Category Archives: Front Page

Joint Employer Rule Moves DOL Backwards

Joint Employer Rule Moves DOL Backwards

Elisa McCartin
August 23, 2019

The Trump administration has announced many harmful rules changes in the last several months, including Joint Employer rule change explained below. This blog follows our previous blog about the Trump administration’s proposal to re-define the poverty line. Read that blog here.

Proposed Joint Employer Rule Change

On June 25, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) closed its commenting period on a proposed rule that would alter Section 791 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs joint employer liability. The proposed rule would create a four question standard to determine if one is legally considered a joint employer and is liable for their employees, making it dramatically more difficult to hold putative employers accountable.

In its current form, the FSLA stipulates that employers must be “not completely disassociated” in order to be considered joint employers who share liability of an employee. The DOL’s plan is to update this criteria based on a Court of Appeals case Bonnette vs. California Health and Welfare Agency (1982), to include a higher standard that requires employers to share direct control over an employee in order to be considered liable. Under this standard, to be considered a joint employer, one must have the power to 1) hire or fire the employee 2) supervise and control the works schedule of conditions of employment 3) determine the employee’s rate and method of payment and 4) maintain the worker’s employment record. In 2015, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled in the case Browning-Ferris Industries of California vs. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that indirect control of an employee is sufficient to qualify someone as a joint employer. Despite this more recent precedent, the Trump Administration is trying to revert back to this outdated legal framework from the 1982 Bonnette case.

By adopting this higher standard, the DOL would make it nearly impossible to prove that a putative employer should be considered a joint employer and thus held accountable for their employee’s treatment. American workers in contract labor positions often work under the jurisdiction of someone who does not directly control the terms of their employment, but oversees their daily activities and work environment. Holding people in these positions accountable for workplace conditions, treatment and environment of the people working under them would become extremely difficult to litigate against if the DOL goes through with the proposed change. Unjust conditions such as organizing restrictions, discrimination, and harassment would all essentially become state-sanctioned. Moreover, collective bargaining would become obsolete, as only employers are legally required to allow workers to bargain. As a result, this rule change has the potential to radically shift work-place power dynamics more heavily in favor of employers at the expense of employees’ rights and protections.

Every person has the right to work in a safe and nurturing work environment. By making harder to prove that putative employers should be considered joint employers, it will be increasingly difficult to ensure employees work in fair conditions. Pope Francis reminds us that we must create moral and ethical economies which protect workers and our environment. The DOL’s proposal only further elevates the managerial class at the expense of workers, who deserve equal protections and enforcement by the government. We cannot operate businesses in good faith without ensuring there are strong mechanisms in place to protect employees.

This proposed rule change represents the Trump administration’s continued efforts to chip away at worker protections and undermine the working class. At NETWORK, we recognize the dignity of all workers. We acknowledge the gross injustices at hand in the American workforce. We will continue to stand in solidarity with workers and organized labor to put an end to the rampant injustice that further weakens the most vulnerable and powerless in our society.

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Elisa McCartin is a NETWORK volunteer and student at Georgetown University. 

We Are Truly One Body

We Are Truly One Body

Economic Interdependence Shows the Depth of Our Connection to One Another
Sister Simone Campbell
August 22, 2019

One of my favorite spiritual realities is that we are the body of God. All of us together make up the image of the Divine. We have different parts to play in the body, but we all serve in order to allow the other parts to function fully.

This image came to mind as I was at one of our rural roundtable listening sessions. Folks were talking about the challenge of being a farmer and only getting income once or twice a year when you sell your crops. This means that (unless you have other income) you have to stretch that money across the whole year. Dairy farmers around the table spoke up and said that in the dairy business they are paid more regularly because they sell their milk every day. For them, however, the challenge is that milk prices are so low that it is almost impossible to stay in business. The way the dairy farmers talked, it was faithfulness to their cattle that kept them going.

These farmers told us one of the big deterrents to family farms is the fact that many bills, like healthcare premiums, come on a monthly basis. This system is designed to work for salaried employees but not farmers.

