Tag Archives: republican

A Project to Activate Indian American Voices in Swing States

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the opinions of the organization. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of India Currents and India Currents does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Desis United, a crowd-sourced, volunteer-led initiative dedicated to defeating Donald Trump and housed under the New American Voices Political Action Committee, announced today that it has produced and purchased political advertising on Indian-American news and entertainment television networks and various print and digital media properties. The mission of Desis United is to activate the swing voter demographic of Indian Americans through advertising that educates and galvanizes them to use their political voices.  Desis United plans to use sharp, culturally relevant messaging to get Indian Americans to vote for the Biden/Harris ticket, which better reflects their interests and values, and elect Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.

Indian American registered voters now exceed 1.8 million nationally, with heavy concentrations of voters in battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas. In some of those states, the population of Indian Americans has increased significantly since 2016. Despite this, there has been a void in advertising in support of Democratic candidates, targeting this demographic.

Desis United seeks to address that void by targeting Indian American voters with television and digital advertising reminding voters of Trump’s dismal failures around COVID-19 and the economy, his hateful and corrupt behavior and character, his anti-immigrant policies (including restrictions on H1-B and student visas), and his inflammatory rhetoric that has led to heightened hate crimes and fear within the Indian American community.

Desis United has already begun to air its ads, “Whose Side Are You On,” and “Joe Biden and India: The Possibilities for our Future” produced by filmmaker and co-founder Ankush Jindal, on Willow TV during the network’s broadcast of Indian Premier League cricket matches that has heavy viewership in the Indian American diaspora. Desis United has also purchased television advertising on Sony TV’s properties, watched by tens of thousands of Indian Americans in the United States, as well as print ads in Indian American regional magazines in the swing states of Georgia and North Carolina that will run during the month of October.

While educating voters on Trump’s lies and disastrous policies, Desis United ads also demonstrate how Vice President Biden will be a responsible steward of the economy, foreign affairs, including the U.S. relationship with India, and national stability.  In addition, Desis United will educate Indian Americans about the life story of Senator Harris, who, if elected Vice President, will be the highest-ranking person of Indian origin ever to serve in this nation’s history.

 “We believe Desis United is a crucial and necessary intervention to support the effort to defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” said Desis United co-founder Sundeep Dhiman. “We are excited to deliver persuasive and provocative messaging to members of our community in a way that has never been done before—and that was, unfortunately, not done four years ago. Indian Americans may well be critical swing voters, with hundreds of thousands of the community living in key battleground states. We must all come together to ensure that Trump is fully defeated. The future of our community’s and our nation’s health, safety, and well-being is at stake.”

A volunteer advisory board composed of lawyers, content creators, marketing professionals, and small business owners will guide Desis United, which will be housed within the New American Voices PAC. Desis United intends to raise additional funds to produce and place scaled advertising and free viral content through the November election.


For more information, and to watch the first set of advertisements developed by Desis United, please visit www.desisunited.org.

Is Kamala Harris a Good VP Pick?

Forum – A column where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

Is Kamala Harris a Good VP Pick? Yes!

Vice President Biden hit a home run with the brilliant selection of Senator Kamala Harris. I believe Kamala is uniquely positioned to be groomed to be the POTUS in the future. I say this not because she is half Indian but rather based on her experience, talent, and sheer grit to withstand attacks and get the job done. Kamala started her career as the District Attorney of SF, won statewide elections to be the Attorney General before becoming the 1st south Asian origin Senator, and only the 2nd black senator in history. Our nation will be well served having the centrist Senator Harris as our VP.

I love her tough law and order stance and how she has fought inequality all her adult life. Raised by a single south Indian mother, she has inculcated the strong moral ethics as her mother Shyamala Gopalan. Kamala Harris has said she has visited India many times and was very close to her grandparents and aunts. I resent the parochial argument made by some Indians that she does not wear her Indian origin on her sleeve. She rightfully acknowledges the other half of her heritage and above all is an American.

Her crowning achievement was when she fought with the banks, the administration, and even her fellow attorneys generals and achieved the $25 Billion mortgage settlement.  Her policy proposals on immigration, racial and LJBTQ  equality, health care, the environment, and economy are all indicative of a centrist Democratic leader.

