Speak Out

The cost of health insurance premiums escalate


By Beverly George, ACE Leader


Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post reported on May 14, 2018 that Virginia, Maryland, and Vermont have preliminarily announced premium-rate requests for Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual policies.

The breakout of their numbers shows Virginia coming in first place with insurance companies requesting a premium rise of 64.3%. But the weighted average for current enrollment looks like it will settle down to only 13.4%, according to health care analyst Charles Gaba.

Vermont says only one of its insurers requested an increase of 7.5%; the other was seeking a 10.9% average annual rate increase.

In Maryland, double-digit premium increases are typical too, with an average hike of 30%. One plan asked for a heart-stopping, no-more-need-for-insurance-ever 91.4% jump!

These numbers won’t be final, but they are symptomatic of what the Republican congress has initiated in their plan to quietly sabotage and kill off the ACA, not to mention the American voters who depend on it for their health care.


‘One plan asked for a heart-stopping, no-more-need-for-insurance-ever 91.4% jump!’


The Republicans pushed for and passed the repeal of the individual mandate in their GOP Tax Plan. As the number of younger, healthier people opted out of coverage, the number of individual market enrollees remaining decreased quickly, and these patients are sicker. Hence, the premiums have gone up significantly.

In addition, last fall, the Trump administration made it harder for new enrollees to find information and to enroll in a plan. They effectively shortened the enrollment time and reduced public outreach, advertising, and advice to assist new patients in joining.

Finally, the Trump administration has pushed hard for plans that do not include the many of the protections of the ACA, namely, coverage for pre-existing conditions, requisite coverage for prescription drugs, and mental health care. They push hard for short-term insurance plans and association health plans, both of which offer cheap, but extremely slim, coverage. They are, in effect, junk insurance plans, proposed in the name of giving consumers more choices.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “With the repeal of the individual mandate and expansion of short-term plans, double-digit hikes are now likely.” This is “blatant public-policy malpractice,” but in spite of Democrats beating the drum on this issue, voters’ attention spans on health care are dwindling, and Republicans have no interest in triage for Americans’ health.

We all need to stay tuned and engage others in ongoing conversations on the issue of health care.


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.



The New Normal: Frequent Public Shootings


By Beverly George, ACE Leader


The news coming out of Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 was initially shocking to me, but shortly thereafter I just felt completely numb. This was the eighteenth shooting since January 1, 2018. That’s two or three per week.

I remembered back to the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, April 20, 1999, when fifteen were killed (twelve students, one teacher and the two student shooters who committed suicide) and twenty-one wounded. For me, that’s when my radar for these tragic events was turned on, probably because I was a teacher in a Naperville High School with a similar school profile to Columbine’s.

So why did I feel literally emotionally leaden on Wednesday? I did not even want to listen to the news reports because I knew I would hear this phrase repeated over and over: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”


‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you.’


Sorry, but after so many shootings since Columbine, these are hollow, empty words. We cannot seem to rise up and DO something about the assault military weapons available to the general public!

  • We cannot require background checks on the sale of guns.
  • We cannot use the No Fly List as a basis to stop a gun sale.
  • We cannot ban bump stocks that ratchet up ordinary guns to perform like machine guns.
  • We cannot ban the sale of military assault weapons like the AR-15.
  • We cannot allow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to collect and study the crime data to study gun violence as a public health issue.
  • We cannot ban the sale of ammunition clips that deliver more than ten rounds.
  • On the other hand, in sympathy with the gun owners, legislators do try to pass a law to require silencers on guns because the constant noise damages the shooter’s hearing. (Imagine the death tolls if the shooter in Parkland or Las Vegas had had silencers on their weapons.)
  • And we need to oppose federal mandates for Concealed Carry Reciprocity, which would allow federal legislation to interfere with states’ rights and dictate to each state who can carry concealed weapons within their own state, according to the website for Everytown for Gun Safety.

There are some voices that argue it’s too late to change the laws because there are assault weapons already in circulation en masse, and if someone wants to kill, they will find a way, and we can’t ever eliminate all violence anyway.

To them, my friend Dr. Tatiana Prowell, a leading oncologist at Johns Hopkins, has the most eloquent response, on her Facebook page.

“If you think there won’t be one simple solution that fixes everything, you are totally correct. But guess what? We are probably never going to eliminate all cancer either, and there’s not ever going to be one simple solution to cancer either, and a whole bunch of my friends and I keep going to work and developing new medicines and designing clinical trials and treating your loved ones, and you all seem to think that makes sense.

