Congresswoman Johnson pushes for progress in STEM-related fields

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, reported ending last month with a “bang” for the health and science communities.

On March 26, she co-sponsored sweeping new health care legislation that will lower Texans’ health insurance premiums, strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and undo the plans that the Trump administration had for health care. The Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Health Care Affordable Act was introduced the day after the Trump administration asked a federal court to strike down every part of the Affordable Care Act, including the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

“After failing to repeal the ACA in Congress or at the ballot box last November, Republicans are continuing their war on affordable health care by attempting to use the courts to undo the progress achieved by Obamacare,” said Congresswoman Johnson. “Since the first day of our majority, the House Democratic Caucus has been fighting for the people, focusing on new legislation that lowers health costs and prescription drug prices for all Americans. With the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Health Care Affordable Act, Democrats are taking another step forward to meet our promise to lower health costs for the American people.”

Lower health insurance premiums with strengthened and expanded affordability assistance

• Strengthening tax credits in the marketplace to lower Americans’ health insurance premiums and allows more middle-class individuals and families to qualify for subsidies.

• Ensuring that families who don’t have an offer of affordable coverage from an employer can still qualify for subsidies in the marketplace.

• Providing funding for reinsurance, to help with high cost claims, improve marketplace stability, and prevent the Trump administration’s sabotage from raising premiums.

Strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions

• Curtailing the Trump administration’s efforts to give states waivers to undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions and weaken standards for essential health benefits, which would leave consumers with less comprehensive plans that do not cover needed services, such as prescription drugs, maternity care and substance use disorder treatment.

Stop insurance companies from selling junk health

insurance plans

• Stopping the Trump administration’s efforts to push Americans into junk health insurance plans that do not provide coverage for essential medical treatments and drugs, and that are allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Reverse the GOP’s health care strategy that has driven up premiums and uninsured rates, and empower states to innovate and invest in enrolling more people in affordable health coverage

• Reversing the Trump administration’s plan by requiring open enrollment outreach, education, and funding for navigators.

• Investing in state efforts to conduct outreach to increase enrollment, educate consumers of their rights, and help individuals navigate the health insurance system.

• Empowering states to implement new approaches to increasing enrollment and allows states to set up their own marketplaces.

• Holding the administration accountable for its use of federal dollars dedicated to increasing enrollment, outreach and running the federal exchange.

On March 28, she also co-sponsored H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, House Democrats’ new legislation that would require the Trump administration to remain in the Paris Climate Accord and to develop a serious plan for how the United States will meet its commitment to reduce pollution.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that climate change is one of the greatest challenges confronting our nation,” Johnson said. “On the science committee, we have already heard from scientists about the reality of human-induced climate change and its impacts. Those impacts are affecting our economy, our national security, and our quality of life. The increased frequency of extreme weather events in recent years is just one reminder of the growing cost of inaction on addressing climate change.”

The act would prohibit any federal funds from being used to take any action to advance the withdrawal of the U.S. from the landmark Paris Agreement. It also calls on the president to develop and make public a plan for how the United States will meet our commitment to reduce pollution.

Despite the president’s unilateral declaration withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement and his refusal to take the threat of the climate crisis seriously, the United States remains obligated to uphold our commitments to our global partners.

“The Paris Agreement was a significant step forward in bringing the international community together to address climate change, and I was proud that the United States played a critical role in forging the agreement under the Obama administration,” she explained. “The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is both misguided and ill-advised. Rather than pretend that human-induced climate change doesn’t exist, we need to do all we can to work to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

On March 29, Johnson hosted her annual Math and Science Lecture Series at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Magnet Center. Supported by the University of Texas at Dallas, this year’s event connected students with former NASA astronaut and physician, Dr. Bernard Harris, a veteran of two space missions. The lecture series is designed to expose students to STEM educations in hopes they may pursue careers in these crucial fields.

“Science and mathematics fuel the engine of the American economy and global innovation– most notably, inspiration. We need that inspiration, now more than ever as we seek to encourage a new generation to pursue careers in science technology, engineering, and math,” she stated. “Children are the future, and the nation is depending on them. It is that inspiration that breathes life in STEM education initiatives and helps the STEM curricula motivate a diverse cross section of our youth, including those who have traditionally been underrepresented in the STEM areas of study.”

Harris, a native Texan, is the founder of the Harris Foundation and head of the National Math and Science Initiative. During her speech, she sought to inspire the 150 high school students in attendance with firsthand accounts of his time in space and his career in medicine. She also spoke on the importance of STEM educations for students and the critical role events like the lecture series play.

“Programs like Congresswoman Johnson’s speaker series are important to spark and sustain students interest,” Harris said. “The only reason I was able to become an astronaut, a physician and now, CEO of NMSI, is because of education. I had people and programs who supported my dreams.”

Later that day, Johnson announced that Parkland Health and Hospital System has been awarded a research grant to continue local programs aimed at improving the health of mothers and children before, during, and after pregnancy. The funding, totaling $950,000, is allocated to reduce the discrepancies in racial and ethnic rates of infant death and adverse perinatal outcomes.

Currently, African Americans have an infant mortality rate nearly three times higher than Caucasians. By using a community-based approach to service delivery, Parkland will implement targeted strategies that focus on reducing the stark disparities that adversely affect African American women at higher rates than others.

“I am proud that this funding will address such an important mission,” she said. “As a clinically-trained psychiatric nurse and former chief psychiatric nurse of the Dallas VA Medical Center, I have made it a priority to fund programs that offer considerable benefit to our communities, and programs that benefit our children and mothers may be the most noble endeavors we can support. It is an honor to congratulate the staff at the Dallas County Hospital District for receiving this award and for the achievements we anticipate they will make to enhance the lives of mothers and children everywhere.”

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