While Biden should be applauded for picking Kamala Harris, he should solidify that with a pledge to serve only one term, given his advanced age, and turn over the reins to Kamala Harris in the 2024 election cycle. She could be the first woman to serve as our president.

Rameysh Ramdas is a resident of the SF Bay Area and has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

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Is Kamala Harris a Good VP Pick? No!

Because of Donald Trump, We have lost 205,000 lives to COVID, lost the trust in our health agencies, lost our judiciary to the radical right-wing. Biden has to win in November to save our democracy.  In order for him to win the Vice Presidential Pick needs to have three essential characteristics. She has to be good at attacking Trump, needs to help win a state or help with the Hispanic voting block, and be an eloquent and strong proponent of his economic plan. 

While Mrs. Harris can be quite the attack dog she falls short in the other two areas.  It may be hard to believe after all the atrocities this thug president has meted out to the Hispanic community, but Biden is doing worse than Hillary with Hispanic voters in the crucial swing state of Florida. While Senator Kamala Harris has a terrific and inspiring personal story, it does not motivate Hispanics to the election booth as Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez could. The most important task facing a Biden administration, should they win, is to rebuild the economy. Amidst all the misinformation and lies about the economy spread by Trump, it would be very helpful to have someone with economic backing, like Senator Warren, to bring truth and gravitas to the situation. 

Senator Harris is a very ambitious and extremely smart person with amazing achievements and I hope to be proven wrong. Let’s hope that there is a new president elected and to borrow Speaker Pelosi’s words the parasite on our democracy currently in the white house is finally fumigated out.

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry. He enjoys following politics and economics.


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Why This Republican Indian-American Veteran Turned Democrat

I immigrated to the United States of America in 1992. I was a young man, under 21 years old. Shortly after my arrival, I found myself working at TEXACO to earn money, not realizing that I had just then personified the American cliché of a brown man from India working at a gas station.

As my family became situated, I joined the United States Army Reserves. I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training. After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, I put my studies on hold and volunteered for active duty and was sent into the active war zone in Afghanistan. I wanted to do my duty, and fight back in the face of the massive terrorist attack that we had all experienced. This drive was inspired by Lord Krishna’s teachings in the Bhagavad Gita, where he instructed me to do my duty, since action (karma) is superior to inaction.

I suppose you could say I was a staunch “Rush Limbaugh Republican”  from the moment I arrived in 1992. Looking back, I believe my Republican identity was due to the very fact that I was an immigrant: I came through the proper legal channels and had worked extremely hard for what I had. It felt natural to align with conservatives living in my community in Georgia.

After I moved to Arizona, I became active in my local Republican party and nearly ran for political office. At that time, I was virulently anti-illegal immigration, owned many guns, and supported all of America’s military engagements overseas. Even as I was deployed multiple times into combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, I had no second thoughts about any of my deployments. I completely trusted President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld and did not see any reason to doubt any decisions they took to send me to fight other brown people.

I did not realize then, in the manner I do today, that throughout my deployments, I was in subconscious conflict with people who shared a culture that was quite similar to my own. They even resembled me physically much more than my white compatriots did. Though there were horrible people on the battlefield who would have readily killed me, my family, and other Americans if presented the opportunity, the majority of the people caught up in the conflict, had no such terrorist credentials.

I failed to realize after my deployments that I was suffering from combat-related Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) No amount of cost-benefit analysis could justify my involvement in these unjust U.S. led wars, which made my PTSD suffering even worse. My war buddies and I belong to a generation of war veterans who absolutely detest being “thanked” for their service. Most people who have not served in the military do not realize that this country’s Republican leadership at that time, in waging the war in Iraq, had subjected their own military forces and their families to absolute hell without a clear endgame in sight. 

I hadn’t realized that while fighting in barren combat zones, my erstwhile Republican utopia had had a tiny seed of reality planted in it for the first time. Fast forward a few years past both my daughters’ births, and I fully realized that I could no longer ignore reality in my search for arbitrary acceptance into American society. I could no longer afford the false belief and luxury of thinking that as a successful and well-off Indian American, I was “white enough” in a society that was getting more virulently anti-minority by the minute. Around the time President Obama’s second term in office ended, and Trump ripped apart Hillary Clinton’s dreams of a Presidency, I finally accepted my truth and became a Democrat.