Just because it will be hard doesn’t mean we stop trying. Just because we can’t save every life doesn’t mean we can’t save many.”

The American public, including many National Rifle Association (NRA) members, strongly favor better gun control laws. We don’t have to change the 2nd Amendment but we do need to put reasonable limitations on it in the form of gun legislation and extend the conversation to public health.

And yes, I believe it would make a difference because it’s made a difference in Australia and other western countries that allow gun ownership. Other countries don’t even come close to the awful statistics the U.S. holds for gun deaths.

The topic of assault weapons and common-sense gun laws will never come up as long as the NRA keeps funneling rivers of cash into the campaigns of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Richard Burr, and so many other legislators, including a few Democrats, who are elected and then work to protect the interests of their major donors, not their constituents.


‘President Donald Trump went to Parkland to address the grieving families and used mental health treatment as his outreach. This was his proposal to try to prevent future horrific events in schools. His carefully scripted speech did not include a word about gun control.’


President Donald Trump went to Parkland to address the grieving families and used mental health treatment as his outreach. This was his proposal to try to prevent future horrific events in schools. His carefully scripted speech did not include a word about gun control.

While the argument for better mental health treatment is sound, it’s woefully incomplete. Listening to the PBS News Hour this evening, one expert opined that if Nikolas Cruz had not been able to get into the school, if the building had been closed, he likely would have tried his assault at a public mall or another site frequented by the students. So improving mental health services in schools wouldn’t necessarily head off a shooting in a mall. The shooter in Las Vegas last year was not a high school or college student. But he had an arsenal of rapid-fire weapons in his hotel room and shot at a concert crowd like fish in a barrel. So why does he or any private citizen need an arsenal of assault weapons and a stockpile of ammunition? Why should any American have the right to own an arsenal of that magnitude? I would argue this type of weapon gluttony has absolutely nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment.

Americans own 48% of all privately owned guns in the world. That was the closing statistic from the PBS News Hour last Thursday evening.

It’s been less than a week since the tragedy in Parkland, but the voices of reason are eloquent, loud, and clear, and they’re coming from the students who will have to live with this memory for the rest of their lives. The students are calling for sensible changes to gun laws, and they’re threatening their elected officials with removal from office if their legislative inertia continues.

The students will use the only weapon they have—the ballot box in November.

Enough is enough.

Most Americans want change. I hope we continue our directed grief and outrage to effect the long-overdue changes for greater security in our communities.





ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.


To see how your senator or representative voted on proposed gun safety legislation, click here.


Voting for Judges: It Can Be a Matter of Life and Death


By Anne Swanson, ACE Federal and State Budgets Team Leader

How do you vote for judges? Look at the names and pick someone who sounds good? Do you ever think to ask friends who might be lawyers their opinions about the judges before the election?

Researching the judicial candidates is the same no matter what circuit you are in. I am writing from the perspective of the 18th Judicial Circuit, which is a single county circuit, in DuPage County.

Here are some guidelines on how to research your judicial candidates.

What’s the difference between an associate judge and a full circuit judge?

Both associate and full circuit judges sit on the bench and conduct the business of the courtroom from motions to trials. Associate judges are appointed by the circuit judges. Circuit judges may hear any case assigned to them by the Chief Judge. Associate judges may not preside over criminal cases in which the defendant is charged with an offense punishable by imprisonment for one year or more (felonies).

Who’s elected?

Supreme court, appellate court, and circuit judges are elected. The circuit judges elect one judge from among them to be the Chief Judge of the circuit. Elected judges may seek to retain their position. When you see a name in parentheses for a judicial position, it is the name of the judge whose position is being filled. That judge is leaving that position.

How to research a judge’s record

The best place to research those running for judge is the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) website. The ISBA provides public information about the qualifications of judicial candidates and judges seeking retention. This year, the evaluations will be available after February 23. Here is a portion of what the ISBA website explains.

Judicial vacancies  

The office of a judge is vacant upon death, resignation, retirement, removal, or upon conclusion of their term without retention in office. Supreme and Appellate Court judges are elected by voters in their Judicial District. Circuit Court judges are elected by voters in their Judicial Circuit or county. Supreme and Appellate Court judges serve ten-year terms, while Circuit Court judges serve six-year terms. At the end of their term, each are required to file for retention to serve longer.

