Roundup: Employer-based Health Care Options Diminishing As Senate Dithers

Jodi Jacobson

Even as opponents of health reform use the specter of "losing your employer-based coverage" under a public option, many busineses are in fact planning to cut coverage without any health reform in place. Meanwhile, after months of closed door meetings the Senate Finance committee releases a bill with not one Republican co-sponsor. And Operation Rescue tells its supporters it is "broke."

Employer-based Health Care Options Diminishing As Senate Dithers

Even as opponents of health reform use the specter of "losing your employer-based coverage" under a public option, many busineses are in fact plannig to cut coverage without any health reform in place.

A survey, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and
Educational Trust, has found that as businesses contend with rising costs, many workers face an erosion
of health benefits next year.

As reported by the Washington Post:

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  • Forty percent of employers surveyed said they are likely to increase
    the amount their workers pay out of pocket for doctor visits.

  • Almost as
    many said they are likely to raise annual deductibles and the amount
    workers pay for prescription drugs.

  • Nine percent said they plan to tighten eligibility for health
    benefits.

  • Eight percent said they plan to drop coverage entirely.

  • Forty-one
    percent of employers said they are "somewhat" or "very" likely to
    increase the amount employees pay in premiums — though that would not
    necessarily mean employees would pay a higher percentage of the
    premiums. Employers could simply be passing along the same share of the
    overall increase that they are doing this year.

 

The authors of the study said the findings underscore the need for federal action to rein in costs.

"Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option," said Antonio M.
Perez, chief executive of Eastman Kodak and a leader of the Business
Roundtable. "These costs are unsustainable and would put millions of
workers at risk," Perez said in a statement.

Meanwhile, despite months of closed-door negotations to reach the ever-elusive "bipartisan compromise," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus today released a bill with not one Republican Senator on board.

The Wall Street Journal reports that:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus formally unveiled a
10-year $856 billion bill that would extend health insurance to tens of
millions of Americans not now covered, moving an important step forward
on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

The sweeping measure is designed "to steer a more moderate course on
health policy" than other major bills and does not include a public option or "a new government insurance plan to compete
with private insurers, as proposed in rival House legislation and
favored by many liberals."

Instead, the Montana Democrat is proposing to
expand coverage by creating a network of nonprofit health-insurance
cooperatives. The cooperatives would be seeded with $6 billion in
federal money, enough to cover start-up costs and meet insurance
solvency requirements.

More than a year in the making,

the bill would overhaul the nation’s
health-care system and has sparked a sharp battle between Republican
leaders and the White House over the size and role of government in the
nation’s economy. (Read the full text of the Baucus plan.)

The bill was swiftly denounced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell.

Surprising?

Still….Baucus soldiers on:

Mr. Baucus has hoped to win over Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe of
Maine, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, arguing a
bipartisan bill has the best chance of ensuring passage on the Senate
floor. For now, the senator is pressing forward with his own bill. He
still has hopes of winning bipartisan support, either in committee next
week or on the floor next month.

At first glance, the bill appears to mimic the Capps Amendments provisions for ensuring continued private coverage of abortion care where federal subsidies are involved [come back for more on this later].

Operation Rescue on the verge of bankruptcy

In what may be the best news for American women so far this year, the Associated Press reports that Operation Rescue is broke.

Operation Rescue has told its supporters that it is very close to shutting down unless emergency help arrives soon.

A desperate plea e-mailed Monday night to donors said the anti-abortion group is facing a major financial crisis.

Operation
Rescue President Troy Newman blames the economic downturn. But the
Wichita-based organization also has been under attack from both
anti-abortion militants and abortion rights supporters since the May 31
shooting death of Dr. George Tiller.

Newman told The Associated
Press that the group has four paid employees left, compared to nine a
year ago. Donations this year are down 30 to 40 percent. Newman says he
hasn’t been paid in two months.

