4 - Canvass at a 4th of July Celebration near you!


WED, JULY 5 – Burlington Organizing Team Meeting

6:30 – 8 PM, 241 No. Winooski Ave., Champlain Senior Center, Burlington
Democracy Summer is Here! Join your neighbors to follow up on our Democracy Summer kickoff, debrief Al Dieng's City Council campaign and brainstorm our Democracy Summer events, Town Hall meetings, July 22 mass canvass, political trainings, and more.

 

SUN, JULY 9 - Movement Politics Training

10 AM – 3 PM, location TBD, Montpelier

To move from protest to power we need to get serious about impacting elections, either by running for office ourselves or support campaigns run by our allies in the movement.  If you'd like to join our first day long movement politics training, fill out this registration form.  We will then follow up with a phone interview before accepting applicants.


Yes, the Healthcare Bill is THAT Bad. Here's How We Stop It

After weeks of secretive work, the Senate GOP has released its "healthcare" plan and it's bad. Really, really bad.

In Vermont, 21,000 people could lose coverage in order to give 490 Vermont households earning more than $1 million a tax break of more than $41,000! Tens of thousands of other Vermonters will see premiums rise, and many Medicaid recipients could lose coverage, too.

20170621_123615.jpgWith no hearings and no input, GOP leaders now want to vote on this bill next week.

This is outrageous.

We need you to take a few minutes out and make some simple phone calls to Gov. Phil Scott and US Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders.

The Senate bill would cut $600-plus Billion from Medicaid nationally, and wield a devastating blow to our state's Medicaid system, which covers 206,000 people— including nearly half of all of Vermont's children.

To keep our promises to those residents—elderly, children, and low-income folks—Vermont will need to raise an additional $2 Billion over the next 10 years to maintain current coverage levels through our expanded Medicaid programs.

Here's how we can work to stop it.

First, call Republican Gov. Phil Scott to sign onto a bi-partisan letter of US governors who oppose the Senate plan and want to see a more collaborative process to improve the health of their residents and hold their state budgets harmless. Scott has a chance to be a national Republican leader, like other Vermont Republicans before him, but we need to let him know that we want him to act.

More than 3300 Vermonters have asked Scott to stand up for healthcare. Add your name to the list!

Then, call the offices of US Sen. Patrick Leahy and US Sen. Bernie Sanders and tell them to do everything they can to stop this bill from becoming law.
Let them know that we have their back to pull out the stops to halt this bill in its tracks.

Those numbers:

Gov. Phil Scott: (802) 828-3333

US Sen. Patrick Leahy: (800) 642-3193

US Sen. Bernie Sanders: (800) 339-9834

Yesterday, Rights & Democracy members, health care advocates and others likely impacted by Republican plans held a National Day of Action rally at the Vermont State House [click to watch our video].

It's time to stand together and fight back.

We'll keep you posted on upcoming actions, and in the meantime if you have a healthcare story that you want to share with our elected officials, tell us and we'll pass it along.



Vermonters Urge Gov. Scott: Put Healthcare First

20170621_123615.jpgThousands of Vermonters, including Rights & Democracy members, health care advocates and people potentially impacted by Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and radically cut Medicaid held a National Day of Action rally today at the Vermont State House.

Click to watch our event video on Facebook (or see the embedded video below)

Speakers included Rights & Democracy leader Mari Cordes, RN, Darren Allen, communications director of the Vermont NEA, Brenda Patioine, a Rights & Democracy leader and who receives healthcare due to the ACA, Teyve Kelman, a high school teacher and member of the Vermont Worker's Center, and Rev. Earl Kooperkamp of Vermont Interfaith Action.

Republican repeal proposals would cut healthcare from millions of a American families while giving $600 billion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations as part of a national day of action led by Health Care for American Now (HCAN) partners.

In Vermont, 21,000 people would lose coverage while 490 households with over $1 million get a tax break of more than $41,000.

Participants in today’s event called on Republican Gov. Phil Scott to urge his GOP colleagues to reject any bill that trades cuts to healthcare for families, including eliminating coverage, caps and block grants in Medicaid and increased costs for older people and people with pre-existing conditions for tax breaks that benefit the rich and corporations.

