By Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence
People have a tendency to be outraged by injustice and inequality.
It seems unusual and unreasonable to be outraged when someone exercises a liberty, freedom or right.
However, in America’s past and present; we have seen this very phenomenon.
September 25, 2017 was the 60th anniversary of the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of nine African American students who were the first to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957.
Their integration came three years after the Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” as unconstitutional in America’s public schools.
These nine students, walked into the school, to get their education. A basic right being asserted. Their police escorted entrance was met with protesters, who yelled at them, cursed at and threatened them for their choice—to exercise the right to attend a school and get an education.
Their asserted right was met with disapproval, anger and outrage.
Sixty years later, protests against injustice, racism, hatred and division are not a thing of the past.
Today, 60 years after the Little Rock Nine integration, over 50 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and not long after the election of America’s first African American President — the battle continues.
Calls for equality have been met with opposition and outrage.
Americans demanding the right to freely vote are met with accusations of voter fraud. A response to “Black Lives Matter” is “All Lives Matter.” Those calling to remove Confederate statues are accused of trying to “change history.” “Taking a knee” against police brutality is viewed as disrespect to our flag and our military.
Here’s the truth; there is outrage in the African American community to police brutality. Outrage in the unchecked and unpunished deaths of black bodies. No convictions, no consequences. There is a continued need for criminal justice reform, and people are outraged. There is outrage when minorities are being disrespected, disregarded and dismissed when it comes to asserting rights and freedoms. When it comes to injustice, we all should be outraged.
There is a protected right to freedom of speech and peaceful protests in this country. There is a right to speak up, stand up or even kneel to call for change.
But sometimes, change is uncomfortable.
Unheard or uncommon truth, can be uncomfortable. But our passion and efforts cannot simply accommodate what is comfortable.
There’s an old saying — what’s right is not always easy; what’s easy is not always right.
In America, there was a time when segregated schools was the norm; and many were comfortable with “separate but equal.”
In America, “whites only” and “colored only” were common signs that were carefully followed. In America, there was a time when slavery was the norm; and many were comfortable with that.
But this comfort had a requirement. A requirement to turn a blind eye to the pain, suffering and disenfranchisement of those who were — not so comfortable.
I’ve said many times, a politician without compassion is a criminal.
And I believe, a country without compassion, empathy and understanding is inherently immoral. This is not the America I know.
America has a tangled past; but our present should reflect our progress. We must be a country of compassion, and that includes empathy for the disenfranchised.
We together as a country, must face head-on some of the uncomfortable truths when it comes to the matters of racism, inequality and injustice in America.
It’s time to not just do what’s easy, it’s time to do what’s right.
Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence represents Michigan’s 14th District. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November of 2014. She was elected the Freshman Whip and appointed Senior Whip. She is a Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on the Interior. She is also a member of the House Committee on Small Business and serves on the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade and the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce.
Dentist on the run no longer smiling, faces pain of spending up to 20 years in prison
By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
A Macomb County dentist on the run for his alleged involvement in a $1.7 million Medicaid fraud scheme was recently tracked down and arrested by U.S. Marshals in the Dominican Republic.
Dr. David Johnson, former owner of Livernois Dental in Detroit, faces 20 charges of Medicaid Fraud – False Claims, six counts of Health Care Fraud – False Claims, and one count of Racketeering. If convicted, the 51-year-old dentist could spend up to 20 years in prison.
“Medical professionals are expected to conduct themselves with integrity and adherence to the law. A deliberate attempt to take advantage of the Medicaid system shows no regard for the law and violators will face the consequences of their actions,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. “I would like to thank the U.S. Marshals Service for their hard work and dedication to apprehending the alleged offender so that he may face these accusations in a court of law.”
In 2006, Johnson was convicted of fraud and placed on an exclusion list barring him from billing Medicaid. He is accused of using another dentist’s information to improperly bill Medicaid. The agency was defrauded of $1.7 million over three years.
Johnson is currently in Miami, Florida awaiting extradition back to Michigan.
Arraignment will be held in the 54B District Court in Ingham County.
