We Won Pottawattamie County for Bernie Sanders!

562c50bbb08f6.imageThank you to everyone who worked so hard to win Iowa for Bernie Sanders. We did just that.

Some may say that Hillary Clinton won Iowa, however that is simply not true. Especially when the final results came down to 49.8% to 49.6%. That to me does not show a clear winner. This means that because of all of your hard work together we won 696.82 state delegate equivalents for Bernie Sanders compared to Hillary Clinton’s 700.59. This again shows no clear winner.

Locally, because of you all, Pottawattamie County, a former Hillary Clinton stronghold went for Bernie Sanders, 50.7% to 49.0%. Further, in my precinct, Council Bluffs 11, we won it for Bernie Sanders, 62.5% to 37.5% or 10 delegates to 6 delegates. Thank you everyone!

I would like to especially thank all of those who helped me on this campaign thus far. All of the support you all gave me means a lot and I know that I could not have done as much for Bernie Sanders without you.

Check out the results here: Iowa 2016 Democratic Caucus 

Join the Revolution & Elect Tom Fiegen to the U.S. Senate

Source: Tom Fiegen for U.S. Senate
Source: Tom Fiegen for U.S. Senate
I am supporting Tom Fiegen for U.S. Senate to represent Iowa and unseat incumbent Republican Senator Chuck Grassley!

Tom is a former Iowa State Senator and Democratic Caucus Chair in the precinct of Clarence, Iowa, and bankruptcy lawyer. Tom has taught economics at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa for 10 years.

Tom Fiegen is running for U.S. Senate because he wants to restore and protect the working class from billionaire special interests, overturn Citizens United, protect our environment, and make college affordable. He also wants to protect and expand the grown-local farm movement and move away from GMO/Chemical mono industrial agriculture. Tom is a champion of labor unions, he has fought for a living wage, and creating the opportunity for workers to form unions (Fiegen)

1443062598Tom Fiegen on the issues:

  • Wall Street Reform –
    • Re-enact Glass Steagall and break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions.
    • The Federal Reserve, must eliminate its internal conflicts of interest, provide stricter oversight, and insist that the banks its support serve the economy in a way that works for everyone not just a few.

I want to fix the bribery of politicians in the guise of campaign contributions. […] People throw around the reference to Citizens United, but the problem is much more systemic and ingrained than that. – Tom Fiegen (Sainato)

  • Climate Change –
    • We must transform our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels, and towards energy efficiency and sustainability.
    • Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized and we need to accelerate technological progress in wind and solar power generation.
  • Student Debt –
    • We need to make higher education free to every qualified student and we need to refinance, reform, and reduce the loan burden to people who have already graduated.

  • Prescription Drug Cost –
    • Medicare and Medicaid needs to be able to negotiate for lower drug prices.
    • We need transparency on the cost to develop new drugs.
  • Small-Farm Revolution –
    • Institutions like schools, hospitals, and universities need to locally source their food.
    • Shift from supporting GMO/Chemical mono industrial agriculture to supporting/promoting/subsidizing local healthy fresh sustainable food production.
All issues information from: WWW.FIEGENFORUSSENATE.COM 

CSIOSc2UcAAdyxyTom Fiegen is the only U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa that has formally endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States of America. Tom showed his support for Senator Bernie Sanders at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner, in his introduction of 150 words however according to Tom Fiegen his declaration of support for Sen. Sanders was removed (Sainato).

Around the stage they [Iowa Democratic Party] had tables for dinners that were $1000 a plate. The outer ring, where I was, had tables for $120 a plate. For people and students who could afford [to sit] there, they [Iowa Democratic Part] sold them bleacher seats for $50 a ticket. […] The thing that insulted me with the people on the bleachers, is they put up barricades so those people couldn’t mingle with the people at the tables. It gave very much the impression that they were second class citizens. – Tom Fiegen

Therefore, when Tom took the stage he was holding a Bernie sign and wearing a Bernie sticker, his announcement like this led to an uproar and standing ovation from the hall.

I wanted to communicate to the party machine people and the people at the $1000-a-plate tables that Senator Sanders’ campaign is a political revolution, that I am part of that revolution, and we intend to remake not only our party, but our democracy and our country, and that there are more of us than them. – Tom Fiegen

Join me in supporting Tom Fiegen as he runs for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate and elect him to help Sen. Sanders in the White House!

Go here to volunteer or donate to his campaign!

Let’s Talk about LGBTQIA+ Equality & the Democratic Caucuses

Dem 2016 South Carolina (5)Senator Bernie Sanders has been with us for years. As Mayor of Burlington, VT in 1983 Bernie signed the city’s first Gay Pride Parade proclamation and later he signed a city ordinance banning housing discrimination.