GOP Senators are expected to vote on a bill that closely resembles the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which House Republicans passed in May, before the end of June. The AHCA takes coverage away from 23 million people, increases costs for older people and people with pre-existing conditions, waters down coverage and ends Medicaid as we know it even for seniors, children and people with disabilities who had Medicaid before passage of ACA. The House passed AHCA would eliminate health coverage for millions to pay for tax cuts for millionaires.

In addition to tax breaks for wealthy individuals, the AHCA also includes $145 billion over ten years in tax breaks for big insurance companies and $25 billion over ten years in tax breaks for prescription drug companies.

The increased tax breaks for Insurance and prescription drug companies in the GOP proposals are particularly egregious given rising profits over the past several years. The eight biggest insurance companies increased profits by one-third from 2011 to 2015, rising from $19.1 billion to $25.3 billion. The average cost of brand name drugs widely used by older Americans for chronic conditions more than tripled between 2006 and 2015, climbing from $1,788 to $5,897 according to a recent report from AARP.

The AHCA is widely opposed by national organizations including AARP, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Council of Bishops, and the March of Dimes.  Recent polls confirm that voters also oppose this repeal by a 3 to 1 margin and is the single least popular piece of federal legislation in decades.


Thank You: Let Democracy Summer Begin!

Democracy_Summer.pngWow!

Thank you to everyone who showed up at our Democracy Summer launch—either live in Burlington or at one of nearly a dozen house parties around the state.

 

If you missed the event, the program is now archived and online.

The event kicked off with two incredible opening musical acts—Robin Shafto
and  The Leatherbound Books. From there, we learned more about RAD's Democracy Summer: From Protest to Power Town Halls and the issues that we're organizing around, as well as why RAD is dedicated to tackling so many interconnected issues at once. 

 

RAD's Outreach Director Jeffrey Ceasar emceed the event, introducing a wealth of talented speakers, including Brittany Nevins, RAD's Board Chair, James Haslam, RAD's Executive Director, author and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben, Shannon Jackson of Our Revolution, as well as RAD leaders Jessica Early, Dustin Tanner, Laura Mistretta, and Ali Dieng.

 

We want to give a very special thanks to our livestream hosts North End Studios & Channel 17/Town Meeting TV as well as our volunteer house party hosts and staff who were spread out across the state. We had House Parties in Bennington, Brattleboro, Bristol, Hancock, Middletown Springs, Montpelier, Plainfield, Putney, and Stowe.

 

This event allowed RAD to explain to newcomers why we believe in bringing people together to translate the energy from mass mobilizations like the Women's March into real and lasting change in our communities, our elections, and our legislature.

 

Despite a few successes this past legislative session, we have not yet seen the bold vision for progressive change we need in Vermont. We need to build a stronger movement to enact real and lasting change during the 2018 legislative session and the 2018 elections.

 

Learn how our summer Town Halls can build the power necessary to make that change happen. See you on the road this summer at a Town Hall near you! Stay tuned for a complete list of dates, towns, and locations on our Events page.

 

If you didn't make it to a House Party or the Burlington event, consider becoming a sustaining member of Rights & Democracy to help us power the movement.

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We have a lot of work to do before 2018 midterms, and this summer and fall we must organize, train, and mobilize people to be leaders in their local communities and run for office in the upcoming elections.  
Join us to organize together for the change our state and our world desperately need.


Join Us to Create the Bold Vision Vermont Needs

Join us this Friday, June 16th, for the launch of Democracy Summer: From Protest to Power, our statewide, Town Hall tour aimed at building the agenda and bold vision we want to see enacted in Vermont.

Screen_Shot_2017-05-31_at_9.16.43_PM.pngCelebrate with us in person if you’re in Burlington at North End Studios at 294 No. Winooski Avenue.

We'll start things off aat 6PM with some pre-launch festivities—including live music—and we'll update you about more upcoming RAD actions and events.

RAD members across the state are hosting kickoff house parties to bring people together to translate the energy from mass mobilizations like the Women's March into real and lasting change in our communities, our elections, and our legislature.

Find a House Party near you!

