New Agreement Would Advance Healthcare, Tax Justice, and Climate Protections
August 1, 2022
On Wednesday, July 27, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a joint statement announcing an agreement on moving the fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation process forward. This announcement was welcome after months of ups and downs in Senate negotiations since the House passed its budget reconciliation package last fall.
This new bill—the Inflation Reduction Act—addresses tax reform, prescription drug reform and healthcare costs, as well as climate change. If passed, this bill would be a huge accomplishment by beginning to require the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, while tackling the long-standing crises of healthcare costs and climate change.
Key tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:
- $313 billion in revenue raised from a 15% corporate minimum tax. This is critical to ensure that wealthy corporations pay taxes.
- $124 billion in revenue raised from better IRS tax enforcement. This provides the IRS with money to improve customer service systems as well as ensuring the wealthy pay what they owe.
- $14 billion in revenue raised from closing the carried interest loophole.
Key healthcare provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:
- Prescription Drug Pricing: The legislation empowers Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly, ensuring that seniors get better deals on their medications, and caps Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for drugs at $2,000 per year.
- ACA Premium Tax Credits: The Inflation Reduction Act extends enhanced Affordable Care Act premium tax credits for the next three years to enable working families and individuals support to pay for insurance through the exchange.
Key climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:
- Incentives for Consumers to Go Green: The legislation provides money for home energy rebates, consumer tax credits for energy-efficient homes and vehicles, and grants to make affordable housing more energy efficient. These measures would help reduce energy costs for families by more than 10% on average.
Unfortunately, this package leaves out high-level policy priorities for us at NETWORK including Medicaid expansion, paid leave, funding for affordable housing, expanding the Child Tax Credit, and more. However, given the political and time constraints, this bill will do a lot to advance economic justice and address other problems in healthcare and climate.
No Republican Senators support this bill, and one Senator, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), is the only Democratic member who has not yet expressed her full support for the bill. Democrats need all 50 members of their caucus to vote “yes” to pass the legislation. Senate Democratic leadership is planning a vote on this package later this week.
Watch Sister Simone receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Mary J. Novak
July 7, 2022
On July 7, 2022, President Joe Biden awarded Sister Simone Campbell, SSS and 16 other extraordinary Americans with our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. While leading NETWORK from 2004 to 2021, Sister Simone propelled NETWORK’s mission of political ministry into the national spotlight with her committed advocacy for justice.
President Biden said that Sister Simone and her fellow medal recipients “embody the soul of the nation — hard work, perseverance, and faith,” and I strongly agree. It is people like Sister Simone and each of you — advocates for justice, participating in politics to dismantle systemic racism and advance the common good — who give me hope.
As we witness rising tension and growing threats to our democracy, it is more important than ever to lobby for federal policies that dismantle systemic racism and create a country where all people can thrive.
The Dobbs Decision and NETWORK’s Continued Work for Racial and Economic Justice
The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will have deep ramifications in people’s lives, many of whom may not even realize it yet. Undoing nearly half a century of precedent and jurisprudence will undoubtedly have a disorienting and destabilizing impact on our laws, the provision of maternal health care, and our already fraught civil discourse.
At NETWORK, we speak from five decades of women-led, person-centered advocacy and hundreds of encounters with women, families, and communities across the country that have been disinvested in, and marginalized by, our systems and structures. As a Catholic organization with 50 years of political ministry in a pluralistic democracy, we recognize the role and distinction of the moral and legal questions at issue here.
This Supreme Court decision leaves NETWORK with the following questions from our perspective of pursuing justice and the common good through federal policy:
- Will state and federal legislatures now introduce and pass a groundswell of policies to offer a robust social safety net of resources for all women and families that allow everyone to thrive?
- Are religious leaders prepared to allocate resources through the largesse of their institutions and donors to ensure that any gaps in the social safety net are filled?
- Will this decision lead to an increase in maternal mortality for the people who are already the most lacking in access to resources in our society, especially women living in rural, low-income communities and women of color?
- Will state legislatures continue to pass invasive and punitive measures that create a culture of surveillance and criminalization of women, including those experiencing ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage?
- Will this decision create a chilling effect among medical providers, making them hesitant or unable to provide life-saving care to patients suffering conditions such as ectopic pregnancy or hemorrhaging after a miscarriage?
With polarization and extremist violence growing in our country, people of faith have a moral duty to work toward the common good across a spectrum of issues. Catholic teaching states that a focus on one moral priority cannot lead to “dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity” (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” #29).
For anyone who has made ending federal protections for abortion the singular focus of their political activity, we at NETWORK urge you to expand your focus to include the economic realities of women and families. Now is the time to listen to the experience of women, particularly women living in rural, low-income communities and women of color.