One can even look further in Bernie’s past and see that he supported equal rights. In the 1970s when he was a student and a member of a third party called the Liberty Union he wrote, “Let us abolish all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or ‘right’ on people.”

As a student in the 1960s, tumblr_nrl0q4Z4FG1tlu3kdo1_1280Bernie was an activist, he was a front-line champion for equality. Bernie was even arrested while protesting the segregation of schools, he organized against segregated housing in Chicago, and he marched on Washington, D.C. with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand was not on the same track. On the Senate floor in 2004, debating a marriage amendment which she voted ‘no’ on would have put a ban on marriage equality in the Constitution Hillary still said the follow:

the fundamental bedrock principle that marriage exists between a man and a woman, going back into the midst of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults (Biddle).

Personally, I find her statement hurtful. First, it tells me that she believes that LGBTQIA+ individuals cannot have families and are not competent to care for children. Second, it tells me that she is a traditionalist and that means that no matter what is right on the basis of civil rights she will hold true to her tradition.

On the Rachel Maddow Show (RMS), Hillary said this while speaking about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA),

a line that was drawn that was to prevent going further.” She said this while attempting to tell us that these measures where passed to stop the Republicans (she says they are one of her enemies) from passing something worse (Johnson).

Hillary also had this to say,

I think that sometimes a leader in a democracy you are confronted with two bad choices and it is not an easy position and you have to try and think what is the least bad choice and how do I try and cabin this off from having worse consequences (Johnson)?

However, when Bernie Sanders served in the House of Representatives during the same time, he voted against both “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993 and the “Defense of Marriage Act” in 1996. Bernie stood up for what was right when he faced a fork in the road to do what was easy and go with the majority or take a stand. He chose to take a stand.

Recently, at the Iowa Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Sen. Sanders said this on the issue,

It was called the Defense of Marriage Act – brought forth by a Republican – led Congress. Its purpose was to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into law. […] I’m sorry to tell you that the bill won by an overwhelming majority of 342 to 57 in the House and 85 to 15 in the Senate.”

Senator Bernie Sanders is a fighter for the least of these and he has proven that throughout his lifetime. He is fighting for the working class and young adults. He continues to speak truth to power.

As he says,

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity, not for some, not for the few, but for all (Johnson).

tumblr_nqlaao1CY21rk3xbfo1_1280Bernie knows that in many states you can get married in the morning and in the afternoon get fired for putting up a picture of your partner. He knows that in many states you can still be denied housing or public accommodations just for being transgender or gender non-conforming. Bernie believes that this is unacceptable and must change.

As Senator, Bernie is a cosponsor of the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He has even kept a lifetime perfect 100% score from the Human Rights Campaign and has consistently supported legislation that would guarantee LGBTQIA+ Americans would be treated as equal citizens (www.berniesanders.com)

As President, Senator Bernie Sanders will:

  • Sign into law the Equality Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, and any other bill that prohibits discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals.
  • Work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to ensure LGBTQIA+ Americans have access to comprehensive health insurance which provides appropriate coverage and do not have to fear discrimination or mistreatment from providers.
  • Continue the work of President Obama’s State Department’s Special Envoy (which was enforced by Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary) for LGBTQIA+ Rights and ensure the United States helps protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals around the world.
  • Advance polices to ensure students can attend school without fear of bullying, and work to reduce suicides.
  • Require police departments adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender individuals, especially transgender people of color who are often targeted by police unfairly, and institute training programs to promote compliance with fair policies.
  • Bar discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals by creditors and banks so that people will not be unfairly denied mortgages, credit cards, or student loans.
  • Veto any legislation that purports to “protect” religious liberty at the expense of others’ rights (www.berniesanders.com).

0915_Bernie_LGBT_11x17_Signs-thumb

Senator Bernie Sanders believes that,

we need a political revolution to transform American politics. I am talking about bringing in the voices of millions who have given up on the political process. When that happens everything that I talk about will be passed. If it does not, virtually nothing will (Johnson).

Thus, I ask all of my fellow LGBTQIA+ sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors to join the political revolution and stand with Senator Bernie Sanders as he runs for the Democratic Party nomination for President!

Join the Revolution #FeelTheBern

Kyle Craig, an undergraduate at Old Dominion University said,

“I expect my debt to be around $30,000 by the time I’m done here (Rayfield).”

He wants to go to graduate school, but he says in an interview with USA Today, that he is already drowning in debt. As a student at Iowa Western Community College, I have accumulated over $8,000 in student loan debt.

Kyle, many of you, and I are part of the 40 million students in the U.S. who are in debt trying to finance our education to better our lives (Rayfield). Collectively, we have a staggering $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and our average repayment is $279 per month (Rayfield). This burden is holding back my entire generation and is damaging the economy. We should not need to accumulate massive amounts of debt just to get an education.