The National Partnership for Women and Families provides additional sources:

The Kansas-based antiabortion-rights group Operation Rescue
is nearly out of money after fundraising took a significant hit during
the economic recession, Troy Newman, the group’s president, said in a
recent letter to supporters, the Kansas City Star
reports. The letter is a plea to supporters for financial contributions
in what Newman calls "the worst financial crisis we’ve ever faced." He
added that the economic recession "has brought our financial support to
nearly a halt." The summer of 2009 "has been brutal for Operation
Rescue," Newman wrote in the letter, noting that the murder of Kansas
abortion provider George Tiller threw "everybody in the pro-life
movement for a loop" (Kansas City Star, 9/15). Newman
wrote in the letter that the group is "now so broke (as the saying
goes), we can’t even pay attention." According to the AP/Yahoo! News, Scott Roeder, the man who faces charges for the murder, allegedly had ties to Operation Rescue (Hegeman, AP/Yahoo! News, 9/15).

Other News:

September 16

American Spectator: Life Lynched

SF Examiner: Killing of abortion foe should change how sides are viewed

The Nation: Family planning edu at schools, varsities

Catholic Exchange: Vicious, Venal and Violent

Corporeality.net: ‘Virtue, Vice, and Contraband: A History of Contraception in America’

Click Green: Condoms are the cheapest way to combat climate change

Hi-Desert Star: Letter: What is substance of debate?

Daily Mail: Abortions pose a risk to future babies, says study

Island Packet: Letter: Why pro-life movement is seen as fringe element

WorldNetDaily: Pro-life martyr Jim Pouillon

Washington Examiner: Jay Ambrose: Murder is murder, and so is abortion

AP: Kansas: Anti-Abortion Struggles

Guardian: Abortions may pose risk to future babies, according to study

SEPTEMBER 15

Houston Chronicle: Obama Says ‘No Money For Abortion’

New American: Obama’s EEOC Attacks School’s Religious Liberty

WaPo: Health Secretary: Communion Controversy Over Abortion "Painful"

Mansfield News-Journal: LETTER: Letter writer using bad information about abortion

Statesman: Webber: Don’t dumb down Texas

AP: Operation Rescue says it’s broke, may shut down

USA Today: Clergy focus on ethics of health overhaul

LifeNews: Baucus Health Care Bill Draws Initial Opposition, Abortion Funding Ban Needed

AP: Slain Michigan protester to receive public goodbye

AP: Family of Mich. shooting suspect cites depression

Christian NewsWire: Another Ex-Abortion Worker Comes Forward to Allege Illegal Acts by Carhart

LifeNews: Pro-Life Advocates With Disabled Children Worried by Health Care Bills’ Rationing

LifeNews: Poll Shows Support for Pro-Abortion Health Care Bill Falling After Obama Speech

Feminists for Choice: Where is the Pro-Choice Platform Obama Promised?

 

Culture & Conversation Human Rights

Let’s Stop Conflating Self-Care and Actual Care

Katie Klabusich

It's time for a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities.

As a chronically ill, chronically poor person, I have feelings about when, why, and how the phrase “self-care” is invoked. When International Self-Care Day came to my attention, I realized that while I laud the effort to prevent some of the 16 million people the World Health Organization reports die prematurely every year from noncommunicable diseases, the American notion of self-care—ironically—needs some work.

I propose a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities. How we think about what constitutes vital versus optional care affects whether/when we do those things we should for our health and well-being. Some of what we have come to designate as self-care—getting sufficient sleep, treating chronic illness, allowing ourselves needed sick days—shouldn’t be seen as optional; our culture should prioritize these things rather than praising us when we scrape by without them.

International Self-Care Day began in China, and it has spread over the past few years to include other countries and an effort seeking official recognition at the United Nations of July 24 (get it? 7/24: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as an important advocacy day. The online academic journal SelfCare calls its namesake “a very broad concept” that by definition varies from person to person.

“Self-care means different things to different people: to the person with a headache it might mean a buying a tablet, but to the person with a chronic illness it can mean every element of self-management that takes place outside the doctor’s office,” according to SelfCare. “[I]n the broadest sense of the term, self-care is a philosophy that transcends national boundaries and the healthcare systems which they contain.”

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In short, self-care was never intended to be the health version of duct tape—a way to patch ourselves up when we’re in pieces from the outrageous demands of our work-centric society. It’s supposed to be part of our preventive care plan alongside working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and/or other activities that are important for our personalized needs.

