April Newsletter - Volume 5, Issue 7
Social Media Update --- We're on Twitter!
Political Book Club
Volunteers: It Takes a Village
You may click on one of the above titles to go directly to that subject, or simply scroll down the newsletter.
Thanks to Beth Tomasello, Sybil Cantor, Teddi Pensinger, Linda Kolko, Riki Sheehan, Eileen Brooks, Carmela Cowgill, Betsy Loyless, Lucy Freeman, Marian Kisch, Nancy Holland, Ed Kimmel, Leni Preston, Helene Guttman, and Irma Kramer for their contributions to this newsletter.
UPCOMING WDC EVENTS
Thursday, May 14
5:30 to 7 PM
7141 Arlington Road, Bethesda
Want to meet new people and talk politics? Join us at the next WDC Happy Hour. Every second Thursday of each month, Democrats who are passionate about politics gather to relax and network with WDC members and their guests. Whether you want to meet elected officials, make new friends, form new business contacts or just have fun, the WDC Happy Hour is the perfect place to meet and greet fellow Democrats.
Saturday, May 16
Luncheon, Book Signing and Conversation with David Axelrod
Book sales and signing begins at 11:15 am.
Lunch and conversation begins at 12:00. No signings after lunch.
Bethesda Marriott (at Pooks Hill)
5151 Pooks Hill Road, Bethesda
There is free parking in the hotel parking lot.
Cost: $25 for members/young dems; $30 guests.
To make your reservation for the event, send your check to
Judith Heimann, 6900 Marbury Road, Bethesda, MD 20817
or reserve online at www.womansdemocraticclub.org by noon Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Questions about the event? Call Beth Tomasello, 301-656-0969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
David Axelrod was the Chief Campaign Strategist, Obama for America, in 2008 & 2012. He served as Senior Advisor tor the President, 2009-2011. David Axelrod has always been a believer. Whether as a young journalist investigating city corruption, a campaign consultant guiding underdog candidates against entrenched orthodoxy, or as senior adviser to the president during one of the worst crises in American history, Axelrod held fast to his faith in the power of stories to unite diverse communities and ignite transformative political change. Now this legendary strategist, the mastermind behind Barack Obama's historic election campaigns, shares a wealth of stories from his forty-year journey through the inner workings of American democracy. Believer is the tale of a political life well lived, of a man who never gave up on the deepest promises our country has to offer.
Spanning forty years that include corruption and transformation, turmoil and progress,Believer
takes readers behind the closed doors of politics from Chicago to Washington even as it offers a thrilling call to democratic action. Axelrod's Believer is a powerful and inspiring memoir enlivened by the charm and candor of one of the greatest political strategists in recent American history.
Tuesday, June 9
June Dinner with guest speaker Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Biennial General Membership Meeting
General Meeting - 6:30 p.m.
Dinner with Brian Frosh -7:00 pm
Bethesda Marriott (at Pooks Hill)
5151 Pooks Hill Road, Bethesda
Prior to taking office as Maryland's 46th attorney general, Brian compiled a distinguished record as a state lawmaker, authoring important legislation to protect Marylanders from gun violence and ensure that all Marylanders have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. He served 5 terms in the Maryland State Senate, representing Maryland's District 16 in Montgomery County. Prior to serving in the Senate, he also represented District 16 in the Maryland House of Delegates, serving two four-year terms. As Attorney General, Brian is committed to serving as the "people's lawyer," applying the law to improve lives and bring fairness, equality and justice to all Marylanders. He is focused on keeping our communities safe, on limiting environmental damage and unfair, deceptive and predatory business practices, and on promoting transparency and openness in government. As the state's chief legal officer, Brian is working to prevent crime before it happens on our streets and on the Internet. He is working to expand educational and economic opportunities for all Marylanders, reduce gang activity, and strengthen effective rehabilitation programs and prisoner reentry programs. He is also focused on protecting vulnerable populations such as the elderly from fraud and abuse. Additional details will follow, but please mark your calendars now.
This will also be our biennial general membership meeting to elect officers for the 2015-2017 term and vote on a change in the annual dues to create a category of dues for members aged 35 or younger. Please click here for the official announcement of the meeting and click here for the report of the nominating committee.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S ANNUAL SPRING BALL
Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Spring Ball
Saturday, May 9, 2015, 6 pm to 10 pm
Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road
Cost: $125 per ticket.