As November approaches, I realize that as a Hindu, I must take action. Lord Krishna states in Bhagavad Gita 3.8, “niyataṁ kuru karma tvaṁ karma jyāyo hyakarmaṇaḥ śharīra-yātrāpi cha te na prasiddhyed akarmaṇaḥ” (action is better than inaction).  If I refuse to fight against the injustices I see, I will sin (pāpam). Lord Krishna says as much to Arjun in the Bhagavad Gita, 2.33. It is for these reasons that blind acceptance of all the destructive and racist policies of the Trump administration, simply because he appears to have a friendly relationship with Indian Prime Minister Modi, is morally wrong for Hindus. Excusing the Trump administration’s criminal actions in Washington, D.C., or Portland, Oregon, or the deliberate separation and imprisonment of little kids in cages away from their parents at the border would make me a deserter of my Dharma. 

As Indians and Hindus, we must remember that it is the Democrats, and not the Republicans, who are fighting for the poor, the weak, the minorities, and for social equity and justice. Vice President Joe Biden is a man of conviction who has suffered unimaginable losses in his personal life, which in turn have honed him to be laser-focused (what we refer to as “एकाग्रता,” or concentration) on what he feels is vital for social good. Biden has been and always will be a friend to India. More importantly, he will support us immigrants who willingly chose to leave India behind and voluntarily became citizens of our new home, the U.S.

On this auspicious occasion of the 73rd Indian Independence Day, it would be a fitting tribute to our former home to stay true to our culture, our traditions, and our compassion for others. We represent India in the best light possible in our new home through our actions. I hope that you join me in voting for Joe Biden for President on November 3, 2020. 

In the words of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel: “Take to the path of Dharma – the path of truth and justice. Don’t misuse your valor. Remain united. March forward in all humility, but fully awake to the situation you face, demanding your rights and firmness.”


Ruchir Bakshi is a U.S. Army combat veteran with deployments to locations in South Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Ruchir has a MA degree in Management, and he is a highly experienced Instructional Systems Design professional and has worked on both unclassified and classified projects within the federal government. He is a national board member of South Asians for Biden.

Who Won India Currents’ Presidential Primary Poll?

We have a wonderful reader base that took time out of their day to take our Presidential Primaries Survey! We received 34 responses and from that we tried to gauge the pulse of what our average Indian American reader feels about the current political climate.

94% of participants will be voting in the primaries, however only 72% of those read up before voting.

Surprisingly, despite having male heavy participation, Elizabeth Warren came out as the winner of our Presidential Primary Poll. Unsurprisingly, the winning candidate was a Democrat, as 61.8% of people responding reported Democratic affiliations.

Forms response chart. Question title: What is your political affiliation?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

Some basic demographics, 70% of our participants were making more than 100k a year and 76% of our participants were older than 30. We had gender distribution of: 55.9% male, 44.1% female, 0% nonbinary respondents.

Forms response chart. Question title: What is your annual income?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

The precedent then set for the following information can provide us some insight into what type of people are responding and what their reasoning might be. Our data indicates that the respondents are professionals with high income, skewing towards a male lens.

When asked about who they will be voting for, the responses were diverse – some outdated:

  1. Elizabeth Warren (8) – 23.5%
  2. Bernie Sanders (4), Michael Bloomberg (4), Abstain (4) – 11.8%
  3. Joe Biden (3), Donald Trump (3) – 8.8%
  4. Pete Buttigieg (2), Tulsi Gabbard (2) – 5.9%
  5. Amy Klobuchar (1), Andrew Yang (1), None of the Above (1) – 2.9%

Forms response chart. Question title: Who are you planning on voting for in the Presidential Primaries? . Number of responses: 34 responses.

Top three issues taxpayers would want their money spent on:

  1. Health Care
  2. Education
  3. Environment and Infrastructure

What the information above indicates is that our readers want a female presence in the Oval Office. Upon further investigation, 6/15 women voted for Elizabeth Warren with only 2 votes for Warren being male. The distribution shows that identity politics plays a huge role during election season.

Furthermore, I initially thought that our high income base would be concerned with tax cuts, yet the survey shows that they are not. Most respondents genuinely care about future generations living in a sustainable world with good education and (hopefully) affordable health care.

