Nurses to President Obama: Steps to Fight Inequality

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Charles Idelson

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Nurses to President Obama: Steps to Fight Inequality

Tax Wall Street to Reduce Wealth Disparity, Attack Healthcare Price Gouging to Address Poverty

WASHINGTON - With growing public alarm over widening income disparity – and the broad effect on American families – the nation’s largest organization of nurses today called on President Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday to lead the charge on fighting the income gap and poverty with two big initial steps.

1- A small tax on Wall Street speculation, the Robin Hood tax, could raise hundreds of billions of dollars every year for critical needs such as jobs at living wages, reducing student debt, guaranteed healthcare for all, and programs to attack hunger, housing and retirement insecurity, AIDS and environmental dislocation linked to climate change.

2- Cracking down on healthcare price gouging, a major hole in the Affordable Care Act, would protect patients and families from financial ruin or foregoing needed medical care, two major causes of poverty and loss of income.

“Nurses urge the President and Congress to make income inequality a major target of action this year. Highlighting these modest reforms in the State of the Union speech would be a great way to kick it off,” said Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of National Nurses United.

“The best way to start is by providing the resources we need for programs that directly target economic disparity, and to confront the leading cause of personal bankruptcy and financial distress for Americans, un-payable medical bills,” Burger said

Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street

HR 1579, The Inclusive Prosperity Act, a financial transaction tax sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) would levy a sales tax of 0.5 percent on stocks (just 50 cents on every $100 of stock trades) and smaller amounts on the trades of bonds, derivatives or other financial speculation. The bill is modeled after similar FTTs now in effect in dozens of the world’s largest financial markets and now being introduced across Europe.

Funds raised, paid for by those on Wall Street who created the 2008 economic crash that exacerbated the wealth gap, would go directly for programs that would have the biggest impact in attacking economic inequality. Households with adjusted gross incomes under $75,000 would be exempted.

Stop the healthcare price gouging

Healthcare price gouging, noted Burger, has harmful consequences for millions of patients and families, Burger noted. Huge medical bills remain the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. A Commonwealth Fund study in November 2013 found more 37 percent of U.S. adults chose not to see a doctor, follow up with recommended treatment or filled prescriptions due to high cost.

Earlier this month, NNU data, compiled by its research arm, the Institute for Health and Socio Economic Policy, dislcosed that some hospitals alone set hospital charges at more than 10 times their costs – charges that ineveitably get passed on to patients.

“Going broke, or skipping needed care which threatens your ability to earn a living, have a staggering impact on worsening financial distress and income inequality,” said Burger. “As Dr. Martin Luther King aptly noted, ‘of all of the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane’.”

“Until the day we can achieve the most comprehensive solution, transformation to a more humane, universal, healthcare system with effective cost controls, with an expanded and strengthened Medicare for all system, amending the Affordable Care Act to crack down on healthcare price gougers is one reform that would provide immediate relief for American families,” Burger said.

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National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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