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee invites all Woman's Democratic Club members to a fabulous evening of fun. The Spring Ball hosts a Pre-Dinner Reception, both Live and Silent Auctions, and Dinner and Dancing. The Spring Ball also offers Montgomery County Democrats the opportunity to celebrate and honor some of our most committed Democratic volunteers. In 2015, the MCDCC is honoring:
Morgan-Jerney Community Service Award - William J. Roberts
Kelsey Cooke Volunteer of the Year Award - Almina Khorakiwala
Lucille Maurer Trustee of the Year Award - Elliot C. Chabot
Rosalie Reilly Lifetime Service Award - Marie S. Wallace
Democrat of the Year Award - Dolly Kildee
Dean-Peacock Precinct Official Award - Gael F. Cheek
Chairman's Award - Ellen & Simon Atlas
WDC is particularly proud that four of its members, Almina Khorakiwala, Dolly Kildee, and Ellen & Si Atlas have been honored for their tireless work on behalf of the Democratic Party and their communities.
Click Here to RSVP
If you would like to sit with at a table with other WDC members, please email Beth Tomasello, WDC President, at email@example.com.
We hope to see you at the Ball on May 9th at the North Bethesda Marriott Hotel.
DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT FRED YANG ON AMERICAN POLITICS TODAY AND THE ROAD TO VICTORY
by Eileen Brooks as edited by Teddi Pensinger
On March 30, 2015 Frederick S. Yang spoke to the Woman's Democratic Club of Montgomery County, MD at the March monthly luncheon. Yang is a partner in the Garin Hart Yang Research Group, a highly respected political polling firm for Democratic candidates. Capitol Hill's newspaper, Roll Call, named Yang one of the ten Democratic Consultants on its list of "Consultants Who Make A Difference." He also contributes to MSNBC, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal on research and polling.
Yang began his remarks by saying that before looking forward it is important to look back and reflect on where we've been. Heading into the 2014 election, the mood of the country was more negative than it was in 1994, 2006 and 2010. In 2014 only 27% thought the country was headed in the right direction while 63% said that it is off on the wrong track. (Source: NBC/WSJ poll). Feelings toward President Obama drove the vote and the 2014 exit polls showed a clear majority of the electorate disapproved of his job performance. It is also important to mention the low voter turnout particularly among white women and younger voters and the fact that only 42% of eligible Americans voted. Yang said that it was "the silent majority" who voted. He noted that Democrats thought that 2010 was the "floor" when the Party lost 68 House seats. There are fewer Democrats in State legislatures now than since 1929 or during the Civil War. Yang contrasted the 2010 and 2014 elections through examination of the question of whether voters want their candidates to compromise in order to get things done or to stick to their principles. In 2010, voters veered toward wanting candidates to compromise and in 2014, three out of five voters wanted candidates to work together. The public now has a "get-it-done" mentality including "make compromises" and "stick to campaign promises." A plurality of voters believes that both parties are to blame for the political problems in Washington. Yang emphasized that an important thermometer with regard to voters is "right direction/wrong track" and that an early 2015 poll shows the Democrats 35% positive/38% negative vs. Republicans 25% positive/46% negative in this area.
"The Road to 2016"
Yang believes that to win in 2016, Democrats need to take advantage of anti-Republican dynamics and to concentrate on getting our voters out. There are several trends in play. Trend #1 as measured in polls from January/March, reveal that there is a slight turnaround in that people are feeling better about America. Trend #2 reveals that preference for change is stronger now than in 2008. In March 2015, 59% looked for a candidate to bring greater changes to current policies even if less experienced vs. 54% in June 2008. Trend #3 reveals reflections about individuals holding office. Preference for a more experienced/tested person was 38% in March 2015 vs. 42% in June 2008. Comparing George W. Bush vs. Barack Obama on job approval among white independents: In late 2006 G.W. Bush's approvals were in the 20%-30% range with disapproves generally in the 60% range.
Recently among white independents, Obama's job approval was in the 23%-36% range in late 2014 and early 2015 with disapproval ranging between 58%-72%. But what is really important is that since November of 2014, President' Obama's approval rating has been trending upward.