I began to see that other businesses in farming communities then have different business models depending on how well the crops do on the market or the price of milk. Farming communities live, by necessity, in an interdependent economy of which I as a life-long “city person” was unaware.

As the conversation continued, I realized the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an essential boost to rural economies. When families receive their tax returns, they can make purchases at local businesses that they would not otherwise be able to afford. This boosts the local economy and supports families.

It is this interrelationship that makes me know the living, breathing reality that we are one body. We are profoundly connected both economically and socially. The Earned Income Tax Credit, and the ways we organize our tax code, are one specific instance where we can see this interdependence.

This same reality of community interdependence exists in our nation’s urban areas, but it is more difficult to see because of the size of the economy. In areas with larger economies, the EITC’s impact for the families that receive it is significant, but businesses are less likely to notice a distinct impact. Still, the impact is there.

However, while the Earned Income Tax Credit aims to supplement low-wage earners’ income and succeeds on many counts, there are some gaping holes in the system. The EITC as it is currently designed leaves out childless adults as well as people who earn less than $3,000 in a year from salaried employment. Those who fall into these categories and are left out are struggling mightily to thrive and flourish in our nation. AND small businesses in their communities are struggling too. This is how we are “one body” in our nation. We are interconnected.

For this reason, we at NETWORK believe we must expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. Doing so will benefit families and entire communities. The benefit is felt most directly in rural communities, but it is also true in cities and suburban neighborhoods. We are connected in this one body.

Therefore, we are working with partner organizations, Members of Congress, our NETWORK members, and advocates across the country to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits to benefit families who are working but still not getting by in our nation. We are advocating for a tax policy that does a better job of helping the households and communities most in need. The one, interconnected body of our nation requires everyone to flourish for our nation to succeed. Federal policy should ensure that all of our families can live in dignity. Expanding the EITC would be one more step towards meeting our communal duty to our neighbors.

This communal duty is at the heart of the Gospel call to love one another. Oh one body, let us respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers and make this change for the common good.


This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

Putting More Money in the Pockets of Working Families

Putting More Money in the Pockets of Working Families

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown
August 21, 2019

People in the United States are working harder than ever before to make ends meet. But the cost of everything – from childcare to prescription drugs to a college education – is up, while wages are largely flat.

That’s why I led my colleagues to introduce the Working Families Tax Relief Act. This plan will cut taxes for workers and families by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).

Research has shown that these credits are two of the most effective tools we have to put money in the pockets of working people, pull children out of poverty, and help families with the cost of living. EITC and Child Tax Credit are simple to administer, and they give families in the United States what they need most – extra dollars. We worked to expand the EITC and make it permanent in 2015, and the following year, it lifted nearly six million people out of poverty.

As Americans filed their taxes this spring, more and more people saw President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ tax scam for what it really is – a handout to millionaires and billionaires at the expense of working families. Many families didn’t get the large refunds they were expecting, and some even owed money. Our plan is targeted directly to working families, and would boost the incomes for more than 114 million Americans.

And while the president’s tax scam left out 26 million children, our bill would fix that by making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable for the first time, helping to lift three million children out of poverty. The plan would also create a new Young Child Tax Credit, to provide families of very young children extra help when they need it most. Families would receive an extra $1,000 for each child under age five, up to $3,000 per family, because research shows investing in children in these formative years can set children up for success later in life.

The Working Families Tax Relief Act would also make sure workers can no longer be taxed into poverty. Right now, five million young workers without children are taxed into or taxed deeper into poverty. These are young people working hard at jobs that don’t pay high wages – they’re too young to qualify for the EITC under current law, but they still get hit by state and local taxes, and those taxes can push them below the poverty line. Our plan raises the maximum credit for these workers, and expands the age range to cover all workers from age 19 to 67.

Our plan would also stop families from having to turn to predatory payday lenders in an emergency, by allowing people to draw a $500 advance on their EITC. Right now, 4 in 10 Americans say they couldn’t afford an emergency expense of $400 without borrowing money. And we know what so often happens to those families – they’re forced to turn to payday lenders or car title lenders, and become trapped in a cycle of debt. A one-time, interest-free advance on people’s EITC payment would give families a real alternative. The plan would also establish minimum competency standards for paid tax preparers, to give families better peace of mind that they won’t get ripped off during tax season.

