Washington, DC -- L. Toni Lewis, MD, Chair of the 1.1 million nurses, doctors, and healthcare workers of SEIU Healthcare shared this statement today in response to an amendment proposed by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). The Blunt amendment would allow employers to deny essential health insurance coverage to any and all employees based upon their own individual beliefs.

"Let there be no doubt: If passed, the Blunt amendment will put businesses and insurance companies in the driver's seat when it comes to the healthcare decisions of Americans. Under this amendment, any employer could deny their employees basic healthcare coverage, including contraception."

"Republicans in Congress seem intent on creating legislation that interferes with the healthcare decisions of working women and men to deny them the care they need - care they pay for in their insurance premiums.

"Instead of focusing on getting America working again, extremists like Senator Blunt are wasting our time and tax dollars. In this economy, this is definitely not what the doctor ordered."

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With 2.2 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy. www.seiu.org

4:55 PM Eastern - Thursday, October 13, 2011

Additional Cuts to Medicaid Would Further Endanger African Americans and Latinos Battling Chronic Disease

Revised 10/14/2011 at 11am

Washington, DC—Dr. L. Toni Lewis, Healthcare Chair of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement after the release of a new report from Families USA detailing how healthcare services funded by Medicaid are essential to African American and Latinos living with serious diseases.

“Today’s report, ‘Medicaid: A Lifeline for Blacks and Latinos with Serious Health Care Needs,’ should signal a warning for members of Congress who voted to approve the Ryan budget that would have all but done away with the lifeline Medicaid provides. It should also serve as wake-up call to members of the congressional “super committee” who may consider additional cuts to Medicaid, while millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans are losing sleep worrying about the healthcare coverage they lost along with their jobs.

“African Americans and Latinos are suffering through the worst of this economic recession and they are paying for it, not just in their pocketbooks, but in the quality of their health. Communities of color suffer from higher rates of chronic disease – including heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease and stroke -- and die at higher rates from diseases that are preventable.

“Combine these factors with higher numbers of home foreclosures and what we are witnessing is a healthcare version of the ‘perfect storm.’ Additional cuts to Medicaid would mean leave these individuals, as well as seniors and people with disabilities battling for their lives.

“Cuts to Medicaid would not just do greater harm to Latino and African American communities; it would also mean more job losses that our country cannot afford. It is time for Congress to realize that our collective health as a nation is directly connected to the health of our economy.

“This report makes clear that we all need to make our voices heard to protect Medicaid and to ensure that our families, children, and seniors receive the care they need to live healthier lives.”

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3:16 PM Eastern - Friday, August 19, 2011

Republicans on Wrong Side of African American Jobs Crisis

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Working families are fed up with right-wing politicians and their reckless budget cuts at a time millions of Americans are out of work, writes SEIU Healthcare Chair Dr. L. Toni Lewis in the Black Voice News. The jobs crisis has been especially devastating to the African American community where the unemployment rate hovers around 16 percent.

8:49 PM Eastern - Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Republican cuts to Medicaid would devastate Latino families and children

120_HCR_eraser_illu_ST_2.jpgMedicaid covers one of every two Latino children across this country, and one of every four adults. It is the lifeline that ensures both the youngest and eldest members of Latino communities are able to see a doctor, instead of being forced to rely on emergency room care.

Sadly, secure, quality healthcare coverage has long been out of reach for many Latino families who work hard but simply cannot afford the skyrocketing cost of healthcare. A new report released by the National Council of La Raza and Families USA underscores what physicians, nurses and healthcare workers have witnessed with growing concern:

If Republican plans to gut Medicaid and take away the benefits of the Affordable Care Act become reality, millions of Americans will be harmed---but the harm to Latino communities would be exponentially greater.
3:59 PM Eastern - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Medicaid Matters Today and Every Day

With $100 billion in healthcare funding and one million jobs hanging in the balance during the current debt ceiling debate, Dr. L. Toni Lewis, SEIU Healthcare Chair, joined with labor, faith, and seniors advocates today to call on members of Congress to protect the Medicaid and Medicare services that are a lifeline for seniors, people with disabilities and children.

Did you know. . . More than one out of every four Americans was uninsured prior to the creation of Medicaid in 1965. Medicaid and Medicare passed the U.S. House of Representatives (307-116) and the U.S. Senate (70-24). Medicaid was created to provide essential, comprehensive healthcare services to Americans who had no other means of affording the healthcare they needed.

30 Ways Medicaid Matters to Americans

1. More than 1 out of every 7 Americans receives healthcare through Medicaid.

2. Medicaid provides care at a much lower per-person cost than private health insurance.

3. Americans covered by Medicaid report they are in better health and have better well-being than Americans who are uninsured.