Voting for judicial retention 

At the end of the term of Supreme, Appellate, and Circuit judges, each may file a declaration of candidacy to succeed themselves. The names of the judges seeking retention are submitted to eligible voters in the appropriate Supreme and Appellate Court Districts and in the appropriate Judicial Circuits or counties for retention of Circuit judges. Judges seeking retention are listed on the ballot separately and without party designation. Voters are asked the sole question of whether each judge should be retained in office for another term. An affirmative vote of three-fifths (60%) of the electors voting on the question elects the judge to the office for another term.

Judicial evaluations

Candidates who are seeking election to Appellate or Supreme Court judicial vacancies and judges seeking retention to their Appellate or Supreme Court positions are reviewed in a comprehensive evaluation process called Judicial Evaluations. This involves a detailed background investigation by members of the ISBA Judicial Evaluations Committee, followed by an in-person interview of the candidate or judge. The committee then decides how to rate the candidate or judge. Ratings for candidates seeking election to the Appellate or Supreme Court are rated Qualified, Highly Qualified, or Not Qualified. Judges seeking retention are rated Recommended or Not Recommended. The Judicial Evaluations Ratings express the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association.

In counties outside of Cook, ISBA conducts an advisory poll. The poll is conducted by mail and is sent to all ISBA members in the circuit or district from which a candidate seeks election or a judge seeks retention. Licensed attorneys who are not members of ISBA, or any attorney outside the circuit or district, may also request a ballot. Participants of the poll are asked to evaluate each candidate only if they have professional knowledge of the candidate(s) that enables them to make an informed evaluation. Ballots are confidential and returned inside a ballot envelope, which is mailed in a teller envelope. A certification slip stating that the participant read and understood the instructions of the poll is signed for the ballot to be counted.

Candidates and judges are rated “recommended” or “not recommended” based on whether respondents agree that the candidate “meets acceptable requirements for the office.” Those receiving 65 percent or more “yes” responses to that question are rated “recommended,” and those receiving less than 65 percent are rated “not recommended.” Opinions expressed in the poll are of those attorneys who chose to respond and do not reflect the opinion of the Illinois State Bar Association or the opinion of all Illinois attorneys.

Following are the questions asked on the poll. Please note that questions on “Temperament and Court Management” differ for those seeking a judicial vacancy and those seeking retention. Clarification of those differences are noted below.

Meets Requirements of Office

(Recommendation) Considering the qualifications of the candidate, do you believe this candidate meets acceptable requirements for the office?


Adhere to the high standards of integrity and ethical conduct required of the office?


Act and rule impartially and free of any predisposition or improper influence?

Legal Ability

Have adequate legal experience, knowledge, and ability?


for a judicial vacancy:
 Exercise appropriate temperament with courtesy, consideration, firmness, fairness, patience, and dignity?

for judicial retention:
 Exercise the judicial temperament to serve with appropriate courtesy, consideration, firmness, fairness, patience, and dignity?

Court Management

for a judicial vacancy:
 Attends to all professional responsibilities including the management of cases/clients, and completes work in a prompt and skillful manner?

for judicial retention:
 Diligently and promptly attends to the duties of the office and assures the steady progress of court business?


Have the physical, mental and emotional health, stamina, and stability needed to perform judicial duties?

Sensitivity to Diversity and Bias

Conducts self and deals with others appropriately to reduce or eliminate conduct or words which manifest bias based on race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status against parties, witnesses, counsel or others?

As in any election, it is important to do your homework. Judges do matter. Sometimes it can be a matter of life or death.



Information taken from the Illinois State Constitution and the Illinois State Bar Association website.


**3/2/18: The DuPage County Bar Association has released it’s judicial recommendations. Click here to read about the 2018 candidates.**


ACE Federal and State Budgets Team Leader Anne Swanson practiced law in DuPage County for 25 years. She also served as the DuPage County Arbitration Administrator.  She is now retired and is happily selling books at Anderson’s Book Shop in Naperville.




The Human Cost of the #GOPTaxScam

By Lauren Underwood, Candidate for Congress, IL-14, registered nurse, and health policy expert


Senate Republicans have passed their tax bill, and the President has dubbed it an historic moment. Here are words I never imagined I’d say: He’s right. Because this is a historically bad bill: not just the most unpopular tax legislation in forty years, not just the most brazen federal boon to billionaires in modern memory, but the first ever so-called tax bill to strip 13 million Americans of their health insurance.

