It’s a Matter of Life and Death: Insurers Must Cover Language Services

A 14-year-old girl accompanies her Somali-speaking father to his medical appointment. Because the clinic doesn’t provide an interpreter, the girl has to inform her own father than he has been diagnosed with cancer. She remains his interpreter through eight years of treatment, sometimes hiding information to protect him from the bad news.

A group of Spanish-speaking farmworkers enters a pesticide-laden field and soon, sickened and vomiting, must rush to the hospital. No medical interpreters are provided, and one of the farmworkers must handle communications between her coworkers and health care providers – while she is suffering from her own symptoms.

A Vietnamese-speaking woman is admitted to the hospital. When doctors or nurses need to talk with her, they call in an orderly with no training as an interpreter and no familiarity with medical terminology.

Cases like these are far from isolated. Every day, children, other relatives, friends, and even untrained hospital staff are asked to step in to do a job only competent, professional medical interpreters should be performing.

These dangerous practices persist despite federal law requiring hospitals and other health care providers to offer language services.

These institutions should be meeting their obligations. But it’s also long past time to require insurance companies to make medical interpretation available just as they cover exams, prescription drugs, and other health care essentials.

So far, we’re not holding insurers to that kind of requirement.

As we continue transforming our health care system through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we need to incorporate professional medical interpretation into those efforts. The federal government should require insurance companies to make medical interpretation available to all patients who need and want it in their course of care.

Letting insurance companies off the hook puts people’s health at risk, allowing insurers to deliver substandard care to people whose health they’re supposed to protect.

Ample research shows that medical interpretation is a necessary component of health care for people with limited English. Without proper interpretation, doctors can misunderstand patient complaints, inaccurately diagnose their conditions, and prescribe inappropriate treatments. Patients receive medications but may not know how to take them.

Often, patients with limited English don’t even make it to the doctor’s office at all. Studies show that patients with limited English are less likely than other patients to have a regular source of health care.

Thanks to the ACA, insurance companies are signing people up in record numbers. They’re marketing health plans to many new enrollees in languages other than English. They’re also enrolling new patients in languages other than English. They should also be able to make health care available in those languages – rather than just pocketing the premiums from those enrollees.

The ACA gives us new tools for holding insurers and providers to their language services responsibilities. We need to do a better job of using all of these tools.

In early September, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed long-awaited rules to implement the ACA’s ban on discrimination in health care, including discrimination faced by patients with limited English proficiency.

The proposed rules make it clear that oral interpretation is key to combatting that discrimination. They also establish that the new anti-discrimination rules apply to health insurers offering coverage through the ACA. And they require entities covered by the rules to make sure they’re relying on qualified interpreters.

With this language, HHS is building on longstanding civil rights law recognizing people’s right to oral interpretation. But HHS is also building on a history in which that right has been violated, again and again, with violators abetted by inadequate enforcement mechanisms. Patients still are receiving substandard care because of the language they speak.

In a health system increasingly concerned about quality, insurers should make sure all their patients are receiving good health care.

There’s precedent for requiring insurers to step up. Under California’s SB 853, insurers must provide language services at all access points, including the doctor’s office. And, in many states, Medicaid pays for interpretation to help make sure providers are offering it.

If Medicaid programs can cover medical interpretation, so can private insurers. The federal government shouldn’t be letting insurers off the hook while also letting them collect premiums. Patients with limited English have a right to quality health care – and we need to make sure they’re getting it.

(This article was originally published in Huffington Post.)

Hate Has No Home Here / Hate Has No Business Here

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The Alliance for a Just Society joins with Main Street Alliance and businesses all around the country who are standing up to racist and anti-Muslim rhetoric from political candidates and others in recent weeks. We reject collective punishment for individual acts and join other in saying “Hate has no business here” and “Hate has no home here.”

If you are a business owner, we encourage you to download the store sign letting people know All Are Welcome.

