Friday, July 20, 2018

“MassCare is concerned about MA State Legislator Conference Committee Policy Proposal on HealthCare”


Contact: Jessica Gallo

“MassCare is concerned about MA State Legislator Conference Committee Policy Proposal on HealthCare”

BOSTON -  Today, on Beacon Hill the conference committee on healthcare was challenged by a variety of groups for potentially raising the cost of healthcare to address the shortfall often experienced by community and rural hospitals.

“The truth is that rural and community hospitals are operating in a system that puts them at a constant disadvantage, this policy as currently being articulated does not address that. If anything, this will cause consolidation due to cost and increases in the emergency rooms visits of larger hospitals. We need a better system and better policy, Medicare for all” said, Jessica Gallo, interim director of Mass-Care.

Mass-Care is the largest statewide organization in Massachusetts that advocates for universal healthcare. MassCare has drafted and filed legislation that would have studied the cost savings of moving to a single payer healthcare delivery system and the steps to create that system for the Commonwealth.

“Hampden county, has some of the worst healthcare outcomes in the state. It is considered one of the worst places in the country to live with asthma and has the most uninsured people in the state.

Today, the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Healthcare Finance, who moved to send a common-sense policy that would have explored universal healthcare to effectively die, is now pitting community hospitals against raising premiums on everyday people in this state, who already pay 31% more for healthcare than the rest of the US.

The system is rigged, and we are constantly in these types of challenges because we do not embrace or even consider progressive policy proposals like universal healthcare,” said Rivera. Amaad Rivera is running for the Hampden State Senate seat against Senator James T. Welch on a platform of Universal Healthcare, environmental protections, and reducing gun violence. MassCare is proud to have endorsed Rivera in this race.

A Single Payer healthcare systems or Medicare for all, covers everyone under a single, publicly financed plan that provides comprehensive healthcare. All developed nations have some form of universal, publicly financed healthcare, besides the US.
Countries who have covered their population under single-payer plans have managed to achieve universal, comprehensive coverage while at the same time actually realizing enormous savings. Having a single plan for the whole population also means there aren’t different provider networks for different insurance plans, and everyone is free to choose the doctors, hospitals, and community health centers that they use.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Amaad Rivera seizes 'progressive' label as sole challenger to state Sen. Jim Welch

Amaad Rivera seizes 'progressive' label as sole challenger to state Sen. Jim Welch

State Sen. Jim Welch and former Springfield City Councilor Amaad Rivera.

State Sen. Jim Welch and former Springfield City Councilor Amaad Rivera.(Republican file)

It's Welch vs. Rivera in Hampden County.
In the race for state Senate in the Hampden District, Sen. Jim Welch, D-West Springfield, at one point faced four challengers. Now he is down to one: Amaad Rivera, a former Springfield city councilor. Both candidates are Democrats. Rivera is making the case that he is the more progressive one.
"Any Democrat is vulnerable when they have a record that doesn't match their district," Rivera said.
Welch said he is running on his record. "Some people call me progressive, some call me liberal, some call me moderate," Welch said. "I never bought into labeling myself."
Originally the race was more crowded. In addition to Rivera, Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez and Giselle Vizcarrondo were running as Democrats while Lorenzo Gaines took out papers to run as unenrolled.
In March, Vizcarrondo dropped out, citing the need to care for her son. She endorsed Rivera. She said in an interview that Rivera is accessible, born and raised in Springfield and "able to listen to the community and articulate for us."
Giselle Vizcarrondo drops out of Hampden District Senate race