Right now, Democrats are united around this plan, and we want Republicans to join us.

Many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have said over and over that they want to cut taxes for working Americans and support families. We have a plan to do it, and put more money in the pockets of millions of families.

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Senator Sherrod Brown is represents the state of Ohio and is a champion of middle-class families. Senator Brown supports workers and just trade policies and is proud of his work to help pass the historic health care law that made health insurance more affordable and accessible for American families. Informed by his faith as a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Senator Brown is committed to social and economic justice.

This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

An Open Letter from Catholic Sisters to President Trump

An Open Letter from Catholic Sisters to President Trump

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
August 15, 2019

This week is yet another time when I am honored to be a woman religious! I have had the privilege of participating in this year’s LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) Assembly over the last few days.

Yesterday, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious unanimously approved an open letter to President Trump and his administration. But what is missing from the flat page is the vibrant enthusiasm of the 800 Sisters gathered for the assembly as they spontaneously leapt to their feet applauding the proposal. The text of the statement rings out powerfully with the truth and anguish of this time.

NETWORK is honored to support our Sisters in their clear call to a moral stance for the common good. We pray that the Trump administration will take these faithful words and actions to heart.


The text of the letter affirmed by 663 LCWR members was originally published on www.lcwr.org. Read the letter below:

Mr. President,

We live in a world increasingly marked by hatred, brutality, and violent conflict. We see our own country threatened by increasing disparities in economic, political, and social power. We are caught in a political culture paralyzed by ideological extremism and hyper-partisanship. These are times that require exceptional insight and courageous leadership.

In the face of these unprecedented challenges, we are outraged and heart-broken when our political leaders appeal to our basest instincts and stoke the fires of fear that threaten to tear the fabric of our nation apart. We cannot, we will not, let the voices of hatred and fear carry the day.

Mr. President, we beseech you to end all divisive and polarizing rhetoric. We implore you to never use language that disrespects, dehumanizes, or demonizes others. We expect our president, and all who serve this nation as leaders, to be always mindful of the common good and the dignity of each and every person. You hold a position that has the potential to inspire the best of every one of us and we ask you to use this unique status to bring about healing and never seek to create division.

The people of this pluralistic nation form a diverse polity characterized by a wide variety of beliefs, experiences, and interests. Disagreements and differences have the potential to challenge all of us to abandon easy certainty and seek a fuller truth. The problem is not our many differences or passionate disagreements. Those differences are our greatest strength; those disagreements are opportunities for growth. It is how we handle those inevitable conflicts that spells the difference between building the common good and destroying the bonds that bind this nation.

In his address to the US Congress in 2015, Pope Francis invited our political leaders to promote respect for the dignity of every human person and to renew their commitment to a spirit of cooperation.  He also addressed each of us and all who seek to lead this nation when he said, “Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility . . . You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk . . . Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.”

As Catholic sisters, our ministries frequently require us to be in the heart of situations of discord and division, and thus we understand the great complexities and challenges that are inherent in the work of reconciliation. We too have to reach deep within ourselves to bring forth the grace and strength that are needed to not give in to the temptation of labeling or judging those who are different from us. We share with you, Mr. President, that maintaining this fundamental stance in life requires discipline and fortitude and a constant examination of our daily thoughts and deeds in light of our beliefs. We sometimes come up short, but pledge to do better each day because we are aware of the moral authority we, as sisters, bear. We ask you, Mr. President, if you would consider a similar examination of the practice of your own moral authority.

We send this letter to you as 663 Catholic sister leaders gathered in assembly in Arizona. We and approximately 700 other Catholic sisters are members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and represent approximately 35,000 sisters who minister throughout this nation. We promise to never cease raising our voices on behalf of the common good and praying for the healing of this country.