The notion of self-care has gotten a recent visibility boost as those of us who work in human rights and/or are activists encourage each other publicly to recharge. Most of the people I know who remind themselves and those in our movements to take time off do so to combat the productivity anxiety embedded in our work. We’re underpaid and overworked, but still feel guilty taking a break or, worse, spending money on ourselves when it could go to something movement- or bill-related.

The guilt is intensified by our capitalist system having infected the self-care philosophy, much as it seems to have infected everything else. Our bootstrap, do-it-yourself culture demands we work to the point of exhaustion—some of us because it’s the only way to almost make ends meet and others because putting work/career first is expected and applauded. Our previous president called it “uniquely American” that someone at his Omaha, Nebraska, event promoting “reform” of (aka cuts to) Social Security worked three jobs.

“Uniquely American, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)”

The audience was applauding working hours that are disastrous for health and well-being, laughing at sleep as though our bodies don’t require it to function properly. Bush actually nailed it: Throughout our country, we hold Who Worked the Most Hours This Week competitions and attempt to one-up the people at the coffee shop, bar, gym, or book club with what we accomplished. We have reached a point where we consider getting more than five or six hours of sleep a night to be “self-care” even though it should simply be part of regular care.

Most of us know intuitively that, in general, we don’t take good enough care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t something that just happened; it’s a function of our work culture. Don’t let the statistic that we work on average 34.4 hours per week fool you—that includes people working part time by choice or necessity, which distorts the reality for those of us who work full time. (Full time is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as 30 or more hours per week.) Gallup’s annual Work and Education Survey conducted in 2014 found that 39 percent of us work 50 or more hours per week. Only 8 percent of us on average work less than 40 hours per week. Millennials are projected to enjoy a lifetime of multiple jobs or a full-time job with one or more side hustles via the “gig economy.”

Despite worker productivity skyrocketing during the past 40 years, we don’t work fewer hours or make more money once cost of living is factored in. As Gillian White outlined at the Atlantic last year, despite politicians and “job creators” blaming financial crises for wage stagnation, it’s more about priorities:

Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

It’s no wonder we don’t sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been sounding the alarm for some time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between 18 and 60 years old get seven or more hours sleep each night “to promote optimal health and well-being.” The CDC website has an entire section under the heading “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem,” outlining statistics and negative outcomes from our inability to find time to tend to this most basic need.

We also don’t get to the doctor when we should for preventive care. Roughly half of us, according to the CDC, never visit a primary care or family physician for an annual check-up. We go in when we are sick, but not to have screenings and discuss a basic wellness plan. And rarely do those of us who do go tell our doctors about all of our symptoms.

I recently had my first really wonderful check-up with a new primary care physician who made a point of asking about all the “little things” leading her to encourage me to consider further diagnosis for fibromyalgia. I started crying in her office, relieved that someone had finally listened and at the idea that my headaches, difficulty sleeping, recovering from illness, exhaustion, and pain might have an actual source.

Considering our deeply-ingrained priority problems, it’s no wonder that when I post on social media that I’ve taken a sick day—a concept I’ve struggled with after 20 years of working multiple jobs, often more than 80 hours a week trying to make ends meet—people applaud me for “doing self-care.” Calling my sick day “self-care” tells me that the commenter sees my post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as something I could work through if I so chose, amplifying the stigma I’m pushing back on by owning that a mental illness is an appropriate reason to take off work. And it’s not the commenter’s fault; the notion that working constantly is a virtue is so pervasive, it affects all of us.

Things in addition to sick days and sleep that I’ve had to learn are not engaging in self-care: going to the doctor, eating, taking my meds, going to therapy, turning off my computer after a 12-hour day, drinking enough water, writing, and traveling for work. Because it’s so important, I’m going to say it separately: Preventive health care—Pap smears, check-ups, cancer screenings, follow-ups—is not self-care. We do extras and nice things for ourselves to prevent burnout, not as bandaids to put ourselves back together when we break down. You can’t bandaid over skipping doctors appointments, not sleeping, and working your body until it’s a breath away from collapsing. If you’re already at that point, you need straight-up care.

