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AUGUST 2010

Steps Toward Building a Healthier America

By Barbara Havira

 

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The general public in the United States strongly supports the goal of a healthy citizenry that has access to quality health care at reasonable cost. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 addresses part of this goal by mandating dozens of health insurance changes to remove barriers to access and to make health insurance more affordable.

“The Health Care Reform Bill: What it Means and Does Not Mean,” in the May 2010 Michigan Voter, quotes CNNMoney.com in describing the law as a “loose safety net.” The author, Beverley McDonald (LWV Oakland Area), provides a brief summary of this law, and indicates features that will take effect in 2010, in 2011, and in 2014. The complexity and significance of the Patient Protection Act will require time to prepare for full implementation, so some provisions do not become effective until 2020. Federal and state agencies and state legislatures have much work to do in preparation.

Although there are diverse opinions about the overall health reform law, an April 2010 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found broad support for insurance market changes. Of those surveyed 74% favored allowing children to be covered by parents’ policies until age 26 (effective September 23, 2010); 75% favored the creation of new high-risk insurance pools to cover those with pre-existing conditions who are without insurance (until the ban on denying coverage for adults with pre-existing conditions takes effect in 2014); and 81% supported the ban on rescission, which prevents insurance companies for terminating insurance after a policy has come into effect if they suspect a pre-existing condition (effective September 23, 2010).

While the majority of Americans has some health insurance, as of 2008, 46.3 million in the United States ­­– including 36 million United States citizens – did not. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will increase coverage from 84% to 93% of the population. Beginning in 2014, it prohibits insurance companies from denying insurance to adult applicants with pre-existing conditions. For children, this benefit begins September 23, 2010. Currently in Michigan, almost 25% of people under the age of 65 have a pre-existing condition which could result in denial of insurance. During the years 2010-2013, the act subsidizes small business to help them provide employer- based insurance. It will also pay up to 80% of the cost of employer-based insurance for retirees ages 55-64, effective June 21, 2010. Beginning January 1, 2011, it establishes an enrollee funded long term care insurance program called Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS).

Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act fails to remedy all the problems in the current United States health care system, it clearly changes health insurance “business as usual.” Watch each month for further discussion of the provisions of this legislation, and of the actions of state governments and of state and federal agencies.

Sources for this article include: “The Health Care Reform Bill: What it Means and Does Not Mean,” May 2010 Michigan Voter; “The Truth about Health Care Reform,” May 2010, Money; “Near-Term Changes in Health Insurance, 4/30/2010” www.healthaffairs.org, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; “Educating the Public on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” www.lwv.org ; “Quarter under 65 in Michigan have pre-existing conditions,” Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 June 2010.

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League-targeted Census Tracts Exceed 2000 Census Mail Participation

By Michele McGowen

Thanks to League members who worked on Census participation.

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In the 2010 Census, seven out of a targeted seven hard-to-count census tracts in the City of Kalamazoo exceeded the mail-participation rates of the 2000 Census. In 2000, these seven tracts had mail-participation rates ranging from 46% to 68%. 2010 data indicates the mail-participation rates range from 61% to 75%. Ensuring every resident is counted is important for Federal infrastructure funding allocations, as well as the congressional redistricting process. Thank you, again, to League members who worked hard to achieve these results.

The next public phase of Census work is the in-person household count, where Census workers go directly to the addresses that did not return their Census form by mail in order to get an accurate count. This door-to-door counting will continue through mid-August. A worker will attempt to speak to someone at each address.

If no one answers at a particular residence, a Census taker will visit a home up to three times and attempt to reach the household by phone three times. The Census worker will leave a double-sided (English and Spanish) NOTICE of VISIT in the doorway that includes a phone number for the resident to schedule an appointment.

The Census taker will ONLY ask the questions that appear on the Census form. The Census worker will never ask to enter your home. The Census worker will never ask for your social security number or your citizenship status.

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Celebrating Our Past - From the Kalamazoo Gazette, July 22, 1920

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KAZOO WOMEN MAKE PLANS FOR ELECTION
Voters’ League Adopts Constitution and Arranges
for House to House Calls

A constitution was adopted and plans discussed to make house-to-house calls, reaching every woman in the city and urging her to register and vote, at the meeting of the Kalamazoo County League of Women Voters, held Wednesday afternoon at the Y.W.C.A. and followed by a continuation meeting, at which a number of the younger business women of Kalamazoo met at supper and were addressed by Mrs. G.H. Clark, president of the league.
This constitution, after stating the name of the organization, gives its purpose as being “to increase the effectiveness of women voters,” and states that the league is strictly non-partisan. There are to be two classes of members, active members, who pay dues, and enrolled members, who make a pledge to register and vote...