There are a couple of tendencies which are very positive for Democrats. These are changing demographics and the "Big Blue Wall". Whites in 2030 will be a plurality. This is the biggest change to ever occur in this country in terms of racial demographics, and bodes a "whole new world". Between 1980 and current US Census projections through 2030 assume whites-25%, Latinos+17%, under age 25-8%, and age 65 or over+10%. (Source: US Census projections). As for the "Big Blue Wall", eighteen States and the District of Columbia have voted for the Democratic candidates in the past six election cycles; this accounts for a total of 242 electoral votes. They only need to win 28 more electoral votes of the 183 electoral votes in toss-up states in order for Hillary (he assumes she will be the Democratic nominee) to win the election.
Referencing the NBC/WSJ poll which indicated that voters prefer a change candidate, even if he or she is less experienced and tested, Yang said that this might be a significant challenge for Jeb Bush. That is, given that fewer than half of Republican primary voters believe Bush would provide new ideas and a vision for the future, versus nearly 75% of Democrats who think the same of Clinton. Sixty percent of registered voters (42% Republicans) say that Bush represents a turn to policies of the past versus 27% (and 49% of GOP voters) who say he will provide new ideas for the future. Scott Walker and Marco Rubio are candidates with room to grow, but appear to have more appeal among Republican voters than Bush does, according to the poll. On the Democratic side, Hillary has nearly-universal support. According to the poll, most of which was conducted in the midst of the controversy over her use of private emails, 86% of Democrats say they could see themselves supporting Clinton, versus 13% who couldn't.
The election in 2016 will also be about where Americans see their country heading. Divided narratives that will need to be addressed are that we feel better about our nation's future, but personally feel less in control of our lives. There is a rising sense of "helplessness" from a broad swath of the American public who see the economic and political systems as stacked against "people like me." The election in 2016 will be determined by which candidates and which party best address how we can feel better as a country when we don't feel better as a people.
Yang addressed a number of issues during the questions period. 1) Hillary's numbers skew in the direction of less experience/more change. Her biggest vulnerability is that she can't change who she is. Polling shows that she does understand the future better than Bush does. "This is a problem you want to have". 2) Yang's favorite Senate race in 2016 is for Harry Reid's seat in Nevada. There will be
|Del. Mark Korman, Beth Tomasello, Fred Yang, and Riki Sheehan |
more Hispanics and younger people voting in that election and the question for the Democrats is "can we keep that seat"? 3) As for whether or not Obamacare will be abolished, Yang stated that although Republican incumbents are afraid of the Tea Party, a lot of Republicans don't want Obamacare to be repealed. Hence, their dilemma. 4) Another question concerned the low voter turnout in 2014 and about who won the messaging campaign. Yang said that there are two paths to mute negativity toward the President, either to fight fire with fire or to provide a unique and affirmative stance about what Democrats stand for. 5) When asked about whether he would do a poll about why Republicans vote against their own self-interest, Yang replied "No". 6) When asked about the difference between independent and moderate voters, Yang responded that there are no moderate Republicans. There are different categories of independents. 7) When asked if Hillary's email issues will be a problem, Yang responded "yes and no; her biggest vulnerability is her history".
In concluding, Yang said that the eventual Democratic nominee will have to have an agenda different from President Obama's. He stated that the President had had a really tough time but that he was able to keep the country afloat and ready to enter the 21st century.
WDC FORUM ON BETHESDA AND WESTBARD SECTOR PLANS
by Lucy Freeman
The sector plans for Bethesda and Westbard were the topic of the most recent Montgomery 101 program sponsored by the Education Committee. Gwen Wright, Director of the Montgomery County Planning Department, reported that by 2040, twenty-five years from now, the population of the county will grow by 200,000. The purpose of the Planning Department, which is part of the Parks and Planning Commission, is to manage growth through building in the right places with the least negative impact and integration within the existing framework. With environmental restraints (the agriculture reserve, single family neighborhoods, parklands and streams), there is not much space for the county to grow. Given that the Westbard master plan was last updated over thirty years ago and the Bethesda plan was updated in 1994, Ms. Wright suggested that it is time for a fresh look at these communities and a time to plan for an orderly future.
Ms. Leslye Howerton, Project Manager, Bethesda Sector Plan, said the 20 year vision for Bethesda as proposed in the planning concept is based on sustainability, innovation, employment, and the economic and social environment. She envisions downtown Bethesda to revitalize Wisconsin Avenue, improve transportation, and have bicycle and hiking paths and parks. Part of this plan will be to have more large trees. Wisconsin Avenue will have 120 foot buildings, which will be 10 to 12 stories. The draft for the plan is due the end of May and there will be public hearings in June.
