News

It's Back to School Time!

Thanks to the efforts of our determined GOTV Director, Tiffany Fliss, DAB was at KU Leuven's International Student Orientation Activity Fair on September 20th.  Leuven DAB member Kevin Bardool and Chair Pauline Manos helped sign-up a dozen or so American citizens and encouraged all the other curious students (especially attracted by DA Germany's "Make America Gay Again" postcard!) to help us spread the word.

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Scenes from a Civilized Debate between a Democrat and a Republican


DA Belgium Chair, Pauline Manos, and Republicans Overseas Chair, Mike Kulbickas, spoke on a September 14th panel sponsored by the Université Libre de Bruxelles Extension Program at La Louvière: L' Amérique de Donald Trump....200 jours plus tard! It was a refreshingly civilized discussion (with even a few laughs) that covered a wide range of topics, from the values of each party to the history behind divergent views on issues from health care to foreign policy to immigration, with many thoughtful questions from the 70+ attendees.  Our warm thanks to moderators Jean-Paul Renier and Salvatore Ribaudo for allowing us to move out of our "Brussels Bubble".  

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THIS is DAB!!!

No pics, but we had a great Pub Social on August 16th - here's what our crowd looked like:
- age range: late 20s to 65+
- time in Belgium: two weeks to 40+ years
- political persuasion: self-proclaimed sort-of anarchist to fiscally conservative
- voting states: CA, FL, NM, NC, OR, and more

And our "Friends of DAB": Wallon, Flemish, Bruxelloise, British, and a couple of D.C. tourists and a vacationing American working in Senegal

THIS IS DAB, THIS IS AMERICA!!!!

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Our Art Nouveau Walking Tour & Pub Social, 10 June 2017

Thank you, Paula Romanchak Cagli, for a great intro to Brussels' Art Nouveau treasures...a welcome reprieve from an intense political week!!!

This St-Gilles walking tour was guided by long-time DAB member, Paula Cagli, who holds a BA and an MA in Art History. After the tour, we moved on to a local pub for drinks and eats.


Our Health Care Event Follow-Up: 16 May 2017

Thank you so much for having come (and also thanks to those of you who forewarned us that you wouldn’t be able to make it after all!).  I’m sorry our speaker couldn’t stay longer but we had a good start on a conversation that is sure to continue.

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Some of the more interesting facts of which Mark reminded us:
  • Half of all Americans are insured by the government via Medicare (for the elderly) or Medicaid (for the poor) - that was a surprise for many of us.

  • Nearly a third of Americans are covered by employer-based health plans, which the ACA mandated for companies of 50+ employees and which need to cover ten Essential Benefits.

  • 20MM Americans gained access to insurance via the ACA; it is virtually the only way for an individual to purchase affordable insurance in the US's group-oriented/profit-driven market.

  • The AHCA (current House version) allows states to waive Essential Benefits, eliminates low-income subsidies for premiums, and cuts the taxes that were funding those subsidies and other parts of the plan.

  • The AHCA tax cuts are estimated to transfer $274 BILLION to the top 2% of US taxpayers…a reverse Robin Hood plan that shifts from the poor to the rich.

  • If we want to hold on to the more critical parts of the ACA, we’ll simply need a Democratic Congress….so stay registered to vote from abroad and make sure your American friends and family do the same ;-)

We are attaching the Universal Health Care Stories that Becky referred to in her opening.   We encourage US citizens to tailor the cover letter and print the full package to send to their representatives.  
Cover letter: http://www.scribd.com/document/348733180/Cover-Letter-Healthcare-Project
Healthcare stories: http://www.scribd.com/document/348733139/Healthcare-Stories-Final
Start the conversation with your family and friends, too, and encourage them to tell their stories, as well.
Democratic lawmakers are looking for ammunition to defend affordable health care and Becky is ready to help you give it to them!

Update from our Annual General Meeting and Executive Committee Election results

Thanks to all who attended Tuesday’s Annual General Meeting.  It was great to see many new faces together with our “Old Faithfuls”!  You’ll find a link here to the presentation (DAB_2017_AGM.pdf) - check out slides 16 & 18 in particular, let us know if you can help anywhere, and we’ll put you in touch with the appropriate people. Feel free, too, to share any new ideas you might have and we’ll be happy to consider them in our next ExCom meeting.  Now, if you're wondering who "we" is, here are the members of the newly elected 2017-2018 DAB Executive Committee:

We hope to see you on April 22nd at the Science March Brussels or at our May 16th US Health Care Discussion (details to follow but pencil in the date).  And, given the time of year, you may also want to take a look at the  DA Fatca Update that was recently posted on the global website.


