Democracy in Action: My Front-Row Seat to the Inauguration & Women’s March

  

This weekend, I attended both the inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington. In other words, I spent Friday surrounded by staunch supporters of President Trump and Saturday surrounded by those who oppose him.

Both days, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with smart people who care passionately about this country and who answer the call to engage in the political process. It gave me a unique glimpse into the conversations we are having—and not having—in this country.

January 20th: Inauguration Day

I took President Obama’s farewell speech advice to heart: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking with one of them in real life.” So, wearing my ANA pin, I spoke to everyone around me.

Everyone I met cared about many of the same issues that I do, like providing health care for all, fostering a strong economy, and ensuring quality education for our children. The people I spoke with firmly believe that Donald Trump will deliver in all of these areas. After President Trump spoke, the man standing next to me even said: “I love this man!”

At every turn, I saw that supporters of the new president are reasonable and willing to listen. For example, when people booed Hillary Clinton, I couldn’t help but blurt out: “This is disrespectful.” Two women near me replied: “You’re right.” Together, we created a small clapping section for all of the Democrats coming to the stage to counter the booing. Of course, I also clapped as Speaker Ryan, Vice President Pence, and President Trump were announced. Respect is respect.

Here’s where respect was lacking. As my husband and I were standing in line to attend the Inaugural Ball, protesters screamed at us. This was after hearing all afternoon about protesters breaking windows and starting fires. One protestor jumped in front of my husband so aggressively that three police in riot gear intervened. People around us expressed their disgust the behavior of “those sore losers.”

January 21st: Women’s March on Washington

The next day, I joined the Women’s March on Washington. I was surrounded by throngs of women and men chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” Attendees were overjoyed that their voice was being heard after the inauguration the day before. It was a peaceful protest—not one person in the throng of 500,000 people was arrested. And yet, every time I saw a sign or heard someone shout Not my president!, the previous day’s discussion about “sore losers” rang in my ears.

The Unifying Message from Two Ends of the Spectrum

Both days taught me about the way we listen to those who oppose us. More than ever, I believe that we only let ourselves hear the most extreme fringes of the opposition. This, in turn, allows us to label the other side as “crazy” and more readily dismiss differing points of view. Instead, what we so desperately need is to generate conversations that begin and end with respect. To quote Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle: “In any controversy, the instant we feel angry, we have already ceased striving for Truth, and begun striving for Ourselves.”

I also learned that nurses are uniquely prepared to generate the important discussions we need to have as a nation. We are skilled, respectful, and trusted listeners and communicators—even when faced with people who have widely differing points of view.

My ANA pin opened the doors to discussion on both days. So, I urge you to use your voice, listen intently beyond the shouting, and generate your own powerful conversations.

 

HHS Nominee Dodges Questions on ACA repeal, Medicare, and Medicaid in Confirmation Hearing

  

As expected, Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), Health and Human Services Secretary nominee, faced intense scrutiny at today’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. Despite President Trump’s recent Executive Order instructing his Administration to facilitate the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by “minimizing any unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens,” Price would not reveal whether penalties would be removed for people who don’t purchase insurance. He said that our current system works for the government, but not patients. As Secretary, he would ensure that everyone has “access to affordable coverage.”

Throughout the hearing, Price skirted questions about the replacement plan. He declined to reveal any potential changes to ACA. Instead, he stressed that it was Congress’ responsibility to devise an ACA replacement plan. He maintained that, as Secretary, he would merely implement the plan passed by Congress.

Ranking Member, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), referenced Price’s previous ACA replacement legislation during questioning. He expressed concerns that repeal would destroy the market and urged Price to keep patients at the “center of healthcare, not money or special interests.” Price said he wouldn’t abandon individuals with pre-existing conditions, but stopped short of guaranteeing coverage. He repeated his desire to make sure every American had an “option and opportunity for care.”

In his own plan, Price has supported privatizing Medicare in the past, but denied plans to privatize it in the replacement. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) pointed out that seniors are “petrified about a privatized Medicare.” When questioned on Medicaid, Price would not reveal whether the replacement plan would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Despite his past efforts to change Medicaid into block grants, which would provide money directly to states and allow them to make coverage decisions, Price said he would defer to Congress.

Price weighed in on a successful nursing program. Sen. Tim Scott, (R-SC), highlighted the Nurse Family Partnership, a Medicaid-funded program which pays to send nurses into the homes of low-income, first-time mothers. While he was impressed with the program, Price pointed out that Medicaid “coverage doesn’t always equal care.” Price did share that he favors an eight year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Price has been a vocal critic of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), which pays providers based on quality and outcomes. He said CMMI should incentivize innovation and benefit patients, but that CMMI is “off track a bit” in that it dictates how providers must practice without exception.

Senate Democrats questioned Price’s judgment for receiving discounts and actively trading health care stocks. Price said everything he did was ethical and legal. The discounts, he said, “were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time.” Despite the testy exchanges around ethics, there was bipartisan support for improving access to high-quality healthcare in rural America. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) pointed out that the rural healthcare delivery system was “under stress.” He asked if Price would reduce documentation burdens on providers and hospitals. Price agreed, noting that government sometimes puts up roadblocks to expanding technology, especially in rural areas. He said we ought to be incentivizing innovation for patients to receive the highest quality care. Price said telemedicine is improving lives of patients in rural communities. If confirmed, he promised to strengthen rural healthcare and establish less burdensome regulations.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), praised Price’s “performance.” He said Price has the experience and qualifications to effectively lead HHS. He plans to schedule a committee vote to send Price’s nomination to the full Senate for final vote as soon as possible.

Hello, Congress? It’s nurses. We need to talk.

  

Nurses have the power to change the conversation on health care – starting with your senators, right now.

Can you speak out for your patients today? A two-minute phone call could make all the difference for patients who are on the brink of losing their health insurance.

Just dial 1-202-224-3121 to reach the Capitol Switchboard and an operator will connect you to your senator’s office.

When you’re connected, here are some pointers to guide your conversation:

  • Share your name and your town or city so they’ll know you’re a constituent.
  • Tell the staffer that you are a nurse, and you’re concerned that patients like yours could lose access to health care if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.
  • Remind them that insurance costs were skyrocketing before the ACA went into effect, and that without it, millions of people would have simply been priced out of healthcare already.1
  • Explain that, as a nurse, you want to share your personal story of how you experience the healthcare system. Share your vision for what is working and what is not, and what Washington can do to fix those problems.
  • Finally, thank them for their time. If you have another minute, call the switchboard again and ask to speak to your other senator’s office.

Once you’re done, let us know you’ve made your call so we can keep track of which senators are hearing from nurses and hold them accountable here in Washington.

Yes, I called my senator’s office and spoke with a staffer.

Yes, I called both my senators’ offices and spoke with their staff.

No, I wasn’t able to get through, but I’ll try again later!

Thank you for taking care of your patients every day, and thank you for speaking out today. Nurses like you truly are making a difference in Washington!