Mr. John Marcolin, Project Manager, Westbard Sector Plan described the Westbard planning concept as one which creates a community that is pedestrian- friendly, and encourages mixed-use development while preserving residential neighborhoods and natural resources. He hopes to improve access to the Capital Crescent trail, uncover the Willow stream which is now under cement, and add biking and walking trails. River Road will become more pedestrian friendly. River Road will have 75 foot buildings (6 stories) with retail on the first floor, 5 stories above of residential. The Westbard shopping area will have 50 foot buildings with 4 stories. The Little Falls Library may move into the Westbard shopping area. On Wednesday, April 22nd, the plan was presented to the community at Walt Whitman High School. Hearings will be held at the Planning Board.
Find out more about both plans at wwww.montgomeryplanning.org. All of the presenters emphasized that they are committed to working with all stakeholders and that the process be open and transparent.
WDC Domestic Violence Forum
by Marian Kisch
|WDC member Mary Silva, co-organizer of event, introducing panel - Mindy Thiel, Safe Start, Laurie Duker, Court Watch Montgomery, Sahar Nasserghodsi, House of Ruth, and Daryl Leach, Family Justice Center |
The facts are in about domestic violence in Montgomery County: 93,000 women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime; 3,300 children have reported domestic violence in the past 12 years, either as a victim or witness; 2,000 victims come to county courts each year. And these are just the tip of the iceberg; many, many incidents of domestic violence are never even reported. Domestic violence is rampant in all parts of the county and in all economic brackets.
At the April 21 forum, Domestic Violence: Montgomery County's Hidden Hurts, those involved with this issue provided facts, problems and solutions.
One of the best resources is the Family Justice Center (FJC), a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence. At the Rockville center, a variety of free services are available including safety planning, emergency protective orders, legal representation, counseling, immigration consultation and shelter placement. Because various agencies are located at the center itself, a victim can move through the system without having to visit more than a dozen different places. Referrals come through 911 calls, police, social service agencies and victims themselves. "There is a coordinated effort in our outreach," FJC Director Daryl Leach said. "We are all on the same page."
At FJC, where safety is the main concern, the center staff identifies the services the client might need. But it is the victim who decides what she wants to pursue including a detective, chaplain or counseling. Three on-site organizations offer therapy, both group and individual: Abused Person's Program, House of Ruth and Jewish Coalition against Domestic Abuse.
WDC member Milagros McGuire, Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D18), WDC members Bonnie Beavers, Charlotte Crutchfield, WDC board member Lucy Friedman (co-organizer of event), WDC member Nancy Holland listening to panelists.
Some 35 to 40 percent of FJC clients are Hispanic, with half speaking only Spanish. The agency does not inquire about immigration status, but can refer victims to the on-site Catholic Charities which offers pro bono
FJC also has partners with an off-site Muslim community center and with Montgomery Community College. Clients are able to attend the college free of charge and are also eligible for a special career counselor to help them get through the college process.
In addition to adults, children are also affected by domestic violence, either as witnesses or as victims. Mindy Thiel, director of Chesapeake Counseling Associates, has overseen Safe Start for the past dozen years. She reported that 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence nationally each year. And thousands if incidents go unreported.
"This is life altering to children, both physically and psychologically," Thiel said. They suffer from anxiety, depression, nightmares, insomnia (lots of fights at night) and guilt. They don't want to go to school and leave the victim home alone or don't want to go home to face more fights.
Safe Start offers both group and individual counseling, with the county covering costs for initial intake, three to four months of group counseling and some individual counseling. Often insurance picks up some of the costs.
"We want to break the intergenerational cycle," Thiel said. "Children need a safe place to talk, and often we are that place. They can see they are not alone and we can help. We foster resiliency in children: power, safety and treatment." When children do not get help, they are 6 times more likely to commit suicide, 50 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 74 times more likely to commit a violent act.
It is difficult to go through the process of getting a protective or peace order. That's when the House of Ruth steps in; they have an advocate at FJC as well as an office in the district court. Staff attorney Sahar Nasserghodsi described the difference between the two orders. A protective order protects against bodily harm, fear of violence, assault, stalking, imprisonment, and sexual offenses, initially for one year. A peace order, which applies to intimate partners who have lived together for fewer than 90 days during the year, additionally covers trespassing, harassment and malicious destruction of property, initially for six months. Additional requests can be added for child custody, financial support, use of a car, counseling and visitation rights.