A call for stories of Universal Health Care

Americans Abroad: Stories of Universal Healthcare
 
America stands on the brink of a new horizon in healthcare, taking a major step forward with the implementation of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. However, with President Trump and the Republicans prioritizing a ‘repeal and replace’ of the ACA, the future well-being of hard-working Americans is at stake - literally.
 
And that simply cannot happen.
 
In Europe and throughout the entire developed world, healthcare is considered to be a NON-partisan, universal human right.
 
Why not in the United States?
 
The clock must not be turned back on the progress Americans have made regarding their health. Now that millions have experienced the benefits of the ACA for themselves, they are speaking out like never before in favor of the fairness, affordability and inclusiveness that a healthcare system in every democratic, developed country should provide for its citizens.  
 
“The overwhelming majority of Americans, regardless of political persuasion, understand that we have to go forward on health care, not backwards.”
 
– Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) –
 
Following the January 15th and February 25th rallies organized around the country in support of the Affordable Care Act, more and more Americans are getting involved at the grassroots level and voicing their views on healthcare.
 
As an American living outside of the U.S. (of temporary or indefinite status), you have likely found yourself in conversations with friends and family back home, discussing the benefits of ‘universal’ healthcare policies that you have experienced abroad. Chances are, you have had a quality, professional experience whether you were working, studying or simply vacationing at that given moment. And these are the defining moments that must be shared.
 
We cannot afford to be silent – and there has never been a more important time than now. America has come too far to watch its long-awaited advances in healthcare be stolen away. We must not regress, but rather strive to improve, expand and make ever-more-inclusive this human right for all people, regardless of economic class, employment status, pre-existing condition, race, religion, gender, sexual preference, etc.
 
Will you tell your ‘healthcare abroad’ story, in support of the ACA and the principle of universal healthcare as a human right for America?
 
The U.S. State Department estimates that 7-8 million Americans live abroad. That means millions of healthcare stories.
 
Please join your fellow Americans in this effort by sending your short story (written or video) to chair-be@democratsabroad.org, to be shared back home with our representatives at the local, state and federal levels.
 
If you believe that healthcare is a human right and a moral imperative, let your voice be heard, loud and clear – share your story!
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Americans Abroad: Stories of Universal Healthcare
 
Becky (Oregon)
 
As a longtime resident of Belgium, I participate in the national health system, which provides coverage throughout the European Union.  I can go to whichever doctor, specialist or hospital I want. The cost is means-tested and can vary with my income.  It takes the form of a single, quarterly payment that covers both healthcare and pension.  I estimate the healthcare component at 1500-2500 euros/year.  It has no deductible and covers about 75-80% of my healthcare expenses. I also have optional, supplementary private insurance (1400 euros/year) that covers 80% of the remainder of the treatment in Belgium and also covers 80% of the cost, up to a ceiling, of any treatment worldwide outside the EU. In 2002, I had a back operation for a slipped disc, was hospitalised for six days in a 2-person room and received two months' of physiotherapy afterwards.  The total cost of the treatment was approximately 20,000 euros, which was covered.  I ended up only 169 euros out of pocket. During the same period, a friend in the United States had the same operation and was only allowed to stay in the hospital two days. Her expenditure was considerably higher and had a deductible before the insurance kicked in. I believe that the Belgian system works well for two reasons. Although there is a wide choice of administrative bodies to manage reimbursement, known as "mutual societies", they are all run on a non-profit basis.  Secondly, the government regulates the reimbursement rates for all healthcare services and pharmaceuticals. No political party or group questions the need for national healthcare, although rising costs have led to the widespread use of supplementary insurance.
 
 
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Andy (Michigan)
 
