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Need new health insurance NOW?

If you experience certain life changes, you don’t have to wait for Open Enrollment in November to enroll in affordable health coverage on healthcare.gov or your state’s marketplace. You have 60 days after the following events to apply for a Special Enrollment Period and enroll:

• Moving to a new zip code or county
• Getting married or divorced
• Having a baby, adopting or becoming a foster parent
• Becoming a U.S. citizen or getting a green card

You have 60 days before or after the following to enroll: 

• Losing your health insurance from your job
• Turning 26 and aging off your parent’s health plan

And if you are experiencing domestic violence and want to apply for your own health plan, you can do so at any time.

Learn more about Special Enrollment Periods at healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.

 

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RWVoices

Thursday
Sep192019

Kavanaugh can't hide from his lies -- reclaim the court

Reclaim the Court 

This week, reporters for the New York Times revealed that they’d spoken with multiple witnesses who could corroborate the allegations of sexual assault made last year by Deborah Ramirez against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The article also confirmed previous reporting that the FBI’s pre-confirmation investigation of Kavanaugh’s conduct had been a sham and uncovered allegations that Kavanaugh had drunkenly pushed his exposed penis on another woman when he was a college student at Yale.

The news prompted the first calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment from prominent Democrats. Presidential candidate and Senate Judiciary Committee member Kamala Harris wrote, “I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people. He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.” 

Harris has been joined by candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and others. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) filed a resolution to require the House Judiciary Committee to initiate a formal impeachment investigation. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has tried to ignore calls to investigate Kavanaugh, focusing instead on her caucus’s as-yet-undrafted prescription drug bill—even though it, too, is likely to die in the Senate. 

On October 6, activists will meet for a previously planned rally in Washington, DC on the one-year anniversary of Kavanaugh’s confirmation to pressure Congress to do the investigation that Senate Republicans blocked in 2018. In August, the House Judiciary Committee bowed to advocate pressure—including from the National Women’s Health Network, one of Raising Women’s Voices coordinating organizations—and requested that the National Archive turnover all of the records from Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House. Those records could reveal whether Kavanaugh lied under oath about his previous work fighting abortion rights as well as his involvement in sharing materials stolen from Senate Democrats. But that first step, while positive, isn’t enough. Serious questions remain about Kavanaugh’s mysterious finances and, of course, his misogyny and sexual misconduct.

Join the Women’s March, Demand Justice, and host of progressive advocacy organizations, including the NWHN, on Sunday, October 6 from 12:30 to 5 in Washington, DC. Additional details about the rally and a link to sign up can be found at www.reclaimthecourt.com. Transportation to Washington may be available from your state if you contact rally organizers. 

RWV welcomes Stephanie Arthur 

Stephanie A. Arthur, MPA is the newest member of the RWV coordinating team.  Stephanie is currently a legal fellow with the Black Women’s Health Imperative, working with their Chief Policy Officer on the intersections of women’s health and legislative advocacy. Hailing from the Bronx, New York, Stephanie's past work has included civic outreach to African immigrant women and children addressing issues like Temporary Protected Status, access to healthcare, equitable education, and language access. As a black woman she is all too familiar with the issues plaguing women of African descent:  reproductive justice, cardiovascular risks, environmental justice, and criminal justice reform; which are all issues centered in health and wellness. Stephanie's interest is to identify key policy issues where black women's health can be centered in the conversation in order to make meaningful legislative changes.  

Thursday
Sep122019

Uninsurance rate goes up, activists address maternal mortality

Nearly 2 million more people were uninsured in 2018, Census reports

For the first time in 10 years, the number of people without health insurance increased significantly last year, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week. The nationwide percentage of people who were uninsured grew from 7.9 percent in 2017 to 8.5 percent in 2018, as nearly two million more people had no health coverage.

