Category Archives: Healthcare

NETWORK Calls for Just Response to COVID-19

NETWORK Calls for a Just Response to COVID-19

This webpage will be updated with the latest developments as the United States faces the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge all elected officials to prioritize those who are most vulnerable and those at the economic margins as they respond to this crisis.

Share your story with NETWORK

Tell us what you, your family, and your community are going through. We will make sure our nation’s elected officials know what families across the country are experiencing, and advocate for policies that heal our nation, not further harm.

Monday, April 6, 2020
NETWORK Webinar: The COVID-19 Response

On this webinar, NETWORK’s Government Relations team will review the three packages and explain what Congress still needs to do to ensure that all people are cared for and receive access to the medical and financial assistance they need.

Friday, March 27, 2020
Congress passes Coronavirus Economic Package

After critical negotiations, both the Senate and the House have passed the $2 trillion bailout package for workers and hospitals. This package will begin to provide security for many in this time of crisis, while ensuring that no tax-payer dollars go to corporate stock buy-backs or executive raises and bonuses.

Read NETWORK’s press release responding to the legislation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Senate Nearing Vote on Economic Package

NETWORK urges all Senators to vote yes on S.3548, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, immediately. We are pleased this bill includes many of NETWORK’s recommendations and approves much needed funds for hospitals, state, and local governments; extends unemployment insurance for workers; and puts conditions on business assistance, in the interest of workers and the economic stabilization and financial security of their families. In short, this bill puts people first

Read the letter NETWORK sent to Senators.

Monday, March 23, 2020
Political Leaders Still Have Not Reached Agreement on Economic Stimulus Plan

Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue negotiating a $1.6 trillion-plus emergency rescue package, hoping to reach agreement and pass a bill before the end of the day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is releasing her own plan today.

Read more from Politico.com.

While the negotiations continue, NETWORK and our advocacy partners supported Members of Congress who signed onto a letter written by Representative T.J. Cox (CA-21) calling for immigrants to be included in access to COVID-19 testing and treatment regardless of immigration status.

Read the letter.

Friday, March 20, 2020
Economic Stimulus Negotiations Continue

Following Senate Republicans’ release of their proposed economic stimulus package yesterday, Senators from both parties were in negotiations to come to an agreement before midnight tonight. This afternoon Senate Finance Democrats proposed their own legislation. Negotiations are ongoing — call your Senators now using the phone number above and tell them to support workers and families in this economic stimulus package!

NETWORK calls for Congress to:

  1. Issue full value cash assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals and expand the EITC and Child Tax Credit to more low-income households;
  1. Strengthen, expand, and modernize Unemployment Insurance in order to provide higher benefits and greater flexibility, account for the changing workforce (such as the gig economy), and cover workers who may lose their jobs or face new caregiving responsibilities due to the virus;
  2. Boost nutrition benefits and flexibility for all households receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  3. Increase Medicaid funding for states by fulling covering the state share to adequately address the increased demand for health care and related costs;
  4. Increase homelessness assistance funding. Individuals experiencing homelessness are at increased risk of serious infection because they often live in congregated communities (like shelters and encampments), cannot self-quarantine, and often lack access to running water and other methods to prevent infection;
  5. Expand paid sick leave for every person, regardless of employer or employer size;
  6. Give special care and attention to individuals at increased risk of infection, including incarcerated individuals, immigrants and children in detention, tribes and Native communities, and people experiencing homelessness;
  7. Require funding for corporations to be focused on ensuring that people continue to be paid and receive benefits. Strong guardrails need to be in place to ensure that families and those who need it most get assistance and that companies in the future do not recklessly profit off of taxpayer funding at the expense of workers; and
  8. Expand federal funding for Tribes and Tribal Organizations for robust health services access in Indian Country.

Additionally, regarding the individual payments proposed in the Republican plan, ITEP estimates that only 20% ( $215 billion) out of a $1 trillion bill would be spent on individual payments, demonstrating that the Republican stimulus chiefly benefits businesses.
Read more from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Thursday, March 19, 2020
Third Package Negotiations Heat Up

The Senate is rapidly writing their third response package and needs to hear from you now.  Please call using the phone number above. Right now, Senator Mitch McConnell is leading the GOP in the Senate in developing the “economic stimulus” package. Our concern is that they are not correctly viewing what KIND of stimulus is needed since this is not a “normal” market crash and will have unknown, long-term impacts on peoples’ lives.  They need to understand that people oppose another big-business bailout predicated on trickle-down economics.