Court Watch Montgomery takes over when domestic violence cases go to court, making sure victims are dealt with respectfully, receive effective legal protection and are safe. Laurie Duker, executive director, noted that 50 percent of victims go to court without a lawyer, putting them at a disadvantage-particularly because most judges are reluctant to give legal advice. Fifty Court Watch volunteers monitor hearings and report back to the judges. The organization also recently created a check list to remind judges to tell abusers about things such as the conditions of the orders.
Domestic violence is so prevalent that both the Silver Spring and Rockville courts devote an entire day each week to deal with these issues. But Duker reported that judges only get one hour of domestic violence training; more should be required she stressed.
Some of the issues uncovered by Court Watch relate to safety issues. These include lack of staggered exits (when abuser and victim leave court at same time; now only 30 percent of judges allow the victim to leave first); not asking children where they were when the abuse occurred; lack of safe transfer places for children who are visiting the other parent; and no place for supervised visits.
But Duker stressed that protective orders do work in at least 70 percent of cases, reducing the severity and frequency of abuse. It is a powerful tool, she said, along with shelters.
The speakers urged audience members to volunteer and to contact their County Council members, Council executive director and state and federal senators and representatives to advocate for better conditions for domestic violence victims.
|More than forty people attended the Forum. |
2015 MARYLAND LEGISLATIVE SESSION BRIEFING
by Nancy Holland and Lucy Freeman
|Moderator Charles Duffy and Panel |
The 98th session of the Maryland legislature began optimistically with the Democratic legislature hoping they could find common ground with the Republican governor, but ended on a partisan note, according to the eight Senators and Delegates who participated in the "2015 Maryland Legislative Session Briefing." Each Senator and Delegate had three minutes for opening remarks and then responded to questions from the panel moderator, Charles Duffy.
Highlights of the opening remarks include:
Del. Kumar Barve, Chair, House Environment and Transportation Committee: Passed a two-year moratorium on fracking, restored the rain tax, and passed a bill to allow electric cars, such as Tesla, to be sold directly to consumers from the manufacturer at four locations.
Sen. Rich Madaleno, Vice Chair, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee: His committee restored
|Sen. Rich Madaleno|
funding that was cut by the governor, including a 2% pay cut for state employees, education funding, and health benefits for pregnant women. It is now up to Governor Hogan to restore these funds.
Del. Kathleen Dumais, Vice Chair, House Judiciary Committee: Passed a measure that creates a Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council. The three branches of government will work with the Pew Research Center to re-vamp Maryland's criminal justice system from sentencing to release. In addition, she noted that her committee heard seventeen bills and passed three. Bills were passed on domestic violence, body cameras for police, and the Second Chance Act. This act will purge from a person's record a misdemeanor after all requirements have been filled.
Sen. Jamie Raskin, Chair, Senate Executive Nominations Committee: Democrats demonstrated good faith by approving most of the governor's cabinet appointments. However, in response to Governor Hogan's demands for his legislation to pass based on the fact that he won the governorship, Raskin went on to say that it was necessary to remind the governor that the Democratic legislators had also won their respective elections and it was their duty to represent their constituents.
Del. Sheila Hixson, Chair, House Ways and Means Committee: Passed a bill for property tax breaks for veterans 65 or older, killed a bill that would have provided a tax credit to private schools, and killed a bill that would have replaced some Baltimore neighborhood schools with charter schools.
Del. Shane Robinson, Chair of Montgomery County House Delegation: Did not get everything in the budget they wanted, but did get a lot. Forty-six million dollars was allocated for school construction and Montgomery County got an additional 6 million due to the rate of enrollment and the number of portables.
|Del. Shane Robinson and Sen. Roger Manno|
Sen. Roger Manno, Vice Chair, Montgomery County Senate Delegation: There is a formula based on the geographic cost of education with 64 million dollars allotted to Montgomery County. Through budget process, Hogan is trying to deconstruct Maryland state departments to keep pledge on taxes he made during the campaign.