The news marked a reversal of steady progress that had been made since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in covering more and more people.  The Trump administration has worked to undermine and sabotage the ACA – first through a failed attempt at Congressional repeal and then through a series of regulatory and administrative actions. Last year was the first year in which there was no tax penalty for going uninsured, since it was removed through the Trump tax legislation.

One of the biggest increases in number of uninsured people came among low-income people who rely on Medicaid coverage, which the Trump administration has been attacking in various ways, including allowing states to impose work requirements on Medicaid enrollees. Also alarming was an increase of 425,000 in the number of uninsured children, largely due to declines in Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. Middle-class families who earn too much to qualify for premium subsidies in the ACA marketplaces also lost coverage as rising premiums deterred enrollment. Young adults – ages 19 to 25 – had the highest percentage of un-insurance (14.3 percent, up from 13.7 percent in 2017.

States with the largest increases in numbers of uninsured people from 2017 to 2018 included Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas and Washington State. Texas continued to have the nation’s highest un-insured rate at 17.7 percent. Three states did make progress in increasing the number of insured people, despite the hostile federal policies – New York, South Carolina and Wyoming.

“Even as the poverty rate falls, more Americans are uninsured, including more children, workers, and higher-income people,” wrote Katie Keith, in an analysis in Health Affairs. “Many of these trends have likely been impacted by the various policy changes or positions adopted by the Trump administration. These policies range from the ‘public charge’ rule to the approval of Medicaid work requirements (and other changes to the Medicaid program) to ongoing efforts to undermine the ACA.” She noted that there were significant increases in un-insurance among Hispanics and undocumented people.

Keith predicted that “coverage losses are expected to continue in 2019,  explaining that his is due to a number of factors, including repeal of the individual mandate penalty, the expanded availability of non-ACA plans, and the final ‘public charge’ rule.”

The Census report is likely to provide new fodder for Democratic Presidential candidates, several of whom are campaigning for Medicare for All health insurance programs. Ten of those candidates will debate tonight in Houston, TX.

Black Women’s Health Imperative speaks out about
Maternal Mortality Crisis

Maternal mortality and morbidity is a growing health crisis in the United States, impacting women of color at three times the rate of their white counterparts. Every year approximately 700 women die of childbirth related complications and many more are severely injured. The Black Women’s Health Imperative (“BWHI”) is invested in the overall wellness of Black women and the families that they care for and is taking action to address the crisis in Black maternal health.

Linda Goler Blount (pictured above), BWHI’s CEO, was a guest panelist at the Maternal & Infant Health Summit hosted by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday. She discussed the impact on Black women’s health of the extreme levels of stress in the work environment.  Goler explained that Black women work on average about 20% longer hours in the private sector than their white counterparts.  She believes that there’s no real benefit to their employers, but “there is a toll on that Black women’s health. If senior bonuses were tied to the wellness of employees, we would see a different workplace and better health outcomes for Black women,” stated Goler.  BWHI believes that maternal mortality will have to be addressed by looking at larger forces that undermine Black women’s health, as well as improving care for pregnant women.

During the Congressional Black Caucus meetings in Washington, DC this week, the Black Women’s Health Imperative will be presenting their research and analysis on maternal health at an issue forum sponsored by Congresswoman Lauren Underwood titled, “Healthy Mother, Healthy Communities: Opportunities and Challenges to Ending Health Disparities for Black Women.”

Maternal Health is Important Before, During, and After Childbirth

This week, the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on four pending bills related designed to improve maternal health policy. These legislative initiatives allocate resources to ensure mothers receive the necessary support before, during, and after childbirth.  The following bills: H.R. 1897 - Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act and H.R. 2902 - Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies ActH.R. 1551 - Quality Care for Moms and Babies Act and H.R. 2602- Healthy MOMMIES Act.

