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The Affordable Care Act: An Appeal to the Repealers

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Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing more than 2.1 million working families dedicated to quality, affordable healthcare for all issued the following statement on the two-year anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“Today, millions of working families across America are saying ‘thank you’ for the Affordable Care Act as it continues to deliver on its vision of providing quality, affordable, secure healthcare to all, regardless of age, race, income, faith or profession. The law is the great equalizer -- no one man or woman is more or less deserving than another. In the eyes of the Affordable Care Act, there is no 1% or 99%. There are only Americans who all deserve an equal chance to live longer, healthier lives.

“The Affordable Care Act is working. If you care about the future of this country, move on to a real challenge. Stop playing politics with the health of Americans and stop engaging in threats in the form of lawsuits, refusal of federal dollars and legislative foot dragging. That will not make America great; it will make us broke and sick.

“If you are running false ads against the Affordable Care Act, stop them. If you are undermining the foundation of Medicaid and Medicare and attempting to embarrass American taxpayers and veterans who depend upon on these essential services, take a moment and remember who built this country.

“While this week underscored that Republican extremists in Congress are happy to continuing stacking the deck against our struggling middle-class and aging parents and grandparents, I would appeal to leaders in our government who truly want America to recover from this recession to focus on what matters most: creating good jobs.”

Celebrating two years of the Affordable Care Act helping Latinos

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By Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) 

Two years ago, a new healthcare bill was signed into law that dramatically increased Americans’ access to quality, affordable healthcare. The Hispanic community was disproportionately affected by the old unfair healthcare system, but this new law positively impacts our health and economic security. 

The rising cost of healthcare and discriminatory policies used by insurance companies have plagued our country for far too long, but it wasn’t until President Obama and congressional Democrats took action that real change was finally accomplished. During debate of the bill, the airwaves and newspapers were saturated with gross misinformation, scare tactics, and heated rhetoric that gave many Americans a false impression of the healthcare bill.

Now, two years later, Americans have been able to witness firsthand how the Affordable Care Act is helping millions save money and live healthier lives. 

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against and deny coverage to millions of people with preexisting conditions, including 17 million children with preexisting conditions like diabetes or asthma.

 Now, 105 million Americans, including nearly 12 million Hispanics, no longer have lifetime caps on their medical care. Insurance companies cannot deny or drop coverage for you or your family just because of expensive medical treatment. 

Thanks to the new healthcare reform law, 3.6 million seniors whose prescription drug coverage was suspended due to the infamous ‘donut hole’ have saved an average of $600 on their prescription drugs. And preventive care on procedures like flu shots, mammograms, and colon cancer screenings are provided with no out-of-pocket costs.

Two-and-a-half million young people working hard to begin their careers can stay on their family insurance plans until they turn 26, a rule which provides coverage to 736,000 young Hispanics. And now, thanks to the President’s landmark healthcare reform, your family will no longer have to go bankrupt because a family member was born with an illness or became sick. 

While these new policies and statistics are a testament to the benefits of the new law, the real amazing examples are the individual stories of how the law has touched millions of Americans.

In California, a woman who initially hated the bill discovered the only way she could receive cancer treatment was through the new law’s Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan, and now she is a living example of the Affordable Care Act’s intent and success. In Colorado, a small business owner was able to continue insurance coverage to his employees only because of the healthcare law’s small business tax credit. And in North Dakota, a young girl born with a rare genetic disorder would have been close to her lifetime maximum on her father’s insurance policy, but under the new law, her lifetime limit is removed so she can receive the treatment she needs. 

Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies played by their own rules when it came to your health care. They could raise premiums or drop your coverage if your medical care wasn’t good for their bottom line. But now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you and your doctor are empowered to do what’s best for your medical care. 

American families, and especially the Hispanic community, cannot afford to go back to the way things were and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they don’t have to.

Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) is the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Police Shootings, Beatings in New York Fuel Activist Call for More Oversight

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By Saeed Shabazz, Staff Writer
Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – The killing of an unarmed Bronx teen, Ramarley Graham, 19, by an undercover narcotics officer; the police beating of another 19-year-old Bronx teen, Jatiek Reed, shown on video being kicked and punched by four New York City police officers; and the shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., 68, a retired Marine Corps veteran and correction officer in White Plains, NY renewed the call for oversight of police departments throughout the state.

“Yes, it is true that these acts have reignited the discussion amongst community leaders regarding law enforcement’s use of force policies, training of officers, and investigations of complaints of questionable actions by officers,” said Damon Jones, the Westchester County, N.Y. representative of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement in America.

Mr. Jones told The Final Call the main problem facing anti-police brutality activists in the state is the failure of officials to admit a need for a critical review of law enforcement policies.

Case in point, a Poughkeepsie Journal study of the use of Tasers by 19 local police agencies found Blacks were hit by Tasers far more than Whites. The Journal’s analysis and the 2011 study by the N.Y. Civil Liberties Union of eight New York police forces showed clearly a disproportionate use of stun guns on people of color. The NYACLU study found stun guns were used against non-Whites 58 percent of the time.

Police officials maintained Blacks are not targeted, saying officers try to use the stun device only when necessary to make arrests, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.

The Journal concluded the use of Tasers “echoes consistent and disturbing practices of over-policing in communities of color.”

One of the main supporters of current police practices is a conservative think tank, the Manhattan Institute, which insists: “Serious crime is being deterred by the NYPD’s relentless efforts to reassert the rule of law in high-crime neighborhoods.”

“Time for the federal government to come in, historically when local municipal police departments could not discipline their officers, the feds would investigate and put in safe guards to protect innocent citizens,” said Sen. Eric Adams, a Democrat who represents Brooklyn. He added that for some “strange” reason, probably 9-11 attacks on the city, the Justice Department hasn’t taken on NYPD.

“They have turned their backs on the trauma police misbehavior is bringing to our communities, 9-11 is no excuse,” he told The Final Call.

Ron Hampton, the Wash., D.C. representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement in America explained that the Justice Dept. has a special Litigations Branch that monitors police departments nationally. “The law creating this department was passed in 1992, known as the ‘Omnibus Crime Act of 1992’ that established a system for monitoring departments, particularly if there has been notification of a culture of police brutality,” Mr. Hampton said. The monitor may stay with a department for up to five years, looking at the behavior of the officers, he noted. You cannot have 20 questionable shootings and think there is no problem, it’s referred to as “pattern and practice,” Mr. Hampton continued.

“We have met with people from the DOJ several times, and New York comes up in our discussion, so, I know the DOJ is aware of what is happening with the NYPD,” he said.

The Justice Dept. has successfully monitored police departments in Seattle, Miami, Pittsburgh, Phoenix and New Orleans and changes were made, according to Mr. Hampton. “The DOJ responds to information from citizens,” Mr. Hampton said.

The Justice Dept. did not respond to calls from The Final Call, nor has any statement been issued concerning these latest incidents in New York.

In the meantime, several state legislators sponsored a bill Feb. 9 that establishes an independent inspector general for the NYPD to report to the commissioner of investigations. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes the bill, according to the Associated Press. A spokesman for the three-term mayor told AP: “The department already has an aggressive and independent Internal Affairs Bureau.”

“We agree the police department cannot police itself. For many years we have called for greater oversight of the NYPD, this is a step in the right direction,” Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State Conference of the NAACP, noted in a press release.

In an attempt to quiet the community, the NYPD announced Feb. 14 a so-called revised policy for using deadly force, according to the N.Y. Daily News. A department spokesman told the newspaper officers cannot shoot “if innocent bystanders” would be injured.

Some activists see this revised regulation as a smokescreen and not an answer. The N.Y. Civil Liberties Union issued a statement saying the NYPD should be working on “improving training and procedures as to eliminate unjustified shootings.”

The new directive is designed to restate that police shootings are not judged by the standard applied to civilians, noted Prof. Eugene O’Donnell, professor of political science and law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Because the police use force pursuant to the work they do, and do so at our behest, their actions are judged in the context of their training and experience as police personnel,” the professor told The Final Call in an e-mail.