Plenty of activities are self-care! My absolutely not comprehensive personal list includes: brunch with friends, adult coloring (especially the swear word books and glitter pens), soy wax with essential oils, painting my toenails, reading a book that’s not for review, a glass of wine with dinner, ice cream, spending time outside, last-minute dinner with my boyfriend, the puzzle app on my iPad, Netflix, participating in Caturday, and alone time.

My someday self-care wish list includes things like vacation, concerts, the theater, regular massages, visiting my nieces, decent wine, the occasional dinner out, and so very, very many books. A lot of what constitutes self-care is rather expensive (think weekly pedicures, spa days, and hobbies with gear and/or outfit requirements)—which leads to the privilege of getting to call any part of one’s routine self-care in the first place.

It would serve us well to consciously add an intersectional view to our enthusiasm for self-care when encouraging others to engage in activities that may be out of reach financially, may disregard disability, or may not be right for them for a variety of other reasons, including compounded oppression and violence, which affects women of color differently.

Over the past year I’ve noticed a spike in articles on how much of the emotional labor burden women carry—at the Toast, the Atlantic, Slate, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post. This category of labor disproportionately affects women of color. As Minaa B described at the Huffington Post last month:

I hear the term self-care a lot and often it is defined as practicing yoga, journaling, speaking positive affirmations and meditation. I agree that those are successful and inspiring forms of self-care, but what we often don’t hear people talking about is self-care at the intersection of race and trauma, social justice and most importantly, the unawareness of repressed emotional issues that make us victims of our past.

The often-quoted Audre Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

While her words ring true for me, they are certainly more weighted and applicable for those who don’t share my white and cisgender privilege. As covered at Ravishly, the Feminist Wire, Blavity, the Root, and the Crunk Feminist Collective recently, self-care for Black women will always have different expressions and roots than for white women.

But as we continue to talk about self-care, we need to be clear about the difference between self-care and actual care and work to bring the necessities of life within reach for everyone. Actual care should not have to be optional. It should be a priority in our culture so that it can be a priority in all our lives.

News Politics

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resigns as Chair of DNC, Will Not Gavel in Convention

Ally Boguhn

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) resigned her position as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), effective after the convention, amid controversy over leaked internal party emails and months of criticism over her handling of the Democratic primary races.

Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel on Monday that she would not gavel in this week’s convention, according to Politico.

“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a Sunday statement announcing her decision. “Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.”

“We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” Wasserman Schultz continued.

Just prior to news that Wasserman Schultz would step down, it was announced that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) would chair the DNC convention.

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

Wasserman Schultz’s resignation comes after WikiLeaks released more than 19,000 internal emails from the DNC, breathing new life into arguments that the Democratic Party—and Wasserman Schultz in particular—had “rigged” the primary in favor of nominating Hillary Clinton. As Vox‘s Timothy B. Lee pointed out, there seems to be “no bombshells” in the released emails, though one email does show that Brad Marshall, chief financial officer of the DNC, emailed asking whether an unnamed person could be questioned about “his” religious beliefs. Many believe the email was referencing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT).

Another email from Wasserman Schultz revealed the DNC chair had referred to Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, as a “damn liar.”

As previously reported by Rewire before the emails’ release, “Wasserman Schultz has been at the center of a string of heated criticisms directed at her handling of the DNC as well as allegations that she initially limited the number of the party’s primary debates, steadfastly refusing to add more until she came under pressure.” She also sparked controversy in January after suggesting that young women aren’t supporting Clinton because there is “a complacency among the generation” who were born after Roe v. Wade was decided.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party,” said Sanders in a Sunday statement. “While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people. The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”

Sanders had previously demanded Wasserman Schultz’s resignation in light of the leaked emails during an appearance earlier that day on ABC’s This Week.

Clinton nevertheless stood by Wasserman Schultz in a Sunday statement responding to news of the resignation. “I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership,” said Clinton. “There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie—which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”

Clinton added that she still looks “forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid.” Wasserman Schultz faces a primary challenger, Tim Canova, for her congressional seat in Florida’s 23rd district for the first time this year.