While the need to address industry-wide economic fall-out is important, stimulus aid must have conditions attached to ensure that workers are supported rather than only subsidizing financial markets or corporate profits. In 2008, the federal government provided hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street to respond to the financial crisis, with no strings attached. The results for Wall Street were tremendous – a quick return to profitability, large executive compensation packages, major stock buy-backs, and more. The results for working families were disappointing, and most never fully recovered. Financial support this time should be targeted and contingent upon maintaining protections for workers.

Direct benefits to low- and moderate-income households is a powerful and effective economic stimulant. We support a targeted measure to support households most in need. A payroll tax cut does not make sense for this crisis, but refundable tax credits targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals and families could have a powerful stabilizing effect. Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit would give families and individuals additional relief over time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020
NETWORK Priorities for Third Coronavirus Package

After finalizing the first two packages responding to coronavirus, the Senate focuses on a third package, an “economic stimulus” package. NETWORK supports including the following financial supports in this economic stimulus. Read all of NETWORK’s recommendations for an economic stimulus package here.
To support people:

  • Target rebate checks and refundable tax credit to low- and moderate-income individuals
  • Strengthen, expand, and modernize Unemployment Insurance and paid medical and family leave
  • Boost nutrition assistance
  • Increase homelessness assistance funding
  • Halt evictions and foreclosures
  • Give special attention to at-risk communities

To support states, municipalities, and health care:

  • Increase Medicaid funding for states and stabilization funds for Community Health Centers and critical related programs

To support business:

  • Ensure federal funds given to support businesses reach workers
Senate Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act, President Trump signs it into law

The Senate voted to approve the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with a 90-8 vote. President Trump signed the bill into law Wednesday evening.

Read more from www.nbcnews.com.

Monday, March 16, 2020
NETWORK Recommends Senators Vote Yes on H.R.6021

At the conclusion of a 3-day Senate recess, NETWORK sent the following vote recommendation to U.S. Senators calling on them to pass H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Read NETWORK’s Senate vote recommendation.

Saturday, March 14, 2020
House Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6021)

In a letter to all Members of Congress, NETWORK urged Congress to ensure coronavirus testing is affordable, expand paid sick leave, increase assistance for low-income workers and families, and give special attention to groups with increased risk of infection in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Read NETWORK’s letter to Congress.

President Trump’s Budget Fails to Mend the Gaps… Again

President Trump’s Budget Fails to Mend the Gaps… Again

NETWORK Government Relations Team
February 14, 2020

We believe the budget is a faithful, moral document that should reflect our values as a nation. Unfortunately, the President’s FY2021 budget that came out earlier this week does not do this. President Trump’s budget proposes$4.8 trillion in drastic cuts to non-defense discretionary spending for vital federal agencies, including a 37% spending cut for the Department of Commerce and a 15% cut for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This will increase the gaps between the wealthy and the impoverished in our nation.

President Trump’s budget abandons the most vulnerable in our nation by reducing funding for fundamental social safety net programs. The budget would increase the number of uninsured people in the United States, cut desperately needed assistance for low-income families, and invest almost nothing into our nation’s dilapidated infrastructure. It is time to mend the racial and income gaps in our nation. We cannot accept this immoral and divisive budget proposal from President Trump.

Once again, President Trump lays out a budget that provides a preferential option for the rich while gutting critical programs proven to lift people out of poverty. His budget would give an additional 1.4 Trillion dollars in tax breaks to the wealthy paid for by cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety net programs.  This is sinful.  We must heal the wounds of economic and racial injustice with those facing systemic exclusion and oppression. We echo the words of the Prophet Isaiah who warned the corrupt rulers of his time, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

The president’s budget proposal lays out another hopeless roadmap that offers no relief or clear pathway to prosperity for disheartened working families. The proposal includes $4.4 trillion in steep cuts to nondefense spending over 10 years, starting with $42 billion for FY2021 to offset increased funding for defense and immigration enforcement. This president fails the moral test of great leaders to care for those with the least among us– the 99% of the country who are over-worked, under-valued, and under-resourced.  We must expect more from our leaders and urge Congress to reject this budget by investing in affordable housing, health care, Medicaid, SNAP, and fair elections.