The reasonableness of their actions can only be judged by taking into account what they know and how they are trained in assessing a given situation, added Prof. O’Donnell, who is also a retired police officer. “The police act unilaterally and summarily-they, and they alone, make the on-the-spot decision, so there is no formal charging process or the participation of any non-police people in examining the decision,” he said.

Sen. Adams, who retired from the NYPD with the rank of captain, said he understands the mindset described by Prof. O’Donnell. Officers must be given a psychological test that deals with racial stereotyping and that this test should be administered before coming into the NYPD, he said. “And there should be a lesson plan used in the Police Academy dealing with stereotyping,” Sen. Adams added.

Columbia Law professor Jeffrey Fagan explained to The Final Call it is not “unconstitutional” for a police officer to put his hands on someone in the course of making a stop. “Cops can legally handcuff someone, for example, if they believe that person has a weapon,” he said. “It would be interesting to know the racial breakdown of those stops that don’t end up in use of force.”

New Yorkers must remain vigilant, and must keep up the pressure; the Justice Dept. will come around, said Mr. Hampton. “We will be meeting with the DOJ soon to discuss what is happening in Westchester County, and I am sure the NYPD will be discussed,” he said.

New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne's Service Fondly Remembered By Many

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By Gregory McDale, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

Following New Jersey Congressman Donald M. Payne’s death, several friends and colleagues reflected on his outstanding legacy and tireless service in the U.S. and abroad.

“Today serves as a reminder to all of us who are blessed to serve the people of our communities, that the time we have on this earth can end much too fast, and that we must constantly be working to improve the lives of those around us,” U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement. “My good friend Donald Payne made that his goal each and every day of his life.”

Rep. Payne lost his battle to colon cancer and died on March 6 at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston. According to the Associated Press, he was flown to Jersey from Georgetown University Hospital on March 2 after his health had starkly declined.

A Newark native, Payne knew early on that he wanted to make a difference in many peoples’ lives. According to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, he once said, “I want to be a Congressman to serve as a role model for the young people I talk to on the Newark street corners. I want them to see there are no barriers to achievement. I want to give them a reason to try.”

After serving as a public school teacher, he later became a member of the Newark City Council in 1988. Shortly thereafter, he made history when he became New Jersey’s first Black Congressional member. He represented New Jersey’s 10th District, which includes Newark and parts of Essex, Union and Hudson counties. In 2010, he was elected into his 12th term.

While serving on the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee, Payne worked tirelessly to improve the lives of children and working families. He provided equitable funding for public schools and worked to make healthcare more affordable. He also worked on the House’s Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and traveled abroad to provide humanitarian aid.

“By any standard, Don lived a full and meaningful life,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. He was a leader in US-Africa policy, making enormous contributions towards helping restore democracy and human rights across the continent. ”

Payne served as the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 1995 and held this position for one year. In 2010, he was elected chair of the CBC Foundation.

The CBCF said in a statement that Payne brought a wealth of knowledge to the organization and brought a unique perspective to everything he did. “We have lost a tireless public servant who embodied humanity, compassion and dignity for all,” the CBCF said. “[We] will carry on his mission to work for justice and opportunity for all.”

Former Maryland Congressman Kweisi Mfume says that Payne helped him win his election as chairman of the CBC. He explained that their 20-year friendship was filled with memories of traveling the world to assist those in need.

“Don Payne was a friend–that’s the real bottom line,” Mfume told the AFRO. “When people take a look at his life I hope they come to understand that he loved his work and he did so much to represent not only the people of New Jersey but people across the globe. He was passionate about what he believed in and he always believed that tomorrow would be better than today. I’m going to miss him.”

Payne is survived by three children and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements had not been announced at AFRO press time.

Gloomy Outlook for Black America, Scholars Conclude

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By Herb Boyd, Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News –

A group of leading Black intellectuals met at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to discuss the current plight of African-Americans in the United States.

Curiously, at the recent forum, which took place Feb. 26 and was entitled “Black America: A Prescription for the Future,” alongside their programs, attendees were given an article published in the Journal of Negro Education in 1936.