Vizcarrondo and Gaines are the parents of a 5-year-old boy who nearly drowned in a camp pool last summer. 
Gaines never turned in his signatures. "I felt with the quality of candidates, with Amaad and other folks, my goal was accomplished ... that my vision and some of the things important to me will take place," Gaines said. He has not officially endorsed another candidate.
Gomez dropped out of the race May 1. He has not decided whether to endorse.
Despite the difficulties of challenging an incumbent, Rivera has gotten support. Former Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh recently endorsed him. 
Walsh described Rivera as more aggressive than Welch. "Western Massachusetts is not treated fairly (on Beacon Hill)," Walsh said. "You need a person like Amaad Rivera in the Senate who's going to stand up and fight hard every day and maybe sometimes be a pain in the neck."
Walsh said he has no problem with Welch, but feels Rivera would be "a more aggressive advocate."
"It's not choosing between a good option and a bad option but maybe between a good option and a better option," Walsh said.
Rivera has support from New Politics, an organization founded to help new political candidates.
Welch has support from former Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Thomas McGee, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, 1199SEIU and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts. The health care workers union, 1199SEIU, has been a strong organizing force in Massachusetts. 
Tim Foley, executive director of 1199SEIU, said Welch "is a longtime healthcare champion, advocating for policies that increase access to quality care and improve the lives of workers in this crucial industry." 
Welch entered 2018 with $42,900 in his campaign account. Rivera formed a fundraising committee in March. Neither candidate has to report fundraising numbers until August.
Welch said he is not worried about Walsh endorsing Rivera. "I didn't put much stake into it because he's not from around here. I tend to focus on people in the district and who know the district and know me," Welch said.
Rivera has worked as director of housing policy for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, directed a small business program at Babson College and was a policy adviser to U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat. 
Rivera said he will be a stronger advocate than Welch on Beacon Hill. He is running on a platform of universal health care, support for climate change legislation and more gun control. He believes Western Massachusetts should get more money from Beacon Hill in areas like transportation.
"We're hearing from voters it's time to have someone who will actually step up for us and have a voice that won't be ignored," Rivera said. "We haven't had that in the past."
Rivera points out that Welch has a "D" rating from Progressive Massachusetts, when the average Senate Democrat scored a "C." Welch's rating was based mainly on several criminal justice votes he took, voting in favor of establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for assault and battery on a police officer and for trafficking carfentanil, reimposing mandatory minimums for cocaine offenses and selling drugs in school zones, and raising fines on habitual drunk drivers.
Rivera also points to Welch's "A" rating from the Gun Owners Action League, although the state gun lobby has not endorsed Welch.
Welch was first elected to the state House in 2004 and the state Senate in 2010.
Welch said he was part of the Legislature that voted for gay marriage and for some of the strongest gun laws in the country. Recently, he voted to ban bump stocks, devices designed to make it easier to fire a gun repeatedly. He voted for an environmental bill that included carbon pricing.
Welch's expertise is in health care policy as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Care Financing. The Senate recently passed a major bill aimed at cutting health care costs.
The Massachusetts Senate passed a major health care cost containment bill at midnight on Thursday, after two days of debate.

"I think there's a big difference between someone saying that they are supportive of something ... as opposed to someone who actually has as track record like myself of voting on these issues," Welch said.
Welch said he is able to use his legislative experience to help the district. "I built up quite a bit of experience and expertise at the Statehouse to put us in a position in the district to be able to advocate to bring resources back," Welch said.