Happy Super Tuesday and get out the vote!

Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Why Do I Feel a Kinship With Ash Kalra?

Why do I feel a kinship with Ash Kalra, D-CA 27?

Maybe because we are both Indian, Canadian-born, Bay Area transplants? Though 20 years my senior, Ash Kalra speaks my language. He mirrors my experience, taking a non-traditional path of social justice. 

Not an engineer or a doctor? You are already a deviant. Let’s take it one step further, pursuing career paths that are not lucrative or linear, that of community-based work – perplexing, shameful. These pressures are not unbeknownst to Ash. A UCSB graduate in Communications, Public Defender turned Assemblyman, paying off his law degree takes a backseat to his passion for uplifting others. 

“My whole career has been about reducing suffering” – a poignant sentiment. Kalra has settled on this theme for his life’s work. Serving California’s 27th assembly district, Ash Kalra is the first Indian American to serve in California’s state legislature. 

In his three years in office, he has been prolific, having 27 bills signed. He has fought for affordable, low-income housing and against homelessness as a co-author of SB 50 and AB 330. He is also the Chair of the Labor and Employment Committee for the State Assembly and has championed for Union rights. Kalra takes action to protect the environment, co-sponsoring bills such as the Clean Air Act, Coyote Valley Conservation Program, Deforestation-Free Procurement Act. He has been honored by the ACLU of California as a Civil Liberties Champion- one of five legislators in the Assembly who received a ‘perfect score’ on championing civil liberties issues. 

But I wanted to know more than just his political platform. He is speaking for Indian-Americans on a large scale, does he feel representative of who I am – a San Jose raised, Indian-American, low-income woman? My shoes are small and hard to fill. Is Ash Kalra ready for this responsibility?

Books on a coffee table in Ash Kalra’s office.

After having met him, I would say yes. His work moves beyond just progressive bill measures; he educates Assembly Members and constituents on Indian heritage and history. What I’m finding is that Ash Kalra’s movements transcend just education and are his way of life. 

Ash articulates that growing up Hindu, the very ideals and morals that his parents ingrained in him when he was young, were antithetical to their views about his career pursuits when he was older. 

That hits home. 

Atithi Devo Bhava,” this translates to “Guest is God” and it is a phrase that is thrown around Indian households. Giving back to those around us and foregoing materialism is an inherent part of Hinduism. So why is this, that which becomes second nature, at odds with an inquiry for a career, lifelong happiness, and ultimately success?

Ash gets it. He gets the consistent struggle of being Indian AND American. He may be the role model I’ve been seeking for so long but had a lack of exposure to. He is genuine, well informed, engaged but most importantly, doesn’t shy away from his culture. He redefines the vision of an Indian-American. 

When I asked him about the political responsibility of the Indian-American in the Bay Area, Ash emphasized that “our responsibility is to our community” and that we must remember that as Americans. It can be confusing for immigrants, split between two cultures. We will never feel connected to this country if we don’t become engaged community members, yet, at times we feel disconnected due to the lack of representation. Ash reminds us that civic duty goes beyond being Indian American. And if we never start, we will not conceive the reality we seek. 

Being the first Indian-American in California State Legislature, there are many antiquated archetypes that are projected on him and people that look like him. When I ask him about this, he dispels the myths about Indian model minorities in one statement, “the myth erases those that are struggling”. Indian-Americans are working jobs in the labor sector and they are quickly becoming the highest growing undocumented population in the US. There are many Indians that need people that look like them, to give them a voice. To shed light on their misgivings. To create policy that is inclusive of them. 

I asked him one last question before I left, and this one is for my SVC- Palo Alto Youth and Government kids who were in Sacramento just a few weeks before, taking over the Capitol building, sitting in the very seat that Ash Kalra was in a day before: Is cereal a soup? 

Kalra gives me a hard NO. 

I disagree. 

Though we align on almost all things, I guess even we can have our differences. A gentle reminder and a sentiment Ash mentions earlier, we need to be inclusive of people that may seem unlike us. 

Ash Kalra is the now, forging the path for people like me. 

He keeps moving but not away from his community or upbringing. He can very easily be found eating at Loving Hut, listening to Iron Maiden, before heading to a walk for candidates supporting the Labor Council. 