4. Americans covered by Medicaid are less likely to have unpaid medical bills and mounting medical debt, and more likely to see their doctor regularly and fill prescriptions.

5. More than 50 percent of adults receiving healthcare through Medicaid are working or in school during the period they are covered.

» Download a complete list (PDF) of 30 ways Medicaid matters to working Americans (En Español)

2:10 PM Eastern - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Affordable Care Act Delivers Better Preventive Care to Communities of Color

SEIU is embracing a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) showing that more than 5 million Americans with traditional Medicare took advantage of preventive benefits now available through the Affordable Care Act.

SmilingSeniors.jpgThe news that more and more Americans are receiving preventive health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act is particularly significant for people of color.

At a time when the unemployment rate for Africans Americans is more than double the national average, many African Americans face a greater risk than ever of falling behind. And, prior to the Affordable Care Act, more than 19 million African Americans were uninsured.

10:39 PM Eastern - Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An Interesting Question On Workplace Protective Equipment

This question came from Dennis of Randolph, Massachusetts. Men and women who work in industrial or factory settings might also have this same question, so we wanted to share it:

Does the healthcare law address who is responsible for purchasing or repairing hearing-aids and glasses if used on the job for safety?

The Affordable Care Act (the healthcare law) does not address this topic. In terms of healthcare coverage, the law really focuses on extending healthcare coverage and expanding affordable options for working families and individuals who simply cannot afford it now.

Healthcare insurance, whether through an employer or through the individual market, does not address hearing or protective eye care on the job. That really falls under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

I checked in with Mark Catlin who is an Industrial Hygienist with SEIU; he helps working women and men navigate these kinds of issues. Here's what he told us:

There are minimum requirements for employers set by OSHA regarding personal protective equipment. Eyeglasses might be included (unless also worn away from work) but hearing aids would likely not. This applies only if you are employed in a workplace covered by OSHA. In addition, employers can exceed the OSHA requirements, either through a union agreement or their own practice.

For more information on what's covered under OSHA at your workplace, I would recommend talking to your shop delegate or steward.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Take Care,
L. Toni Lewis, MD

1:29 PM Eastern - Monday, April 18, 2011

Fact Check: Is split shift care for NY homecare consumers no longer covered by Medicaid?

Jen from Valley Stream, New York recently sent in this question related to homecare and Medicaid:

Q: Home care field nurses are faced with explaining to their patients why "split shifts" will no longer be covered by Medicaid. How do I go about explaining this new rule and whom should I place blame?

A: CDAV_bobbie_coward_0434-1.JPGSplit shift care is when two homecare attendants work twelve hours per day, seven days per week to provide round-the-clock care to a patient because of his/her medical condition and disabilities.

While this is not a question related to the Affordable Care Act or the national healthcare law, it is an area of care that can generate lots of questions on the state level.

I checked in with the nurses of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East to get some help in answering this, and basically, here's what is happening on this issue:

  1. It is not true that split shifts will no longer be covered by Medicaid in New York State.

Friday afternoon, House Republicans will bring their extreme budget proposal to a vote in the House of Representatives.

Even though the budget has been described using vague insurance industry code such as "voucher programs" and "premium assistance plan," the facts are getting out.

The "Donut Hole" Would Eat Up Seniors' Savings

If the House Republican budget is enacted into law - which is altogether unlikely given Senate Democrats opposition -- it would cost the average senior who falls into the "donut hole" approximately $11,794 between 2012 and 2020, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Prescription_money_200px.jpgIn 2010, approximately 3.7 million seniors fell into the "donut hole." Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, these seniors have received a prescription drug rebate of $250 and are now paying 50% less for lifesaving prescriptions.

In a dramatic and punishing step in the wrong direction, the Republican budget would cost these 3.7 million seniors an estimated $44 billion in prescription drug costs. After years of seniors skipping medications or only filling prescriptions they could afford, the Republican budget proposal would devastate senior's savings, not to mention their health.

4:45 PM Eastern - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What happened to the public good in the Republican budget proposal?

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  • Standing up for those who need our help most is what we believe.
  • Standing up for our communities is our shared source of pride.
  • Being responsible and accountable to the patients, clients, and consumers who rely upon us to make decisions that improve their quality of care and life.

These are all things the working women and men of SEIU do on a daily basis. We make decisions in the public good every day. Doing the same is not too much to ask of elected officials sent to Washington to act on behalf of all the people in their districts, not just the rich and powerful.

Today, President Obama addressed one of the most critical questions we face as a country -- how we can get our nation on the path to financial security and deliver the essential, quality care and services our fellow Americans need.

In contrast to what House Republicans might have you believe, this challenge we face is not an either/or challenge. Either we cut the federal deficit by cutting services to seniors, the disabled, and the poor or America is going the way of Greece, Ireland and Portugal.