Politically Correct: The uncomfortable truth
No-fault reform plan would provide major
insurance rate cuts for drivers
Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, State Rep. Lana Theis and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced a plan to reduce Michigan drivers’ car insurance bills an average of 20% — and even more for seniors — bringing significant relief to residents paying the nation’s costliest insurance premiums.
The bipartisan legislation to reform Michigan’s no-fault insurance laws is sponsored by Theis, R-Brighton, and backed by Leonard, R-DeWitt, and Duggan, a Democrat. The plan would end Michigan’s only-state-in-the-nation requirement that all drivers pay for unlimited lifetime health insurance through their auto insurers, no matter whether they already have health care coverage.
This new plan would preserve some of the best rates of emergency health coverage in the nation, while driving down health care costs, rooting out fraud and abuse and reducing the rapidly growing number of lawsuits statewide that Michigan’s 1973 no fault law was supposed to prevent. The plan gives drivers options for lower rates and greater choice based on what they can afford.
“Everywhere I go traveling the state, people are demanding relief from their out of control auto insurance rates,” said Leonard. “Michigan drivers are paying the highest rates in the country because we are the only state that requires everyone to buy bonus medical plans many don’t want and others don’t need. The families who are trying to make ends meet with this extreme burden deserve better. They deserve a plan that makes bold, long-term reforms. They deserve a plan that puts people first, not hospital lobbyists or insurance companies. They deserve a plan that will finally deliver real rate relief.”
Michigan drivers pay the nation’s highest auto insurance premiums, averaging $2,400 a year, according to insure.com, nearly twice the national average of $1,318. In the second highest state, Louisiana, premiums average $1,921.
“It’s clear that no-fault is collapsing and not doing what it was designed to do, and that’s costing Michigan drivers dearly,” Mayor Duggan said. “People are paying too much, forcing them to cut back on other necessities so they can afford to drive. It leaves too many people driving uninsured or unable to drive at all because their insurance costs more than their car payment.”
Insurance rates are highest in urban areas including metro Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Flint. Detroit’s average annual premium tops $3,000, the highest of any city in America.
Drivers would be able to choose options of $250,000 or $500,000 for personal injury protection (PIP), which covers medical care in the event of serious injury during auto collisions. These options provide coverage on a per person, per accident basis. The unlimited health care option will remain for those who want to keep it. PIP often accounts for as much as 50% of an insurance policy in Michigan.
New Jersey has the nation’s second highest level of PIP coverage, at $250,000. Ten other states require $50,000 or less, and 38 states require no PIP at all.
“Our plan provides affordability, flexibility, and freedom for Michigan motorists,” said Theis. “Michigan’s current no-fault system is No. 1 for all the wrong reasons. It’s time to allow hard-working families and seniors choose their own PIP coverage level, saving hundreds of dollars on their premiums each year.”
Under the no-fault reform legislation:
§ Insurers would be required by law to roll back rates for people who select the new plans to guarantee that the savings are passed on to drivers and not kept in insurers’ pockets. Future rate increases would be regulated by the State of Michigan for 5 years.
§ Auto insurers would be subject to a fee schedule for health services, just like health insurers. Under the current law, car insurers pay three or four times more for services such as X-rays and MRIs than health insurance companies do, so the exact same MRI that costs health insurers $770 costs auto insurers $3,200 or more.
§ Senior drivers who have lifetime health care coverage would be able to opt out of PIP since they’re already insured through employee retirement plans and Medicare.
§ Lawyers would be prevented from filing liens against health care providers until an insurer has denied a coverage claim, preventing thousands of lawsuits from being filed. Lawsuits over auto crashes are exploding across the state — accounting for 42% of all civil suits filed. Since 2010, the number of car-crash lawsuits has increased more than 50% in Oakland, Macomb and Kent counties. And in too many cases, lawyers are filing immediate suits for drivers against their own insurance companies for medical bills — before coverage decisions are even made.
§ Anti-fraud measures would crack down on those who abuse the system with unnecessary or excessive medical services. That would include banning lawyers or their families from abusing this system to profit from financial interests, direct or indirect, in medical care facilities, a conflict of interest that often creates a financial incentive for lawyers.
§ Any excess funding in the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association that actuaries say isn’t necessary to cover medical care would be returned to drivers who paid into it.