The Committee heard testimony from Wanda Irving, the mother of Dr. Shalon Irving (pictured below), who passed away in 2017 due to a pregnancy-related complication that occurred after she had been released from the hospital (postpartum). Shalon’s mother described how her daughter’s concerns about her symptoms were dismissed by doctors. “You [referring to Dr. Irving] just had a baby…it takes time to get used to it…you’ll be fine” is what many healthcare providers said.  Shalon Irving died 21 days after giving birth.

Other witnesses touched on related issues, including the importance of Medicaid coverage. Dr. David Nelson, an ObGyn from Parkland Hospital in Texas, talked about the importance of Medicaid coverage especially for prenatal and postpartum care. His message was reinforced by Usha Ranji, Associate Director of Women’s Health Policy at Kaiser Family Foundation, who told the Committee that federal action to extend post-partum Medication coverage beyond 60 days  is essential to prevent women from being uninsured when they are still vulnerable to pregnancy-related death. In a rare show of bipartisanship, members from both sides of the aisle were actively engaged, asking questions, and discussing related topics such as mental health, racism, substance abuse and how they impact maternal health outcomes.

Several bills addressing maternal mortality have been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but none are likely to move forward unless public pressure intensifies. This hearing and the information shared by the witnesses are just one important step towards policy changes that will help save lives.  For more information about how our regional coordinators are working on this issue, read our earlier newsletter on Black maternal mortality.

Afiya Center Launches Southern Roots Doula Collective!

For the past five years, The Afiya Center, our Dallas-based regional coordinator, has made a commitment to addressing Black maternal mortality in the state of Texas. Through their work, they have forced the state government to begin studying the crisis, pressed the legislature to adopt new programs to address high death rate, and begun training doulas, lay health care workers who remain with the person giving birth throughout the entire process. Last week, The Afiya Center officially launched its Southern Roots Doula Collective.

In her introduction of the Collective, Marsha Jones, Executive Director, recalled an email she received in April 2014 from the Black Women’s Roundtable explaining that the maternal mortality rate for Black women is fully three times that of white women and is on par with developing nations.

“That day I resolved that we,The Afiya Center, would work to end reproductive annihilation of Black women by Texas lawmakers legislating the removal of our reproductive freedoms. We know that saving us will require us taking control of us! Black midwives and doulas have a long and incredible history in contributing to successful birthing outcomes of Black mamas and Black babies, assuring that Black mamas and families were able to make healthy birthing decisions, to have the births of their choice, and experience this in an environment of trust maintaining their dignity” said Marsha. Thus far, the Collective has participated in three births and last week celebrated their first home birth! For more information on Southern Roots Doula Services, click here.

Wednesday
Aug282019

#LiveYourPower: Support RJ Week of Action

Reproductive Justice Week of Action Is Underway!

In Our Own Voice: the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda is once again leading a Reproductive Justice Week of Action, August 26 – September 1. In Our Own Voice and its strategic partners, which include several of RWV’s regional coordinators, are determined to create a world in which reproductive rights are married to social justice. RWV encourages everyone to support RJ Week of Action events. Black women leaders will lead a national Twitter chat today (Wednesday) at 2pm EST to highlight their activism for reproductive justice. Follow them, and join in, by using the hashtags #LivingOurPower #RJWOA19.

In Our Own Voice is also sponsoring many local RJ week of action events including activities organized by our Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators in Louisiana, Women With a Vision; Texas, The Afiya Center; Tennessee, SisterReach; and Pennsylvania, New Voices Pittsburgh.  Each of the partner organizations will host unique events, such as town halls and community forums. The goal is to bring together activists, state legislative champions and community members to celebrate our accomplishments and discuss pressing reproductive justice issues.

In Texas, The Afiya Center will be hosting a forum at Dallas City Hall to speak out against the repeal of the ACA. They will have several speakers discussing how the repeal of the ACA will affect Black women's lives in Dallas, Texas. On Thursday, join Executive Director Marsha Jones, Policy Director Deneen Robinson, and State Representative Shawn Theirry for a power panel (photo at right) on Reproductive Justice and Black Women.