You can also Download the #HateHasNoHomeHere House Sign here to post in your home, office or dorm:

8×10 Black & White poster

8×10 Color poster

11×17 Black & White poster

11×17 Color poster

HateHasNoHome-11x17-color

 

#HateHasNoBizHere

#HateHasNoHomeHere

Defending Planned Parenthood is Essential for the Whole Progressive Movement

(This opinion by LeeAnn Hall was originally published in Common Dreams)
Planned Parenthood is an easy target for rage and righteousness as we saw too plainly in the shootings in Colorado Springs late last month.
The ongoing conservative attack on Planned Parenthood funding depends on the same extreme rhetoric but, it’s also part of a broader trend, a strategy by the right to dismantle progressive infrastructure.
As destructive as we know right-wing operatives to be, we shouldn’t be surprised by their tactics – and we can’t allow ourselves to be divided or defeated by them, either.

Progressive groups and our members must reach across our issue silos, and our membership bases, whenever one of us comes under attack. Our support of Planned Parenthood provides a good example of how we can and should support each other.

This week I joined with a hundred other community leaders, organizers, and small business owners to place an advertisement in The Hill to tell lawmakers directly that we stand with Planned Parenthood. This followed a day of solidarity on December 5, when organizations and individuals around the country stood up for Planned Parenthood.

By speaking up and speaking together we are helping build a new kind of solidarity essential for today’s progressive movement.

A right to an abortion was upheld by the highest court of the land and is supported, in some or all circumstances, by 80 percent of the public. But abortion rights, and women’s health more broadly, are under greater attack today than ever. Why?

Many states have created bureaucratic hurdles and funding schemes that have made clinics that provide abortions and other essential women’s health services harder and harder to find. At the federal level rhetorical and policy attacks on Planned Parenthood have further jeopardized these rights.

Sure, it is largely because the rightwing politicians have been able to vilify Planned Parenthood and utilize their power at the state and federal level to limit access to abortions.

But it is also because for many years our movement for progressive social change has been too divided-up and focused internally on a narrow set of issues. We have tended to stay in our silos.

For my organization, the decision to stand up for Planned Parenthood was our first significant public foray into reproductive justice. Our decision came after a lot of discussion among organizers and grassroots leaders.

Ultimately, we knew we had to recognize the connection between attacks on women’s reproductive rights and many other issues affecting the lives of everyday people.

Low-wage workers, poor people, people of color, and immigrants depend on Planned Parenthood – 2.7 million women and men every year – for birth control, family planning and abortion services, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted disease.

At a time when working people, and especially working women, are increasingly struggling to make ends meet, Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers are providing essential services. Seventy-nine percent of Planned Parenthood health care center patients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

It’s no accident that the same politicians plotting to defund Planned Parenthood are leading the charge to eradicate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last week, just days after the Colorado Springs shootings, conservatives in the Senate were still debating legislation to dismantle both health care pillars.

If the attack on reproductive justice is part of a broader right-wing agenda, the singling out of Planned Parenthood also points to a prime right-wing tactic to advance that agenda: destroy progressive institutions.

Unfortunately, the right-wing has had success in the past with this tactic.

Just a few years ago, right-wing demagoguery, distortions, and budget cuts broke up ACORN, a national network of community organizations that was one of the strongest voices of low-income people in the country. Far too many progressive groups and individuals stood on the sidelines when ACORN was under fire. We lost strength as a result.

The latest legal challenge to the right of workers to collectively bargain and build unions will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in January in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association which could dismantle public sector unions as we know them.

In recent weeks black student activists at the University of Missouri faced threats of violence in the wake of their successful organizing effort to unseat the University President. More recently five Black Lives Matter supporters were shot and wounded in Minneapolis by purported white supremacists.

Meanwhile, political leaders continue to make hateful comments about — and propose continued racist policy against — refugees and Muslims. Some voices may be more extreme than others, but xenophobia is widespread, as we saw in 30 governors’ reaction to Syrian refugees. Along with these rhetorical attacks, we’re seeing efforts to gut the programs that help refugees.

This is all infrastructure that we, as progressives, care about and need.

As community organizations, unions, grassroots activists, and faith leaders we must look to the shows of support for Planned Parenthood as an example of our ability to stand together. If there’s one thing we need lots of these days, it’s solidarity.

LeeAnn Hall is the executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society, a national organization that advocates for health, economic and racial justice. 

