National Consumers League Expresses Concern Over Amy Coney Barrett Confirmation

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – The next three weeks will be critical for the American people. Amid a global pandemic, a historic presidential election, and the attempt to fill an equally historic Supreme Court vacancy, there’s a lot at stake for health care. On October 26, the Senate will vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the US Supreme Court. On November 10, merely a week following the presidential election, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) hear arguments in the case of California v. Texas, the latest challenge to Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly called Obamacare.

The rush to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat on the Court on the eve of this election has worried health advocates and consumers alike, as a conservative majority court could potentially overturn the ACA. Conservatives have been hostile to the law, and Coney Barrett, herself an arch-conservative, seems to share that very hostility toward the ACA. This is illustrated by her disapproval of Justice John Roberts Jr.’s support of the ACA in a 2017 essay. In it, Coney Barrett wrote that Justice Roberts had “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”

In 2017, the strife between Democrats and conservatives worsened when the individual mandate provision of the ACA was found unconstitutional. Following that ruling, conservatives have tried to grasp at opportunities to repeal the entire law, including arguing for severability. Severability of the individual mandate provision, as explained by Justice Roberts, would allow the Court to excise the provision with “a scalpel rather than a bulldozer.” Severability would still maintain the ACA as the law of the land and would save access to healthcare for over 20 million Americans. But the plaintiffs, all Republican Attorneys General from across the country, have argued that the individual mandate cannot be severed and if it goes down, the whole law falls.

Although Coney Barrett was reticent during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, her record serves as a warning about how she will come down on a host of consumer health issues. These include reproductive decisions granting women agency over their bodies and the freedom to choose how they form families. Based on her prior endorsement of the anti-choice organization Right to Life and her public support of overturning Roe v Wade, there is cause for concern that medical interventions like contraception, abortion, and even in-vitro fertilization (IVF), could all be at risk following Judge Barrett’s appointment to the high court.

Aside from reproductive issues, there are countless health care protections on the chopping block pursuant to the ACA deliberation. Below are a few at risk if the ACA is overturned:

The stakes are high. If the ACA is overturned, COVID-19 could be considered to be a pre-existing condition. The pandemic has laid bare deep structural inequities; stripping away coverage during such dire times would be unconscionable.

There are a few ways the Supreme Court could rule on the case come November 10.

  • If Coney Barrett is not sworn in before the oral argument, the Court could vote on the case with an 8-member court, leading to a potential tie. If tied, the case would be returned to the original trial judge for further analysis – meaning that in the interim, the ACA would remain the law of the land, ensuring protections for millions.
  • The Court may still rule in favor of salvaging the ACA. Many scholars deem the plaintiffs’ arguments to be legally weak. This is where the argument of severability comes in.
  • Finally, if a new justice is appointed to the Court and there is a majority vote to overturn the ACA, it may be overturned. The ACA is an extraordinarily complex and comprehensive law, and this result would wreak havoc across virtually every area of health policy.

Over the next few weeks, the health and civil liberties of millions of Americans will hang in the balance. NCL does not support Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. Justice Ginsburg was a champion of rights and protections for consumers and women and a strong defender of the ACA. Confirming a justice for the Supreme Court with Coney Barrett’s record before the election has the potential to endanger lives already vulnerable during this pandemic. We simply cannot afford to throw consumers’ health care into such chaos and uncertainly during this COVID-19 pandemic.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

New report: COVID-19 pandemic highlights need for White House Consumer Advocacy Office

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – The protection of consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond will require the next Administration to reestablish the White House Office of Consumer Affairs (WHOCA). The National Consumers League is calling for the restoration of the WHOCA to elevate the interests of consumers to the highest levels of government, including access to the Oval Office. For decades, WHOCA gave consumers a voice within the Administration and coordinated consumer protection activities across the U.S. government. Such leadership will be sorely needed to rebuild consumers’ confidence in the government’s ability to protect them from industry abuses.

In a new report, COVID-19 and the Impact on Consumers, the National Consumers League examines how consumers have been harmed by price gouging, fraud targeting stimulus checks, anti-worker practices, and a sharp dip in confidence in testing and vaccines since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The report also highlights legislation from the 116th Congress that advanced consumers’ interest and should be at the top of policymakers’ agendas next year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into stark relief the impact of years of hollowing-out of our nation’s consumer protection agencies,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “With this report, we hope to shine a light of consumer protection policies that should be embraced over the next four years, regardless of which party comes out ahead in November.”

