AIDS Advocates Question Healthcare and Spending Cuts

Diana Scholl

The stalemate on health reform and proposed cuts to social programs in the federal budget have AIDS advocates concerned about the Administration's commitment.

This article was originally published at HousingWorks.org and is published here with permission from the author.

Many AIDS advocates are expressing concern about President
Barack Obama’s commitment to combating the epidemic, on the heels of a State of
the Union that downplayed the urgency of federal healthcare reform and
proposed freezing much government discretionary spending.

While
Obama pushed for the passage of healthcare reform, the ask was buried 31
minutes into his speech. That timing felt ominous, given that on Wednesday
Nancy Pelosi suggested passing healthcare reform in pieces. There
has been some talk of only passing the popular parts of healthcare reform,
such as regulations on the private insurance industry. But AIDS advocates say
that would be horrendous news for people with AIDS and other disenfranchised
people.

"We’re not the popular provisions," said Robert Greenwald,
executive director of the Treatment Access Expansion Project. "There’s no
question that this comprehensive package is the best we’ve seen in 50 years. We
need to remove barriers to Medicaid and Medicare. I don’t think many of those
things will happen if what we just see is incremental reform."

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Christine Campbell, Vice President for National Advocacy and
Organizing at Housing Works agreed. "The majority of this bill takes us
strides above where we are. Democrats and Republicans in Congress just need to
do their jobs."

People with AIDS in the United States are poorer than the
general population and also less likely to have adequate health care.
Forty-five percent of people with HIV/AIDS in the United States have incomes
under $10,000 a year, and 50 percent lack regular medical coverage. The
situation is even more dire for people with hepatitis C, who aren’t co-infected
don’t have access to the Ryan White CARE Act safety net.

Campbell and AIDS advocates are recommending the House pass the
Senate version of the bill, as imperfect as it is. The Senate bill doesn’t
include a public option so people who purchase healthcare must go through an
insurance company. The Senate version also includes a provision to appease
anti-abortion supporters that would require people to purchase specific
abortion-only coverage separately from their regular premiums.

Gregg Gonsalves,
a longtime AIDS activist who has been critical of Obama’s policies, said that even
though he thinks there are parts of the Senate healthcare reform bill that
"stink", he thinks it should still be passed.

"The bill is terrible compared to what it could be but it’s
better than nothing basically," Gonsalves said. "I think they should pass this
with a reconciliation fix."

Gonsalves expressed concerned with Obama’s commitment to the
issue. "He said we can’t give up healthcare now. But he’s taken the backseat."

The HIV
Healthcare Access Group sent a letter to
House leadership calling on them to pass healthcare reform that includes a
largely federally funded expansion of Medicaid to low income individuals; an
exchange or regulated marketplace for the uninsured and the under-insured to
purchase health insurance; generous subsidies to make coverage affordable for
those who need it; stricter regulations that govern the private market
preventing discrimination; an investment in reorienting our health system to
focus on prevention and public health and critical measures to address primary
care and public health medical workforce shortages.

Discretionary
spending

Another
problematic part of Obama’s agenda was his call for a three-year freeze in
spending that wasn’t related to national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and
Social Security. A freeze could impact housing, federal aid, health care and
other programs essential to poor people with HIV/AIDS, and other disenfranchised
people.

"This is a hare-brained idea," Gonsalves said. "Obama’s throwing
a bone at Kent Conrad on the backs of poor people."

Although Obama mentioned global AIDS in his State of the Union
Address in the context of U.S.‘s global commitment, he has already essentially
flatfunded global AIDS spending, even though Congress authorized $50 billion
for PEPFAR over five years.

A rally was organized by Health GAP Wednesday near the White
House calling on Obama to rethink this proposal, as well as a Campaign to End
AIDS-organized phone zap of the White House.

After some listserv chatter questioning whether a protest was
necessary, Housing Works President and CEO Charles King defended the
"preemptive strike," saying, "The truth is that the Obama administration is
already not delivering on global AIDS and we have no idea whatsoever what their
intentions are on the domestic front. They have done a good job of collecting
information and making people feel like they have been heard. We still don’t know
that they have been really listening, and we probably won’t know until the
budget is out."

Although some advocates speculated there may be some efforts to
shield HIV/AIDS programs from some of the cuts, broader hits to the
social
services will be devastating both to people with HIV as well.