We currently have House Parties scheduled in Bennington, Brattleboro, Bristol, Middletown Springs, Montpelier, Plainfield, Putney, and Stowe, with more sites in the works.

Hear from
Bill McKibben, Shannon Jackson, the executive director of OurRevolution, as well as Rights & Democracy member leaders & staff who will speak about our work in movement politics as well as fighting for universal healthcare, economic justice, energy democracy, and more.

We had a few successes this past legislative session but, we have not yet seen the bold vision for progressive change we need in Vermont. We know that we need to build a stronger movement to enact real and lasting change during the 2018 legislative session and the 2018 elections.

Learn how our summer Town Halls can build the power necessary to make that change happen.

If you can’t make a House Party or the Burlington event, consider a donation to Rights & Democracy to help us power the movement.

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We have a lot of work to do: the October special legislative session to deal with federal budget cuts, the upcoming 2018 legislative session, as well elections on Town Meeting Day and the 2018 midterms.

This summer and fall we must organize, train, and mobilize people to be leaders in their local communities and run for office in the upcoming elections.  Join us to organize together for the change our state and our world desperately need.

Together We Win!


Who Stole the 2016 Elections?

Rights & Democracy is screening Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, an eye-opening documentary that exposes the people who rig our elections and how they suppress the vote.

RSVP here for the June 8th event!

Rolling Stone investigative reporter Greg Palast busted Jeb Bush for stealing the 2000 election by purging Black voters from Florida’s electoral rolls. Now Palast is back to take a deep dive into the Republicans’ dark operation, Crosscheck, the secret purge list that helped steal the 2016 Election.

The screening of this important film is a fundraiser for Rights & Democracy (RAD). Beyond working to boost turnout in elections, RAD keeps people engaged with, and involved in, their democracy throughout the year. RAD worked to pass same-day voter, and then automatic voter registration, to reduce the barriers to casting a ballot, and we support the public financing of elections.

Doors open at 6:30 PM, with the film screening happening from 7-9 PM. There's a suggested donation of $10 to attend the screening, though no one will be turned away.

This event is sponsored by Rights & Democracy VT and our good friends at Main Street Landing.

Follow RAD on Facebook and Twitter or visit our website for more updates.

Support our Work: Sign up as a contributing member of Rights & Democracy today!


Scott just vetoed the budget - fightback tomorrow!

 

Please join a statewide day of action tomorrow to tell Gov. Phil Scott that his veto of the state budget holds Vermont hostage at the expense of working Vermonters.

The budget passed by the Legislature invests in affordable housing, clean water, child care, and tackling the opioid crisis. Instead of signing that budget, however, Scott is choosing to play politics with local education, and using it as a way to pit Vermonters against each other.

Tell Gov. Scott that his budget veto sets up the false choice of either providing affordable health care benefits to public employees OR destroying the pact of workers’ rights to collectively bargain. We need to fight for both.

If Gov. Phil Scott is serious about saving healthcare dollars he would follow the principles of Act 48 and enact a single-payer, healthcare for all system. Until then, anything else is just a smokescreen for advancing a wrong-headed agenda that undermines the value of public servants.

Let’s be honest about Gov. Scott’s game plan. It’s a page out of the right-wing playbook that Gov. Scott Walker, a poster child for the Koch Brothers, used in Wisconsin to undermine public unions. Wouldn’t the Koch Brothers be ecstatic if they could erode, or eliminate, collective bargaining rights in “liberal” Vermont as well as undermine our efforts to move to universal healthcare?

Yes, they would.

Our teachers are asking that we show up at rallies around the state on Wednesday to stand in support of their hard-won right to collectively bargain for healthcare. 

Find a rally nearest to you and RSVP today. 

We cannot let Gov. Scott and his right-wing backers in Vermont take advantage of an invented crisis to undermine the rights of valued public servants.  And we need to let our lawmaker allies know that now is not the time to be fearful and retreat on our shared values.

Find your legislator(s) and leave them an email or, better yet, give them a call at home to ensure that they override Scott's ill-sighted budget veto.

And be sure to call Gov. Phil Scott’s office at (802) 828-3333 and let him know that you do NOT approve of his budget veto.