Ash Kalra is up for re-election this Presidential Primaries cycle on March 3, 2020. He represents California’s 27th State Assembly district which encompasses Downtown San Jose, East San Jose, and parts of Southeast San Jose. Kalra has served one term of his two-term limit as State Assemblyman. To learn more about him and his platform, check out his site and his voting record.


Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Unintentional “No Party Preference” Voters May Need To Re-Register With Preferred Part

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Voters who believe they mistakenly received a notice in the mail from the Registrar of Voters indicating their options for voting in the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election as a “No Party Preference” voter may need to re-register in their party of choice. 

The Registrar of Voters’ Office began receiving numerous calls and emails in response to a postcard sent to voters registered as “No Party Preference,” or NPP. Some voters who received the postcard questioned whether it was authentic or sent in error because they did not recall registering as NPP. 

After reviewing the issue, the Registrar of Voters is confident that the postcard was sent to the correct voters but believes that some voters may have unknowingly had their party registration changed to No Party Preference as a result of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

The Registrar of Voters does not know how many voters may have had their party preference changed in this manner, but since the postcard was mailed, the office estimates it has been contacted by approximately 300 voters who may have been impacted. 

Voters who believe that they may be impacted are encouraged to re-register to vote to make sure that their records are updated before the March primary. “We want to assure our voters that the notice was genuine,” said Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey. “If they received this postcard, they need to take action to request a crossover ballot or re-register with their preferred party.” 

After the 2018 statewide rollout of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, some voters may have inadvertently had their party registration changed. This issue occurred if voters skipped the party preference question, which caused their party to default to No Party Preference, even if they had previously been registered with a qualified political party. As well, shortly following the launch of the live connection into the statewide voter registration database, the DMV discovered that they had data conversion issues with the transfer of information. Such registration updates can occur while completing or updating a driver’s license, ID card, or change of address transaction by mail or at the DMV. 

Board of Supervisors: Mike Wasserman, Cindy Chavez, Dave Cortese, Susan Ellenberg, S. Joseph Simitian County Executive: Jeffrey V. Smith 

Voters wishing to check their registration status may do so online under the “Register to Vote” tab at www.sccvote.org. Re-registration may be completed online at registertovote.ca.gov. Regular registration for the March primary ends February 18, 2020. After that, voters may register or re- register at the Registrar of Voters’ Office or any Vote Center and cast a Conditional Voter Registration Provisional Ballot; however, the process is streamlined if registration occurs before the February 18 deadline. 

Nearly 300,000 Santa Clara County voters are registered as No Party Preference, and their primary election ballots do not include candidates for President. The postcards mailed last week, which are required by the California Elections Code, outlined what steps are needed to cast a crossover vote in the presidential contest for American Independent, Democratic, and Libertarian parties. The Green, Peace & Freedom, and Republican parties opted to not allow crossover voting. NPP voters who wish to cast a ballot in the presidential primary for any of those parties must re-register with that party. 

Early voting at the Registrar of Voters’ Office will begin on February 3; Vote Centers will open beginning February 22. These new Vote Centers are a central part of the new Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) being introduced to Santa Clara County voters in 2020. Under VCA, every voter receives a Vote by Mail ballot along with more days and more ways to cast their ballot at the Vote Centers. 

Completing the postcard or voting a crossover ballot does not change a voter’s registered party affiliation. Voters who complete this postcard will continue to be registered as No Party Preference and will have an opportunity to request a crossover ballot in each future presidential primary election. All requests for new ballots to be mailed must be received not later than February 25, 2020. 

For more information, contact the Registrar of Voters’ Office at (408) 299-VOTE (8683) or toll-free at (866) 430-VOTE (8683), or visit sccvote.org. Voters may also visit the California Secretary of State’s website for further information on NPP voting here

“NO PARTY PREFERENCE” VOTING FOR A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE While all voters can vote in the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election, voting for a presidential candidate is dependent on political party registration status. 

If you are registered with a political party: 

You can vote for a candidate running for president in that party. 