Del. Anne Kaiser, House Majority Leader: The session began with bipartisan hopes and had a partisan ending. There are sixty-two new delegates and the Democrats have forty-one count majority in the House. The final budget embodied Democratic values: education, transportation, jobs.
Mr. Duffy led off the questioning by raising the recent turmoil in Baltimore.
Raskin: We have an over-criminalized, over-punished criminal justice system. Maryland has abolished the death penalty, restored the voting rights of felons who have served their sentences and are on parole, and passed a bill to expunge any crime from a criminal's record that is no longer considered a crime. He cited marijuana as an example. He went on to say that the real issues in Baltimore are social and economic and that police brutality should not be the cost of doing business in Baltimore.
Dumais: Her committee will continue to meet this summer to address these critical issues. Of note, the committee passed legislation making it mandatory for all Maryland police departments to report police-related deaths and it is retroactive for three years. They also want community policing in Baltimore.
Robinson: He has been in the legislature for four years. We must address these challenging problems at the root which the biggest is "no jobs." Trade agreements that restrict American manufacturing are not the solution.
Manno: Where there is abject poverty, citizens want a "way out." Thirty years of bad trade agreements and out sourcing jobs has hurt the U.S. economy.
Mr. Duffy next turned to education funding and school construction. He referred to the statement that Montgomery County only receives back nineteen cents for every dollar in taxes that we send to Annapolis.
Kaiser: State-wide Maryland has over 290 million students. There is limited money across the state for education. Montgomery County has over 9,000 students in portables and a rapidly increasing school population. These problems didn't happen overnight and are not going to be solved overnight.
|Del. Kumar Barve and WDC President Beth Tomasello.|
Barve: Maryland has very good schools. This should not be overlooked. We have limited resources due to the recession.
Madaleno: Everyone wants more. We need to develop a new model for refurbishing existing schools and not continue to talk only about new construction. Madaleno and others pointed out that Maryland has a very progressive tax system, and since Montgomery County has the highest income of all the counties in the State, it is natural that we sent more funds to less affluent counties than we receive ourselves.
Hixson: The legislature passed a balanced budget and now it is up to the governor to fund our schools. We have to look at the bigger picture of how money flows.
Madaleno: In terms of money flowing to Montgomery County, funds go to support the county not to taxpayers. We get money for transportation, prisons, and education that support a quality of life. As he and Jamie Raskin both noted, one-third of all students at the University of Maryland come from Montgomery County, and the state pays the costs for the University. Similarly, we benefit from the Metro, which is also paid for by the State.
Mr. Duffy moved on to economic and social issues.
Madaleno: Four years ago, Maryland passed the Dream Act. This is an important measure that provides skills for our young people. Funding education is ultimately about jobs. Maryland is a "human resources state." We have progressive tax policies and a diverse work force. Protecting human resources is about jobs for future generations. We build jobs and build opportunities.
Manno: What we used to refer to as "blue collar" workers have no place to go. There is no manufacturing and a huge sector of our economy do not have jobs. Displaced workers have nowhere to go.
Mr. Duffy next asked about the Purple Line and the Baltimore light rail.
Barve: What would our GDP be without Metro? Transportation funds provide an avenue to job creation. It is dangerous to pit the Purple Line against the Baltimore rail.
The evening ended where it began, with questions from the audience about the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the pace of criminal justice reform in Maryland.
|A Full House at the Legislative Briefing|
HEALTH CARE REFORM IN MARYLAND: A STATUS UPDATE
by Leni Preston, Chair of the Maryland Women's Coalition for Health Care Reform
and WDC Member.
Maryland continues to provide a model for other states in the implementation of its health care reform efforts despite the discouraging first year of open enrollment through the flawed online portal - Maryland Health Connection. At this time last year, many breathed a sigh of relief that thousands of Marylanders did manage to get enrolled in the Affordable Care Act's first open enrollment period (October 1, 2013 - March 31, 2014). That was due in no small part to the six regional Connector Entities. Their trained navigators and assisters provided invaluable in-person assistance. Consumers also found help at Local Health Departments, hospitals and social service offices as well as from insurance brokers. Enrollment for Medicaid was available year round. However, "Qualified Health Plans" (QHP) from insurance carriers had to be purchased during the open enrollment period unless they had a qualifying life changing event. As of the end of September 2014, 376,850 individuals had enrolled - 81,553 of them with a QHP and 79% received some sort of financial assistance. More information is available in the MHBE 2014 Annual Report on their website.