Sincerely,

The Members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Listen: Interfaith Partners Oppose the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule

Listen: Interfaith Partners Oppose the Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule

Lee Morrow
August 15, 2019

This week the Trump administration announced that their proposed changes to our nation’s public charge rule are scheduled go into effect in October. NETWORK and our fellow faith-based advocacy partners were compelled to respond. Representatives from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Church World Service, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Faith in Public Life joined Sister Simone Campbell to denounce this harmful change to our nation’s immigration policy.

“The Trump Administration is making history in all the wrong ways,” said Liza Lieberman, Director of Public Policy for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “For the first time, U.S. immigration officials will be instructed to consider non-cash basic needs benefits (including vital food assistance from the SNAP) in considering immigrants’ qualifications for admission or adjustment of status. This is completely unacceptable—nobody should be forced to choose between accepting government assistance and living in safety in the country they call home. This policy is an affront to our Jewish values of compassion and nondiscrimination, as well as our deeply-held belief that everyone deserves access to the resources they need to feed themselves and their families.”

Faith William, Senior Manager of Government Affairs at the National Council of Jewish Women added, “Jews are an immigrant and refugee people – it’s part of our cultural DNA. We recognize that the rule, reportedly Stephen Miller’s “singular obsession,” is part of a larger effort by this administration to criminalize and marginalize people of color, including immigrants of color. The National Council of Jewish Women will not cease in its fight against this and other harmful anti-immigrant, anti-asylee, and anti-refugee policies.”

Sister Simone Campbell stated “This public charge rule is a full scale assault on hard working low wage workers…  These essential programs that they are legally entitled to are really the keys to being able to support their families and thrive here in the United States. President Trump is literally taking food off the tables of our neighbors.”

Share on Social Media:

National faith-based organizations condemn Trump Administration’s draconian #publiccharge rule. This is not who we are. Listen here: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/ @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @global_cws @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

.@DHSgov issued a final rule to radically expand the criteria for who could be considered a #publiccharge under U.S. immigration law. This will separate families & impact millions of people including U.S. citizens. @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @CWS_global @NCJW @FaithPublicLife Our interfaith response: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/

Trump’s #publiccharge rule change is sinful. Learn more about how faith-based organizations are fighting back: https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/. @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @CWS_global @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

We’re proud to stand with our interfaith partners in opposition to Trump’s vindictive #publiccharge policy. This is the latest in a string of attacks on immigrant families, and it goes against our most basic values. #ProtectImmigrantFamilies https://networklobby.org/20190815publiccharge/ @NETWORKLobby @MAZONusa @global_cws @NCJW @FaithPublicLife

Christian Nationalism Slams Door on Those Seeking Refuge

Christian Nationalism Slams Door on Those Seeking Refuge

Sue Smith
August 9, 2019

Christian nationalism is on the rise.

Proponents would have us believe that our faith tradition is threatened by religious and cultural diversity, and that a stronger tie between church and state is necessary to save our nation from ruin.

But this dangerous way of thinking is based on fear, paranoia and a desire for conformity that only serves to polarize our nation.

Christian nationalism seeks to merge Christian and American identities, which results in a distortion of both the Christian faith and constitutional democracy in the United States.

It’s more concerned with political power, control and influence than with any desire to impart or practice Christian values, as some would have you think.

Consider the issue of migration. Christian nationalism suggests that anyone who is different from “us” is not welcome. Immigrants and refugees are not welcome, nor are different languages, cultures or religions.

With an emphasis on the rule of law and the criminalization of unauthorized entry into the United States, we have convinced folks that people who wish to enter our country are criminals: rapists, murderers, drug dealers and human traffickers.

We’re threatened when we hear others speaking in another language because “they might be talking about me.”

And it’s unthinkable to engage in the idea that God could be working outside the Christian faith.

This is not the model of Jesus.

Jesus’ parents were members of an ethnic and religious minority that was a threat to those in power.

The word was that one of those Jewish babies was going to grow up to be King of the Jews, and the rulers really couldn’t allow that to happen.

The family fled, living as refugees in a neighboring country until it was safe to return home.