Currently, the GOP’s stealth attack on Obamacare appears only in the Senate bill, not in the one passed by the House. In coming weeks, the House and the Senate will combine their bills into a version they both agree on. If Republicans in Congress manage to jam repeal into this final bill, history won’t just be made, it will be repeated. The President and his party will throw the country back into a time when too many Americans could not access the medical treatment that would save their lives.

We’ve been framing the tax debate as a question of economics: Should we strip the middle-class of crucial deductions to put more money in the hands of corporate investors? Should we sacrifice the future of Medicare and other essential social service programs to save the President’s family business a few (million) bucks? Should we blow up the federal deficit and trigger catastrophic spending cuts? (The GOP’s response: yes, absolutely, and sure, why not?)

Here’s the question we should be asking: If this bill passes, will it be harder for me to protect my health and the health of the people I love?

The answer: another resounding yes. The Republicans in congress have smuggled a time bomb into their bill, and when it goes off, it will explode our individual health insurance system.

Back in July, the Senate voted down a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. The centerpiece of that effort was the elimination of the “individual mandate,” a requirement that anyone who can afford to purchase insurance does so. This may sound like a minor change. It would in fact be catastrophic.

As a policy advisor in Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services, I helped roll out many of the reforms within the ACA. In the process, I came to understand that a stable market depends on both the sick and the healthy buying insurance ,  which means without the mandate, the whole system falls apart. There’s good reason the American Medical Association, the AARP, the American Cancer Society Action Network, and a bipartisan group of governors all rallied against skinny repeal. They believed it would put millions of Americans at risk.

They were right.

Senate Republicans have tried again and again to repeal Obamacare. Again, and again, they’ve failed. They failed because we, the people they represent, want affordable access to health care, and we made our voices heard. Now congressional Republicans have resurrected skinny repeal from the dead and slapped a new name on it. Under the guise of a tax bill, they’re trying yet again to abolish the individual mandate, hoping this time, no one will notice.

They think they can get away with this because the mandate itself isn’t popular. No one likes being told what to do, much less what to buy. But when healthy people aren’t required to buy insurance, fewer of them do. This leaves behind a higher percentage of sick people in the insurance market ,  which raises costs for the insurance companies. So, insurers shift these costs to consumers, and everyone’s rates rise. When they do, this drives even more people out of the market, and the market edges closer to collapse. Here comes the GOP’s favorite part: The fewer people who can afford to buy even subsidized insurance, the less money the government must pay out.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that one year after repeal, 4 million fewer people would have health insurance. By 2027, that number rises to 13 million. Those remaining on the individual market will pay 10% higher rates every year — and that’s in the lucky state markets that survive. Meanwhile, the government nets $338 billion to pay for its corporate tax cuts. Or, I should say, to pay for a fraction of its corporate tax cuts, keeping their cost to a mere $1.5 trillion.

To be clear: The GOP isn’t denying this. They’re counting on it. If 13 million people don’t lose access to health care, congressional Republicans don’t get their $338 billion.

You don’t have to be on the individual insurance market to bear the burden of its destruction. When uninsured people get sick, they’re legally entitled to emergency care — and someone must pay for it. A portion of that cost falls on hospitals, which could be forced to close their doors. A portion of the cost falls on insurers, who could compensate by raising your rates. And the remaining billions of that cost will fall directly on the American taxpayer — you.

Then, of course, there’s the human cost. As a registered nurse, I know all too well what happens when a cancer patient can’t afford chemotherapy, when a cardiac patient can’t afford a new defibrillator battery, when a diabetic patient can’t afford insulin. For many Americans, this tax bill could be a death sentence — and that’s a higher cost than any of us should be willing to pay.

The Republicans in congress can call it whatever they’d like, but this is not tax reform. This is health care repeal. This is a stealthy slashing of the social safety net. And this is all for the sake of income redistribution — shifting ever more money from the poor and middle-class to the rich. It’s fiscally irresponsible and morally bankrupt.

Affordable health care can still be saved — but only if enough House Republicans stand up to their party, their President, and their wealthy donors. Unfortunately, congressional Republicans don’t seem to mind that their constituents hate this bill, as long as those donors love it.

The billionaires who fund the Republican Party have made themselves clear: give us our tax break, or the donations dry up. By supporting this bill, our representatives have in turn sent us a very straightforward message: We don’t care about you, unless you’re in the top 1%. We don’t care that the ballooning deficit could trigger billions in automatic cuts to programs like Medicare, the Student Loan Administration, and the Military Retirement Fund. We don’t care that your taxes might actually go up, or that your state and local budgets might be gutted. And we certainly don’t care about your health.