In April 2014, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) Board made the decision to replace the IT system with the platform that had proved successful in Connecticut. From May to the start of the 2nd open enrollment period that system was customized with Maryland-specific requirements under the leadership of Maryland's Chief Information Officer, Secretary Isabelle Fitzgerald. She, the MHBE Director, Carolyn Quattrocki and her staff deserve credit for putting in place a system that worked well throughout the second open enrollment period (October 15, 2014 - February 15, 2015). That was extended to February 28 with a special enrollment period for March 15 - April 30 for those at risk of incurring a tax penalty for lack of insurance.
One outcome of the switch to the Connecticut system was that an individual's records could not be transferred from the old to the new system. Therefore, an outreach effort was launched starting in September 2014 to let consumers know that they would have to go back to the website and reenroll. This was particularly important for those getting financial assistance. They could do nothing and be automatically reenrolled in their current (2014) plan, but they wouldn't get financial assistance without returning to the system to get a redetermination. While the data is not yet available to evaluate the effectiveness of the outreach to the 2013/14 QHP enrollees, there were few reported issues.
The good news for the 2nd Open Enrollment Period is the 264,245 individuals who enrolled. Of those: (1) 84,316 purchased a QHP and received financial assistance; (2) 37,780 purchased a QHP without a subsidy; and (3) 145,149 were enrolled in Medicaid. A full report can be found on the MHBE website. It is worth noting that Maryland's decision to expand Medicaid, unlike many other states, was indeed a wise one. Already emergency room visits are down and the projected economic impact for Maryland (2014-2020) is $3.3 billion with 26,970 jobs being created.
Once again, the Connector Entities were invaluable in providing assistance to consumers And the majority of them made use of the Coalition's health literacy tools. These include information on how to select the right plan and a new booklet - Take Care. Getting the most out of your health insurance. This is particularly designed for individuals with little experience in having an insurance card and using the health care system. All of these materials are available on the Coalition's website.
Despite the gains to date, there is much work still to be done. Tens of thousands of individuals still need to be enrolled and for others, they must maintain their insurance Therefore, it is essential that no further cuts be made to the Connector Entities' budgets - the current allocation is one half of that for the first open enrollment period. The website also needs more work to be truly consumer friendly. Coalition Steering Committee member, Mary Lou Fox, will continue to lead that effort with the MHBE Exchange Implementation Advisory Committee.
There are also issues to be addressed with the Medicaid population. All too many Medicaid recipients are dropping off the rolls due to issues with their redeterminations. And, there are hundreds of thousands who must be put through the system before the third open enrollment period (November 1, 2015 - January 31, 2016).
Another issue of concern relates to consumers access to care - we all know that having an insurance card is not enough - and, in particular, access to "in-network" providers. For example, the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) did a survey of psychiatrists listed in the provider directories for 2014 plans. Their findings included the fact that only 14% of 1,154 listed psychiatrists were taking new patients within a 45 day period - a real issue for those with mental health issues. And, 57% of the psychiatrists were unreachable - many because they had a non-working number or had left the area. We anticipate that these issues are prevalent in other areas as well. And, on the horizon is the need to review of insurance carriers' proposed rates for 2016 plans.
The Coalition will work with its partners to address the broad range of issues that we anticipate arising in the next year. Some of this work will be undertaken by the MHBE's Standing Advisory Committee. The Committee was formed as a result of an amendment proposed by the Coalition for the Maryland Health Progress Act of 2014. The Co-Chair, Adrienne Ellis of the MHAMD, serves on the Coalition's Steering Committee. The Coalition is also represented on the Committee by its Chair, Leni Preston.
In addition to the Affordable Care Act, Maryland has other exciting health care reform initiatives that the Coalition is actively engaged in to ensure that consumer voices are heard. Among these is the New All-Payer Model -put in place in January 2014 through a waiver with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This modernizes Maryland's unique hospital rate setting system as a vehicle to transform the way that hospitals do business. They are now all on global budgets that will move them to a model of promoting value over volume and addressing the Triple Aim - better health, better care, and lower costs. This initiative is overseen by the Health Services Cost Review Commission. Consumer advocates sit on all of the workgroups and Coalition Chair, Leni Preston, serves on the Advisory Council and is Chair of a newly formed Consumer Engagement Task Force. By September 2015 we anticipate providing the Commissioners with recommendations on a Consumer-Focused Communications Strategic Plan.
