Pennsylvania currently lets legislators to pick their voters strategically – commonly referred to as gerrymandering. This system allows politicians to manipulate boundaries of legislative districts in order to reward their friends while harming their opposition. Republicans in Pennsylvania have gone one step further, using 21st century technology to germander with surgical precision. Few requirements exist to ensure fairness, and they are often ignored.
For example, the law requires districts of similar population – but PA’s largest Senate district has 60,000 more people than the smallest. The resulting maps unfairly empower GOP voters while diminishing the voice of Democratic-leaning groups, especially people of color. Top leaders from both parties reward themselves with safe, uncompetitive districts, keeping them in charge year after year.
The solution isn’t gerrymandering from red to blue: it’s removing partisan politics from the process in the first place. Instead the responsibility would lie with an independent redistricting commission. I am proud to be the only Democrat in this race to fully support the aim of Fair Districts PA to eliminate gerrymandering in PA once and for all.
Over 10% of eligible voters in PA are not registered. I support automatic registration at the DMV so everyone is accurately registered unless they explicitly opt-out. I also support provisional ballots for voters who accidently go to the wrong poll if it’s within their home municipality.
Good health in body and mind are essential to an individual’s wellbeing and a community’s prosperity.
Modern healthcare changes and evolves as rapidly as the technology around us. Our laws have failed to keep up, and as a result healthcare becomes less affordable and patient care suffers. We know that our healthcare system is failing because the symptoms touch all our lives in one way or another, from skyrocketing drug prices, to increasing rates of asthma and preventable diseases in low-income communities, to the rapid rise in overdose deaths, to the growing epidemic of suicide, especially among those under 18. Healthcare, especially prescription drugs, is increasingly unaffordable for far too many Pennsylvanians. We must do better.
In order for Pennsylvania to meet the challenge of affordable, personalized healthcare for all, we need policymakers who understand the unique dynamics in healthcare. Having worked throughout the healthcare field – with both providers and payers – I’ve developed a 360 degree view of the industry.
When insurance and big pharma lobbyists come to influence Harrisburg, we need leaders who can respond to and analyze their claims, not just swallow them. I’ve done just that for years – fighting in Harrisburg and Washington against an impersonal system in order to empower patients. I have testified before the Federal Trade Commission against anti-competitive, anti-patient practices by insurers and drug companies.
I’ve crafted the policies below as a way to make personalized patient care affordable for everyone. I believe we must treat healthcare as an investment in our society. The cost of doing nothing – personally, economically, spiritually – is far, far higher than sound reforms.
Some of what I’ll Fight For in Harrisburg:
- Medicare and Medicaid pay less for care than private insurers. We should allow individuals, families and small businesses to buy into those savings through the state’s HealthChoices plans, if that’s what makes sense for their health and finances.
- Much of the profit made in prescriptions isn’t by manufacturers in pharmacies – it’s by unregulated middlemen called Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBM’s). We need laws requiring transparency and accountability for PBM’s, who are colluding with manufactures to milk the system while claiming to save us money.
- Pennsylvania should start directly negotiating drug prices for Medicaid instead of paying PBM’s to do it. Employers and other payers would have the option to buy in as well. By passing on all the savings to the people of Pennsylvania, rather than corporate shareholders, we can save over $1 billion in a single year.
- Protect the patient-provider relationship: All too often insurers are getting in between patients and their physicians. Overly burdensome networks and prior authorization requirements have stifled care-delivery. Physicians are often unable to secure the prescriptions, treatments, or provider-care they know is best. In the long run patients suffer, and there is little evidence these measures save money over a patient’s lifetime. It’s time to reform our insurance and prescribing laws to prohibit shortsighted insurance requirements instituted by accountants, not care providers.
Mental Health Care
Our mental health care system is in crisis. We are seeing a rapid rise in overdose deaths and a growing epidemic of suicide. In my work with Child Guidance Resource Centers, I have witnessed the power of a holistic, community-based approach to mental health. It is one of many PA nonprofits that offer exceptional care at little to no cost. Public funding, however, has remained nearly flat year after year. The time has come to reinvest in established, community-based providers.
- Increase funding to the mental health programs administered by counties, which haven’t seen an increase in over a decade despite an epidemic of drug abuse and suicide.
