As an active healthcare professional, I know the system inside and out. I support accessible and affordable quality health care for all Americans. We are one of the wealthiest industrial countries in the world, yet we pay more for our healthcare and get less for our money. That's a bad deal for Tennessee and the nation.
Just recently, President Trump's Justice Department announced that it won't defend the part of the ACA that stops insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions. How many people do you know with pre-existing conditions? If you're like me, a lot. Do we really want to go back to the bad old days?
But with the proper representation in the US Congress, we can fix this.
First step: Shore up, don't destroy the Affordable Care Act. We need to bring back the individual mandate and defend protections for folks with pre-existing conditions. Those are crucial aspects of a comprehensive healthcare system that will help to bring costs down and stabilize the insurance market in the short term.
Second step: Take back our healthcare from hospital and insurance corporations. They're not managing our care. They're managing their profits. Our health and wellbeing shouldn’t be measured by corporate profits but by real outcomes for real people.
But I don't stop there. Unlike some, I don't see universal healthcare as something impossible in our country. I am for universal healthcare as the long-term solution in America. HR 676, which would give Medicare to all American citizens) is among the single-payer bills I would happily sign as your representative.
I have hope that if we put our heads together, we as Americans can solve this pressing public policy issue, and as a healthcare provider I know how to do it.
In my job as a psychologist, I have seen up close the damage that opioid and heroin addictions are doing to our East Tennessee families and communities. I have witnessed the pain.
It's affecting more and more people. Drug overdoses are now a more common cause of death than gunshots or car accidents, and although many places are affected, Appalachia is one of the worst. We're Ground Zero.
It's tempting to say, "Just stop prescribing opioids." But that's using a hammer where a scalpel is needed. People like cancer patients and those with acute pain desperately need access to these drugs. But chronic pain patients may be able to be treated effectively in other ways before opioids are considered.
We need to take the following steps:
- Use state-level prescription drug monitoring programs to reduce the amount of prescribed opioids that end up in the recreational market.
- Change the way our whole medical system manages pain--especially by using more holistic approaches that have been proven to work.
- Make treatment more available for addicts--including the careful use of the right medications, such as methadone or buprenorphine.
- Increase the availability of naloxone, a lifesaving antidote in overdose cases.
- Consider offering nonjudgmental drug-testing services where people could test drugs for the presence of deadly fentanyl.
Every day in East Tennessee sees more funerals of young and middle-aged people who should have lived productive lives. It's a health crisis, a political crisis, and a personal hell for families in our region.
In Congress, I will fight hard for the resources we need to turn the tide in this battle for the lives of our people.
We have always believed as a country that if you work hard and follow the rules, your success is limited only by your abilities and aspirations. But this is no longer true for too many young and middle-class American families who struggle. Too many work part-time when they want to work full-time. Too many live paycheck to paycheck.
We must expand credit to help small businesses start and grow, and provide tax incentives and credits to those businesses who really are “job creators.”
We must prioritize policies which encourage manufacturing, construction, and production of American goods by American workers for domestic and global markets.
We must retool our education system to prepare people of all ages for their first job, or their next job.
We must direct our economic policies toward investment in education and research, innovation as a primary driver of job growth and infrastructure repair and improvements.
No one should work forty hours a week and live below the poverty line. Work should pay enough to care for a family. There should be a minimum living wage, set by the states and appropriate local governments. What is livable in Knoxville isn’t relevant to what’s livable in New York or San Francisco.
I am the son of a mathematics teacher. I’ve been a teacher in an inner-city high school and an alternative school. I believe teaching is a calling. There is no more important agency in our society. We trust them with more hours with our children than we could ever give them ourselves.
I believe in public schools and public school teachers. We must restore a culture of respect for people who teach in public schools, and to pay them according to the value we place on the future. Public school teachers have held the ladder into the middle class for millions, and we are counting on them to do so for millions to come.
Schools do more than grant diplomas. They are the center of a community. Community schools deserve our support and we must defend them against those who would profit from stripping their funding.
At the post-secondary level, we must ensure affordability. Students should not have to borrow the cost of a first home to get an education, and student loans should not be a profit center for banks or the government.
Our military does an outstanding job of keeping Americans safe. It is also an incredible social engine. My father used the GI bill to become a teacher. I believe military service makes better citizens and more prosperous communities.
Our veterans give up something irreplaceable: years away from home, possibly their health, and possibly their lives. They also bring back powerful examples of selfless sacrifice, duty and honor. Our soldiers have sacrificed years of their lives in the field while others attended school, acquired social contacts and built careers.
Education, financial assistance and lifelong medical care aren’t charity. I’ve worked in two veterans’ hospitals, and seen how our system treats our veterans. I’ve seen how the VA makes decisions based on money and not on patient care. I believe that those who serve to keep America deserve the very best healthcare available. If we send men and women out to protect us, we cannot cut corners when they come back.
Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security
The foundation of the greatness of this country is that our system, and the opportunities it creates, attracts new people. Immigrants bring technology and knowhow, and above all else a burning desire to contribute. If we open our doors wider and make it easier to come to this country legally and contribute, we’ll be stronger. Comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen America.
Everyone in America, here with documentation or without, should be treated humanely and given equal access to the protection of the law. Those students who came to America as children and have known no other home, the DREAMers, represent the best of America, and have already received the best of us. They’re graduates of our high schools and customers of our businesses. Allowing them to continue their lives in this country, and receive the benefits that all of our other productive citizens receive amounts to a moral imperative.
There is now a consensus among scientists that the earth’s climate is changing dramatically. Gatlinburg almost burned to the ground because of a drought. Human behavior contributes to this.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord is short-sighted, hurts American businesses and damages our standing as an international leader.
We’re now at a point where preparing for climate change should rank alongside carbon reduction as an environmental priority. Alternative energy sources represent an economic opportunity; solar energy now employs more people than coal, oil, and gas combined. The increasing numbers of environmental tragedies that require federal intervention, like the water crisis in Flint, are opportunities for direct investment in communities, job training, and the creation of new industries.
Social Security and Medicare
Few of us remember what it was like for millions of elderly Americans to live in poverty. Retirement and the security of having a basic, secure income are taken for granted today. But 80 years ago, the end of work often meant the onset of poverty for older people who didn’t enjoy the support of a large extended family.
Increasing lifespans, shrinking family sizes and falling wages are pushing the current Social Security system towards a revenue shortage. One proposed response to this is to promote dangerous plans to require Americans to gamble their savings in a largely unregulated and unstable stock market and to turn Medicare into a coupon scheme. In Congress, I will fight any attempts to privatize Social Security and Medicare.
If we do nothing, our current Social Security system can pay full benefits for two decades. While that is a legitimate concern, it’s not an immediate crisis. There are years to work out a reasonable plan if we start now, and many approaches. None of them are free.
We don’t need to do all of these things; just enough of them to make sure Social Security will continue to be there for the next generation. But the absolute best thing we can do to save Social Security and Medicare is to bring secure, high-paying jobs back to our country. There can’t be a decent national retirement system without a real, productive economy to support it.