As Maryland continues its progress on multiple health care reform fronts. the Coalition will continue ensure that consumers are engaged at every level, and in every aspect, of their implementation.
 Montgomery and Prince George's County are served by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services
REMEMBERING A "CLASSY" DEMOCRAT
by Irma Kramer as edited by BethTomasello
Estelle Silver Stone, longtime Chevy Chase resident and Woman's Democratic Club member, died on March 30. Estelle was one of the founders and the current chairperson of the WDC Political Book Club. She will be missed.
Estelle was born in 1925 in New York City. She graduated from Hunter College High School (Elena Kagan's alma mater) and from Hunter College with a BA. She earned her MA at the University of Wisconsin and spent a year in Paris studying at the Sorbonne.
Estelle had a flair for languages. She knew Latin, Greek and French, and in 1948, Estelle came to Washington, DC to work as a translator at the National Security Agency. During that time, she learned Bulgarian. After leaving the NSA in 1959, Estelle taught at Anacostia High School, Ballou High School, Richard Montgomery High School and Walt Whitman High School, where she taught French from 1966-1988. Estelle was a feisty, provocative and stimulating teacher who was recognized and thanked by hundreds of former students year after year.
Estelle was a firm believer in strengthening public education, and to that end, in 1952, she founded the DC Chapter of Hunter College Alumni of which she was elected President. Estelle helped raise over $130,000 for the Scholarship and Welfare Fund of Hunter College. In 1996, Estelle was inducted into the Hunter College Hall of Fame.
Estelle was also a steadfast advocate of women's rights. At age 80, she carried a banner in a DC march for women's reproductive rights, and with WDC and the Older Women's League, she lobbied legislators in Annapolis and on Capitol Hill to further the cause of women's rights. In addition to her political activities, Estelle enjoyed cooking, antiques, and was a lifelong New York Yankees fan.
Estelle was pre-deceased by her husband, Joseph, a labor lawyer and arbitrator who was recognized for his contributions to the Nuremburg trials. Estelle was predeceased by two sons, Lawrence and Douglas. The Club sends its condolences to Estelle's daughters, Judith and Diana, and to her five grandchildren.
JOIN OR RENEW NOW
All current members have received their renewal forms in the mail. Please renew now!
Included in this mailing was a gift form which is new to our Club this year. Your gift membership to a friend is a great way to acknowledge a good Democrat and recognize the many opportunities that Club membership offers. WDC appreciates your continuing support and wants to remind you that your dues were due on September 1. Your voice and membership dues are crucial to the vitality and strength of the Woman's Democratic Club. Your $35.00 dues ($36.00 online at www.womansdemocraticclub.org) pays for Club mailings; subsidizes events, programming, and the annual New Member dinner; and supports the important work of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and Democratic candidates with campaign contributions. Click here to renew or join now.
SOCIAL MEDIA UPDATE - WE'RE ON TWITTER!
WDC has a Twitter account! Our Twitter handle is @WomenDems. Be sure to follow us!
Don't forget to like us on Facebook; we're listed as Woman's Democratic Club, Montgomery County.
POLITICAL BOOK CLUB
Want to learn more about what your fellow Democrats are reading about American or political history? Join WDC's Political Book Club - our longstanding literary conclave that meets on the third Wednesday of every other month. Meetings take place at 1:30 p.m. at members' homes. A facilitator for each book leads the discussion. For more information, contact Irma Kramer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next selection is Uncertain Justice :The Roberts Court and the Constitution by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz on May 20.
If you're interested in seeing what other books have been discussed, please go to www.womansdemocraticclub.org and click on Political Book Club, which is listed under Events.
VOLUNTEERS: IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Sharing your skills and expertise with us and joining a committee are fun ways to meet other members and make new friends while helping the Club accomplish its goals. We especially need volunteers to help with new member recruitment as part of the Membership & Outreach Committee and we need volunteers on the Legislative Committee to help analyze and track important legislation.
Do you have ideas for future programs? Do you know someone who would be a great speaker at a future WDC event? If so, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Also, our Education Committee is seeking ideas for future programs in the Montgomery 101 series; if you have issues or subjects about the county you would like to learn about or study, please email Lucy Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-654-8115
Keeping members better informed, better connected and more politically effective since 1957