- Pass Phillips Law, which would equip our schools with the counselors and mental health resources our kids need. Childhood troubles aren’t uncommon or a reason to be ashamed – and the failure to identify or address such issues can have lifelong consequences, including higher risks for depression and drug addiction.
While funding for addiction treatment has drawn increasing attention, there has been very little scrutiny about the quality of care we are paying for. Treatment outcomes are by nature difficult to assess or even track. As a result there is no “gold standard” treatment regimen, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all equal.
A crucial lesson I learned in specialty pharmacy is that good patient care and efficiency aren’t always mutually exclusive – in fact they often go together, and nowhere more than here. Ineffective drug treatment isn’t only a waste of money: it’s dangerous for the person seeking recovery. The same goes for poorly operated and under-supervised recovery residences.
The best providers use treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that have a strong clinical track record. Unfortunately, addiction is the one field in medicine where the public still routinely pays for treatment models that are either unproven, outdated or both. It’s time to require proven treatment administered by licensed professionals.
- Ensure that all treatment centers and halfway-houses receiving public money are operated using safe, clinically-proven treatment models like CBT. Twelve Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can be a vehicle to recovery for many people, but they are not a viable replacement for proven clinical care.
- We should mandate that all inpatient facilities offer the option of “medication assisted treatment” for relapsing opiate addicts. Medications like Vivitrol and Suboxone cuts these patients’ death rate by 50%. Unfortunately, this option is still not offered at many facilities, usually for ideological reasons.
- Provide grants to counties that establish programs designed to collect and analyze statistics on addiction and drug use. Understanding the problem better will enable state and local government to respond more effectively.
- Educate families on addiction. Pennsylvania should guarantee families dealing with addiction access to education on addiction, treatment, and the industry itself. Families, particularly parents, share in the pain of those with mental illness, including addiction. No surprise that patients and addicts do best when their families share in recovery. Yet seeing a loved one struggles with addiction is often as bewildering as it is painful. Empowering families to support recovery is inexpensive and essential.
- Require counties to offer “Drug Court” programs to all qualifying offenders, rather than artificially limiting enrollment. Prison is not a treatment facility, and abstinence behind bars is not recovery.
Having been a proud member and local Delegate in the United Federation of Teachers, I fully support our brothers and sisters in labor. As a UFT member I learned firsthand how unions can empower workers, uniting their voices toward a common purpose. Unions are not the enemies of prosperity – they’re the engines that drive the American dream.
I believe that collective-bargaining and union organizing are sacred rights that must always remain available to workers in a free and fair country. In the state Senate I will always be a No vote on “right-to-work laws” and stand in solidarity against the right-wing anti-union agenda.
Proactive changes are also necessary. When a for-profit hospital cuts nurses to boost profits, it’s patients who ultimately suffer most. I will fight for laws to improve the wages and working conditions in the service jobs we all rely on, from nurses to custodians. That starts with supporting a Fair Wage for PA – and laws that protect workers and the public from those looking to cut corners.
Smart Gun Reform
The inaction on gun violence is a moral outrage. In the past decade we have lived through mass shooting after mass shooting that was enabled or exacerbated by our lax gun laws. And while shootings get the most media coverage, over half of gun deaths in Pennsylvania are either accidents or suicides. The Second Amendment does not prohibit the exercise of common sense. Every day we delay, more will needlessly die.
- Halt the sale and importation of assault rifles, including parts and clips. These are weapons for war, not personal protection.
- Pass the Emergency Protective Order (aka “Red Flag”) bill that the GOP has repeatedly blocked in Harrisburg.
- Eliminate the concealed carry loophole that allows people to legally carry a gun even after becoming ineligible to own one.
- Phase out the use of hunting rounds made with lead, a major source of lead in our ecosystem.
- Eliminate the gunshow loophole. We must require background checks on all gun purchases, no exceptions.
- Invest in our state’s mental health capabilities, starting from a young age.
- Child Access Prevention and Safe Storage: Pennsylvania has no laws requiring safe storage of guns around children, and adults who allow children to gain access to weapons aren’t criminally liable – even when the gun is used to commit a crime. If parents can be held liable for providing alcohol to kids, the same should apply to weapons. I will fight to keep our children safe at home by making gun owners responsible for securing their firearms if they live with minors or adults ineligible to own a firearm.