Heitkamp Town Hall Recap

Senator Heitkamp held a town hall yesterday in Fargo that was largely focused on health care. She was joined by Pat Gulbranson, CEO of Family HealthCare, Dr. Josh Wynne, Dean of UND Medical School, and Dr. Greg Glasner, CEO of Essentia, who were there to answer questions and share their perspectives. It was a helpful and informative conversation, and we thank Sen. Heitkamp for taking the time to talk to her constituents about this issue.

On the state of the ACA

Sen. Heitkamp said that the Medicaid expansion is working well. Concerns about the ACA are most often about exchanges. Because older people cannot be charged more than three times more than a younger person, the costs of getting insurance have been prohibitive for younger people.

On the Republican “Repeal and Replace” plan (the AHCA)

The Republican plan would phase out the Medicaid expansion. It would also change the funding of traditional Medicaid from mandated payments from the federal government to a lump sum that the states can decide how to use. Over 10 years, federal government spending on Medicaid would be reduced by $880 billion. The North Dakota legislature would have to allocate $250 million to make up for that shortfall.

According to Sen. Heitkamp, older Americans who do not qualify for Medicare will be hurt the most if the AHCA passes.

On what’s happening in North Dakota

Pat Gulbranson of Family HealthCare said that his organization serves low income and homeless people, and they are seeing increasing demand. They just built a West Fargo clinic and it is already too small. They have 15 dental chairs going every day and several hundred people on the waiting list. Their biggest challenge is workforce recruitment and retention. Family physicians, nurses, and support staff are hard to get.

Dr. Wynne of UND said that workforce recruitment is a big issue in health care in North Dakota. From a national perspective, we spend 50% more per person than any other country in the world. We spend more than $10,000 on each person in the US per year–18% of our GDP. The average person on Medicare puts $1 in and gets $3 out, which raises the national debt. In 10 years, we are going to spend 20% of all dollars on health care in US. We have a problem with how we are going to pay for health care.

Dr. Glasner of Essentia said that for him, uncertainty is the biggest problem with trying to deliver care. 60% of their patients are on Medicare or Medicaid. Not knowing what the law might be in a year or two makes it hard for them to plan. He also said that there are not enough doctors for everybody to have a primary care provider anymore.

On Medicare for All

Responding to a question on a single-payer system, Sen. Heitkamp said that everybody believes that a lot of the cost problems you see in health care costs are inefficiencies from not having single-payer, but Medicare and Medicaid are costs are expanding, too. The decision was made in 2010 to go with a market-based system–the question is how to we fix the system we have.

She would like to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60. That would help lower costs on the exchanges, because older people are more expensive to insure.

On how to stop the AHCA

Sen. Heitkamp said to write our congressman and senators and state legislature to let them know about our opposition to the AHCA and our support for the Medicaid expansion.

On Medicaid funding

Sen. Heitkamp said that she will never support block-granting or per-capita cap funding for Medicaid, which is what the AHCA would have done.

On global health funding

Sen. Heitkamp supports funding for global health as a way to protect the US from future pandemics.

On reducing the costs of care

Dr. Glasner said that 50% of health care dollars are consumed 5% of the population, and that half of health care costs can be attributed to lifestyle choices. Diet and exercise can dramatically lower the cost of health care.

Dr. Glassner also said that if you want to see what’s blowing up hospital budgets, it’s drugs. A single course of treatment for Hepatitis C is $100,000+. Drugs for cancer can be $5,000 to $8,000 per month. It’s very difficult to tell people they are not going to get the best drugs, and the best drugs are often very expensive.

Sen. Heitkamp agreed that we have to find a way to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, but she said that it’s complicated. She does not support importation from Canada due to quality control issues.

TODAY’S ACTIONS: Cramer, Heitkamp, and Hortman

 

Today’s Action #1: Rep. Cramer’s Holocaust comments

As you probably know, on Tuesday, Sean Spicer made some ridiculous comments about Hitler and the Holocaust.