“Patchwork of Paychecks” Not Enough Jobs to Go Around

For Immediate Release
Dec. 8, 2015
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications director
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org
(206) 992-8787

Patchwork of Paychecks

Only half of all job openings pay $15 an hour or more

It’s easy to tell a low-wage worker to “go get a better-paying job,” but the reality is there are nowhere near enough jobs that pay a living wage to go around. The occupations with the most job openings pay the least, and are often part-time.

New research by the Alliance for a Just Society released today shows that nationally there are seven job seekers for every job that pays at least $15 an hour. Only 54 percent of all job openings in the United States pay $15 an hour or more.

(Fact sheet here.)

In no state are there enough living wage job openings to go around.

Job seekers in California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina struggle the most, with 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

No state has fewer than three job seekers for every job opening that allows a single adult to make ends meet.

(State-by-state table of job seekers and job openings)

Patchwork of Paychecks gives a detailed look at the availability of living wage jobs and full-time work. Additionally, stories from workers juggling multiple jobs illustrate the struggle people face when they can’t find full time work, or work that pays enough.

“This report makes it painfully clear that the economy isn’t creating enough living wage jobs, and that lawmakers must take action to raise the wage floor for all workers and to enact other policies to support working families,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society.

Before the Great Recession, involuntary part-time workers made up 11 percent of all part-time workers. Since then they have consistently made up more than 20 percent of all part-time workers.

For millions of workers, living-wage work is out of reach – especially for women, Latinos and Latinas, and workers of color who are more likely to work part-time.

“The increasing shift to low-wage work doesn’t just mean less pay. For many workers, it means fewer hours at low wages, unpredictable schedules, wage theft, and no paid sick leave – making it impossible to ever get ahead,” said Allyson Fredericksen, author of “Patchwork of Paychecks.”

The Alliance for a Just Society, a national organization focusing on economic and racial justice, has produced reports on jobs and wages since 1999.

Patchwork of Paychecks is the second report in the Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series that is produced by the Alliance annually

Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance, and Allyson Fredericksen, author of “Patchwork of Paychecks” are available for interviews.

For the full report: https://jobgap2013.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/patchwork_of_paychecks.pdf

State-by-state table of job seekers and job openings:

http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Patchwork-Table-2.pdf

Fact Sheet

“Patchwork of Paychecks”

  • Nationally, four of the top five fastest growing occupations pay less than $15 an hour. They are: retail salespersons; waiters and waitresses; cashiers; and food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.
  • Nationally, for jobs that pay at least $15 per hour, there are seven job seekers for every job opening.
  • The occupation category with the most projected job openings, retail salesperson, pays a median wage of $10.29 per hour.
  • Nationwide, there are more than 17.7 million job seekers. There are 5 million job openings total, paying any wage. Of those, 2.7 million pay at least $15 an hour.
  • In 34 states, less than half of all job openings pay enough for a single adult to make ends meet.
  • In California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina there are 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

People of Color

  • The Alliance reported last year that only 52 percent of full-time workers of color earn $15 per hour or more. This includes:
  • 51 percent of black workers
  • 50 percent of Native American workers.
  • 42 percent of full-time Latino and Latina workers
  • 57 percent of female workers earn at least $15 per hour.

Part-Time Work

  • The proportion of involuntary part-time workers is double what it was before the Great Recession (11 percent of part-time workers were involuntarily working part-time in 2007 compared to 21 percent in 2014).
  • Latinas and Latinos, and workers of color are more likely to work part-time in most states and nationally, making it even more difficult for them to make ends meet.
  • Part-time work also includes a number of other obstacles to making ends meet. Unpredictable or on-call scheduling is more common for part-time workers than for workers overall, and makes it nearly impossible to work more than one part-time job.

# # #

Patchwork of Paychecks Fact Sheet

“Patchwork of Paychecks”

Fact Sheet 

Nationally, four of the top five fastest growing occupations pay less than $15 an hour. They are: retail salespersons; waiters and waitresses; cashiers; and food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.

  • Nationally, for jobs that pay at least $15 per hour, there are seven job seekers for every job opening.
  • The occupation category with the most projected job openings, retail salesperson, pays a median wage of $10.29 per hour.
  • Nationwide, there are more than 17.7 million job seekers. There are 5 million job openings total, paying any wage. Of those, 2.7 million pay at least $15 an hour.
  • In 34 states, less than half of all job openings pay enough for a single adult to make ends meet.
  • In California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina there are 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

People of Color

  • The Alliance reported last year that only 52 percent of full-time workers of color earn $15 per hour or more. This includes:
  • 51 percent of black workers
  • 50 percent of Native American workers.
  • 42 percent of full-time Latino and Latina workers
  • 57 percent of female workers earn at least $15 per hour.