Here’s how President Trump’s FY2021 budget proposal would negatively impact the Common Good and widen the gaps across our nation:

Endangers the health care of the most vulnerable in our nation by attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and by imposing deep cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

  • Proposed cuts of $1 trillion in Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA over the next ten years
  • Implements mandatory work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries
  • Ends Medicaid expansion for states that have opted to expand coverage. This will eliminate care for the 13 million people who secured care from the expansion
  • No proposals for an ACA replacement plan if it is struck down by the Supreme Court
    • This will lead to elimination of the ACA’s protection against discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and the ACA’s requirement that health plans cover essential health benefits

Implements irresponsible and discriminatory immigration policy.

  • Requests $2 billion to build 82 miles of border wall, plans to divert an additional $7.2 billion from other accounts, and brings the total allocated over Trump’s term to $18 billion.
  • Includes $3.1 billion for 60,000 beds, in ICE detention centers, an increase of 6,000 beds from last year’s budget.
  • Adds $182 million to hire 750 new Border Patrol agents, a quarter more than last year, and $544 million to double Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff.
  • Calls for a 3.2-percent increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security to carry out immigration enforcement and family separation, but cuts the Department of Justice by 2.3-percent for all federal law enforcement
  • Requires Social Security Number for public benefits
    • Discriminates against non-citizen residents who do not have a Social Security Number

Increases income inequality and racial wealth disparities through more tax cuts for the 1% and drastic cuts to safety net programs.

  • Permanently extends the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for high-income taxpayers
  • This will cost $1.4 trillion through 2030 for tax breaks for the wealthiest in our nation
  • Cuts SNAP by $182 billion (30% of the program) over ten years
  • Cuts basic assistance for those with disabilities through Social Security Disability Insurance
  • Reduces support for families experiencing poverty by cutting the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by $20 billion over ten years
  • Eliminates the Social Services Block Grant

Decreases security in our nation’s elections.

  • Cuts the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency that secures our nation’s voting machines, by 14%
  • Diverts $1.1 billion on cybersecurity spending from the Federal Election Commission to the Department of Homeland Security

Inadequately invests in our nation’s dilapidated infrastructure.

  • Proposes $190 billion in one-time funding for a new infrastructure initiative
    • This investment in our nation’s housing and infrastructure is a short-term fix for a long, expensive problem
    • It will not be enough to adequately address our nation’s housing problem
  • Cuts various infrastructure programs that support highway, mass transit, airport, and port infrastructure through discretionary appropriations
  • Weakens community efforts to enable families to secure housing free from discrimination and fight housing policies that restrict housing access

President Trump continues to promise that he will protect the health care of working families, but his FY2021 budget proposal is just another attack on care for our nation’s most vulnerable. The Trump administration continues to gut the backbone of our nation’s social safety net by slashing funding for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as through continued attempts to enforce Medicaid work requirements. Also, by attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no suitable replacement, President Trump continues to jeopardize the lives of millions who rely on the ACA for quality and affordable care.

President Trump’s proposals shown above illustrate his misaligned priorities. Every dollar spent in carrying out punitive immigration policy, is a dollar less in critical human needs programs, serving communities across the country. President Trump is requesting a huge windfall for agencies that police, detain, and separate families, but neglects food security programs, health, and more. President Trump’s FY2021 budget is a statement of values, which show that the president is more concerned with funding his border wall than serving the people of the United States.

A Moral Case for Reining in Drug Companies, Lowering Drug Prices

A Moral Case for Reining in Drug Companies, Lowering Drug Prices

The cost of health care should not be a matter of life or death. But for millions of Americans, the cost of prescription medication forces them to ration their treatment or even go without medication entirely. That fact, which is completely at odds with core principles of fairness and health care as a human right, is why I joined more than 7,000 nuns to speak out against the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it’s why I am now calling for Congress to take action to lower drug costs. 

While the ACA has addressed a number of the ways insurance companies reap record profits on the backs of patients, huge pharmaceutical companies continue to control too much of our healthcare system. This goes against our values as Americans — and against Catholic Social Justice. 