PRECINCT CHAIRMAN
It was planned yesterday to carry the league into every part of the city on the block system, that proved so extremely effective during the war, as used by the Women’s Council of National Defense. There will be a chairman in every precinct, and a chaplain in every block, who will visit all the women in her district and get them pledged to vote.

Reports of township chairmen were given at the afternoon meeting, showing a widespread interest throughout the county in the league of women voters.
Mrs. Clark, in her talk last night to the business women of the city, told something of the work that had been done to gain the ballot for women.

HAVE FULL SUFFRAGE
"Women have within two years come into full suffrage in Michigan." She said, "Every woman over 21 may go to the polls and vote. The suffrage campaign in Michigan began in 1874, and for 44 years in Michigan, women have carried forward definite work for the ballot. It was given to us in 1918.

In Kalamazoo we have recently organized the women’s voters league, and we ask you to become a part of the county organization. We need you. This is a continuation meeting of this afternoon, and as I looked over the meeting this afternoon, I noticed that so very many of us are middle-aged. We need the younger generation to bear the torch.”

“I was one of the women who marched in Chicago in 1916, to ask the republican convention to put a plank favoring woman suffrage in their platform. The rain was coming down in torrents, as we marched. I led the procession, carrying a big hammer, so big that I couldn’t carry it alone. We were drenched, and yet we had a feeling of wonderful spiritual uplift that I shall never forget.

ENTERED HALL DRENCHED
“Just as we marched into the convention hall, an anti-suffragist had just finished a speech saying, ‘Women do not want the ballot.’ The five thousand of us came in, drenched. It was a striking anti-climax to her speech.”

“We are passing the torch on to you. This thing we have been working for is you, to take care of the women and children of the coming generations. We came here tonight to ask you all to be back of us.”

“We’re coming up against a primary in August, and we want to get hold of every woman in Kalamazoo, either as pledged to register and vote, or as active members.

“Some constructive legislation is coming up in the next legislature, and we want a strong organization of at least 5,000 Kalamazoo women back of it.”

“Registration is the imminent thing right now. All of you who haven’t yet done so, go to the city clerk and register. Do that before August 15, if you want to vote at the direct primary.”

“I want to urge you again to carry on this work. It’s going to mean so much to you. I don’t think we have sufficiently educated the girls of Kalamazoo County to the importance of this great movement. The vote stands for equality of opportunity, equality of pay. This is no child’s play, it is the most important business you’ve got to see this vote used for the betterment of the laws under which you are working."

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90th Anniversary Financial Campaign

By Diane Worden

Who in Kalamazoo County doesn’t have a stake in this fund drive?

By now you realize that LWVKA has not forgotten to conduct its annual fund drive because you have received a 2010 Financial Campaign brochure and letter suggesting a variety of appropriate donor amounts. Celebration funding of our 90th anniversary is occurring in three stages: strong leadership gifts by each Board member (phase I, Nov. - Dec. ‘09); significant donations and pledges for the next two years by non-Board members (phase II, May-June ‘10); and appreciative support by the general public (phase III, June - August ‘10). As of June 1, responsive members have raised $14,700 in phases I and II. We have yet to hear from 80% of all brochure recipients. Are you among them?

The math is easy and the need is clear. Multiply the $9 of each local dues which stays right here times our most recent number of members to yield less than one-tenth of our League’s normal annual program expenses. That $1,300 hardly pays for producing and distributing our Bulletin each year. We absolutely depend on donations to accomplish our purpose, “to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation in government and to act on selected government issues.”

We hope to underwrite our programs of community service and make democracy work without raising dues again or beginning a flurry of community grant applications. That’s why we will appeal to both LWV member and non-members this summer.

Those who have already joined the League to commit available time, energy, and money have every claim to being our strongest supporters. Every Leaguer advocates open and responsive government which is accountable to all and acts with responsibility to the future. Certainly we can and should help ourselves to the best of our means. If at all possible, designate some multiple of $90 for this year’s contribution or pledge to spread the total over two or three years (year 1 being 2010), e.g. $30 or $90 or $180 or $300 per year. If this doesn’t work for you, consider either $19.20 or $20.10 now and ask to be reminded for that amount next year.

Please complete the donation/pledge form in the brochure by July 15. Then, help us reach into the community. Send the names and addresses of 25 friends, neighbors and colleagues who you believe support LVW’s purpose to Diane Worde: WordenDex@aol.com. Each will receive an explanatory letter, brochure, and an opportunity to join us in making democracy work.

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Looking Back and Forward at Our Annual Meeting

By Terry Hluchyj

LWVKA celebrates its 90th birthday!

More than forty LWVKA members and their guests gathered at the Park Club in downtown Kalamazoo on May 18 for our annual meeting. Across the street from the 1920 location of the YWCA on Rose Street, we celebrated our 90th birthday within view of the site where our predecessors first organized “to increase the effectiveness of women voters.”