SisterReach kicked off the week by hosting their Reproductive Justice at the Intersection awards banquet where they honored local leaders. SisterReach will also host a community discussion about abortion restrictions and how Black women can protect themselves. On Friday and Saturday, SisterReach will be hosting a Reproductive Justice and Faith Training.

The Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), one of RWV’s co-founders, hosted college students primarily from historically Black colleges and universities to engage with policy experts and members of Congress on the issue of reproductive justice. BWHI, with its partners, organized a trip to Capitol Hill, where the students discussed the importance of reproductive health services with Congress.

BWHI will also host a timely Real Talk Real Women discussion on developing healthy self-respect and healthy relationships as Black women and girls in Atlanta, GA.  BWHI will convene reproductive justice advocates, college and high school students, mentors and community leaders for an insightful, action-based discussion.

Thursday
Aug222019

Protect REAL family planning clinics: call your Senator today

Take Action: Only Congress Can Save Title X

Trump Rules Force Clinics to Scramble to Protect Patients

On Monday, reproductive health clinics across the nation withdrew from the federal Title X program rather than submit plans for complying with the Trump administration’s radical new “gag” rule.

Planned Parenthood, the largest Title X grantee serving roughly 40% of the program’s patients, promised it would continue to provide services using charitable donations and state funds where possible. Vermont announced this week that it will use its own money to cover the shortfall at the state’s ten Planned Parenthood clinics. With the help of RWV regional coordinators Consumer Health First and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Maryland and Massachusetts had previously enacted legislation to replace lost Title X funds with state funds in anticipation of Trump attacks on the program. Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Washington have promised to do the same.

But in red and purple states like Utah, where Planned Parenthood is the sole Title X provider; Minnesota, where Planned Parenthood serves 90% of the state’s Title X population; and Maine, where the state’s sole Title X grantee Maine Family Planning has also been forced from the program by the new rules; clinics are scrambling to make up for the shortfall. Maine Family Planning has promised to try to fill the funding gap “using its own limited reserves” for as long as it can and is seeking donations. In Utah, the clinics have warned they may no longer be able to offer free services to Title X patients.

Planned Parenthood’s acting president and CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, highlighted the tenuous nature of the situation: “What we are committed to doing is using some emergency funds to help our patients get through, but it will have an impact. Using fundraising—essentially charity for what should be a [government] responsibility—it’s like holding an umbrella during a tsunami.”

Conservatives have pushed for the new rules as a partial fulfillment of abortion opponents’ dream of “defunding” Planned Parenthood, which reportedly receives $60 million in Title X funding to provide family planning health services to low-income women and men. But the new rule won’t just affect Planned Parenthood and if it is allowed to stand, could wipe out independent clinics nationwide that lack Planned Parenthood’s clout or resources.

Furthermore, the rule isn’t just an attack on real clinics. It’s also an enormous transfer of taxpayer dollars to fake, religiously affiliated clinics that oppose contraception. Even as real clinics may be forced to shut down, the rule ensures that fake clinics focused on shaming and misinformation will expand their reach. The administration has already sought to funnel Title X funds to religious facilities like the Obria Group, which teaches natural family planning and opposes contraception.  

Take Action to Stop the Rule

As we wrote earlier this month, the battle now turns to the federal appropriations process, which may be our last, best hope of stopping Trump's Title X rule before it can do lasting damage. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has happily turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard, where bipartisan Senate bills and House-passed bills on health care, gun control, election security, and anti-corruption measures go to die. But with current funding for fiscal year 2019 expiring on September 30, McConnell has no choice but to let his chamber vote on a wide-ranging spending deal or shut down the government. An FY 2020 appropriations package is one of only a few “must-pass” bills that Congress will tackle before the November 2020 elections and the most natural fit for saving Title X.