Rather than caring for our neighbors, we are seeing the same kind of corporate greed we’ve come to expect from massive health industry companies who routinely pad their profits by putting patients’ lives at risk. This time it’s the giant drug corporations and manufacturers that are making the rules that allow them to set prices as high as the market can bear.  Last year, roughly 28 million Americans saw the costs of their medications rise, while pharmaceutical companies benefited from huge tax breaks and pulled in record profits. 

The numbers are especially stark for Americans with diabetes. Three Pharma giants control the country’s supply of insulin — Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi — and they are using their power to rake in as much profit as possible, no matter the human cost. Each of them charge at least $270 per-vial for insulin, meaning diabetic patients are often paying $800 or more for their monthly supply of medication. To put this in perspective, that’s three times what patients in countries like Pakistan pay. 

I recently learned the story of Nick, a 68-year-old retiree living with Type 2 Diabetes in Bellingham, Washington, who has started traveling to Canada to buy insulin across the border because his copays kept increasing. He told the Catholic Sisters that I work with that his insulin ultimately cost him $500 out of pocket for a two- or three-month supply. In Canada, he can get the same amount of insulin for $40 out of pocket. 

Over the past 10 years, the cost of insulin has tripled despite no changes to the formula itself. It’s no wonder one in four diabetics report rationing their insulin because they can’t afford the exorbitant cost. Meanwhile Eli Lilly, the nation’s largest insulin producer, continues to reap billions of dollars in revenue. In 2018 alone, Eli Lilly brought in $9 billion in revenue from their diabetes medications but paid $0 in federal taxes thanks to the 2017 GOP tax law.

The greed of these corporations — and of the companies making millions off of essential drugs like those that treat cancer and HIV — is a moral crisis, and we need Congress to pass legislation that puts power back in the hands of the people and patients. 

The Lower Drug Costs Now Act (HR-3) is the first step to stopping drug companies’ from prioritizing their bottom line over our health. The legislation will allow Medicare to directly negotiate hundreds of drug prices, extend those prices to people with private insurance, and hold drug corporations accountable for charging U.S. patients many times more than what people in other countries pay for the same medicine. 

Make no mistake: Big Pharma is fighting tooth and nail against this legislation, lobbying hard to stop lawmakers from supporting it. They are even claiming new drug innovation will be negatively impacted by the bill, when the reality is that most drug research and development is funded directly by taxpayer dollars. In fact of the 210 drugs approved by the FDA for use between 2010 and 2016, all were developed with National Institutes of Health (NIH) publicly funded research. Americans are literally dying because they are unable to afford the drugs that their taxes paid to create.

Industry opposition has nothing to do with concern for patients. Companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are against this legislation because it will cut into their record profits. Rather than helping the patients he promised to protect, President Trump is pandering to the corporations and protecting the status quo. 

Trump talks a big game when it comes to lowering drug prices, but he’s dragging his feet now that there’s viable legislation to do just that. If the president really wants to help seniors and the millions of Americans struggling to afford their prescriptions, he should tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to support HR-3. 

As a Catholic, I believe — I know — we are better off when we take care of each other. We are better off when we recognize that there is more than enough to go around if we share. Everyone deserves access to affordable medicine, and legislation like HR-3 is a big step toward ensuring no one is forced to choose between skipping a prescription and putting food on the table.

Our elected leaders have a moral obligation to take bold action to ensure everyone can access the medicines they need. After all, we are a country founded on principles of ‘We the People,’ not ‘We the Corporations.’ It’s time we started acting like it. 

Sister Simone Campbell is executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. NETWORK is a member of the Lower Drug Prices Now coalition. 

Texas v. Azar: One Court Ruling Could Affect the Lives of More Than 20 Million People

Texas v. Azar: One Court Ruling Could Affect the Lives of More Than 20 Million People

Anne Marie Bonds
October 9, 2019

Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was meant to decrease the number of uninsured people in the United States. Too many people simply hoped to stay healthy every day, avoiding hospitals and ambulances because they couldn’t afford thousands of dollars in medical bills. The ACA has made insurance accessible for over 20 million people since 2010 and has helped even more by making preventative care, such as annual physicals, free. It also prohibits all insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, meaning people who are already sick cannot be rejected because of their illness.

For the last seven years, Republicans attempted to repeal the ACA numerous times through the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. In 2017, the repeal of the ACA came down to one vote in the Senate. Senator John McCain’s historic thumbs down vote effectively ended the Republican movement to repeal the ACA through legislation.