“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

When asked for clarification, he said, “I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Mr. Spicer said. He also called Nazi death camps “Holocaust Centers.”

This is obviously, astoundingly wrong. Yes, it’s true that Hitler didn’t drop sarin from the sky. Instead, he herded people (his own people) into rooms and sprayed them with a cyanide-based pesticide called Zyklon B. Is that better?

Even Sean Spicer knew what he said was really, really wrong. He begged forgiveness from Wolf Blitzer later that same day. “I was obviously trying to make a point about the heinous acts that Assad had made against his own people last week, using chemical weapons and gas. Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which there is no comparison. And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”

One lone Congressman stood up to defend poor Sean Spicer against the mean media who picked on him for saying something wrong. Can you guess who it was?

Per CNN: “The media is so gullible, they fall for these things because they think it’s really hot stuff and the public just can’t wait to stick it to Sean Spicer — who 99% of the people wouldn’t have the foggiest idea who he is and it distracts them from other things,” Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, said Wednesday KFYR-FM with conservative radio North Dakota host Scott Hennen. “I can’t even believe that anybody in the media, much less all of the major networks, led with this story. A spokesperson, who by the way made a poor illustration, but it’s not completely, it’s not without some validity.”

“It’s not without some validity.”

Call Kevin Cramer’s office today and ask him what validity Spicer’s statement had. Were the people Hitler murdered not “his own” or were they not people? Is it better to drop poison gas from the ceiling than from the sky? And why would he embarrass North Dakota by supporting comments that even the White House has apologized for?

Fargo: 701-356-2216
Washington: 202-225-2611
Resistbot: Text RESIST to 50409 to have your text message faxed

TODAY’S ACTION #2: Send your Heitkamp town hall questions

Sen. Heitkamp will be holding a town hall on Monday, April 17 from 9-10:30 at NDSCS, 1305 19th Ave N, in Fargo. Please submit your questions at this Google Form and we will pass them on to Sen. Heitkamp on Monday. The town hall will be focused on health care, but you can send any questions about any topic. Please include your contact information if you would like Sen. Heitkamp’s staff to contact you about your question or issue.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf3IYeBZsLaurfk1EhPSIddsb73WNdqMRIOrNwBVh8ffNk6Sw/viewform?usp=sf_link

TODAY’S ACTION #3: Support MN Rep. Melissa Hortman

From The Advocate:

While several female representatives, many women of color, delivered heartfelt speeches last week to block the bill before the Minnesota House to increase penalties after Black Lives Matter protesters blocked interstates in outrage over the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, a group of white Republican men played cards in another room. Minnesota House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman admonished the apathetic group during roll call, saying, “I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate.”

Rather than show contrition for their lack of interest in a bill that affects their constituents’ civil rights, the men doubled down with a protest letter and a demand that Hortman apologize for calling them out for playing cards while women like Rep. Erin Maye Quade spoke eloquently about her father, a black man who grew up in Alabama and participated in the life-altering civil rights protests in the 1960s.

“I have no intention of apologizing,” she responded. “I am so tired of watching Rep. Susan Allen give an amazing speech, Rep. Peggy Flanagan give an amazing speech, watching Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn give an amazing speech, Rep. Rena Moran give the most heartfelt, incredible speech I’ve heard on this House floor, as long as I can remember, watching Rep. Ilhan Omar give an amazing speech … and looking around, to see, where are my colleagues?”

Please take a few seconds to sign our petition to send a message of support to Rep. Hortman. Let’s thank her for standing up for women of color, and let her know that we agree with her decision not to apologize for it.

North Dakotans are welcome to sign this petition, too, so please do.

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/thank-you-rep-hortman

Welcome, new members!

If you’re just joining us after having read today’s Forum article, welcome! We’re happy to have you with us. Here is what you need to know about Indivisible FM.