These parties ALLOW a “No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

  • American Independent 
  • Democratic 
  • Libertarian 

These parties do NOT ALLOW a “No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

“No Party Preference” voter to cast a crossover vote in the Presidential Primary Election: 

  • Green 
  • Green 
  • Peace & Freedom 

You were sent a postcard to select a party ballot. By filling out the postcard, you will receive your party preference ballot by mail for this election only and your registered party will not change. You can also select the party ballot at the Registrar of Voters’ Office or at any Vote Center in Santa Clara County. 

  • Republican 

If you want to participate in the Presidential Primary Election for these parties you must re-register in that party. Registration deadline is February 18, 2020. After that date, voters can still re-register but they will cast a Conditional Ballot that needs to be reviewed before it is counted. 

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Congressman Khanna Informs Local Media on What Keeps Congress Awake at Night

Congressman Ro Khanna spoke with the journalists from ethnic media on 12th November 2019. The teleconference, organized by Vandana Kumar, Publisher India Currents, came at a timely juncture when the nation and community is gearing up for the 2020 Presidential elections and it is time to take stock of what the nation has gained and lost in the last few years. Cyber security and Healthcare emerged as two issues that impact the community and are close to the heart of the Congress.

Cyber security, with routine data mining in the face of the fast changing social media landscape, was raised as a special concern. As Internet becomes a large part of our daily lives what is Congress doing in terms of legislation to address the issue of cyber crime? The Congressman addressed the press’ concerns and spoke of his request for the Internet Bill of Rights.

Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) has introduced the Internet Bill of Rights, a proposal that includes the right to know about “all collection and uses of personal data by companies,” and to be notified “in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered.” He aims to strengthen people’s ability to correct or delete personal data in a company’s control, and require companies to obtain consumer consent before collecting or sharing data with third parties. In the Congressman’s words the bill would require people to give their consent making it harder for the companies to collect data, a situation better than the one in China where people have very little protection.

The Congressman also felt blatant falsity should not be allowed. There is an obligation on the part of companies like Google and Facebook to check for an obvious disregard of the truth. If copyright violation can be checked then surely they can remove false information by following the same procedure. Perhaps, he said, we need an independent depoliticized government agency that can define the rules and draw the boundary of truth.

Though there is a desire to regulate social media before the 2020 election, what really keeps the Congress awake at night is the question of healthcare. Khanna is hoping the social media corporations will hopefully voluntarily self regulate if no legislation can be passed in time for the 2020 elections. However, Congress must and has been working hard on providing affordable healthcare.

It is the Congressman’s view that “more than almost anything else, our health has a tremendous impact on our day-to-day activities, state of mind, and overall well-being. Good health is foundational to everything else we do – our ability to take care of our families, be productive at work, and pursue our passions and hobbies”.

“We need basic care and low premiums,” said the Congressman.

Congressman Khanna would like the creation of a single-payer health care system, or Medicare for All and supports legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate for more reasonable drug prices. This type of legislation will allow Americans below the age of 65 to buy into Medicare. A result of this would be that community members could save money through reduced fees and premiums.

Congressman Khanna also supports legislation to allow for the importation of drugs from nations that we trust. He was an original co-sponsor of legislation to allow for the importation of Canadian drugs.

“We must increase coverage, support small businesses, expand primary care, and provide lower premiums. Medicare for All is the next step toward addressing the high costs and inequalities in the current health care system,” said Congressman Ro Khanna. The congressman feels the states should be empowered to create their own solution if the federal government is unable to establish a single-payer system. We must guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.

The telebriefing on “The Role of Silicon Valley in the 2020 Elections”, moderated by Vandana Kumar (Publisher, India Currents), gave Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) an opportunity to share his perspectives as a key lawmaker representing the Silicon Valley. Sponsored by India Currents in partnership with Ethnic Media Services, it is part of the ‘Conversations with Candidates’ series initiated by India Currents to expand ethnic media news access to elected officials and presidential candidates.

Ritu Marwah is a citizen who would like to pay closer attention to the political issues that are bound to impact her life. She understands that an informed citizen is a safer citizen.

Verma Attacks Critics Of Medicaid Work Requirement, Pushes For Tighter Eligibility

Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s top Medicaid official, Tuesday sharply attacked critics of her plan to force some Medicaid enrollees to work, a policy that led to thousands of people losing coverage in Arkansas.