Now, the ACA is at risk again. This time, it is back in the courts. In February 2018, twenty Republican-led states filed a lawsuit, Texas v. Azar, to invalidate the ACA. Now, the lawsuit has made its way up to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is only one step down from the Supreme Court. The 5th Circuit is expected to make a ruling sometime this week, a decision that could potentially shake the nation’s entire health system.

If you know me you would probably ask: Anne Marie, why do you care so much about the Affordable Care Act? You’re an upper-middle class, 22-year-old white girl from Alabama. How has the ACA affected your life in any way? Well, the short answer is that it hasn’t. Not directly. I’ve been covered under my parents’ employer health insurance since I was young, and I’ve had the privilege of never needing to worry about how my medical bills were going to be paid. In fact, I never really cared about Obamacare until November of 2013, when I realized how the ACA impacts every single person in our nation.

In November of 2013, my father was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a terminal, degenerative disease that slowly atrophies muscle over time. Those with an ALS diagnosis have 3-5 years left to live, but for many, those years are not pleasant. Before my Dad got sick, he worked in an aluminum plant, and when he was diagnosed, he had to quit his job because he couldn’t lift anything anymore. Because of this, he lost his employer’s health insurance coverage, as many with ALS do.

Without the ACA, my father would not have been able to find private insurance, as insurance companies could have easily denied him due to his pre-existing condition. Thousands of ALS patients are dependent on this non-discrimination clause within the ACA to receive care that can prolong their lives for months. Without the ACA, ALS patients are left without a safety net and no way to pay for their care. Other people with chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and heart disease, depend on the ACA to protect them from private insurance discrimination. Although 20 million people directly depend on the ACA to provide them with quality, affordable health insurance, an innumerable amount of people in the U.S. depend on the ACA indirectly by prohibiting pre-existing condition discrimination and making preventative care services free.

Depending on how the 5th Circuit rules, there’s a good chance we’ll see this case in the Supreme Court next year. Although conservatives would have you believe the ACA only helps the uninsured, in reality, the positive effects of the ACA extend to almost every person in the nation. The ACA has faced a bevy of criticism for nine years, even though it is a vital aspect of our nation’s health care system. It is time to stop our partisan arguing over the ACA. It is time to stop making the health of our people an ideological argument. It is time to support the ACA and work to stop those who continue attempting to repeal and destroy it.

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

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.

Freedom for Some, But Not for All

Freedom for Some, But Not for All

Mary Cunningham
July 4, 2018

July 4, 1776: the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Since then, each July 4th we celebrate our nation’s freedom from an overbearing colonial rule and our fervent patriotism. We dress in red, white, and blue, enjoy cookouts with neighbors in our backyards, and watch from picnic blankets as fireworks erupt across the sky. Yes, the day has become commercialized, but the words of the Declaration of Independence remain as pertinent in our current political climate as they were when they were first written.

The document written by our founding fathers clearly declares our commitment to “unalienable Rights” defined as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It even goes so far as to say that when a government fails to protect these rights, it is the duty of the people to alter or abolish it, and that a leader whose actions resemble a tyrant cannot be trusted to rule and uphold the freedom of the people. Thus, we see the intricate and fragile relationship that exists between the government and the governed.

Take a snapshot of the United States at this exact moment, and you will realize that we have do not have good governance, and that many in our country still lack the rights which the Declaration of Independence deems “inalienable.” In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about what was meant by this term: “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”

The default on the promise of “inalienable rights” was evident during Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s time and it is still evident today for people of color and all on the economic margins seeking to live freely in the United States. We see this in the recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the Trump administration’s travel ban, Congress’s failure to pass a Dream Act to protect DACA recipients, and state and federal attempts to impose work requirements on human needs programs that help our nation’s most vulnerable families and individuals. How do these political decisions enhance the life, liberty, or happiness of the people they impact? They don’t.

On a more personal level, we have begun to fail one another, as violent discrimination and exclusion continue to reign. Our nation has endured countless acts of police brutality and racial profiling. I am astonished on a daily basis by the attacks on communities of color, like the recent shooting of high school student Antwon Rose. If we set a standard that “all men are created equal,” shouldn’t we hold all people to that standard, regardless of race, gender, or religious beliefs?