"There may be some efforts to carve out HIV from the freeze,"
said David Munar, vice president for policy and communications at AIDS
Foundation of Chicago. "But any cuts to health and human services programs, be
it Head Start or cuts to the CDC budget, will be harmful for people with HIV."

News Family Planning

Judge Thwarts Ohio GOP’s Attack on Planned Parenthood Funding

Michelle D. Anderson

“This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care—this law would have made a bad situation worse,” said Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.

An effort to defund Ohio Planned Parenthood affiliates by Gov. John Kasich (R) and the Republican-held legislature has come to an end.

Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio on Friday ruled in Planned Parenthood’s favor, granting a permanent injunction on an anti-choice state law.

The court ruling will keep Richard Hodges, the Ohio Department of Health director, from enforcing HB 294.

The 2015 law, sponsored by Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Butler County), would have redirected $1.3 million in state and federal taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood’s 28 clinics in Ohio.

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The law would have required the state department to keep federal funds and materials that the health department receives from being distributed to entities that perform or promote non-therapeutic abortions, or maintain affiliation with any entity that does.

Funding that would’ve been cut off from the state health department went to the Violence Against Women and Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention acts, the Infertility Prevention Project, Minority HIV/AIDS and Infant Mortality Reduction initiatives, and the Personal Responsibility Education Program.

Planned Parenthood in a lawsuit argued that the Republican legislation violated the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Barrett had temporarily blocked the law after Planned Parenthood affiliates filed the lawsuit and requested a preliminary injunction. The judge had issued an opinion contending that some legislators passed the law to make it difficult for people to access abortion care, as Rewire reported.

Iris E. Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, praised the judge’s temporary order.

“This law would have been especially burdensome to communities of color and people with low income who already often have the least access to care—this law would have made a bad situation worse,” Harvey said in a statement.

Kellie Copeland, NARAL Pro Choice Ohio’s executive director, said in a statement that the Ohio legislature passed the anti-choice measure in an effort to appeal to conservative voters in early primary states during Kasich’s presidential campaign.

Copeland said that while the legislation made no effort to reduce the number of abortions performed, “it actively blocked critical health care for low-income women and families.”

Planned Parenthood said those services included 70,000 free STD screenings, thousands of HIV tests for at-risk community residents, and the largest infant mortality prevention program in the state.

In the 23-page court order and opinion, Barrett, an appointee of President George W. Bush, acknowledged that the law would have deterred “patients from seeking these potentially life-saving services.”

Planned Parenthood noted that the recent ruling in Ohio makes it among the ten states where courts have blocked anti-choice laws following June’s landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Clinton Criticizes Trump’s Child-Care Proposal in Economic Speech

Ally Boguhn

Hillary Clinton may be wooing Republicans alienated by Trump, but she's also laying out economic policies that could shore up her progressive base. Meanwhile, Trump's comments about "Second Amendment people" stopping Hillary Clinton judicial appointments were roundly condemned.

Hillary Clinton may be courting Republicans, but that didn’t stop her from embracing progressive economic policies and criticizing her opponent’s child-care plan this week, and Donald Trump suggested there could be a way for “Second Amendment people” to deal with his rival’s judicial appointments should she be elected.

Clinton Blasts Trump’s Child-Care Proposal, Embraces Progressive Policies in Economic Speech

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took aim at Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recently announced proposal to make the average cost of child care fully deductible during her own economic address Thursday in Michigan.

“We know that women are now the sole or primary breadwinner in a growing number of families. We know more Americans are cobbling together part-time work, or striking out on their own. So we have to make it easier to be good workers, good parents, and good caregivers, all at the same time,” Clinton said before pivoting to address her opponent’s plan. “That’s why I’ve set out a bold vision to make quality, affordable child care available to all Americans and limit costs to 10 percent of family income.”

“Previously, [Trump] dismissed concerns about child care,” Clinton told the crowd. “He said it was, quote, ‘not an expensive thing’ because you just need some blocks and some swings.”

“He would give wealthy families 30 or 40 cents on the dollar for their nannies, and little or nothing for millions of hard-working families trying to afford child care so they can get to work and keep the job,” she continued.