Following dinner, we enjoyed a very informative talk by Cheryl Lyon-Jenness, an LWVKA member and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Western Michigan University history department. Cheryl spoke about the Great Depression, a time when economic conditions and unemployment called for strong government action. Citing major programs of the New Deal, Cheryl noted the controversies that surrounded them at the time, while they succeeding in creating jobs and leaving valuable legacies, for example in our parks and public buildings. Her look back at the 1930s provided stimulating context for conversation about the current economic environment and government programs to promote recovery.

The business meeting, conducted by co-president Kay Perry, followed. Members approved the 2010-2011 budget presented by Treasurer Paula Aldridge, as published in the April Bulletin.
Members also agreed to retain current local positions, with the exception of the housing position which was approved with proposed revisions, also published in the April Bulletin. All positions are available for review on our website – www.lwvka.org.
Nominating Committee chair, Janet Jones, presented the slate of officers, directors and nominating committee members. Nominees included:

• Co-Presidents (1-yr. term)
Connie Ferguson and Kay Perry
• VP for Program (2-yr. term)
Paula Manley
• Treasurer (2-yr. term)
Paula Aldridge
• Board Members (2-yr. terms)
Norma Clack, April Woodward
Slack, Carol Urban
• Nominating Committee (1-yr. term)
Dolores Hayden (Chair), Janet Jones
and Yolanda Mitts

In addition, Sabrina Pritchett-Evans was nominated from the floor for a 2-year term as a member of the Board.
The entire slate of officers, directors and nominated committee members was unanimously elected.
Co-president Kay Perry recognized continuing Board members: Kay Anderson (VP for Organization), KC Miller (Secretary), Ruth Caputo, Michele McGowen and Diane Worden. Terry Hluchyj will continue as past president.

Kay also acknowledged those who are leaving the Board, including Barbara Havira who has been involved in writing the excellent series of articles about health care in the Bulletin; Ken Manley who helped us kick off this year’s anniversary fund drive; and Camilla Davis who has served as secretary and worked on many projects, including high We hope that Barbara and Ken will lend their talents to the League in the future. We are sorry to say that Camilla Davis is leaving the area, but hope that she will find a fortunate League to serve.

Co-president Kay Perry closed the evening by reviewing highlights of our 2009-10 accomplishments, including voter service, issue study, advocacy and special projects, such as Census 2010.
It was a great evening of learning and celebration, with the special treat of a yellow rose bouquet, another reminder of our suffrage heritage.

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LWVKA Stimulus Review

The stimulus funds support various
programs.

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Over the past year, ten League members (working in pairs) have conducted a series of interviews to understand how economic stimulus funds were being spent in Kalamazoo County. We spoke with representatives of the following organizations to discuss the projects listed:

W.E. Upjohn Institute
• Youthful Employment
• Adults with low family incomes
• Dislocated workers

Irving S. Gilmore International
• Gilmore’s Piano Lab program Keyboard Festival

City of Kalamazoo Department of Community Planning & Development
• Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing

KRESA
• Support for local school districts
• KRESA research-based educational
programming, curriculum, and professional
development

Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department
• Weatherization Assistance Program

Comstock Public Schools
• Programming for at-risk students
• Technology
• Special education

Kalamazoo Public Safety Department
• Mobile video recording system
• Early warning tornado sirens
• Maintain staffing

Family Health Center
• Capital improvement programs
• Operations

According to the current Michigan.gov/ recovery website, Kalamazoo County has received $156,135,648 in stimulus funding. The programs covered in our interviews received $22,471,988 or 14% of the local funding. Michigan Department of Transportation road construction/infrastructure projects and transit grants represent 49% of the funding to be spent in the county.

Educational institutions collectively are also major recipients. Every school district in the county (in addition to KRESA) received funding. Pell grants will benefit students at Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Beauty Academy, and the School of Designing Arts. Kalamazoo College has received a National Institute of Health grant and Western Michigan University a National Science Foundation grant. Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University received work-study grants. Head Start received additional funding. Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Glen Oaks Community College received funding through the W.E. Upjohn Institute to develop new programs in Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Auditing respectively. Both programs will produce graduates with skills that are expected to be in demand. In total, $40,980,180 or 26% of the funds have supported educational programming.

There was obviously a significant variety in the programs we reviewed. The Youthful Employment program employed 1,005 14-24 year-olds last summer at 120 job sites. The Gilmore Keyboard Festival grant supported the staff who provide in-school piano lessons for elementary students, youngsters in the County Juvenile Home and developmentally disabled youth through KRESA.