“We cannot allow those who prefer the status quo to weaponize the legal system against state innovation,” the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a fiery speech to the nation’s 56 state and territorial Medicaid directors in Washington, D.C.

federal judge shut down the short-lived work requirement initiative in Arkansas and stopped it from launching in Kentucky last spring. Several states including Indiana, Arizona and New Hampshire that had won federal approval have put their implementation plans on hold pending an appellate court ruling.

Advocates for the poor argue work requirement policies are illegal and unfairly add hurdles to people who qualify for coverage in the federal-state health program.

But those opponents are seeking “to manipulate Medicaid into the prototype of a single-minded, single-payer nirvana – a utopia of open-ended government run health care,” Verma said. “Part of my mission is to fight such under-handed tactics and preserve the right of states to shape your programs in ways that are consistent with the needs of your residents, your cultures and your values. Anything less stifles innovation.”

That would be “a disservice to the millions of people on Medicaid today and those who will need it in the years and decades to come,” she added.

The federal government has approved work requirement plans in 10 states and requests are pending from 10 others. Most of those initiatives are directed at the low-income adults who gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion initiated by the Affordable Care Act.

Verma first announced plans to open the door to work requirements in a speech to Medicaid directors in 2017.

Medicaid – like Medicare – is an open-ended entitlement program, which means federal funding increases as costs and enrollment rise.

In addition to doubling down on the controversial work requirements, Verma renewed her interest in letting states get Medicaid funding through a block grant system. Block grants would give states more flexibility to limit enrollment and enforce eligibility rules, she added.

Critics have said such a change would cut Medicaid funding, limit coverage, hurt beneficiaries and lead to lawsuits.

But Verma said CMS would soon publish guidance to states to allow them to get block grant funding for “certain optional adult populations.”

“Many states have expressed a willingness to be held accountable for improving outcomes in exchange for greater flexibility and budget certainty,” Verma said. “Block grants and per capita cap proposals are two such alternative financing approaches.”

Also Tuesday, CMS issued a proposed rule that would overhaul so-called supplemental payments that many states receive to help their hospitals, nursing homes and doctors get extra funding beyond those received when caring for Medicaid enrollees.

The federal government spent about $48.5 billion on such supplemental payments in 2016 for states.

The payments – as a share of total Medicaid fee-for-service expenditures for health providers – ranged from 1% in North Dakota to 65% in Tennessee, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

CMS and congressional investigators have said the payments allow states to game the system to help bring in additional revenue for these providers without showing how they spend the money.

“I recognize that these schemes often have their roots in self-interested providers, egged on by opportunistic consultants seeking to leverage regulatory loopholes or hide behind a lack of transparency,” Verma said. “I know that most state leaders want to make sure every dollar is supporting value and improving care for Medicaid beneficiaries, and those of you that are doing the right thing have nothing to worry about. We have your back.”

The supplemental Medicaid payment system has come under criticism for many years because of the lack of transparency at the state level. However, efforts to curtail the spending has faced pushback from both states and providers fearful of losing dollars.

Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, said state officials are open to efforts to bring more transparency but they will be cautious about anything that severely reduces their funding.

“The challenge is how do you do this in a thoughtful, real world way?” Salo said. “We have to do it in a way that is achievable, but that does not jeopardize patient care in the process.”

Verma acknowledged that the uninsured rate among children has grown in the past two years despite the strong economy. She said the solution is to lower health costs to make it easier for their parents to afford private coverage.

Patient advocates have blamed states’ efforts to tighten Medicaid eligibility as a leading factor in the drop in coverage.

Nonetheless, Verma said she would push states to further limit eligibility to make sure only those eligible are getting benefits.

“Lax eligibility practices jeopardize the sustainability of the program,” she said.

CMS will “ensure that states conduct timely redeterminations and make use of appropriate data sources to verify ongoing income eligibility.”

Salo said state Medicaid directors agree with the need for appropriate safeguards to make sure people are not getting assistance who are not eligible. But, he added, forcing enrollees to go through more steps to get and retain coverage will come at a cost of losing people who truly deserve to get help.

“You want government to work for people and want to create a system that if you are eligible it should be easy to get on,” he said. “And if you set barriers and hurdles you will lose a lot of people who are eligible but could not deal with the paperwork.”

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.