Founded by Catholic Sisters and imbued with their charisms, NETWORK educates, organizes, and lobbies to create a society that promotes justice and the dignity of all. We invite all who share our passion for justice to work with us to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive future.
Joan F. Neal is NETWORK’s deputy executive director and chief equity officer. Mary J. Novak is NETWORK’s executive director. Sr. Erin Zubal, OSU, is an Ursuline Sister of Cleveland and NETWORK’s chief of staff.
TELL CONGRESS: CLOSE THE MEDICAID COVERAGE GAP
Over 2 million low-income adults living near the poverty line in 12 states don’t have health insurance. They earn less than $12,880 per year – too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid, but not enough for Affordable Care Act subsidies. Congress needs to finish the ACA and close the Medicaid Coverage gap in budget reconciliation so that people with limited financial resources can live healthier lives.
Email Congress and let them know: budget reconciliation must close the Medicaid coverage gap.
Congress and President Biden Must Take Domestic and International COVID-19 Action
May 13, 2022
How do you carve out a “new normal” in the calm days that follow the urgent times of a pandemic? Two years into life with COVID-19, people in the United States have yet to reach consensus on the path to achieve and maintain normalcy. Medical experts, governments, houses of worship, and ordinary citizens do not accept a uniform standard of safety and protection. Tensions arise over mask requirements in public spaces, vaccines and therapeutics are questioned, restrictions on large public gatherings are shunned, and the efficacy of booster shots is debated. In developed countries like ours, this is privileged discourse. Domestic and international COVID-19 infections persist, but most of us have taken the shot and are now blessed with significantly diminished threats of death and serious illness.
But what about our global siblings in under-resourced nations? How do they fare in places where jabs in the arm aren’t coming because of a lack of political will and resources? The short answer is, not well.
Globally, only 80% of people in lower-income countries have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The United Nations reports that of the more than 10 billion doses given out worldwide, only one percent have been administered in low-income countries. Here, there is no debate: citizens across the globe that don’t have an economy like ours, and thus lack access to life-saving vaccines and therapeutics, are suffering. They are ravaged by a pernicious disease tamed by remedies in our country because of economic and health inequities: lack of funds to secure the vaccines and therapeutics, well-resourced countries hoarding supply, and Big Pharma’s preference for patent control and profits over sharing the science for lower-cost vaccine production.
Last October, in remarks given at the World Meeting of Popular Movements, Pope Francis called on pharmaceutical companies to release vaccine patents to make COVID-19 accessible by the poor. He noted at the time that only 3%-4% of the population in some countries had been vaccinated. One would hope that Big Pharma and world leaders would reflect on that dismally low vaccination rate, heed the words of the Pope, and take action that values lives over profit. But that didn’t happen.
What can people of faith do? Be a pest for those in poverty here and abroad
In the Popular Movements meeting, Pope Francis recognized that some consider him to be a “pest” because of his unwavering defense of the poor and vulnerable. It doesn’t stop him in the pursuit of prophetic Christianity and it won’t stop NETWORK, either. As a member of the Catholic Cares Coalition, a national coalition of 60 Catholic religious and non-profit organizations promoting domestic COVID-19 vaccination and working to address COVID-19 vaccine and treatment equity in the U.S. and globally, we advocate for life-saving vaccine policies. Most recently, NETWORK signed on to a coalition letter urging Congress to pass a supplemental funding bill that prioritizes funding for ongoing domestic and international COVID-19 needs.
The pressure for domestic COVID-19 funds is necessary because nationwide, government money that secured hospital resources and rapid response measures during the height of the pandemic are running out. In our current landscape, if the government doesn’t pass a supplemental bill, it is likely that our “new normal” includes locking out Medicaid recipients, the uninsured, and the under-insured from free and deeply affordably COVID-19-related care, treatment and vaccines. It is critical that we provide funding which allows the United States to respond to these needs while also fulfilling our promises to assist those around the world.
NETWORK’s Request to Congress:
We support the Catholic Cares Coalitions request: pass the supplemental funding bill with at least $10 billion in domestic funding and $5 billion in international funds for COVID-19 vaccines, testing, therapeutics and delivery system strengthening.
What’s a TRIPS Waiver for COVID-19 All About?
The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an agreement created when the World Trade Organization was formed in 1995. This agreement restricts the rights to make and distribute patented medicines or materials, including COVID vaccines, testing and treatment, except under emergency conditions.
This Agreement, pushed by knowledge-based economies like the United States and the multinational, research-intensive pharmaceutical industry, imposed a base of protections for intellectual property rights, from patents to copyrights. Johns Hopkins University
In an effort to decrease pandemic deaths and illnesses, a COVID TRIPS waiver was proposed by South African and Indian governments to relax the intellectual property rights protections for medicines and technologies needed to prevent and treat COVID-19. This initial effort to release the science so lives could be saved was rebuffed by developed nations and pharmaceutical companies — who’ve thus far proven maximizing profits and maintaining control of monopolies is more important than saving lives. South Africa and India amended their waiver request so that it subsides in three years. The cap on the TRIPS waiver was intended to make rich countries and Big Pharma in Europe and North America feel better about lost profits and diminished control (in exchange for saving the lives of the global poor), but the measure has yet to draw support.