In Solidarity,

Rights & Democracy Team


Here is the full list of action sites around the state. Find which event is closest to you:
   

Barre   

Bellows Falls

Bennington

Brattleboro   

Burlington/South Burlington

Middlebury

Montpelier

Morrisville

Newport   

Randolph

Rutland

Shelburne   

Waterbury   

Winooski

Follow RAD on Facebook and Twitter or visit our website for more updates.

Support our Work: Sign up as a contributing member of Rights & Democracy today!

Rights and Democracy · 70 So Winooski Ave, #205, Burlington, VT 05401, United States 


Take Action Tuesday: Seeking Racial Justice in Vermont

One of the highlights of this year’s legislative session in Montpelier was the passage of the Racial Justice Reform Bill, which was finally signed into law on May 31.

 

In this Take Action Tuesday host Jeffrey Caesar, Outreach Director at Rights & Democracy. Jeffrey leads an important discussion with Ebony Nyoni of Black Lives Matter Vermont and Mark Hughes of Justice for All on seeking racial justice in Vermont.

 

Jeffrey, Ebony, and Mark talk about the potential impact of the racial justice legislation and the necessary steps to ensure its implementation, as well as updates regarding Black Lives Matter Vermont’s upcoming actions and events.

 

Listen to this call

 

The implementation of the racial justice reform bill will be important to track as it could provide a lifeline for people of color and marginalized communities, who are disproportionately stigmatized by the criminal justice system, which has become a vehicle for implicit and unconscious racial bias to take root.

 

Do not be mistaken by Vermont’s famed progressive predisposition: Racism and racial bias are alive and well in Vermont. It is not easy to live in Vermont as a person of color, as we are consistently profiled and targeted as we go about our day to day lives,” Jeffrey told lawmakers during testimony this session in support of the racial justice reform bill. “I have been followed and watched more times in stores Vermont than ever in my life.”

 

“Our public schools also hold disparagingly low employment and retention rates of faculty of color, and per capita we have nominal POC-owned and operated businesses,” he added. “This lack of diversity is a reflection of our communities and ultimately shapes how we are treated in person, in groups, and institutionally. Ironically while we are also made painfully aware that individually we stand out, we as a community are virtually.”

 

Listen to this important call and hear how you can help to call out bias in our community and hold people accountable - including yourself.

 

Support our Work: Sign up as a contributing member of Rights & Democracy today!


Take Action Tuesday: Democracy Summer

Let’s face it, the 2017 legislative session in Vermont lacked both a rejection of the Trump agenda and a bold vision for the state we seek to build.

 

We had a few successes—Racial Justice Reform, PTSD coverage for first responders, Paid Family Leave passing the House— but, we have not yet seen the bold vision for progressive change we need.

 

It is time to turn up the heat.

 

This summer, Rights & Democracy will host Town Halls throughout the state as we reclaim our political power to create real and lasting change on issues such as universal healthcare, energy democracy, economic justice, and much more.

 

Learn more about Democracy from our Take Action Tuesday webinar.

 

Rights & Democracy will launch this important summer campaign with a kickoff event on Friday, June 16th from 7–7:30PM.

 

Join us in person if you’re in Burlington: Stop by the North End Studios at 294 No. Winooski Ave. at 6 PM for some pre-launch festivities.

 

– OR –

 

Stream the event from your home and invite your friends and neighbors to watch.

 

RAD members across the state are hosting kickoff house parties to bring people together to translate the energy from mass mobilizations like the Women's March into real and lasting change in our communities, our elections, and our legislature.

 

If you’re interested in hosting a Democracy Summer Kickoff House Party, fill out this form.

 

When we receive your RSVP, we will provide you with a House Party "toolkit” to help you organize your event. Once you provide your event details, we will post the event on our website so that you can invite your friends and neighbors, as well as share via social media.

 

We have a lot of work to do: the October special legislative session to deal with federal budget cuts, the upcoming 2018 legislative session, as well elections on Town Meeting Day and the 2018 midterms.

 

This summer and fall we must organize, train, and mobilize people to be leaders in their local communities and run for office in the upcoming elections.  Join us to organize together for the change our state and our world desperately need.


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