Issues covered in the report include:

  • Price gouging and profiteering – Congress should act to rein in price gouging on personal protective equipment. Refunds for cancelled or postponed flights and live events should be required to be provided quickly to consumers.
  • Scams targeting stimulus funds – An estimated $8 billion in unemployment insurance funds have been lost to scammers since the beginning of the COVID crisis. Many millions more in stimulus checks and other COVID relief may have also been diverted. In any future stimulus legislation, Congress must act to ensure that a second wave of scams targeting such relief funds do not deprive consumers of desperately needed support.
  • Restoring confidence in COVID-related health care – NCL has strongly urged public health agencies to increase and enhance infrastructure regarding vaccine confidence and has called for effective public messaging and strong vaccine recommendations to ensure that the American public feels safe, informed, and empowered in their decisions to vaccinate once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
  • Protecting essential workers – Workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis must receive the personal protective equipment they need to do their jobs safely. They must also be given pandemic premium pay to compensate them for the increased risks they bear keeping our economy functioning during this challenging time. They should also not be barred from seeking justice by overly broad liability protections that some in Congress to seek to attach to future stimulus bills.
  • Accountability for taxpayer funds – Money intended to support struggling small business payrolls should not go to support the super-wealthy. Bailouts targeted at specific industries like the airlines should not be diverted to unrelated purposes, such as lobbying.

To read the full report, click here.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.
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Facebook’s banning of Holocaust denial content is a win for consumers

Facebook’s banning of Holocaust denial content is a win for consumers

October 13, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC – The decision by Facebook to ban Holocaust denial content from the platform is a welcome, if belated, move by the social media giant, according to the National Consumers League. The action, which comes after significant criticism by civil and human rights organizations, will help make Facebook a safer platform for all users, said the League.

The following statement is attributable to National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“For far too long, Holocaust denial content was allowed to flourish on Facebook, a platform which reaches billions of users. We appreciate the statements from the company and its leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg, that they personally find such content abhorrent. However, words can only do so much without action to address the problem. Banning Holocaust denial content from Facebook will help create a safer and more welcoming platform for all consumers.

It will be a challenge for Facebook to enforce this ban at scale. We expect that the purveyors of hate will continually look for ways to get around the ban. That is why we will continue to work with the company to ensure that this ban has real teeth, so that consumers can be confident that they and their families will not be subjected to such hateful content.”

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League statement urging FDA to make patient-centered decision on only available treatment option for pregnant mothers at risk for recurrent preterm birth

Oct. 7, 2020

Removing FDA-approved 17P could put countless pregnancies at risk even as COVID-19 adds new barriers for mothers with a history of spontaneous preterm birth

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect patient access to the only approved treatment to reduce the risk of preterm birth in women with a history of spontaneous preterm birth, following this week’s proposal that all approved treatment options be withdrawn. We maintain that it is not in the best interests of patients, nor their healthcare providers, to deprive pregnant women of access—especially as there are no other approved treatment options—without considering alternative methods to better understand which patients benefit the most from 17P.

Hydroxyprogesterone caproate or “17P” has been the only available FDA-approved treatment option for nearly a decade to reduce the risk of recurrent preterm birth. Patients and the healthcare providers who serve them currently have access to one branded and five generic versions of the prescription product.

Since last year, the FDA has considered whether to remove FDA-approved formulations of 17P due to conflicting data from two clinical trials with notably different patient populations: one of which included a majority of African American women (59 percent) from the United States, and another where African American women represented 7 percent of a predominantly international patient population.

Despite the strengths of the original clinical trial and experiences of thousands of women to whom 17P was administered over the past decade, the strong safety profile of 17P, and the fact that 15 leading patient advocates and providers urged them to carefully consider all of the data and recognize the needs of women of color, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) within the FDA recently proposed that approval for all versions of 17P (branded, generics, and compounded for this indication) be withdrawn from the market.

CDER made this recommendation without meeting with advocates or providers who have personal experience of the positive impact 17P can have on the lives of mothers and babies at risk of being born prematurely.

We strongly urge CDER and the FDA to commit to a transparent and patient-centered process before making a decision about the fate of this vital treatment. Removal of 17P from the market would leave at-risk pregnant women and their providers without a recommended standard of care, and in the interim, extends a period of uncertainty that has already lasted too long.