Part-Time Work

  • The proportion of involuntary part-time workers is double what it was before the Great Recession (11 percent of part-time workers were involuntarily working part-time in 2007 compared to 21 percent in 2014).
  • Latinas and Latinos, and workers of color are more likely to work part-time in most states and nationally, making it even more difficult for them to make ends meet.
  • Part-time work also includes a number of other obstacles to making ends meet. Unpredictable or on-call scheduling is more common for part-time workers than for workers overall, and makes it nearly impossible to work more than one part-time job.

Next Attack on Workers – Will Conservatives Champion “Free Riding” to Justify It?

Building power through strength in numbers. It’s one way regular people can overcome opposition from corporate and wealthy special interests to win concrete improvements in our everyday lives.

We may not be able to match opponents who can write seven-figure checks dollar for dollar, but by banding together, articulating collective demands, and negotiating with powerful interests (whether corporate CEOs or elected leaders) from a place of shared strength, we can build the leverage to win changes that benefit our families and communities.

This – building strength in numbers and banding together to negotiate with power holders – is a core component of what community organizing is all about. It’s also a critical part of what unions do for the workers they represent in collective bargaining.

But now, the ability of unions – in particular, unions that represent teachers and other workers in public service – to help workers come together in collective bargaining to win better pay, benefits, and work environments is under threat in a case that will go before the U.S. Supreme Court in January.

The case is called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. It is, in a nutshell, a brazen attempt to overturn what has been a settled Supreme Court precedent since the 1977 Abood decision reaffirmed the right of public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining.

The fact that the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), the rightwing legal shop leading the case, asked lower courts to rule against it without even presenting an argument underscores the drastic departure from the settled precedent they’re seeking.

On its website, CIR explains: “The speed with which the case moved through the lower courts reflected a deliberate litigation strategy. From the beginning, CIR argued that the lower courts do not have the authority to overturn existing Supreme Court precedent.”

We all have something at stake in this case – the teachers whose ability to band together and have a shared voice on the job is on the line; the students who benefit when their teachers negotiate for smaller class sizes; the local businesses that benefit from the middle class customer base teachers and firefighters and other public service workers represent.

But it’s also true that women and people of color have the most to lose from a bad decision in the Friedrichs case. Unions have won important gains toward gender and racial equity in the workplace; public sector unions in particular have created avenues into the middle class for people who have been systematically shut out and discriminated against, especially people of color.

It should not be too surprising, then, that CIR has counted among its benefactors not only a range of conservative funding conduits that are connected to the Koch political network, but also a group identified with white supremacist ideas.

Maybe one of the biggest ironies in this case, though, is how conservatives will have to tie their own professed values up in knots to argue their position. Because the whole case rests on creating a “free rider” problem – where people don’t pitch in their fair share to support the shared benefits they receive – for unions. The “free rider” idea stands in sharp contrast with conservative narratives about personal responsibility.

If CIR is to win, it will have to convince a majority on the Supreme Court that an organization should be forced to give the benefits of membership (like better deals through group bargaining power) to any individual without asking that individual to pitch in even a dime to support the bargaining the organization does on his or her behalf.

Here’s the thing: what if the organization in question wasn’t a union representing workers, but instead a business association – like, say, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?

Would the U.S. Chamber stand for a legal ruling where any corporation could take advantage of the benefits of Chamber membership – like discounts on products and services, legal documents, business resources, or networking events – without pitching in even a dime to support the costs of securing those benefits?

Of course not. That’s a free rider problem the Chamber and other anti-worker business lobbies would get up in arms about in a hurry.

So here’s the bottom line – unless five justices on the Supreme Court are ready to stand up and argue the U.S. Chamber should have to give free lunch to any Fortune 500 “free rider” that wants it, they should dismiss the Friedrichs case for what it is: nonsense. Case closed.

This article was originally published by LeeAnn Hall in Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leeann-hall/next-attack-on-workers–w_b_8683766.html