A few days ago, one of my coworkers sent around a video from the show, Dear White People, to our staff. In the video, the character Reggie reads a poem he wrote for an open mic night—his rendition of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident
that all men are created equal
that they are endowed by their creator
with certain inalienable rights
Among these life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness
unless you’re loud and black
and possess an opinion
then all you get is a bullet
A bullet that held me at bay
A bullet that can puncture my skin
take all my dreams away
A bullet that can silence
the words I speak to my mother
just because I’m
other
A bullet – held me captive
gun in my face
your hate misplaced
White skin, light skin
but for me not the
right skin
Judging me with no crime committed
reckless trigger finger itching to
prove your worth by disproving mine
My life in your hands
My life on the line
Fred Hampton
Tamir Rice. Rekia Boyd
Reggie Green
Spared by a piece of paper
a student ID
that you had to see before
you could identify
me
and set me supposedly
free
Life
liberty
and the pursuit of happiness
for some of us maybe
There’s nothing
self-evident
about it

The Declaration of Independence pronounced the individual rights that cannot be taken away. In 1776, that only included white, male landowners. After much hard work and sacrifice, we know that all people deserve these same unalienable rights. But, we see that as a nation today, we fall despairingly short of this. The words of the Declaration of Independence should not be an ideal or something that we aspire to. They must be the law of the land, the fabric which knits our country together. For if we cannot claim our freedom, what do we have left?

 

House Healthcare Package Seeks to Lower Drug Prices and Stabilize the Marketplace

House Healthcare Package Seeks to Lower Drug Prices and Stabilize the Marketplace

Siena Ruggeri
May 13, 2019

The House has released a newly-combined package of healthcare bills that will have a positive effect on both prescription drug prices and the affordability and accessibility of health insurance coverage. NETWORK supports all seven bills included in the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987). The package contains three bills concerning drug pricing and four bills addressing the stabilization of the healthcare marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. The prescription drug pricing legislation would mainly increase generic competition, which can help make affordable drugs available more quickly to consumers. The four bills in the package designed to strengthen the Affordable Care Act would increase support for consumers and state marketplaces and ensure health care plans offer full coverage.

Prescription Drug Bills

The prescription drug pricing bills included in the package are:

  • The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2019 (H.R. 1499)
  • The BLOCKING Act of 2019 (H.R. 938)
  • The CREATES Act of 2019 (H.R.965)

The Protecting Consumer Access to Generic Drugs Act of 2019 would make it illegal for brand-name and generic drug manufacturers to enter into agreements in which the brand-name drug manufacturer pays the generic manufacturer to keep a generic equivalent off the market. These agreements are known as “pay-for-delay” deals.

Two other two drug pricing bills are bipartisan proposals. The BLOCKING (Bringing Low-cost Options and Competition while Keeping Incentives for New Generics) Act of 2019 discourages an exclusivity period for generic applicants wanting to produce a drug that is no longer patented.

The CREATES (Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples) Act of 2019 would help generic drug manufacturers quickly acquire the samples they need to start making an affordable generic version of a drug. Currently, brand-name drug companies can game safety protocols to delay generic entry into the market. If enacted, this legislation would help generic competition get on the market faster and ensure consumers have affordable options for the prescriptions they need.

ACA Stabilization Bills

The bills concerning the Affordable Care Act in the package are:

  • The MORE Health Education Act (R.987),
  • R. 1010, Limiting the availability of “junk plans”
  • The State Allowance for a Variety of Exchanges (SAVE) Act (R.1386)
  • The ENROLL Act of 2019 (R.1386)

The Marketing and Outreach Restoration to Empower (MORE) Health Education Act would provide funding for outreach to underserved communities to help community members enroll in healthcare plans on the ACA marketplace. This funding has been slashed by the Trump administration in the past couple of years, making it harder for consumers to stay informed about the health insurance options.

H.R.1010 reverses the Trump Administration expansion of short-term, limited-duration insurance plans. These “junk plans” do not cover maternal or mental health, can discriminate based on age, gender, and preexisting conditions, and leave users without care in a medical crisis.

The SAVE Act provides federal funding to help states set up state-based health insurance marketplaces and expand healthcare to more people in their states.

The ENROLL Act would provide $100 million in funding to the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) navigator program. Navigator programs are an essential part of the ACA’s success and have faced devastating cuts for the past couple of years.