Amaad Rivera signs pledge to prohibit nuclear weapons

NORTHAMPTON — On the steps of City Hall, U.S. Rep. James McGovern became the first voting member of Congress to officially pledge his support for the abolition of nuclear weapons across the world.
On Saturday afternoon, candidates running for the state Legislature joined the congressman in calling on the United States government to sign, ratify and implement the 2017 International Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The United Nations adopted the treaty last July and so far 59 countries have signed it. U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., also signed the pledge in May, but she does not have voting power in the House.
“This treaty to put an end to nuclear weapons once and for all was not started by the great powers, but by grassroots organizations and the leadership of small and medium-sized nations,” McGovern said before a crowd of 70. “I believe it takes hard work, hard organizing, to get people and nations to recognize that nuclear weapons remain one of the greatest threats to all humankind, to the environment, to the planet — and they must be eliminated.”
The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice, formerly the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, partnered with NuclearBan.US, a national campaign founded by Northampton residents Vicki Elson and Dr. Timmon Wallis, to host an event that saw numerous prospective lawmakers voice their support for the dismantling of the country’s nuclear arsenal. Both groups are official partners of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work on the treaty.
The treaty prohibits signatories from the development, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons under international law.
Since the treaty was adopted last year, 59 countries have signed it and 11 parliaments have ratified it, according to Wallis. The United States has not signed it, nor has any other nation that possesses nuclear weapons.
Grassroots effort
In order for the treaty to go into effect, 50 countries have to ratify it, which Wallis said he expects to happen at the end of next year. In September, there will be another signing ceremony at the United Nations in New York, where he expects nine countries to sign on.
Local statehouse office-seekers who signed the ICAN Candidate Pledge for a Nuclear Weapons Free Future included Chelsea Kline, Jo Comerford and Steven Connor for state Senate; Marie McCourt, Eric Nakajima, Lindsay Sabadosa and Mindy Domb for the Hampshire House seat; Natalie Blais, Jonathan Edwards, Casey Pease, Christine Doktor, Kate Albright-Hanna and Nathaniel Waring for the 1st Franklin District seat; Tanya Neslusan for the Hampden House seat; Amaad Rivera for the Hampden Senate seat; and Jamie Guerin for state treasurer.
“It’s precisely because our national leadership is failing us that we need a grassroots movement to change things,” McGovern said. “If we are going to abolish nuclear weapons, it’s going to have to be a worldwide grassroots movement.”
The world cannot count on the leadership of President Donald Trump or President Vladimir Putin of Russia, he said, so change must come from regular people around the globe. McGovern said taking the pledge was an easy decision to make and he credited the event organizers for focusing his attention on the need to take action against the threat of nuclear weapons.
“Being in Washington right now is like drinking water from a fire hose, and there are a thousand horrible things happening all the time,” McGovern said. “But if nuclear weapons were ever used, that may be the end of the Earth. This is an incredibly important issue and I am very proud of this movement.”
Lining up support
Elson and Wallis said they are currently working with mayors from Northampton, Easthampton and Holyoke for their cities to become treaty-compliant. As part of their work for NuclearBan.US, they urge people to hold accountable the 26 companies known to help make nuclear weapons, many of which are based in the U.S., by boycotting and divesting from these companies.
With President Trump reversing course on a lot of former President Barack Obama’s efforts at disarmament, Wallis said the campaign faces an uphill battle.
“Of course, the U.S. government is putting pressure on all these countries not to sign and not to ratify, so that is part of what we are up against,” Wallis said.
Elson said, “The citizens are rising up, that is what we are all about.
“The treaty is the tool we can use to solve this problem once and for all,” she said. “Then we won’t be worried about this leader or that leader, or this country or that country. If these weapons don’t exist we would be a whole lot safer, and then we can go on to solve other problems.”
Takoma Park, Maryland, and Berkeley, California, are the first two cities in the nation to declare themselves treaty-compliant through the efforts of NuclearBan.US. In western Massachusetts, the Northampton Quaker Meeting, Broadside Books, Elements Spa, Arcadia Herbs, and Paradise Copy are now treaty-aligned.
NuclearBan.US has a goal of gaining the support of individuals, faith organizations, schools, towns, and cities to demand the attention of the U.S. government.
“Now is the time that we must come together to demand nuclear weapons be abolished, and fortunately we have the tool to do so,” Lydia Wood of NuclearBan.US said. “Now that we have this tool, it is up to us to make it successful … It is unacceptable to make money off the most destructive and potentially apocalyptic weapon ever created. We can make it politically unacceptable by publicly shaming and stigmatizing the companies making billions off of these weapons.”
Luis Fieldman can be reached at