That conference apparently ended without the delegates accepting any of the proposed solutions.

Those participants might have benefi ted from the work of the panelists at the Schomburg, particularly the remedies offered by Dr. Bernard Anderson, Dr. William Julius Wilson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Dr. Richard Kahlenberg.

In 1936, with the solutions seeming unacceptable, the delegates agreed that a next step was necessary and they called for a national Negro congress under the auspices of the great labor leader A. Philip Randolph.

More than 75 years later, Norman Hill provided a living connection to Randolph at the Schomburg as president emeritus of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI).

Hill’s task was to set the stage for the panelists with an overview of the Civil Rights Movement, and he did that quite elaborately, covering from 1896 to 1965.

Hill delivered his presentation after a general welcome from the moderator, professor Jerald Podair, and greetings from Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Clayola Brown, president of the APRI; and a representative from the NFL Players Association standing in for executive director DeMaurice Smith.

To address the problems facing Black America, Hill said the renewed movement would be wise to follow the principles and credo of his mentor, Randolph.

“At the banquet table of nature,” Hill began, quoting Randolph, “there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and you keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything, and if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything.

And you can’t take anything without organization.” A barrage of statistics came from Anderson and Wilson, with only the cogent words of Sharpton providing a pause. An esteemed economist, Anderson’s analysis is often found in the National Urban League’s annual State of the Nation report.

He shared some of that information with a fairly sparse but attentive audience.

On the question of jobs, Anderson said, “Blacks comprise 20 percent of the unemployed.”

And that number may be even higher if you include those no longer looking for work and the underemployed. “When you stop looking for work, you are no longer listed among the unemployed,” he said.

His was a litany of despair as he compared the prospects of Blacks to a train’s caboose. “No matter how fast the train is going, the caboose [Blacks] will never catch up to the engine [whites].”

Sharpton’s main thesis had less to do with comparing Blacks to whites and more to do with the expanded Black middle and upper class and the poor or lower class they’ve left behind. “What we did during the Civil Right Movement was to empower and create a Black upper class while ignoring the Black lower class. Our Black billionaires sold their businesses and cashed out.

“We have to get back to a bottom-up movement,” he continued. “It’s time to get back on track.”

Getting back on track, he insisted, would entail paying attention to the GOP and its aim to suppress the Black and minority vote and, with the help of the Supreme Court, put an end to affirmative action.

“I agree with Dr. Anderson: We must, in the tradition of Frederick Douglass, agitate, agitate, agitate!”

Many of the dismal conclusions recited by Wilson merely confi rmed what Anderson had already presented.

And like Anderson, he said it “will take generation for the Black family to catch up with the white family” in terms of wealth and income.

“Seventy percent of Black children who now live in poor communities will continue to live there as adults,” Wilson added.

The shift in demographics, he explained, has created largely African-American core centers in our major cities. “The Black middle class has abandoned the inner city and now populates the suburbs,” he said.

So what’s to be done? “President Obama, rather than specifying a bill that would target Black Americans, needs to create a bill designed to create public sector jobs,” Wilson said.

Of course, most of the people who would benefit from such a bill would be Blacks.

Kahlenberg’s report was equally depressing as he focused on the gross disparities between Black and white school children.

He observed that since Black primary and secondary students attend schools in poor areas, they are less likely to receive a quality education and not get the same books, new technology or audio-visual equipment as a white school district.

Unlike one of the conclusions reported by Wilson, Kahlenberg said that Black students perform “better when given a chance to attend better schools.”

His solution to some of the problems hindering Black empowerment centers around what he calls “a new type of afirmative action,” one based not on race but on class.

“Blacks would still be the greatest beneiciary of an economic approach, since they are the worst off,” Kahlenberg concluded.

After four hours, with other pressing engagements, it wasn’t possible to hear Velma Murphy Hill’s summary, but it’s conceivable that she arrived at a conclusion very similar to the one in the article back in 1936, which declared that another step is necessary for a better “prescription for the future.”

In other words, past is prologue—or the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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