Are We Our Brother’s (And Sister’s) Keeper?
Humanitarian efforts to protect our global siblings should trump financial gains and political posturing. After all, the United States is privileged to benefit from Big Pharma’s vaccine supply. Don’t we have a moral obligation to help vaccinate the rest of the world? Pope Francis would say yes!. And so would Ady Barkan, the founder and co-executive director of Be A Hero. During his electoral campaign, Joe Biden promised Barkan that, “if the United States were to discover a vaccine, he would ensure that no patents stand in the way of other countries’ and companies’ mass-producing it.” As president, Mr. Biden has stated that patents and international trade agreements should not be allowed to prevent the affordable production of COVID-19 treatments.
Unfortunately, these have been empty pledges to date. Pfizer and Moderna, two of the companies that received billions of dollars in public taxpayer funding to develop their vaccines, have not shared their innovation with global scientists. This is particularly disturbing in the case of Moderna’s vaccine project which was completely funded by public money. While U.S. tax dollars fueled the Moderna vaccine, the company padded their profit margin, Moderna forecasts at least $19 billion in sales in 2022.
NETWORK and our Catholic and interfaith partners will continue calling on the U.S. government to share live-saving technology and know-how with countries in the global South so that they can begin developing necessary vaccines, testing and treatment for their citizens. For too long, access to healthcare has depended on the charity of rich countries which is neither predictable or sufficient. Justice requires ensuring countries must be able to protect the health and well-being of their own citizens especially in times of crisis. We must shift from an economy of exclusion to one that prioritizes life.
We Continue Putting People over Profits
Domestically, the appetite for COVID-19 prevention measures may be waning, but the disease is here to stay. We must not ignore it, and we must urge our leaders to diminish its ability to compromise health and take lives domestically and globally. Affordable access to shots, therapeutics, testing, and boosters are key as we continue to battle COVID-19 and any variants that emerge. It’s hard to accomplish this goal when the government funding that ushered us into our “new normal” is drying up.
Globally, even if the TRIPS waiver is granted, money will be needed to produce, transport, and administer the vaccine. Congress should act to address our obligation to take care of people at home and abroad in the supplemental COVID funding bill. Pfizer, Moderna, and other biopharmaceutical companies that maintain a monopoly on innovations created with public funds, cannot produce enough doses on their own to vaccinate the world. By protecting their monopoly, they deny billions of people access to vaccinations.
On May 12, 2022, the second Global COVID-19 Summit was held. Its co-hosts, the United States, Belize, Germany, Indonesia, and Senegal, called for global researchers, heads of states, philanthropic executives, and health experts to explore solutions — and make commitments — to “vaccinate the world, save lives now, and build better health security — for everyone, everywhere.” At the onset of the Summit, President Biden announced a major commitment to vaccinating the world’s lower-income citizens.
NETWORK believes this action, combined with the renewed and increased financial support from other global leaders in the West has the potential to be a game changer for global health and lives around the world. Through the National Institutes of Health, the United States has licensed 11 COVID-19 research tools and early-stage vaccine and diagnostic candidates to the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) so that global manufacturers can use these technologies for the potential development of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics to benefit people living in low- and middle-income countries.
According to the White House, new financial commitments were made at the Summit that totaled more than $3 billion in new funding above and beyond pledges made to date in 2022. This includes over $2 billion for immediate COVID-19 response and $962 million in commitments toward a new pandemic preparedness and global health security fund at the
We know that the solution to COVID-19 lies in affordable and widespread access to vaccines, testing and therapeutics. We will continue raising our voices to the White House to oppose Big Pharma’s efforts to exacerbate vaccine inequity in the name of profit. We will continue to urge Congress to pass a supplemental funding bill that prioritizes funding for ongoing domestic and international COVID-19 needs; and we call on President Biden to continue working for an effective TRIPS waiver that makes lifesaving technology available to all.
Ending the Black Maternal Health Crisis Is a Moral Imperative
Joan F. Neal
April 15, 2022
This week marks the five-year anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week in the United States. During Black Maternal Health Week, advocates and elected officials build community and draw awareness toward the maternal mortality epidemic that is sweeping our nation. At NETWORK, we believe that access to quality, affordable health care is a fundamental human right. It is our moral responsibility as Catholics to ensure accessible health care for all and eliminate racial and economic health disparities. As Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) who is the co-chair and co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus stated, “This work is deeply personal” during an interfaith event NETWORK helped to organize.
Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in February revealed that the Black maternal mortality crisis has only gotten worse. The data shows that the mortality rate for Black women rose by 26 percent in 2020—a rate three times greater than that of white women. In an interfaith event last month, Representative Alma Adams (NC-12) said, “Overlooking the pain of Black women in health care results from implicit bias and racism.” The United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, especially for birthing people of color. This is unjust and sinful.
On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a historic call to action to improve lives and health outcomes for birthing people, especially people of color, across the country. The Biden-Harris administration made a series of announcements that will work toward health equity including extending Medicaid and CHIP coverage for a full year after pregnancy in 11 additional states, and proposing “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designations to make improvements in maternal health outcomes. These announcements, along with the 12 key bills in the Momnibus Act, are vital steps forward to invest in maternal health and dismantle systemic racism in our health care systems.
Black mothers should not fear for their lives or their infant’s life while giving birth. As Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) said during Wednesday’s Black Maternal Health Week event, “Birthing while Black should not be a death sentence.” NETWORK is proud to see the work done by the Biden-Harris administration to achieve healthcare equity for Black mothers, and continually supports the work of the Black Maternal Health Caucus to pass the Momnibus. With ongoing advocacy and a commitment to Build Anew, we can end the Black Maternal Mortality crisis in the United States. And we should do that.
This event will go live Wednesday, March 9 at 3:00 PM Eastern.
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, American Muslim Health Professionals, United Church of Christ, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Council of Jewish Women, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Disciples Center for Public Witness, National Council of Churches, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team, Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative, Church World Service, Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness, The Episcopal Church, Sojourners, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, Poligon Education Fund
Unnecessary and Harmful: The Security Bars and Processing Rule
February 17, 2022
While the preposterous Title 42 expulsion policy and ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy continue at the border, we are very concerned that the Biden Administration would install yet another Trump Era policy – Security Bars and Processing Rule.
In December 2020, one of the Trump Administration’s last acts on immigration was to propose the Security Bars and Processing Rule to go into effect in 2021. This rule would label asylum seekers a “danger to the national security of the United States” merely because they transited through or come from a country with a communicable disease, or exhibit symptoms “consistent with” such disease. This is ANY communicable disease ranging from the flu, to cholera, to HIV AIDS — not just COVID-19. Under the rule, covered asylum seekers would be barred from refugee protection in the United States. Which violates both U.S. law and international treaty obligations; all but ensuring their deportation to persecution or torture.
The Biden administration extended the period of comment in 2021 so that it didn’t go into effect then. However, now it is closing the comment period on February 28th, and advocates fear that the administration will then work to make the rule permanent.
A plethora of experts have already highlighted grave concerns that this rule is both fatally flawed and “xenophobia masquerading as a public health measure.” In their comments leading public health experts, including at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and School of Nursing, found no public health justification for this sweeping ban. In a comment submitted by Physicians for Human Rights, Dr. Monik Jiménez of Harvard Medical School concluded that the targeting and classification of asylum seekers as a public health threat is “not based on sound epidemiological evidence.” Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian organization with 50-years’ experience responding to disease outbreaks, characterized the rule as “counterproductive” and noted that “public health measures work best when they are inclusive. They fail when vulnerable people, like migrants and asylum seekers, are excluded.”
As the African Human Rights Coalition commented, the rule “exacerbates racist tropes and myths of immigrants as carriers of disease.” Deeply rooted in eugenics, this ideology echoes throughout this rule. Many LGBTQ groups and HIV advocacy and treatment organizations also expressed alarm that the rule, similar to the discriminatory immigration ban on individuals living with HIV that was finally lifted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, would discriminate “against individuals on the basis of immigration status [and the] countries in which the person has lived or traveled” and would put particularly vulnerable populations such as “women, people from the LGBTQ+ community, and people from ethnic or religious minorities at risk.”
The rule violates U.S. law and treaty obligations, including those adopted by Congress through its passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus stressed in its comment that the rule would have “devastating and senseless consequences” for asylum seekers and violate the clear intent of Congress, “reiterated over and over for four decades,” “that the United States provide a meaningful and fair path to protection for those fleeing persecution.” The American Bar Association and the Round Table of Former Immigration Judges, a bipartisan group of dozens of former immigration judges, similarly objected to the rule as inconsistent with domestic and international law.
We urge the administration to withdraw this unjustifiable, illegal, and harmful rule. The Departments have repeatedly paused the rule’s implementation due to ongoing litigation against a related regulation and as they are “reviewing and reconsidering” the rule and “whether to modify or rescind” it. The Departments now request comment on whether to further delay implementation. Ample time to study the legality and impact this baseless ban would have on asylum seekers has already elapsed. There is no need for additional delay. The administration can and must swiftly and completely rescind the rule.