Teens For Action Springfield endorses Amaad Rivera

Teens For Action Springfield endorses Amaad Rivera

 May 3, 2018 |  G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD ­ – Teens For Action Springfield, the group that has sponsored the local March for Our Lives events, has made its first political endorsement.
The group is backing former Springfield City councilor Amaad Rivera in his effort to win the senate district current held by state Sen. James Welch.
Travaugh Smith, the co-founder of the group, told Reminder Publications the  decision to make an endorsement was based educating young voters.
“It’s important to educate teenagers who to watch out for,” he said.
In a press release the reason to back Rivera was stated,  “Amaad Rivera shares our goal to reduce gun violence.”
Smith said it was “unlikely but not impossible” for the group to make another endorsement this election cycle.
Welch’s voting record and his approval scores from the National Rifle Association were “very heavily weighted” in the decision-making process.
“The current incumbent, Sen. James Welch, has had multiple A, B and C ratings with the National Rife Association, higher then Gov. Charlie Baker,” the group stated.
Smith added that involvement in the community was another factor in the decision to endorse Rivera.
The Sabis International Charter School student said that from “previous interactions” the group made this assessment. He asserted that on several occasions Welch’s staff did not make him available for in-person meetings.  
The endorsement read, “On Saturday, April 28th, Teens for Action Springfield endorsed their first political candidate for office, Amaad Rivera for State Senate. As an organization with specific legislative goals, Amaad Rivera shares our goal to reduce gun violence. Amaad Rivera has worked with us on several initiatives, such as the Massachusetts Parents United and Teens for Action Springfield joint Town Hall, as well as the Walls of Demand created by Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin Oliver, who was killed during the Parkland shooting.  Teens for Action Springfield wholeheartedly supports Amaad Rivera for the Hampden State Senate seat, and encourages all people in his district to vote for him when the time comes.”   
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- April 19th, 2018

Amaad Rivera calls for Governor Baker to host meeting with Puerto Rican Evacuees 

Springfield --  In response to Puerto Rican Evacuees who have been living in temporary housing in Springfield, West Springfield, Holyoke, and Chicopee who will homeless at the end of the week, Amaad Rivera has called on Governor Baker to host a community meeting. This situation was outlined in the MassLive article We have nowhere to go back to': Hurricane evacuees press US Sens. Warren, Markey for help as housing assistance ends"

"In times such as these, when the Trump administration is creating a climate of fear, neglect, and forcing our state to do more with less, we need our State Legislators and Governor to step up and protect our communities," said Rivera.

Rivera has sent an open letter to the Governor requesting a community meeting to discuss the much needed financial resources for Puerto Rico's evacuees.

"Springfield, West Springfield and Chicopee have opened up their arms to evacuees, but our local communities are already underfunded and overburdened. We need resources to support these families" said Rivera.


April 19th, 2018

The Honorable Charlie Baker
Office of the Governor
Massachusetts State House
Room 280 Boston, MA 02133

Governor Baker,

As you may be aware, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will discontinue funding on Friday April 20, 2018 for a program that housed Puerto Rican evacuees in temporary locations such as motels and hotels. Without this funding, hundreds of families will be rendered homeless.

I am requesting a meeting with Puerto Rican evacuees, their representatives, and community based organizations working on their behalf to strategize a path forward.

Massachusetts has the second largest influx of evacuees and requests for FEMA assistance in the country, surpassed only by Florida. In our state, Western Massachusetts has welcomed the largest portion of these evacuees. Currently, Springfield has the largest number of families from Puerto Rico in the state in the public school system and West Springfield has a large population of families living in hotels and motels.

This high-need population requires services such as healthcare, access to educational institutions, medication, and food and daycare. Our municipal systems, which are already overburdened and underfunded, are on the front lines meeting the needs of these families.

Public, private, and faith based institutions have rallied together to get these families healthcare, their children enrolled in schools and support them with healthy food access. Without proper funding from the state and federal government, our communities cannot meet these families’ needs.
While our communities are thankful for the $15 million that has gone into helping to meet the educational needs of these families, housing is now the most pressing concern.
The Governor of Massachusetts can file for an emergency designation with the Federal Government when dealing with an influx of evaucess from natural disasters. This designation, which has to be led by the state in partnership with the Puerto Rican government, would help to fund emergency housing. Puerto Rico has already spent several months developing this type of partnership with Florida.
Furthermore, we need emergency state funding for housing vouchers to prevent these families from becoming homeless.
I look forward to your response.

Amaad Rivera
Democrat for State Senate