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 Arrivals) program 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.

NCL calls on insurers to cover air medical services during COVID-19 crisis

May 5, 2020

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) last week sent a letter to the CEOs of Cigna, Aetna, and UnitedHealth Group, urging them to enter into productive negotiations with air medical service providers to ensure coverage of emergency air medical transportation. The ask comes as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the country, making air medical services even more essential, particularly in rural America.

In its letter, NCL notes that it is increasingly concerned about emergency air medical access during this crisis, and that it believes this life-saving care should be covered by every insurance plan. NCL asks that insurers review the robustness of their coverage policies and immediately to enter into network negotiations with air medical providers so that this critical service is covered, and patients are never left with a bill they cannot pay.

Text of the letter, signed by NCL Executive Director Sally Green is below:

Dear Mr. Wichmann, Mr. Cordani, and Ms. Lynch:

The National Consumers League has long advocated for health care as a right and argued for fair treatment for all stakeholders across the health care spectrum – patients, physicians, hospitals, health plans, and health care providers. Our mission is particularly acute during the global COVID-19 pandemic, when medical professionals are on the frontlines fighting for our health and safety, stricken patients need life-saving care, and nearly everyone is focused on their health and that of their loved ones.

In this vein, we are increasingly concerned about access to emergency medical care, especially in rural America, as the virus indiscriminately makes its way across the country. When minutes count, Americans who fall victim to COVID-19 must be assured that they can get to the nearest, most appropriate medical facility as quickly as possible. As COVID-19 strains hospital capacity and critical medical equipment like ventilators become attenuated, emergency air medical transports between facilities are often the only way for patients to get the care they need.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 85 million Americans can only reach a Level 1 or Level 2 trauma center within one hour if they are flown by an air medical helicopter. The effects of this access problem are staggering, and even more pronounced as we wrestle with the COVID-19 crisis. For many Americans, air medical ambulances are a vital link to timely, life-saving care.

We believe that such life-saving care should be covered by insurance. Patients pay their monthly premiums – and copays and deductibles – so they are not bankrupted should the worst befall them or their loved ones. Unfortunately, there have been far too many stories of people who were transported by air ambulance because it was ordered by a first responder or doctor, only to be told later by their insurance company that they would have to shoulder the bulk of the cost. This should not be the case anytime, but especially now as our nation wrestles with a pandemic.

This explains why we at the National Consumers League are writing to you for your input and thoughts. We believe that emergency air medical transportation should be included in every health coverage plan. We think that insurance companies and air medical providers must work together to bring these services in-network, so patients are not left footing a bill they can never hope to pay.  Adequate network agreements are imperative so that patients are not told – after the fact – that they were transported by an air ambulance that was not in-network. When an emergency happens, or worse yet, a pandemic strikes, patients are not choosing whether to take an air ambulance, let alone choosing a particular provider.  Similarly, coverage denials based on “medical necessity” should be the exception, not the rule, in light of the fact that patients are not a part of the decision-making process.

We ask that your companies immediately take a comprehensive look at your coverage policies for air medical services and the robustness of your provider networks. We urge you and the air ambulance community to enter into network negotiations, take patients out of the middle, find a middle ground on reimbursement that fairly compensates both sides, and ensure rural communities have access to air ambulance transports. Refusing to fairly negotiate is simply not an option in light of the current crisis. Entering into productive negotiations immediately will ensure that patients across the country have access to the medical care they need and that they are simultaneously protected from balance bills.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Sally Greenberg
Executive Director
National Consumers League

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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.

Nation’s pioneering consumer-worker organization demands massive COVID-19 testing production, universal testing

April 23, 2020

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 oldest consumer and worker advocacy organization, is demanding that the federal government put its support behind massive COVID-19 test production and, as quickly as is feasible, put in place a testing protocol for every citizen so that America can get back to work.

“There are calls across the country to reopen businesses; we understand and share that frustration,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “However, as we are currently not allowing tests for people who are asymptomatic—and because 25 percent of people who carry the virus don’t show symptoms—doing so would be reckless. It’s a Catch-22. Until everyone is tested, we can’t send symptom-free people back into the world. So the government’s first order of business must include giving America’s labs and drug companies the goal and the means to produce rapid-response testing for every American within the next month.”

NCL has laid out the following recommendations:

Meet the need for testing in clinics and doctors’ offices

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must oversee the process of improving techniques and reliable, accurate test production. Many labs are working on this, addressing the immediate need for care providers to have enough, high-quality tests.

“The Senate has voted to include $25 billion for the clinical labs that make the tests in the next COVID legislative package” said Greenberg. “That is welcome news because states cannot do this alone; they end up competing against each other for tests and other supplies.”

As Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) said this week, “Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests, not only from the federal government, but from every private lab in America and from across the world. It’s nowhere where it needs to be.” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) noted that the President’s claims that the country has enough tests for the virus are “delusional.”

Clearly, quality is paramount. The serious stumbles at such premier institutions as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot continue. “The federal government must continue to support and expand the production of quality tests, and at capacity to meet the current needs of care providers,” said Greenberg.

Universal testing

As stated above, though, in order to get people back out to restart the economy, we cannot only test those who show serious symptoms and go to care providers to get tested. We must develop tests that can be self-administered, and in adequate numbers so that each person can test for COVID before leaving the home on any given day.

“Millions of workers have to take drug tests every day to keep their jobs; those tests are rapid-response. Consumers can buy rapid response tests for strep throat and pregnancy,” said Greenberg. “Those are approved FDA products that are tested for accuracy and safety. We must get to a rapid response COVID-19 home test as soon as possible.”