Appreciating the importance of continued access to FDA-approved treatment options for at-risk pregnant women, including those that reduce their risk of early delivery, several months ago, we led a joint effort to urge the FDA to maintain and protect patient access to 17P. An array of leading consumer, women’s health, and maternal health organizations and thought-leading healthcare providers joined our efforts, together expressing serious concerns that a regulatory decision could be based on a single study that was largely conducted outside of the U.S., in a predominantly white population of women.

In our outreach to the FDA, we urged the agency to consider alternative ways to further evaluate and define the patient populations that most benefit from 17P, without depriving women of access. We regret to state that the agency did not respond to our letter, nor two separate requests to meet with stakeholders who have stood ready to discuss these concerns for months.

Moreover, the company that makes the branded version of 17P reported that it submitted a proposal to the FDA earlier this year with a plan to generate additional data and predictors of benefit in women with a history of recurrent preterm birth. Despite the company’s effort to proactively initiate the first part of a retrospective study, it has indicated that it was not provided an opportunity to discuss this research with the agency before its recent response.

While we recognize there is no single solution that will improve maternal and infant health outcomes, only one proven intervention exists to help pregnant women prevent recurrent preterm birth. Especially during this pandemic, pregnant women and their unborn babies are under extreme stress, yet providers have few therapeutic options to help at-risk mothers. There may be an increased risk of preterm birth and pregnancy loss among pregnant women with COVID-19, and even under normal circumstances, preterm birth places mothers and babies at significant risk—particularly among pregnant women of color.

Access to FDA-approved treatment options should not be compromised without substantial evidence that there is a lack of benefit in the appropriate population—which we don’t believe we have today. Instead, it is our belief that findings from a study where the majority of participants resided outside the U.S. in countries with different health systems and different rates of preterm birth shouldn’t be generalized and that it is reasonable to pursue real-world data sources to help us better understand the overall benefits in a patient population where there are no other options.

We believe it is possible for the FDA to continue to uphold its strong history of regulatory integrity while listening to perspectives from patient advocates and providers that are rooted in years of clinical use. What we can’t believe is the alternative, which leaves providers and pregnant women without a path forward in the middle of a pandemic.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL statement condemning threats to public health officials

June 25, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) is deeply concerned with the rise in harassment and threats to public health leaders across the country in response to the nationwide shutdowns due to COVID-19. 

Public health leaders are being subjected to pressure following guidelines regarding social distancing and face mask usage. Critics of these guidelines have politicized preventive health measures due to perceived disruptions in personal liberties. They have resorted to “doxxing” public health officials—a practice that involves revealing someone’s private information, such as place of employment and residential address, publicly over the Internet. Other intimidation tactics that have been employed include protesting outside of health officials’ homes to incite fear. 

These tactics have created hostile work environments for public health officials, leading to 27 resignations or request of reassignments across 13 states—in the interest of personal safety. Public health workers also fear that these actions could potentially have a negative effect on recruiting people into pursuing careers in the public health field.

“Public health departments are already underfunded and understaffed, and in the midst of this pandemic, we need our full arsenal of public health experts on the front lines,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We cannot afford to lose any personnel in this space at this time. The U.S. is already behind regarding testing and other preventive measures. We need to let public health workers do their jobs to keep us safe, informed, and empowered regarding our health.

“NCL unequivocally condemns the threats placed against our public health workers. We rely on these individuals to keep us healthy, and we need them now more than ever. All they ask from us in return in our cooperation in flattening the curve.”

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL hails sweeping Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQ employees

June 19, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—With a mission of protecting workers and consumers, the National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the Supreme Court’s landmark employment protection decision this week finding that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited under federal civil rights law. This statement is attributable to Sally Greenberg, NCL’s executive director:

We are applauding this week’s landmark 6-3 Supreme Court decision finding that the law’s prohibition on sex discrimination in employment extends to those who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). We commend and thank Justice Neil Gorsuch and his five fellow justices for concluding that ‘An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.’ NCL was founded to advocate for the rights of workers to receive decent pay, work in safe conditions and be free from discrimination in the workplace. This decision further extends these critical protections to the LGBT community.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, national origin and sex. We are pleased that the court found that “sex” is a distinct characteristic but inseparable from the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The decision is the most significant affirmation of LGBT rights in the United States since the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage and the Court’s first decision addressing transgender civil rights.