In addition, I live with a very rare genetic disease called cystinosis. The disease damages all of my organs, especially my kidneys, eyes, muscles, thyroid, and brain. Living with this disease is difficult, particularly when health insurance in the U.S. is so confusing (eve with the Affordable Care Act). Bearing in mind that my primary medication to treat the cystinosis costs $50,000 for a 30 day supply and making sure the medication is covered by my health insurance is challenging. While CEOs of health insurance companies like Mark Bertolini, of Aetna (3rd largest in the nation) made $30.7 million in 2013 (Covington).

bernie_sandersThus, I support Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party nomination for president.

Living with cystinosis and dealing with doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and health insurance companies has led me to become a supporter of the single-payer health care system, which Bernie Sanders is fighting for.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is an improvement from where we were at before. The healthcare law, ensures that up to 105 million Americans cannot be subject to lifetime caps by their health insurance. The law also guarantees up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage or charged more (Covington).

The ACA does not end the skyrocketing prices and it doesn’t guarantee healthcare as a right to all Americans. It does nothing to curb the profit motive that dominates our nation’s health care system, or the for-profit pharmacy corporations, hospitals, and provider practice groups that are part of the problem driving up costs, which give the incentive to overtreat patients and overcharge.

tumblr_nqmseszzS11uvablzo1_1280Under the single-payer system, it would ensure coverage to everyone in the United States regardless of their income. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bernie’s plan would save us about $500 billion a year. This includes the initial costs to train more doctors and nurses.

Furthermore, the 19 other wealthiest countries and Canada have a similar health care system to what Bernie is proposing, and they pay about 60% on their health care compared to how much we spend per person. Bernie plans to pay for this expanded Medicare plan by creating the American Health Security Trust Fund, which would include a new healthcare income tax (like the current Medicare tax), an employer payroll tax, a surcharge on high-income individuals, and a tax on securities transactions. None of this is set in stone for how he plans to fully pay for the plan. In addition, under the plan, Bernie would keep healthcare costs down by using the government (as we do with Medicare) to negotiate more reasonable prices for basic medical services.

5aa15fd624fb8341a6a286b7749abe24Navigating how to pay for my education, while dealing with cystinosis is daunting. I have hope because Bernie will work towards college affordability. He believes that everyone regardless of their family’s income should be able to get a high quality education. Bernie believes that every college student who studies hard and succeeds in school should be able to get the education we need to move forward in life.

Bernie plans to make tuition-free at public colleges and universities. He plans to stop the federal government from making a profit on student loans and he plans to cut student loan interest rates. His plan will also ensure that students can refinance their loans at today’s low interest rates. In addition, Bernie will make sure that students can use need-based financial aid and work study programs. This would all be fully paid for by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculators who caused the 2008 economic crash.

Hillary Clinton, who is running against Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party nomination, also has a plan for college affordability. However, I disagree with it, because of her 10 hour per week work requirement (Eskow).

As we all know, college is a time for students to study, achieve, yet sometimes it can be competitive when we are trying to get scholarships or get into a four-year university. Consequently, the work requirement will carry an additional burden of time and effort to already stressed students. Besides, wealthy students will not share this burden because many of them don’t have to worry about tuition or how to pay.

“I’m not going to give free college to kids who don’t work some hours to try to put their own effort into their education,” said Hillary Clinton. (Eskow)

Personally, I find her words judgmental. I know that I am not asking for anything to be given to me. I am and will continue to work for my education by making sure I achieve academic success. I believe that her words and her proposed plan reflects her divergent views as who we should be as a nation, and attitudes toward the working class and young adults.

Further, I believe that Bernie’s plan to make college tuition-free and debt-free is not a radical idea. Many countries including Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Germany offer free college. Even in the U.S., the University of California system did not charge tuition until the 1980s. In 1965, the average tuition at a four-year public university in the U.S. was $243 per semester.

I stand with Bernie Sanders as he runs for President, not only because I know he is fighting for the working class and young adults, but because he is speaking truth to power. As he says,

“I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity, not for some, not for the few, but for all (Johnson).”

Bernie understands that the rich in our nation is continuing to get richer while income and wealth inequality has reached astronomical levels. He sees that the costs of higher education is rising every year, which is suffocating my entire generation. He sees that even though more Americans can get health insurance, the prices for health care and prescription drugs are skyrocketing, forcing people to choose between paying co-pays and buying food. Thus, I agree with Bernie when he said,

“we need a political revolution, to transform American politics. I am talking about bringing in the voices of millions who have given up on the political process. when that happens everything that I talk about will be passed. If it does not, virtually nothing will (Johnson).”