Restoring the Affordable Care Act

These fixes would restore important provisions in the original Affordable Care Act that ensured low-income and medically underserved communities had access to information and support to decide between their health insurance options. All healthcare coverage must be comprehensive and reliable in an emergency—short-term insurance is no substitute. In order to provide accessible, affordable, and high-quality healthcare, we must ensure these ACA provisions stay in place to protect consumers and support them in their healthcare choices.

NETWORK Calls for Affordable Drugs in NAFTA 2.0 Negotiations

Congress Must Demand the Administration Remove New Pharmaceutical Monopoly Protections from the Text of NAFTA 2.0

Laura Peralta-Schulte
May 10, 2019

Laura Peralta-Schulte, NETWORK Senior Government Relations Advocate, participated in a briefing on Capitol Hill to raise concern for policies included in the Trump administration’s ongoing trade negotiations. Read Laura’s speech below:

Good afternoon. My name is Laura Peralta-Schulte and I am a Senior Government Affairs Advocate for NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. NETWORK is a Catholic leader for justice founded over forty years ago by Catholic Sisters and open to all who share our passion. Some of you may know us by our campaign, “Nuns on the Bus.”

People of faith across traditions believe every life has dignity and is sacred. NETWORK Lobby grounds our work in the principles of Catholic Social Justice, which hold that access to healthcare is human right because it is necessary for well-being. The Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK reject the notion that only the wealthy should have access to care. Our most sacred texts urge us to “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1:17)

We acknowledge the genius of scientists who create cures for disease and the role industry plays in our health system. Business is a noble calling if performed in the service of the common good.

Provisions in the current NAFTA 2.0 text, however, are not pro-patient and do not promote the common good. Instead, they prioritize profits over patients.

Powerful companies are attempting to use complicated trade negotiations to lock in current U.S. drug policies and prevent Congress from taking reasonable steps to curb drug price gouging. The new agreement creates new roadblocks for generic companies to compete with brand name products after a patent has expired. It also attempt to export our bad policies to our neighbors.

This is the wrong way forward.

The provisions of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), currently in effect in all NAFTA countries, should continue to be the standard in the new NAFTA agreement. TRIPS calls for respect of intellectual property rights, including those for medicines. It also recognizes each nation’s right to take necessary steps to ensure that medicines are available to all of their residents.

We urge your offices to insist that the Administration change the text of the current Agreement to get rid of the following anti-competitive, anti-patient provisions:

First: The current text of NAFTA 2.0 locks in a minimum 10-year marketing exclusivity period for new biologic medicines. (Article 20.49.1).  These medicines include many new treatments for cancer, heart disease and even vaccines.

This provision would lock in current rules and stop from Congress from being able to make change.

The faith community has particular concern about how this rule would affect Mexico, where access to medicines for many patients is already simply out of reach. According to the OECD data, seven of every 10 Mexicans live in or near poverty.1 If unchanged, even fewer people will be able to afford needed medicines causing preventable suffering and death.

Second: NAFTA 2.0 expands what drugs get special biologic protections and doubles exclusivity for some medicines. This is in Article 20.49.2. Congress expressly excluded certain drugs from additional monopoly protections. This provision, and others, must be changed to conform to U.S. law.

Third: NAFTA 2.0 extends monopoly protection through “evergreening” provisions. It requires nations to extend patents through minor changes without any increased therapeutic benefits for patients well beyond the original 20-year patent. This is in Article 20.36.2.

Lastly, the agreement requires nations to provide patent term extensions or grant longer protections for perceived administrative delays. This is Article 20.44. This provision would block competition from the marketplace and limit Congress from making changes.

No matter what your position is on trade policy, we believe Congress should establish U.S. healthcare policy, not trade negotiators and industry lobbyists.

We believe each nation has a right to ensure residents have access to life-saving treatments.

At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis wrote a letter were he sharply condemned what he called an “an economy of exclusion.” He wrote, “Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say, “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. “

Today, high prescription drug prices force people to choose whether to take the medicines they need, or, instead, to ration or simply go without needed treatments in order to be able pay for other necessities like food and shelter. This is wrong.

Congress must say no to an economy of exclusion and insist the Administration remove these provisions from the current text.

 

View NETWORK’s Principles of Drug Pricing.

 


  1. https://www.oecd.org/fr/mexique/global-and-mexico-economic-outlook-2018.htm