A desire for power corrupts religious practice. In the end, it was a small group of religious leaders who took advantage of political power systems that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. He was simply too controversial, and he needed to be eliminated.

In today’s toxic religious and political environment, Christian nationalism aligns more closely with those who opposed Jesus, not those who followed him.

Christian nationalism is consistent with those who used political power to silence a prophetic voice that ran counter to their own orthodoxy.

Jesus is present today through the migrant and refugee experience. While many Christians are horrified at the current treatment of migrants and cry out for justice and mercy, Christian nationalism seeks to close the doors.

But the Jesus I follow rode the train through Mexico with José and his toddler son, Jeycob, Hondurans who were fleeing for their lives after the entire family received death threats.

Jesus was there on the day Jeycob saw his father handcuffed and taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents during a routine check-in for asylum-seekers, and when social workers took Jeycob to foster care.

Jesus sat, hungry and uncomfortable, in the bus station for two days in Ciudad Juárez with Claudia and her 4-year-old daughter as they waited for a friend, another young indigenous mom from Guatemala, who never returned from a trip to the restroom. They fear she was abducted. Claudia is seeking asylum.

Jesus was in ICE detention with Beatriz, a Mexican mother of two who spent two weeks in solitary confinement because she couldn’t stop crying hysterically; Beatriz had been raped by traffickers and police just before crossing the border.

Jesus was with Hector, 14, an unaccompanied minor from Honduras who attempted suicide while in ICE custody awaiting release to his mom.

The anniversary of the murder of his father and death of his grandparents who had raised him triggered a deep depression. No mental health services were available to help him with feelings of grief and loss.

Jesus was with Juan, an indigenous young man from Guatemala who is a victim of labor trafficking. Juan worked for five years without pay in Virginia before he was able to leave and obtain a legitimate job and legal assistance.

When we think of the story of Jesus and his encounter with the woman at the well, Scripture tells us that Jesus “had to” go through Samaria on his journey from Judea to Galilee (John 4:4).

It was “necessary,” but why? There were other, more traditional routes that were safer, better traveled and more comfortable.

Jesus’ route through Samaria serves as a model for us. Jesus intentionally chose a path that took him and his followers to a place that required interaction with people of a different race, ethnicity, culture and religion.

He consistently modeled concern for those who society saw as less valuable – women, children, persons in poverty and with disabilities. He spoke against the systems that oppressed and devalued them.

Jesus stayed away from those who sought rigid religiosity and political power. What should that tell us about Christian nationalism today?


This article was originally published at EthicsDaily.com as part of a series focused on Christians opposing Christian nationalism. It is published in conjunction with the launch of the BJC-led initiative ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org. The articles in the series are available here.

Threat of Christian Nationalism Has Reached High Tide

Threat of Christian Nationalism Has Reached High Tide

Amanda Tyler
August 8, 2019

While summer usually means beach reads, my reading list hasn’t been so light this year.

I’ve spent these last few months studying up on Christian nationalism, as my Baptist Joint Committee (BJC) colleagues and I felt called to dig deeper into this political ideology that seeks to merge American and Christian identities.

Christian nationalism is not new. It has ebbed and flowed over many decades, but we seem to be stuck at high tide now. For Christian nationalists, to be a true American is to be a Christian.

Of course, that conclusion is at odds with our constitutional principles. The First Amendment protects religious freedom for everyone, and Article VI states that there will be no religious test for public office.

Christian nationalism threatens religious freedom for all. It asks the government to show preference for Christianity over other religions or religion over nonreligion.

Working with other Christian leaders, BJC is providing a way for individuals to stand up to this problem and make clear that not all Christians think this way.

There is a short statement, available at ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org, which repudiates this political ideology as harmful to our faith and to our unity as Americans.

It is not a statement of faith – we are Baptists, after all – but rather an explanation of what Christian nationalism is, the threats it poses and a list of unifying principles that we hope will appeal to Christians of many different denominations and affiliations. Anyone who self-identifies as a Christian is invited to sign the statement online.