Earlier this summer, the House passed a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spending bill that included a policy provision (“rider”) rolling back all of the administration’s changes to Title X. The Senate is set to take up its own HHS funding bill when Congress returns from its August break.

We are calling on senators to include the House’s language in the Senate appropriations bill to protect the 4 million people who depend on Title X. If both chambers pass strong protections for Title X in their respective bills, it becomes much more difficult (though not impossible) for lawmakers to trade away reproductive health care as a bargaining chip with the White House.

It’s not clear from our vantage point whether Title X’s congressional supporters fully understand how important the House language is and are sufficiently motivated to fight for it. We can’t take anything for granted, even the support of women’s health champions. We need to make clear thatvoting for an appropriations package without the Title X rider is no different than voting to “defund” Planned Parenthood.
 
Cosponsoring a bill that’s going to die in committee, taking a show vote on a bill that’s going to die in the other chamber, writing a strongly worded letter isn’t going to stop millions of vulnerable women and men from losing their reproductive health care. Only enacting the House’s Title X rider will.

That’s why it’s time, once again, to CALL, EMAIL, and VISIT your Senate and House members!

From now until September 9, all of your federal representatives will be back in their home states for the August recess. They may be hosting town halls (search for town halls near you here or call and ask), visiting local events, or holding office hours. There’s still time to make your voice heard!

Tell them that refusing to include the House-passed Title X provision in the Senate HHS spending bill or in any final spending package will “defund” Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics.

Planned Parenthood has a helpful call script for calling your senators, available here. And remember, if you’re having trouble getting through to your senators’ DC offices, it can sometimes be easier to speak with a staffer in their home state offices.

Thursday
Aug152019

“Public charge” rule forces cruel choice on immigrants

What will the “public charge” rule mean for immigrants?

This week, the Trump administration finalized a radical new rule, referred to as “public charge.” It would force immigrant families to choose between receiving federally-funded health, food and housing assistance, to which they are legally entitled, or being eligible to apply for green cards or visas.

How would the rule operate? A public charge is defined as an individual who is “likely to be primarily dependent” on the government for subsistence. Being considered a public charge is especially troubling for immigrants, as it could be grounds for the government to deny immigrants visas or green cards. In the past, immigrants could only be considered a public charge if they had received government cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The Trump administration’s changes significantly widen the definition of public charge to include additional types of public benefits, including non-emergency Medicaid coverage, SNAP food assistance and housing assistance (i.e. Section 8 voucher and public housing). In addition, the government will now consider earning less than 125% of the Federal Poverty Level (about $15,000 a year for individuals, or $32,000 for a family of 4) as a strike against the immigrant and her family.

The proposed rule would disproportionately harm women and children. Women are the heads of 80% of single parent households, which means they are more likely to have incomes below the required minimum income. Children are also more likely to receive SNAP, which makes them more likely to be considered a public charge.

This is an unprecedented change. Public charge has been a long-standing rule that has remained the same for decades. These changes are estimated to affect as many as 24 million immigrants, including nine million children.

Though this proposal is not yet in effect, it has already created a chilling effect in health care, with many immigrants preemptively dropping out of essential public health programs for fear of being deported. Following the anti-immigrant attack by a gunman in El Paso, reports indicated that victims may have been forgoing needed medical care out of fear for their immigration status.

Unless the courts intervene, the rule is set to take effect on October 15. At least two lawsuits are already pending, including one lawsuit filed Wednesday by the attorneys general of Washington, Virginia, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island. On Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) also announced her intention to sue, summarizing the rule: “The Trump Administration’s message is clear: if you’re wealthy you’re welcome, if you’re poor, you’re not.”

What can you do?

While these cases proceed, you can take steps to help. Urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor legislation to block the rule from going into effect. Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) has introduced H.R.3222, the No Federal Funds for Public Charge Act of 2019 in the House and a Senate companion bill is expected soon.

Then help spread the word about the harmful effects on social media, using the hashtag #ProtectFamilies on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.