Before the decision, LGBT job discrimination was still technically legal in much of the nation. Less than half the states have laws explicitly prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. An estimated 11 million Americans identify as LGBT, according to the Williams Institute.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL applauds Supreme Court decision protecting DREAMERS

June 18, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the Supreme Court’s decision today to block the Trump Administration’s attempt to end the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivalsprogram for so-called “DREAMERS“—young people who came to the United States as children with parents who were not documented citizens at the time. Millions of these young people grew up in the United States, but their citizenship status is precarious. Thus, under this Obama-era program established in 2012, DACA is critically important to protect these young people and give them a path to citizenship 

This statement is attributable to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:  

NCL applauds the 5-4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court today blocking the Trump Administration’s efforts to undo the protections of DACA. Thousands of aspiring and promising young people who arrived in the United States as children of undocumented immigrants will not, as a result of this decision, lose critical protections DACA provides. Today we join with them in celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision to block Mr. Trump from undermining these essential protections. NCL’s long history of fighting for the rights of workers and consumers includes the rights of immigrants, who remain among the most vulnerable targets of workplace and marketplace abuses. They deserve the same protections that flow to all American citizens. NCL’s policy position on this issue was adopted in 2013.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act—the proposal to grant temporary conditional residency, with the right to work, to qualifying immigrants who entered the United States as minor—and, if they later satisfy further qualifications, they would attain permanent residency.  

DACA was introduced by President Barack Obama in 2012 and allows young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay in the country and work without being deported on a two-year, renewable term. As of March 31, 2020, 640,000 people have active DACA status, and since 2012, more than 825,000 people have utilized the program. The 5-4 Supreme Court majority, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, determined that President Trump and DHS did not adequately consider the impact on the DACA recipients themselves and the potential hardships for the some 700,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents. 

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL statement on murder of George Floyd

June 3, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) is deeply saddened by the recent unjustified killing of an African American man by police in Minneapolis—just the latest in a long, tragic chain of unwarranted deaths of African Americans by police around the nation. The following statement may be attributed to NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

The callous murder of George Floyd, an African American devoted father, husband, brother, and friend is especially devastating to me personally because it occurred only a few miles from the Minneapolis home I grew up in. Like millions of Americans, I watched as a police officer choked to death a man who was accused by a local store owner of a minor charge of passing off a counterfeit $20 bill.

Like many consumers of color, Mr. Floyd was suspected of a crime by just walking in the door. White Americans must grapple with this reality: African Americans are often followed in stores for no reason, pulled over by police for no reason, and have police called on them for no reason. NCL champions consumer protection and especially for those who suffer from discrimination and predatory practices when they engage in the everyday activities we all take for granted: shopping, walking, driving, jogging, playing music in our cars, or pumping gas. We have also seen how COVID-19 has had the most devastating impact on communities of color. These oppressive disparities must stop.

NCL’s first leader Florence Kelley, raised in an abolitionist Quaker family, refused to stay in hotels that didn’t admit African Americans and appeared on the original charter of the NAACP. To this day NCL has carried forth her legacy and stood alongside African Americans fighting for equality and fair treatment under the law.   

NCL supports the peaceful protesters advocating for systemic change. We pledge to be part of the solution as we try to move on from this devastating moment in American history and will seek out like-minded allies and friends to join us in this struggle.

We are all Americans, and we are all interconnected. It is time to listen and time for each of us to take responsibility to heal the nation. No more delays.

We can do this!

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

NCL expresses concern about Trump Administration’s NBPP rule for 2021

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832
Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization, expresses concern about the Trump Administration’s Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters Rule for 2021.

National Consumers League statement of support for Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund

May 12, 2020

Contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

 

Washington, DC–Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives today unveiled a new COVID-19 stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, that includes a new $50 per month subsidy ($75 per month for Tribal lands) to support access for low-income Americans to broadband. At time when the effects of the Digital Divide have never been more apparent, NCL is proud to support this effort.

The following statement is attributable to National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“We have long known that affordability is a significant barrier to millions of American families who lack access to broadband. The COVID-19 pandemic, has highlighted as never before the societal costs of cutting off millions of families from the Internet. The inability to connect to distance learning, support networks and online government resources will make recovering from this pandemic even tougher for consumers who lack affordable access to broadband. It is for this reason that NCL strongly supports the proposed Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund subsidy.”

 

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About the National Consumers League

 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.