  1. We are a group of progressive-leaning people in the Fargo-Moorhead area taking focused, local, and nonviolent action against regressive political agendas.
  2. We’re a part of the national Indivisible movement.
  3. Most weekdays, we send out an action that you can do. Typically, they involve some form of communication with our legislators. We call them on the phone, we fax them via text, we collect messages via Google Forms to pass on to them, and we attend their public events.
  4. We are also a place for area progressive groups to share their events, and we encourage our members to attend the ones they can, even if sometimes they are not of their particular area of interest. We all need to stand together.

If you’re ready to get to work with us, please join our Facebook group or sign up for our email list at the top of our website.

 

TODAY’S ACTION: Send your Heitkamp town hall questions

Sen. Heitkamp will be holding a town hall on Monday, April 17 from 9-10:30 at NDSCS, 1305 19th Ave N, in Fargo. Please submit your questions at this Google Form and we will pass them on to Sen. Heitkamp on Monday. The town hall will be focused on health care, but you can send any questions about any topic. Please include your contact information if you would like Sen. Heitkamp’s staff to contact you about your question or issue.

Peterson Town Hall Recap

By Nicole Mattson

We had a productive and informative town hall with Rep. Collin Peterson last night. The Congressman took questions on health care for about 90 minutes.

You may recall that Rep. Peterson voted against the Affordable Care Act originally, so it was important for us to learn more about his views on health care as the Republicans in Congress regroup to take another run at repeal and replace. Here is what we learned.

  • Republicans in the House and White House officials have both told Rep. Peterson that they do not want Democratic help on the bill to repeal the ACA. He said they have told him they are willing to work with Democrats on tax reform and infrastructure, but not health care.
  • I asked him to go over what parts of the AHCA he was for and against. He said he does not believe a bill that takes away preexisting conditions, lifetime limits, staying on parents’ insurance until 26, or that block-grants Medicaid would pass Congress. The one thing he liked about the AHCA is that it adds high-risk pools.
  • His main concern with the ACA is that many people on the individual market have premiums and deductibles that are so high that they effectively do not have health insurance because they can’t afford to use it. This is a particular problem for farmers, because they often have to buy their insurance on the individual market.
  • He initially voted against the ACA because he thought it would be worse for Minnesota than the system we already had. He would be willing to consider asking the federal government for a waiver so that Minnesota could go back to our previous system, which he feels worked better.
  • Many people raised “Medicare for All” as the solution to the problems with access to health care. Rep. Peterson said he is not opposed to the idea. There is a bill in Congress that would expand Medicare for everyone, which is sponsored by Rep. Conyers of Michigan. Rep. Peterson said he cannot take a position for or against it until it is scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but that isn’t likely to happen. I asked what would have to happen for the CBO to score it. He said that they only score bills that look like they have a chance of passing, so if the bill had some Republican support they may look at scoring it.
  • Several people told stories of how they and their families rely on Medicare and Medicaid, and how they would be affected negatively by cuts to Medicaid.
  • Toward the end of the town hall, I asked people to raise their hands if they care whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the election. A clear majority of the hands in the room went up. I told Rep. Peterson that I asked because I wanted him to see that.

After this town hall, I think we have much more clarity about Rep. Peterson’s positions on health care. We appreciate that he took the time to come to Moorhead to talk with us, and we hope to meet again soon to discuss other topics.

TODAY’S MN ACTIONS: Thissen and Peterson

An update on our meeting with Rep. Thissen: we will be meeting at 8:30 this Monday morning in the banquet room of the Fryn’ Pan in Moorhead.


Please email us at indivisiblefm@gmail.com if you are planning to attend.

A reminder that on Monday evening at 7, Rep. Collin Peterson will be holding a town hall at Horizon Middle School in Moorhead.


The focus of the town hall will be health care. We expect and intend to have a productive and respectful conversation. This is particularly important now because Republicans may be looking to moderate Democrats to get their next iteration of their health care bill passed.

We are collecting the questions you have for Rep. Peterson at this form: https://goo.gl/forms/fwUbyqEQ9FlcqZZM2 

You can ask about anything you want, not just health care, and we will pass your questions on to the Congressman.

