New rules for Texas health care navigators

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott released a statement today regarding Secretary Sebelius’ Friday visit to Texas. In his statement, Abbott declares

“The future of ObamaCare in Texas depends in part on who will govern this state. Sen. Wendy Davis not only supports ObamaCare – and the navigators who could compromise Texans’ private information – she has sought to expand its reaches in Texas. I have fought against ObamaCare and the navigators, and will continue to do so as Governor.”

Abbott’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act is no secret, but Texas lawmakers have proven their creativity in their recent attempt to cripple health care expansion by imposing strict rules for the nonpartisan health care navigators who help Texans understand coverage options.

The new rules require navigators to submit to fingerprinting and background checks and complete 40 hours of training and education — that’s 20 hours of Texas-specific training in addition to the 20-30 hours of training required by the federal government. Texas navigators are also prohibited from offering advice as to which qualified health plan through a health benefit exchange is preferable. If the Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner (Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s former deputy Chief of Staff) determines any provision has been violated, the navigator may face sanctions, penalties, and/or termination.

Texas has the highest uninsured rate and most uninsured children in the nation, and millions of uninsured Texans could use some help navigating the new marketplace. The health of our residents and our economy is suffering because of a severe lack of coverage, but our lawmakers insist on restricting access even further and penalizing anyone who gets in their way. Gregg Abbott clearly values an anti-Obama political agenda over the health of the people he’s supposed to represent but, much to his chagrin, Wendy Davis realizes that, for Texas, health care reform is just what the doctor ordered.

Who is Wendy Davis?

A recent article by Wayne Slater raised questions about Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ account of her personal struggles. The article alleges that Senator Davis exaggerated her early hardships, financially exploited her then-husband Jeff Davis, and ultimately forsake her caretaker role in order to advance her career:

The basic elements of the narrative are true, but the full story of Davis’ life is more complicated, as often happens when public figures aim to define themselves. In the shorthand version that has developed, some facts have been blurred.

Davis was 21, not 19, when she was divorced. She lived only a few months in the family mobile home while separated from her husband before moving into an apartment with her daughter.

A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support.

The Republican response Mr. Slater’s allegations has been ugly, forcing Senator Davis to defend the legitimacy of her background to supporters and wholesome conservative meme-makers alike.

 

In response to the Dallas Morning News article and, perhaps, tweets like the one above, Wendy Davis released a statement to set the record straight and said in an email to supporters:

Mine is a story about a teenage single mother who struggled to keep her young family afloat. It’s a story about a young woman who was given a precious opportunity to work her way up in the world. It’s a story about resiliency, and sacrifice, and perseverance.

And you’re damn right it’s a true story.

Regardless of how old she was when she became a single parent, how long she lived in a mobile home, or how she financed her Harvard Law degree, Wendy Davis was a young mother who graduated first in her class at TCU, continued her education at an Ivey League institution, and went on to become a State Senator. She continually advocates for her daughters, her constituents, and her fellow Texans, literally standing up for them in the face of extreme adversity. She is, by any measure, a remarkable woman.

Sexism and fabricated scandals will not be enough to overshadow Wendy Davis’s courage and credentials. She has proven herself a tireless champion for education and women’s rights, and her critics are running scared because they know as well as I do that she is well-qualified to run this State.

Update: 

On January 28th both of Davis’s daughters wrote open letters defending their mother and their upbringing.

Jessica and Texas Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) at the Texas Tribune Festival

Highlights of the Texas Tribune Festival

I spent this weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival, which is basically a music festival with politicians instead of bands. Tribune Fest was chock full of major players in Texas politics and, let me tell ya, I was in heaven! Here’s my list of the 15 best (and worst) moments from the weekend, in mostly chronological order:

  • When Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott  tried to convince everyone that the Affordable Care Act is the product of voter fraud, and the crowd laughed at him. 
  • When Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said “Texas is going to turn blue over my dead, cold, bloated butt.”
  • When David Dewhurst busted out his 8th grade Spanish (“Yo sabo…el gobern…seguridad por el futuro”) and everyone was confused.
  • When David Dewhurst said “We already have universal healthcare, it’s called the Emergency Room.” and the crowd laughed at him.
  • When David Dewhurst decided that 5 months is plenty of time for a woman to decide what to do with her pregnancy, but has never been pregnant himself. When Texas Rep. Sarah Davis rolled her eyes every time Rep. Donna Campbell answered a question with “I am a physician…”
  • When a lady in the audience recommended humanely sucking fetuses out of women and growing them in artificial uterueses as a middle ground in the abortion debate.
  • When a Republican turned out to be the voice of reason on the Women’s Health Panel (Sarah Davis, you are amazing! Preach!)
  • When Donna Campbell said there is nothing in the legislation that would shut down women’s health facilities and I was part of the unruly mob for the few seconds before the next question. Jess with Texas Representative Jessica Farrar, her personal hero! (She's smiling!)
  • When Texas Senator Eddie Lucio (he’s a Democrat, btw) tripped over a chair trying to get away from questions about his opposition to all forms of birth control.
  • When Rep. Jessica Farrar said that political wars can’t be fought on the backs of women.
  • When I got to hang out with Jessica Farrar.
  • When Evan Smith said “Welcome to Politics Church.” at the beginning of Sunday morning’s session.
  • When the room was so packed with people waiting to see Wendy that we had to use bathroom passes to get in and out
  • When the Longhorn Band came in and there was a pep-rally for Wendy Davis at the end of the day.