Before moving to my current residence in Belgium, I lived in Spain. While living in Madrid with a ‘tourist’ status, I went home to the U.S. at Christmas time to visit my family and broke my wrist in a snowboarding accident. As a result of the break, I spent the next 3-4 hours in a nearby hospital where I received fantastic care from a specialist who not only reset my wrist (non-surgical intervention), but lightened the mood, made me laugh and truly added a personal, human touch to the always traumatic experience of a breaking a body part. Although still under the relaxing effect of the administered anesthetic upon leaving, the mood quickly became somber when I stopped at the check-out window and was presented with the bill. As an ‘unemployed and uninsured’ young person (under the age of 26) living abroad at the time, a 60% reduction was applied to the cost of my treatment, with an additional 10% discount available, pending the payment-in-full of the remaining bill amount within 30 days. Fortunately, my parents were able to assist me in covering the outstanding 30% of the total bill. Unfortunately, the total bill still amounted to over $2,000 USD. A week-and-a-half later, I returned to Spain, where, despite my unofficial status as a tourist (eg. 3-month visa-free tourist agreement between the U.S. and the 26 countries in the Schengen area of the EU), I had already registered myself as a ‘temporary resident’ in Madrid – thus providing me the opportunity to have a “tarjeta sanitaria” (medical card) for foreigners and nationals alike in Spain. With my medical card, I was not only able to visit a general practitioner for routine care, but hospitals and emergency rooms for more intensive care as well. Over the next several weeks in Madrid, I proceeded to make visits to a hand/wrist specialist, have x-rays taken and attend rehabilitation sessions with a physical therapist, paying a grand total of € 0.00 ($ 0.00 USD) out-of-pocket for all services provided. Years later, I fondly recall the entire experience as the time period in which I became a firm believer in universal healthcare not only as sensible, long-term economic planning for more egalitarian societies, but as a human right and moral imperative.     
 
 
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We're eager to hear your story: healthcare@democratsabroad.org

Join us on January 20th

Lights for Rights - Brussels Women's March

 In solidarity with those fighting for women’s rights and social justice around the world, join us to light a candle at Place de la Monnaie on January 20th at 5pm. EVERYONE is welcome to this gathering, invite your family, friends and colleagues and help spread the word! Kids and families are very welcome, too, as we will stand with the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, and with the Women’s March in Washington DC.  Click on the link above to join the Facebook event for up-to-date information or keep an eye on the DAB site.  

 


Moving to Action - What's Next

We had an energizing "Post-Election Reflection", with many suggestions on how to move into actionable opposition mode.  Here are a few:

  • January 21st - Solidarity with the Women's March on Washington - we are requesting a permit to gather in Brussels in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington (objective on the event's national website, http://www.womensmarch.com).  Pencil in the date (it's open to all, not just women!) and we will keep you posted on the event, particularly as we connect with others working in the same direction. If you'd like to volunteer to help out, let us know.
  • Take the Overseas Vote Foundation Survey -  http://www.research.net/r/USVote_2016_PostElectionSurvey - literally less than five minutes on a phone, laptop, or desktop.  It is important that we get the data to improve our overseas voting efforts and ensure our voices as Americans abroad are heard.  And as we discovered in our many Get Out the Vote efforts this past year, the challenges are many.
  • Participate in DA's Congressional Call Storm - http://www.democratsabroad.org/congressional_call_storm - this is a targeted effort towards the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform  to support investigations into Trump's conflicts of interest. It's a great way to act directly and also remind your state officials that they speak for Americans abroad, too.
  • Take regular action through our Facebook page - our DAB Facebook Page is becoming our one-stop shop to collect the myriad of ideas that allow us to channel our anger and disappointment into concrete action.  Like the page and scroll through for articles and suggestions.
  • Volunteer to help out - DAB is in desperate need of an events coordinator, as we've had many suggestions for 2017 events but need the arms and legs to find venues and manage communication - estimated time commitment would be a couple of hours a week in the month leading up to the event.  In a similar vein, the DPCA (Democratic Party Committee Abroad, aka DA Int’l) is looking for volunteers who’d be willing to spend at least 3hrs/week on the Communications team on an ongoing basis.  Let me know if you’re interested in either.

And with that, I think we have enough to keep us busy through the upcoming holidays!  May they be peaceful for you and your friends and family and may we start the new year with the same energy and momentum that we have today.  

All the best, 

Pauline

Pauline Manos
Chair, Democrats Abroad Belgium


To Reflect & Regroup

UPDATE: We will hold our final event of the year, a Post-Election Reflection, on Thursday, December 1st at 7:30 pm - email paulinemanos@yahoo.com for location details.

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November 10th, 2016

Dear DAB Members,

On this day after the morning after, as all the dust has settled, I wanted to take a minute to thank you for all of your tremendous support this past year.  You helped us register voters, phone-bank, email, educate, and spread the word throughout Belgium.  Over 150,000 people used www.votefromabroad.org, volunteers made over 125,000 calls through our new on-line system, and we know that overseas voters made a difference in so many tight races.

I know your emails and social feeds are over-flowing with the many different reactions to the election.  It's important that we take this time to reflect, but we also need to be ready to regroup and act if we are to take back Congress in 2018.  If you do have thoughts and ideas for our work in the coming year, please do share them with me.  I also hope to see you at our next get-together in December and at the Inauguration event in January. News of both will be on our website shortly.

My warmest regards and heartfelt thanks,

Pauline

Pauline Manos
Chair, Democrats Abroad Belgium