Initially, BJC approached this project with the idea of interfaith partnership. But we quickly learned that our partners did not have the same level of comfort in calling out Christian nationalism that we – as Christians – do.

This makes sense, though it is upsetting to think that by calling out a Christian nationalist, a Jewish or Muslim person may be placing themselves in harm’s way.

I have already learned a great deal from my conversations with other leaders and in speaking to experts for a special podcast series on Christian nationalism, which begins this week.

There are various definitions and understandings of Christian nationalism. We should not assume we have a common vocabulary or frame of reference around this topic.

I have found it helpful in conversation to ask questions to find out what people mean when people claim we are a “Christian nation.”

A majority of Americans – around seven out of 10 in most surveys – identify as Christian, so I would agree we are a majority-Christian nation.

But I don’t agree that the country was founded by Christians, for Christians, leaving other faiths to second-class status.

We also recognize the overlap between Christian nationalism and white supremacy and the fact that not all Christians will view the connection in the same way.

The deep, abiding problem of racism in this country is much larger than this project, and yet it is undoubtedly connected to this conversation.

Many see a pressing need for this kind of response right now. The Christian leaders I’ve spoken with approach this subject in ways as diverse as their theology and experience, but they are unified in their sense of urgency to counter Christian nationalism.

We have been working on this initiative for several months; it is not in response to any single event. It seems likely that persistent challenges will demand that we continue this effort. This campaign can help Christians have a place to respond.

We will learn more over the coming months as people begin to add their names and voices to ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org.

If we are going to be successful in responding to this threat, we will need to join with Christians from across the ecumenical spectrum. I believe both the vitality of our faith and the enduring strength of our country depend on it.


This article was originally published at EthicsDaily.com as part of a series focused on Christians opposing Christian nationalism. It is published in conjunction with the launch of the BJC-led initiative ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org. The articles in the series are available here.

Health Care Update: The Lower Health Care Costs Act

Health Care Update: The Lower Health Care Costs Act

Siena Ruggeri
August 7, 2019

With 2020 looming, both chambers of Congress are on a mission to show voters they’re serious about reforming health care and lowering costs. The Lowering Health Care Costs Act represents the largest effort on health care in the Senate this session. The Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Committee has collected a wide variety of health care proposals and assembled them into one sweeping piece of legislation. The legislation is a package of bills containing 54 bipartisan proposals from 36 Democrats and 29 Republicans. The package has a huge scope—it includes provisions regarding surprise billing, drug pricing, extensions of existing health care programs, health equity research, raising the tobacco age, and cybersecurity with medical records. All of these issues relate to our Mend the Gaps health care agenda. The bipartisan nature of these bills means that there is potential for this legislation to make it through the Senate and onto the House. The bill is divided into five sections.

Section I: Ending Surprise Billing

  • Requires that emergency health care charges to a patient are counted toward the patient’s in-network deductible
  • Patients are held harmless from surprise medical bills. Patients are only required to pay the in-network cost-sharing amount for out-of-network care, including emergency services
  • Patients must be given notice of out-of-network care

NETWORK Analysis: The legislation moves in the right direction on surprise billing by ensuring patients are not victimized in a billing debate between providers and insurers. It’s important to note that an individual has to have insurance to access these protections. For the millions of uninsured and underinsured in our country, there’s still not a safety net for these exploitative billing practices.

Section II: Proposals to Lower Drug Costs

  • Helping companies speed drug development through drug database
  • Increases transparency for patent data on biologic products
  • Prevents the abuse of citizen’s petitions to delay the production of low-cost biosimilars
  • Clarifies that drugs like insulin will not be granted market exclusivity past 2020
  • Eliminates the first come first served drug pricing loophole that slows the production of lower-cost drugs
  • Creates an FDA website to educate consumers on biologic products
  • Eliminates the market exclusivity loophole created by patent evergreening
  • Modernizes labeling of generic drugs
  • Eliminate first come first served drug pricing loophole
  • Requires drug manufacturers to submit public justifications of price increases of over 10% in one year

NETWORK Analysis: These proposals are the necessary first step to lowering drug prices. While the legislation implements transparency measures and reforms the pharmaceutical industry’s abuse of the patent system, there still needs to be action taken on unwarranted price spikes. Drug companies are still able to gouge prices as they wish, with no accountability. This also does not address the fact that the government is not allowed to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D patients. Without these checks on the drug industry’s power, drug prices will stay high. We encourage the Senate to take up the PRICED Act, the Doggett bill, and the SPIKE Act to address these root causes.