Those are my favorite moments, but I wasn’t at every session. Did I leave something out? Leave a comment to share your favorite moments from Tribune Fest, too!

Wendy Davis–Why I stood up for Texas women

A few days ago Texas State Senator Wendy Davis wrote this piece for the Washington Post explaining her recent filibuster in the Texas Senate, and I couldn’t agree with her more. It’s the perfect blend of frustration with current Texas government, hard-hitting facts, and hope for the future of a lady-friendly Lonestar State, all wrapped up in the powerful language of a very powerful woman. I’ve posted it in it’s entirety here:

Washington Post 

Why I stood up for Texas women
By Wendy R. Davis, Published: July 15

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis represents District 10 of the Texas Senate.

Texas state leaders have again taken up a partisan effort to impose severe restrictions on the ability of women in our state to receive reproductive and other crucial health-care services. Just a few weeks ago, I spent nearly 13 hours filibustering this bill. I stood up to filibuster the bill because Texas Republican leaders would rather pursue a partisan agenda than help Texas women. I stood to oppose the bill because it rolled back constitutional rights and would reduce the number of women’s health clinics from 42 to 5, thereby threatening the health and safety of thousands of Texas women.

I know how important this is because as a young woman, the only health care I received — preventative care, cancer screenings, checkups, etc. — came from a women’s health clinic close to where I live in Fort Worth. Indeed, more than 90 percent of the care provided by these centers has nothing at all to do with abortion. Quite the opposite, their services are absolutely critical to preventing unplanned pregnancies and to providing much-needed health-care screening.

So while the “people’s filibuster” will go down in history for putting a stop (if only temporarily) to a misguided bill, the filibuster was more than organized opposition or even endurance — it was an expression of mainstream Texans standing up against partisan power-mongers who no longer act in Texas’ best interest or even tell Texans the truth. These partisans have depicted their bill as an effort to improve the quality of care available to women in local clinics. However, the filibuster exposed their real intent — to close clinics all over the state of Texas and deny health-care services to thousands of Texas women. And now Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have rammed these new restrictions through the state legislature in a special session, without concern for health care or constitutionality.

This partisan effort builds on a concerted action by state leaders to roll back access to women’s and family health care. In 2011, their budget cuts threw approximately 150,000 women out of a health safety net that, as in my experience, served as their only source of regular, reliable care. Since then, state leaders have bypassed a nine-to-one federal match in funding for the women’s health-care program and saddled state taxpayers with approximately $30 million per year in unnecessary expense, as well as millions of additional dollars spent through Medicaid on unplanned births. Worse, a vendetta against Planned Parenthood by Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has gutted nearly half of the state’s women’s health-care delivery system. As a consequence, tens of thousands of Texas women may very well have no providers of care despite additional state funding.

There has been a great deal of attention given to the portion of the bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, which was added by partisans primarily as a means for whipping up their political base. But this cynical and dishonest political tactic puts women’s lives at risk. Less than 1 percent of all abortions in Texas occur at the 20th week or later. In nearly all of these cases, a family in tragic circumstances has had to make the difficult and private decision to let go of a much-wanted pregnancy because of a major medical concern. What’s more, state leaders don’t mention that they opposed and defeated an amendment to allow an exception to the 20-week ban when a woman has been raped or is the victim of incest. This exception is no small matter. Each year, about 25,000 American women — 30 percent of them minors — become pregnant through rape or incest.

In the end, the filibuster was a means to continue the fight and stand up to Republican leaders. That fight is not a new one for me. As a senator from the only true swing district in the Texas Senate, I’ve been targeted by the GOP for my outspoken criticism of their extremist attacks on public education and voting rights, to name just two examples. My nearly 13-hour stand against the effort to deny women access to basic health care evolved into a people’s filibuster opposing a selfish and out-of-touch leadership that refuses to listen to real families with real hopes.

Texas really is the greatest state in the greatest nation. Texans — and women all over the country — deserve leaders that care, that listen and that work to protect their interests. The people’s filibuster demonstrated that Texans — and women everywhere — are ready and willing to fight back.

I stand with Wendy Davis and Texas Women. If you do too, consider supporting her campaign online here.

I stand with Texas women

I can’t rally with the hundreds of strong women and men fighting for women’s rights in the Texas Capitol, but I did share my story with Senator Wendy Davis to support her efforts to filibuster SB5 tomorrow:

My name is Jessica, I’m a Texan. I was born in Corpus Christi and I graduated from Vista Ridge Highschool in Cedar Park, just a few minutes north of Austin up 183. I was raised on Dublin Dr. Pepper and Friday night football, and I’m proud of the world-class education I’m getting right here at home at the University of Texas at Austin.

I am a Texas woman, and I am a woman of God. My faith informs me that all life is sacred, but my constitution informs me that what goes on between me, my uterus, and my God, is none of your damn business. My female reproductive system is not within your jurisdiction to govern because you are not the voice of God, you are the voice of the people, and the people say no to SB5.

If you’re with us, share yours too.

Tune in on Twitter tomorrow to lend your virtual support!

P.S.: Read this Texas Tribune Article to get caught up on how it all started, and check out these pictures from the abortion debate at the Texas Capitol.