Therefore, I call on you all to join me in supporting Bernie Sanders!

Sources

Eskow, Richard. “Sanders vs. Clinton: Who Has the Best Plan for College Students?” ourfuture.org. Campaign for America’s Future, 2 Oct. 2015 Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Johnson, Dave. “Sanders’ Socialism Speech: America Is For All of Us, Not Just Wealthy,” ourfuture.org. Campaign for America’s Future, 19 Nov. 2015 Web. 21 Nov. 2015.

Rayfield, Nicholas. “National Student Loan debt reaches a bonkers $1.2 trillion,” college.usatoday.com. USA Today 8 April 2015 Web. 21 Nov. 2015

Would you pay $50,000 a month for a prescription drug?

Many people who live with “orphan diseases” must pay thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on their medications to survive. Many of their medications have outrageous prices and currently many of the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to do this even under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

microbeadsOne of those drugs is Procysbi. What is Procysbi? What is it used to treat? How much does it cost? Should it cost that much? These are the questions that I will answer in this post. They are also questions that are continually being asked because I cannot fully answer them.

Procysbi was created to treat nephropathic cystinosis, the “orphan disease” that I have spoken about many times in this blog. Nephropathic cystinosis is a rare genetic disorder in which the amino acid cystine rises to toxic levels, which results in irreversible tissue and organ damage if left untreated even for a short time. Cystinosis commonly affects many parts of the body including the kidneys, eyes, mouth and throat, liver, thyroid, and other organs (Orphan Disease).

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Procysbi has the same active ingredient as Cystagon (cysteamine bitartrate), which is the immediate-release from of the main treatment for nephropathic cystinosis. Procysbi has an enteric coating over the active ingredient. The active ingredient cysteamine bitartrate forces a metabolic transformation of cystine into cysteine and cysteine-cysteamine mixed disulfide compound. This creates a way for both cysteine and cysteine-cysteamine disulfide to exit the lysosomes in cystinosis patients (Morrow)

This new form of cysteamine bitartrate was only recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2013. Before Procysbi, cystinosis patients only had the choice of taking the immediate-release form which was approved by the FDA in 1994.

The new drug Procysbi, was studied in six clinical research trials. However, it was the third trial that claimed,

Procysbi administered every 12 hours was non-inferior to immediate-release cysteamine bitartrate administered every six hours (Morrow).”

The researchers found that the most common side effects of this drug were vomiting, abdominal pain/discomfort, headaches, breath odor, fatigue, dizziness, skin odor, and rash. Personally, I experience several of these side effects on a daily basis (Morrow).

On average, the price of Procysbi is $250,000 a year or a 2,400% increase, compared to the original drug, Cystagon. The average cost of Cystagon is $10,000 a year (Carroll). However, my health insurance pays $50,000 per month for Procysbi. This is probably because I take a larger dose compared to the average patient. Thus, my health insurance pays about $600,000 a year just for that one medication (Myself from my Medicare bills).

Raptor's Headquarters
Raptor’s Headquarters

Therefore, debate has risen around the cost of this medication and whether it is ethical to charge so much. According to Christopher Starr, co-founder and chief executive of Raptor said that the price reflects that value of the drug and the need to recoup Raptor’s development costs (Pollack). However, if you look at the company’s regulatory filings, the company spent $37.4 million on research and development of Procysbi, and their total expenses in that period were $110 million (Pollack). Nevertheless, within the first year after approval experts said that they could expect sales to exceed $100 million annually (Pollack).  That has already happened and they even make more, especially from myself and my health insurance.

Unfortunately, because of the cost being so high for Procysbi, insurance companies might being to stop covering it. Even a recent survey of 50 insurers and pharmacy benefit managers by J.P. Morgan found that drugs for rare diseases are increasingly subject to scrutiny and possible restrictions on use (Pollack).

You health insurance might be paying for drugs that cost up to $50,000 if you do live with an “orphan disease.” However, it is becoming more difficult to prove the ethics behind increasing the price of a drug by 2,000%, especially when health insurance companies are beginning to look at restricting the amounts of those drugs or just not covering them. Procysbi is used to treat cystinosis, and it is very expensive. The debate continues on whether it is ethical for it to cost so much.

Works Cited

Carroll, John. “Raptor’s orphan drug-win at FDA overshadowed by debate over steep price,” fiercebiotech.com, Biotech Industry’s Daily Monitor, 1 May 2013. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Morrow, Thomas MD. “Do comparable Efficacy & Convenient Dosing Justify Procysbi’s Extremely High Price,” managedcaremag.com. Managed Care, July 2013. Web 2 Nov. 2015.

Pollack, Andrew. “Parental Quest Bears Fruit in a Kidney Disease Treatment,” The New York Times (2013): B1 Print.