Section III: Transparency Measures

  • Healthcare providers have to provide summary of services to patients
  • Doctors/insurers must provide price quotes to patients
  • Ban anti-competitive terms in hospital contracts
  • Designation of a nongovernmental, nonprofit transparency organization to lower Americans’ health care costs
  • Requires health plans to have up-to-date directories of their in-network providers
  • Bans pharmacy benefit managers for charging more for drugs than they paid for drugs (spread pricing)
  • Requires a GAO study on profit-sharing relationships between hospitals, contract management groups, and physician and ancillary services, and the Federal oversight of such relationships

NETWORK Analysis: These transparency measures are a good first step to shedding light on the exploitative practices of many actors the health care industry. While these reforms are beneficial for those with strong health insurance plans, more attention needs to be devoted to expanding Medicaid and affordable health coverage to those who need it most. Even if providers are transparent about costs, those costs are often unattainable for low-income people.

Section IV: Public Health

  • Reauthorizes community health centers for five years with flat funding
  • Reauthorizes the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Programs and the National Health Service Corps for five years
  • Reauthorizes the Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians for five years
  • Provides competitive grants for maternal mortality prevention
  • Provides competitive grants for perinatal quality collaboratives
  • Commissions a study on trainings to reduce and prevent discrimination in health care
  • Establishes a grant program for the training of health care professionals working in prenatal care, labor care, birthing, and postpartum care to reduce and prevent discrimination, including training related to implicit biases
  • Raises minimum age for tobacco products to 21
  • Provides grants to improve technology for medically underserved areas

NETWORK Analysis: We applaud the extension of these crucial human needs programs for a more sustainable timeline of five years. This prevents these programs from facing lapses in funding due to slow congressional action. While the first step is to reauthorize programs like CHCs, these facilities have grown significantly in the past 10 years and are in need of more funding. We encourage the Senate to pass the CHIME Act, which would increase mandatory funding for CHCs over the next five years. These public health programs are crucial to the social safety net and serve communities that would otherwise go without preventative health care services.

We applaud the inclusion of funding for grants and trainings on issues of health equity. In order to address how our health system reinforces racism and other oppressions, we have to support further research and provide resources to fight unconscious bias in the medical profession. Congress needs to continue taking action for health equity at the federal level.

Section V: Improving Health Information

  • Requires health insurers to make claims data, in-network practitioners, and expected out-of-pocket costs available to patients
  • Incentivizes health care entities to adopt strong cybersecurity practices
  • Gives patients better access to their medical records

NETWORK Analysis: Our health information is highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Steps must be taken to ensure medical records remain private.

Conclusion

This legislation shows that there is momentum in the Senate to address the causes of high health care costs. While we wish there was a more robust effort to address ACA sabotage, access to affordable coverage, and the root causes of high prescription drug prices, this package of legislation offers some hope that Congress will make some progress on addressing health care issues this session. We hope to see this legislation paired with the strong drug pricing reforms detailed in the Senate Finance Committee’s Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act and quickly brought to the Senate floor. After the Senate returns after August recess, we expect to see this legislative package to be voted on in the fall

The Positive Impact of Community Health Centers

The Positive Impact of Community Health Centers

Afton Neufield
August 5, 2019

In a world where healthcare topics are becoming increasingly divisive, there is still one healthcare delivery model that secures hearty bipartisan support: Community Health Centers.

Community Health Centers (CHCs) were formed over 50 years ago as the brainchild of Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a young physician with a heart for addressing gaps in healthcare by providing affordable and accessible primary healthcare. His innovative care model showed that improving the health of the most vulnerable populations not only improved the lives of those treated at the health center, but the lives of their families, surrounding communities, and beyond.