The City of Kalamazoo has used its funding to address homelessness, foreclosure prevention, and to improve the energy efficiency of some city buildings. At the time of our interview, the city was applying for additional funding through Housing and Urban Development that is intended to stabilize neighborhoods whose viability has been and continues to be damaged by the economic effects of properties that have been foreclosed upon and abandoned. Since that interview, the City received $15,868,559 for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2.

School systems used education funding to save jobs (sometimes by introducing new programs), making up for reductions in state funding.

The weatherization grants are enabling the county to do more work on some houses to ensure that the weatherization is as effective as it can be and to increase the number of houses modified.

The Kalamazoo Public Safety department replaced its obsolete VHS patrol car recording system with a digital system and updated its tornado warning system. Most of its funding was used to save the jobs of 10 individuals who would otherwise have been laid off.
The Family Health Center is using the majority of its funding to renovate a facility that was obtained from the city at a cost of $1. Other funding has been used to recruit and hire 10 FTE health care professionals. All these changes are needed to serve their increasing patient load.

While the programs are very different, the grants do have much in common. All grants went to existing organizations and programs. All grants had timelines (varying from several months to 3 years) associated with the expenditures. Each grant was accompanied by rules relative to how the money could be spent. All reported that tracking requirements were robust. In many cases, the stimulus funds were to be received as reimbursements, creating a potential cash flow problem for some organizations. Michigan was one of 14 states where all educational funding was to be audited. In some cases, that meant on-site audits.

Many of these organizations have experienced problems due to the state’s budget crisis and the cuts imposed from Lansing. The stimulus funds were, as the name implies, to stimulate – not to be a long-term rescue. As the state government has still failed to deal with its structural budget deficit, it is likely that the stimulus was, for some, just a short-term fix and cutbacks or layoffs may still occur.

It was natural for the interview teams to think about what parallels might exist between the government’s efforts to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression and these more recent efforts. In her presentation at the LWVKA Annual Meeting, Cheryl Lyon-Jenness, Western Michigan University History Department faculty member described many of the New Deal programs. There are more obvious differences than similarities between the efforts of the two eras.

During the New Deal, the government established a number of new programs, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration, and the Works Progress Administration. The current stimulus program is funding existing programs and projects that were already in the design or execution phase.
Many New Deal programs targeted specific populations, including unemployed youth, women, and artists. Current programs are not directed at any specific populations.

New Deal programs created a very visible legacy that remains after all these years. In Kalamazoo, we still see Bronson Park’s art deco fountain and the rock walls in Milham Park and Riverview Cemetery. The current stimulus program will not leave such a legacy.

A not-so-obvious difference is the impact of the safety nets that are in place today, but did not exist at the beginning of the Great Depression. Social security, unemployment insurance, and the protection of banked savings through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have prevented some of the more devastating impacts that might have accompanied the current great recession.

We are grateful for the assistance of our interviewers: Chris Bartley, Camilla Davis, Connie Ferguson, Terry Hluchyj, Sue Nelmes, Ann Perry, Kay Perry, Sabrina Pritchett-Evans, Diane Worden, and Jackie Wylie.

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YWCA Honors League for “Enduring Contributions”

By Terry Hluchyj

LWVKA receives Women’s Group Achievement Award.

award

Download a PDF of the
presentation here!

May 13 was a special day to be proud member of the League of Women Voters. On that evening at the Radisson Plaza ballroom, we were honored with the YWCA’s Women’s Group Achievement Award, given to “a women’s group that has made enduring contributions to the community.” It is indeed a high honor, given in the name of the YWCA, an organization with a mission that certainly complements ours. It’s no wonder that 90 years ago League members met at the YWCA on Rose Street.

With the award presentation, the League was cited for our education and advocacy efforts – continuing the work that started with passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. In our acceptance remarks, I acknowledged the many people who have made our work possible, including candidates who participate in our Voter Guides and forums; those who allow us to leave Voter Guides at their offices; leaders who share their expertise when we conduct studies; organizations that co-sponsor events with us; and those who have respected our positions, whether they agreed with them or not.

It was an opportune time to recall the words of the founding president of the Kalamazoo League ­– Nellie Clark. According to a Kalamazoo Gazette article on July 22, 1920, Nellie described the long struggle of the suffrage movement which had active members in Kalamazoo. She said: “As I look over the meeting, I notice that so very many of us are middle-aged. We need the younger generation to bear the torch.” Fortunately, several generations have done just that. Many of our current League members were acknowledged when asked to stand up in order to identify themselves.

Nellie, however, might have made the same comment about the group at the Radisson that night. In the spirit of passing the torch, we offered complimentary League memberships to each of the twenty-one high school- and college-aged Young Women of Achievement who were also honored that evening. We hope this gesture encourages them to use their talents to make democracy work.