In order to determine who has COVID-19 and should be quarantined, every American must be able to test for the virus on a regular basis. Those who test positive, with or without symptoms, go into quarantine for 14 days, as do the people in that individual’s household. Those who test negative are cleared to go out in the world to get the trains running again. This would call for hundreds of millions of tests to enable on-going testing, as it is the only path forward at this time.

And the technology is not “pie-in-the-sky.” The FDA has already approved one home-test kit, though it requires lab analysis. And BARDA/HHS has funded another company to develop “a rapid antigen and antibody diagnostic to identify current or past SARS-CoV-2 infections in 60 seconds.” We are on the road.

Antibody testing

While it’s not clear how long antibodies create immunity, there is a belief that they at least do so for the short-term. So the next step would be to provide serology testing for people who test negative for COVID-19, using only tests approved by the FDA to ensure quality and accuracy. To date, the FDA has approved only four tests of the many available, but this is an important start.

Those who are determined to have a sufficient level of antibodies should be cleared to go back to work, while still wearing masks and gloves until science has confirmed decisively that antibodies create immunity. If the individuals don’t have antibodies, they would be advised to stay home, but could be cleared to go back to work so long as they test every day before heading out.

Contact tracing

Everyone who tests positive reaches out to everyone they’ve had contact with and those people test for COVID-19. Anyone then testing positive goes into quarantine, and the process repeats.

Use technology to self-surveil

Finally, we need a system for uploading test results each day to our phones – like the bar codes we use to board an airplane – or to carry evidence that we have taken the test, have antibodies to COVID-19, and can work or otherwise go out.  Enforcement would be a new challenge, given our commitment to civil liberties, but one that we can certainly work out.

Longer term: Vaccinate

In a year or more, when a vaccine arrives, 95 percent of Americans will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and widespread protection.

“Our nation has the know-how and manufacturing infrastructure to produce the millions of tests needed to determine whether someone has the virus,” said Greenberg. “But due to lack of leadership at the top, our testing capacity is still, several months after the outbreak, extremely limited. To date only 3.3 million people have been tested, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That’s about 1 percent of the population. That is simply not enough.”

NCL is demanding that the Federal government respond to the current national Coronavirus emergency as President Roosevelt responded to World War II, and challenge Americans to “harness the efficient machinery of America’s manufacturers” to fight the pandemic.

“We need that call to action now, to challenge America’s labs and drug companies with the goal of producing testing for every American within the next month. Federal health care agencies including CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and FDA should be their partners, and this should be a shared cost,” said Greenberg. “In the midst of the worst unemployment numbers ever seen in American history, and with millions of businesses having their existence threatened, we need federal leadership, expertise, and financial support to make this happen, and we need it now.”

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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 urges Administration to take action to combat COVID-themed fraud, patient harms online

April 10, 2020

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

Washington, DC – April 10, 2020 – The National Consumers League (NCL), in partnership with 42 patient and provider advocacy, public health, industry, and research groups, has issued joint letters to Vice President Mike Pence, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other state and federal leaders calling for swift action to protect consumers against COVID-19 misinformation, scams, and fraud online.

“NCL commends the White House Coronavirus Task Force and other officials for their dedication in responding to the coronavirus crisis,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The COVID-19 pandemic makes your work against healthcare and financial fraud more important now than ever. However to further flatten the curve and save lives, we urge the Administration to quickly implement increased evidence-based actions and to help protect consumers from predatory attempts to take advantage of our new economy.”

Since the start of the pandemic, criminals launched thousands of COVID-specific global scams and phishing attacks, using the coronavirus crisis to profit at patients’ expense. “Criminals have exploited the fear and confusion caused by the coronavirus for their own personal profits. More must be done to mitigate the health and financial harms experienced by consumers nationwide,” said Greenberg. In the past few weeks alone, more than 100,000 website domain names have been registered containing terms like “covid,” and “corona,” most of which have been found to be outright dangerous. The Federal Trade Commission indicated receipt of nearly 14,000 coronavirus-related complaints totaling fraudulent losses nearly $10 million.

NCL has long called for increased regulation and enforcement against illegal online acts that result in public health and economic harm. The joint letter encourages the Administration to move swiftly to enact and enforce existing no-cost solutions to better protect consumers. Additionally, it calls on the Administration to  ground their efforts in science, address systemic internet policy problems and prepare for an ongoing wave of COVID-19 related scams during the economic downturn.

Co-signers of the letters include Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, BIO, Coalition for a Safe and Transparent Internet, Consumer Brands Association, Kroll, Lilly, LegitScript, and USP. The full letter can be read here.

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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 statement: Thank you, quarantine workers

March 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 joins with our fellow Americans, friends, colleagues, and families in as we adapt our lives to address the health crisis caused by COVID-19. NCL has long been a consumer and patient advocate and we strongly support research, scientific programs, and policy solutions to address diseases across the board.

We want to take this moment to say “thank you” to the thousands of public health servants going into the hospitals, doctors offices and clinics and working on the frontlines to save millions of lives. We rely and depend on their vast knowledge, dedication and commitment to treating sick patients, and we want to specially thank them during this unprecedented national health crisis.

We also thank so many other workers – those in drug stores, grocery stores, Post Offices, the food delivery drivers, taxi, bus and subway drivers, utility workers keeping our electricity, gas, and water systems intact. We owe all of them a debt of gratitude as so many of us are able to work from home; we depend on all of you and thank you for your service to the nation.

We also join with colleagues in the healthcare advocacy community to thank infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci for his extraordinary and selfless leadership in this battle against the spread of the coronavirus.

Join us on social to say #ThankYouDrFauci.

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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.