Trump’s child-care proposal has been criticized by economic and family policy experts who say his proposed deductions for the “average” cost of child care would do little to help low- and middle-wage earners and would instead advantage the wealthy. Though the details of his plan are slim, the Republican nominee’s campaign has claimed it would also allow “parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes.” Experts, however, told CNN doing so would be difficult to administer.

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Clinton provided a different way to cut family child-care costs: “I think instead we should expand the Child Tax Credit to provide real relief to tens of millions of working families struggling with the cost of raising children,” Clinton said in Michigan on Thursday. “The same families [Donald Trump’s] plan ignores.”

Clinton also voiced her support for several progressive policy positions in her speech, despite a recent push to feature notable Republicans who now support her in her campaign.

“In her first major economic address since her campaign began actively courting the Republicans turned off by Donald Trump, Clinton made no major pivot to the ideological center,” noted NBC News in a Thursday report on the speech. “Instead, Clinton reiterated several of the policy positions she adopted during her primary fight against Bernie Sanders, even while making a direct appeal to Independent voters and Republicans.”

Those positions included raising the minimum wage, opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, advocating for equal pay and paid family leave, and supporting a public health insurance option.

“Today’s speech shows that getting some Republicans to say Donald Trump is unfit to be president is not mutually exclusive with Clinton running on bold progressives ideas like debt-free college, expanding Social Security benefits and Wall Street reform,” said Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in a statement to NBC.

Donald Trump: Could “Second Amendment People” Stop Clinton Supreme Court Picks?

Donald Trump suggested that those who support gun ownership rights may be able to stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing judges to the Supreme Court should she be elected.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told a crowd of supporters during a Tuesday rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. “By the way … if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.” 

Trump campaign spokesperson Jason Miller later criticized the “dishonest media” for reporting on Trump’s comments and glossed over any criticism of the candidate in a statement posted to the campaign’s website Tuesday. “It’s called the power of unification―Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” said Miller. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”

“This is simple—what Trump is saying is dangerous,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, in a statement responding to the Republican nominee’s suggestion. “A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”

Gun safety advocates and liberal groups swiftly denounced Trump’s comments as violent and inappropriate for a presidential candidate.

“This is just the latest example of Trump inciting violence at his rallies—and one that belies his fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Amendment, which should be an affront to the vast majority of responsible gun owners in America,” Erika Soto Lamb, chief communications officer of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a Tuesday statement. “He’s unfit to be president.”

Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, also said in a Tuesday press release, “There has been no shortage of inexcusable rhetoric from Trump, but suggesting gun violence is truly abhorrent. There is no place in our public discourse for this kind of statement, especially from someone seeking the nation’s highest office.”

Trump’s comments engaged in something called “stochastic terrorism,” according to David Cohen, an associate professor at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law, in a Tuesday article for Rolling Stone.

“Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication ‘to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable,’” said Cohen. “Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn’t know which dog.”

“Those of us who work against anti-abortion violence unfortunately know all about this,” Cohen continued, pointing to an article from Valerie Tarico in which she describes a similar pattern of violent rhetoric leading up to the murders that took place at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

What Else We’re Reading

Though Trump has previously claimed he offered on-site child-care services for his employees, there is no record of such a program, the Associated Press reports.

History News Network attempted to track down how many historians support Trump. They only found five (besides Newt Gingrich).

In an article questioning whether Trump will energize the Latino voting bloc, Sergio Bustos and Nicholas Riccardi reported for the Associated Press: “Many Hispanic families have an immense personal stake in what happens on Election Day, but despite population numbers that should mean political power, Hispanics often can’t vote, aren’t registered to vote, or simply choose to sit out.”

A pair of physicians made the case for why Gov. Mike Pence “is radically anti-public health,” citing the Republican vice presidential candidate’s “policies on tobacco, women’s health and LGBTQ rights” in a blog for the Huffington Post.

Ivanka Trump has tried to act as a champion for woman-friendly workplace policies, but “the company that designs her clothing line, including the $157 sheath she wore during her [Republican National Convention] speech, does not offer workers a single day of paid maternity leave,” reported the Washington Post.

The chair of the American Nazi Party claimed a Trump presidency would be “a real opportunity” for white nationalists.

NPR analyzed how Clinton and Trump might take on the issue of campus sexual assault.

Rewire’s own editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, explained in a Thursday commentary how Trump’s comments are just the latest example of Republicans’ use of violent rhetoric and intimidation in order to gain power.

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