TODAY’S ACTIONS: No nuclear and Peterson town hall

 

Today’s ND Action: No nuclear option

Senate rules require Supreme Court nominees to be approved by at least 60 votes. This gives the minority party the power to block nominees. Once someone is confirmed to the Court, they are there for life, so it’s important to have a safeguard in place to keep the majority party from confirming someone who is unqualified or an ideological extremist.

Neil Gorsuch does not have 60 votes to approve him in the Senate. Mitch McConnell is considering deploying the “nuclear option,” which would change Senate rules to allow Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority.

The consequences of this change could be enormous. What is to stop Trump from nominating, say, Ivanka or Jared Kushner to the Supreme Court next? The only protection we have is the 60-vote threshold.

If you live in North Dakota, please call John Hoeven’s office today to tell him you do not want the Supreme Court politicized this way. Tell him you oppose the nuclear option.

You can also text RESIST to 50409 to fax your message to him via text.

Sen. John Hoeven
Fargo: 701-239-5389
Washington: 202-224-2551

Today’s MN Action: Send Peterson town hall questions

Rep. Peterson will be holding a town hall next Monday, April 10, at 7 pm at Horizon Middle School. Some representatives have been requiring constituents to submit their question in advance, so we are asking our members to submit their questions at this Google form: https://goo.gl/forms/fwUbyqEQ9FlcqZZM2. Please send your questions in whether or not you will be attending.

TODAY’S ACTION: No nuclear option

Senate rules require Supreme Court nominees to be approved by at least 60 votes. This gives the minority party the power to block nominees. Once someone is confirmed to the Court, they are there for life, so it’s important to have a safeguard in place to keep the majority party from confirming someone who is unqualified or an ideological extremist.

Neil Gorsuch does not have 60 votes to approve him in the Senate. Mitch McConnell is considering deploying the “nuclear option,” which would change Senate rules to allow Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority.

The consequences of this change could be enormous. What is to stop Trump from nominating, say, Ivanka or Jared Kushner to the Supreme Court next? The only protection we have is the 60-vote threshold.

If you live in North Dakota, please call John Hoeven’s office today to tell him you do not want the Supreme Court politicized this way. Tell him you oppose the nuclear option.

You can also text RESIST to 50409 to fax your message to him via text.

Sen. John Hoeven
Fargo: 701-239-5389
Washington: 202-224-2551

TODAY’S ACTION: No probe, no robe

Every day we learn something new about something shady the Trump administration has done regarding Russia. Yesterday we learned that the White House was the source of the intel that Rep. Devin Nunes ran to tell the White House last week
 
As Sen. John McCain recently said, “There’s a lot of aspects of this whole relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin that requires further scrutiny. And, so far, I don’t think the American people have gotten all the answers. In fact, I think there’s a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.”
 
Meanwhile, the Senate will be holding a vote on the Gorsuch nomination soon. Why should this administration get to fill a Supreme Court seat, possibly for decades, when it may have worked with a hostile foreign power to win the election?
 
If you are in NORTH DAKOTA, call Sen. Hoeven today and tell him that you do not believe that Neil Gorsuch or any other Trump Supreme Court nominee should come up for a vote until the Russia investigation is concluded. If he wants to fill that seat, they should confirm Merrick Garland. Call Sen. Heitkamp and tell her how you feel about her decision to vote yes on Gorsuch.
 
If you are in MINNESOTA, call Sens. Franken and Klobuchar and ask them to filibuster this vote until an independent Russia investigation has cleared the White House of collusion with a hostile foreign power.
 
You can also text RESIST to 50409 to fax your message. Only senators can vote on Supreme Court nominees, so you do not need to contact your House representative.
 
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp
Fargo: 701-232-8030
Washington: 202-224-2043
 
Sen. John Hoeven
Fargo: 701-239-5389
Washington: 202-224-2551
 
Sen. Al Franken
St. Paul: 651-221-1016
Washington: 202-224-5641
Moorhead: 218-284-8721
 
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Minneapolis: 612-727-5220
Washington: 202-224-3244
Moorhead: 218-287-2219