A vote for this bill says: We only care about the wealthy donors who fund our campaigns. We only represent them.

Anyone willing to say that should lose their privilege to represent us.

Lauren Underwood is a registered nurse, health policy expert and former Senior Policy Advisor in the US Department of Health and Human Services. She’s running for Congress in Illinois’s 14th Congressional District against Tea Party Republican, Randy Hultgren, who voted to support the House Tax Plan.

The #MeToo Movement and the ERA

By Beverly George, ACE Leader

There has been a cacophony of “Me, too!” cries recently from scores of women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace by men in power.

On October 5th, Harvey Weinstein began the long parade of powerful men in business, entertainment, and politics losing their jobs, with more men getting their marching orders every day. The range of odious behavior directed to women begins with inappropriate, rude, or crude comments or actions, and extends to lewd or criminal behavior.

While I am pleased to see the spotlight shine on these heinous acts, I have some nagging thoughts.

First, what about the victims of sexual harassment or assault from a less famous employer, such as the manager of the local corner store, restaurant, manufacturing plant, or car dealership? Will these victims have the courage to tell their stories, or will they fear losing the jobs they desperately need? Will these men be held accountable?

Second, I’ve read about the standing procedure for making a complaint of sexual abuse in the Congress and in other high offices. In the past, victims have received financial settlements, but at the very high personal price of signing non-disclosure agreements so ironclad, the offenders’ names can never be disclosed, enabling them to continue their illicit behavior. I resent mightily that my tax dollars are used to pay the settlements and keep the cloak of secrecy in place while the wheels of these crimes roll over additional victims.


‘I resent mightily that my tax dollars are used to pay the settlements and keep the cloak of secrecy in place while the wheels of these crimes roll over additional victims.’


Third, the repercussions for an assailant in business is immediate and severe as it should be, but politicians spend a lot of time denying (even with multiple, credible victims) and then dithering. They seem to get a pass if they can ride out the 72-hour news cycle that immediately follows. And when they deny strongly and continuously, many of their female supporters join their cheerleading squad! When I see Alabama women support Roy Moore in spite of the numerous accusers, I am completely dumbstruck. Moore’s incongruous support from women makes me brace for a backlash after the initial, wide support for victims.

Fourth, I worry the emphasis in the media will shift from the deep and enduring harm done to the victims by these predators, to the perceived-as-too-harsh penalties paid by them. Could we hear this statement in the not-so-distant future? “He lost his job, his business, his reputation, his family, his position in the community.” This could backlash into silencing the victims again. And if one, just one, woman’s story is found to be false, the backlash to women will be immediate and acute, and all future testimonies will be discredited with doubt and a suspected “woman scorned” motivation.

I’ve heard TV pundits say we need to keep the conversation going and try to find the elements in our culture that have promoted, or at least allowed, the prevalence of sexual abuse by men in power to grow.

I believe America has a very real caste system. It is a part of American society or culture that people of color and people of lower economic income are valued less than their white or wealthier neighbors. I see it in the prosecution of our laws, differences in public education systems, low minimum wage, investments in community infrastructure, and recent legislative efforts to lessen or remove critical social services from those most in need.

Does this devaluation of some American lives extend to women in America? The evidence indicates it does. American women workers still earn $0.80 on the dollar for the same work done by men. Recent GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA had men writing the legislation to determine and limit reproductive health choices for women. The legislation they wrote without any women’s voices effectively categorized women as chattel. The sexual abuse of women in the workplace is just another symptom of the inequality of women.


‘Would passing the ERA change the status of women?’


Would passing the Equal Rights Amendment change the status of women? I’m a realist, as well as a feminist, and I believe positive outcomes from adding the ERA to the U.S. Constitution would evolve through the courts, albeit slowly. However, passing the ERA would immediately raise hope, raise voices, and give power to women, and the men who support them, to secure their equal rights under the Constitution. The ERA would have a greater and more lasting effect on women’s lives than any single or multiple pieces of legislation, too often diluted by subsequent efforts to repeal, to revise, or to interpret differently from the original intent.

Passing the ERA into Constitutional law is long overdue. When women are securely equal to men under the Constitution, more of them will be empowered to advocate for themselves in the workplace and not just on the subject of salary.

May the chorus of #MeToo play on.


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.