Inching toward universal healthcare: New York City to guarantee healthcare to everyone, Washington State plans a public option

A demented old racist has taken our federal government and TV news bureaus hostage, so it’s easy to overlook the progressive policy announcements made over the last few days. But with new Democratic administrations taking office and others looking to make a splash, it’s been a good few days, especially for healthcare policy.

In New York on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would be moving toward guaranteed healthcare for undocumented immigrants and low-income residents. It’s not any kind of Medicaid expansion — states run that program — or new health plan, but instead, a guarantee of proactive care that won’t cost patients anything if they can’t afford to pay.

From the NY Times:

The city already has a kind of public option for health insurance for low-income New Yorkers, through an insurance plan run by city hospitals known as MetroPlus.

The new proposal would improve that coverage, which already insures some 516,000 people, and aim to reach more of those who are eligible, such as the young and uninsured, and others who qualify but have not applied.

It would also provide additional direct city spending, at least $100 million per year when fully implemented, officials said, for the city’s hospital system to support care for those without insurance. The city estimates the uninsured population to be about 600,000 people, including as many as 300,000 undocumented residents. A major component of that effort would be improving customer service, including the phone line, to help those with questions about their care.

The program will have a membership card that will allow patients to get care from a wide array of doctors. Right now, over half a million people use the city’s emergency rooms for their medical care, which is a very unhealthy and fiscally disastrous status quo. According to NBC New York, this new program will allow people to seek “primary and specialty care, from pediatrics to OBGYN, geriatric, mental health and other services.”

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Womp womp: Tony Evers says he was totally misunderstood and will follow Republican laws

There are two types of Democrats: Those that talk tough, and those that are actually willing to fight. There are far too many of the former already, and unfortunately, we know that at the very least, new Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers does not belong in the latter camp.

Yesterday, the newly elected governor drew cheers and many, many upvotes when he said that he would be ignoring at least some of the ridiculous, restrictive laws passed by Republicans during a dirty lame-duck session last month. He had won a lawsuit against the power-grab that Republicans had enacted against him when he was the state’s school superintendent, so this didn’t seem like that unusual a statement for him.

Turns out, when he said that he expected to be sued, he didn’t mean for non-compliance. Instead, he says he was suggesting that outside groups might sue the state (ie him) to lift the restrictions on his power (something he’d welcome, but won’t do himself). Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“I have no intent of breaking the law,” Evers told reporters at a news conference Thursday.

The incoming Democratic governor said he believed he would be sued not by detractors trying to force him to follow the laws passed in a lame-duck session but by supporters who want to get him out from under the laws. Provisions of those laws will limit his ability to write state rules and oversee economic development.

“I personally have reviewed (the new laws) and reviewed them with attorneys and other legal staff,” Evers said. “We haven’t decided what to do personally. It’s just that in my experience that when this happens, it likely will happen from the outside.”

This comes after (expected) Republican backlash to his comments. Perhaps he’s trying to make peace before the legislative session, or maybe not show his hand (or,  pull it back, as it were). Either way, he will follow the laws, he says,  until a court strikes them down.

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New Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) plans to ignore lame-duck power grab, tells Republicans: Sue me

Tony Evers has seen this before. When he was Wisconsin’s state schools superintendent, the GOP-controlled legislature and Gov. Scott Walker tried to limit his powers. He sued them over it, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in his favor. So after deposing Walker in November’s gubernatorial election, he’s not surprised that the GOP came after him again, passing a sheaf of last-minute laws in a lame-duck session that would severely restrict his ability to do his job and fulfill the promises he made to voters.

So, once again, he plans to rely on the courts to protect his right to do the job to which he was democratically elected. Via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

He suggested he wouldn’t go along with parts of those wide-ranging measures but wouldn’t specify which ones. The new laws limit his authority over state rules, require him to get permission from lawmakers to adjust public benefits programs and diminish his say over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

“Having gone through this in my previous job as state superintendent, I think it’s more likely that I will be sued because I’m now the chief executive of the state,” Evers said of a potential legal fight over the lame-duck legislation “Same thing happened when I was state superintendent — I was sued. So that’s where I anticipate most of the action to be.”

Evers didn’t specify which restrictions he would ignore, but he did lay out an ambitious first budget and agenda which can give us a few clues. According to the Journal-Sentinel report, he is aiming to “expand health insurance coverage under the ACA; allow illegal immigrants to qualify for driver’s cards; give immigrants who came to the state illegally as children the chance to pay in-state tuition; and allow property taxes to rise by more than they have in the past.”

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Virginia State Senator Dick Black, an unrepentant bigot monster, won’t run for re-election

State Senator Dick Black, who met with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2016 and has been a monstrous enemy of women and LGBTQ people, has announced that he is retiring from the Virginia State Senate at the end of his term.

It’s hard to overemphasize how awful Black, who represents Virginia’s 13th State Senate district, has been while in office. He backs dictators, is an unhinged conspiracy theoristrampantly homophobic, and viciously anti-choice. (For his greatest hits, check out Blue Virginia’s post from last summer.) The fact that he’s leaving is in and of itself great news, even before you get to the political opportunity offered by his exit.

Black’s district has backed Democrats for state and national office of late, with Tim Kaine beating Black’s fellow alt-right bigot Corey Stewart by 19% and Ralph Northam winning the governor’s race by 11% there. Some argue that he’s a better target than a boring, moderate Republican, but he won his race in 2015 after saying some pretty awful stuff, so this time around, Democrats won’t have to worry about whatever blinding spell he cast over his constituents.

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Arkansas kicks 17,000 people off Medicaid in three months; other states plan to join in

As working people in several red states celebrate the official expansion of Medicaid due to victorious ballot initiatives, others living under the boot of cruel Republican governors are beginning to lose their health care en masse.

Last summer, Arkansas became the first state to implement work requirements as a condition of receiving Medicaid, a new and pernicious hurdle made possible by waivers offered by the Trump administration. The new law requires some Medicaid recipients ages 30-49 to spend at least 80 hours a month working, volunteering, or looking for a job. So far, 17,000 vulnerable people have been kicked off their bare-bones state healthcare because they did not meet the threshold.

That number is bad enough, but the context makes it even more disgusting. Most people on Medicaid in Arkansas were not required to report their hours because they were already either employed, have a small child at home, disabled, or otherwise unable to work. The Kaiser Family Foundation broke down the numbers for November, and they don’t paint a pretty picture:

“The large majority (83%, or 53,975 people) were exempt from the reporting requirement for November 2018,” the center reports, “while 78% of those not exempt (8,426 out of 10,768) did not report 80 hours of qualifying work activities.”

It’s clear that people on Medicaid want to work, as nearly 98% of those exempt were indeed employed for more than 80 hours a month. So what happened to the non-exempt people?

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