Today, CHCs are the primary healthcare providers for over 28 million patients across the United States. Dr. Geiger’s mission continues as CHCs continue to bridge gaps to care by reducing (and in some cases eliminating) the barriers of cost, transportation, and language translation. CHCs still provide primary care, but they have branched out to also deliver preventative and innovative programs to communities across the country.

CHCs enjoy bipartisan support for good reason. They improve community members’ quality of life, while at the same time saving our country billions each year in healthcare costs by providing preventative care and reducing unnecessary emergency room visits. CHCs also create jobs in the communities they serve, provide wraparound services, and give people a place to access healthcare when they are uninsured.

For the faith community, CHCs are a tangible representation of the call of scripture to care for the vulnerable in our communities. In Jeremiah 22:16 the Lord describing a faithful follower says “He defended the cause of the poor and needy… Is that not what it means to know me?”

CHCs improve the lives and health of those on the margins of our society, while also helping our entire healthcare system run more efficiently. This is the beauty of following our call to defend the cause of our neighbor, that when their health improves, ours does too.

What does the future look like for CHCs? It depends.

Currently, NETWORK and our advocacy partners are being called once again to support these health centers. Right now, without Congressional action, $4.0 billion of funding for the Community Health Centers Fund (CHCF) will expire on September 30, 2019. With healthcare demands increasing, the promise of continued existence without adequate funding is not

enough. We need the leaders in Congress to act to ensure that funding for CHCs will continue and increase to meet demand and address health disparities in our communities.

Feeling called to join our mission to advocate for funding for CHCs? Check out our NETWORK leave behind on CHC funding here. Email us at info@networklobby.org to take action.

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Afton Neufeld is a NETWORK volunteer currently obtaining her Masters in Social Work at University of Nevada, Reno. Her social justice heroes include Jesus, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Catholic Sisters.

Catholic Social Justice Embodied at the Catholic Day of Action

Catholic Social Justice Embodied at the Catholic Day of Action

Kamila Mehdi
August 1, 2019

As someone who grew up in a non-faith based home, I had difficulty wrapping my mind around the concept “Catholic Social Justice.” I had never thought of the three words strung together because the term social justice to me was just that, no matter what background you came from. What I have been fortunate to learn this summer as a NETWORK volunteer is that Catholic Social Justice to me means progressive, open advocates that put their faith in the forefront and back it by various acts with the intention of ensuring a better tomorrow. This was clear to me as NETWORK joined the Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant Children last Thursday, July 18.

The gathering took place in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building to call for an end to the inhumane and immoral practice of child detention. Sisters, brothers, and lay Catholic advocates from nearly 20 national organizations comprised the more than 200 individuals at the gathering, which was followed by 70 Catholic leaders participating in nonviolent civil disobedience. I was lucky to be present for the entirety of the gathering, which had a significant impact on me and individuals I interacted with in the rotunda.

The demonstration was bold, but the individuals participating in nonviolent civil disobedience were bolder. They proceeded into the rotunda with the names and pictures of the eight children who had died in custody or seeking asylum, and circled the space with five individuals lying down in the shape of a cross through the whole nonviolent civil disobedience. For me, this act showed how deeply interconnected faith and social justice were to the individuals participating in the nonviolent civil disobedience, as well as their vulnerability in order to make the courageous statement.

As the action went on, individuals working in the Russell building crowded the upstairs to see what exactly was going on. Displeased tones echoed behind our group from individuals jaded by “yet another protest” which they initially interpreted as Catholic extremists trying to make a point. But after asking us the reason of protest, we explained and gave them a better understanding of the concept of “Catholic Social Justice.” These same individuals were surprised by the concept and shared the appreciation I had for the participants of the action, which lead to some productive conversations.

Leaving the protest, I wondered if I too would have made those assumptions before learning more about Catholic Social Justice at NETWORK. I soon realized that regardless, I have been given the opportunity to expand my views and opinions and for that, I am thankful.