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RWVoices

Thursday
Aug162018

Could you lose coverage for a pre-existing condition?

WV family fears losing protections for coverage of pre-existing conditions

Julie Warden was 21 years old and running track at West Virginia University when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. At the time, she didn’t even realize someone her age could have arthritis. Julie, who is now Communications Director at WV FREE, Raising Women’s Voices’ Charleston-based regional coordinator, has continued to receive treatment for her arthritis over the past 12 years.

Thanks to the protections included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Julie has been able to get coverage for the health care she needs, despite having a pre-existing condition. Julie counts on her health insurance for medication, follow-up appointments and blood work to manage her condition.

While Julie appreciated how important coverage was for her own pre-existing condition, she didn’t fully realize how high the stakes were until a few years ago, when her young daughter, Remington, was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, which requires constant care and periodic trips to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Julie’s story illustrates what’s at stake for the estimated 358,000 West Virginian women and girls with pre-existing conditions, who could be charged more or denied coverage for individual insurance if this key provision of the ACA were overturned.

That’s why Julie (in black dress) spoke out at a press conference last week hosted by WVFree, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and Protect our Care WV to highlight the importance of ACA protections for people with pre-existing conditions. They were addressing their concerns to West Virginia’s two Senators (Shelly Moore Capito, a Republican, and Joe Manchin, a Democrat) who will soon vote on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Kavanugh’s nomination has health care advocates worried that he might be sympathetic to a lawsuit filed by Attorneys General from 20 states  (including West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey) that could end ACA protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Julie described how she and her family would be personally affected if they lost their health coverage due to pre-existing conditions. She urged her Senators to “please stop putting our healthcare at risk for your political party,” concluding that “West Virginians deserve access to affordable health care, even with a preexisting condition.”


Do you or a loved one have a pre-existing condition? Speak out now!
 

The ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are threatened not only by the pending lawsuit and the Kavanaugh nomination, but also by the Trump administration’s rules allowing more widespread sale of short-term and association health plans. These “Junk” health plans don’t have to comply with ACA rules, and so could exclude coverage for the treatments needed by many people with pre-existing conditions.

More than 130 million Americans – including an estimated 67 million women and girls – have pre-existing conditions. We’re guessing that you or a loved one would be harmed if the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions were overturned. We can’t let opponents of the ACA turn back the clock and deprive our families of coverage for the health care we need.

 

 

That’s why we’re urging you and your family members and friends to speak out now! Join us on social media next week as Raising Women’s Voices co-hosts two social media activities focused on pre-existing conditions:
  • On Tuesday, August 21, join a Twitter Storm from 2 to 3 pm organized by the National Partnership for Women and Families, and co-sponsored by Raising Women’s Voices. Use the  hasthtag #PreExAtStake. This action is part of a national Women’s Week of Action to call attention to what’s at stake with the SCOTUS nomination.
  • On Thursday, August 23, from 2 to 3 p.m., join us for a Twitter chat we’re co-hosting about what’s at stake for the 130 million people with pre-existing conditions. Use the hashtag #130MillionStrong.
What else can you do? Community Catalyst has a new Twitter tool that allows you to tweet directly at your member of Congress, asking them to sign on to a resolution defending the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions against attacks from the Trump administration and other threats.  You can click here to use that tool right now.


Patients, moms and doctors speak out at Washington hearing
 

During a Senate hearing in Washington today, patients, mothers and doctors spoke out about the importance of protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Elena Hung of Little Lobbyists, a group of parents who advocate for the care of their children special-needs children, explained why these protections matter to her. Elena’s four-year old daughter Xiomara was born with 10 pre-existing conditions, including complex medical problems affecting her airways, lungs, heart and kidneys. Xiomara spent the first five months of her life in a neo-natal intensive care unit, and now relies on a tracheotomy to breath and a feeding tube to eat.

Because of all her health problems, Xiomara is in constant need of medical attention. Elena describes her daughter today as “thriving,” but not without the help of countless hospital trips, specialist visits, and boxes of medical supplies. “Xiomara has made incredible progress,” says Elena, “and I am terrified that all that progress will be taken away.”

Elena criticized Donald Trump and the GOP for trying to take away the protections that help her daughter receive coverage for her all her medical needs. “How can the party that claims to be ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-family’ be leading the charge to repeal the protections that saved our babies lives?” she asks. “Children’s health should not be a partisan issue.” Elena will continue fighting against the efforts to repeal the protections for people with pre-existing conditions. “In a world that tells [Xiomara] no, I’m never going to stop fighting for her.”

Do you have a story about a pre-existing condition that you or someone else in your family has? Now is the time for you to speak up!
Thursday
Aug092018

We must protect people with pre-existing conditions!

People with pre-existing conditions are speaking out!

Deneen Robinson of Texas knows personally the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which ensure they cannot be denied health insurance, charged more or otherwise discriminated against. “When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1991,” Deneen says, “the doctors told me I only had three years to live. But I’m still here. I’ve raised two children, now 29 and 30 years old. Thanks to the ACA, I was able to get health care, despite my pre-existing health conditions, and to stay alive and healthy enough to take care of my family.”

For Deneen, being able to receive the health care she needs has enabled her to help others through her work as Program Director atThe Afiya Center in Dallas, which is a Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinator. “Not only have I had more time with my family, I’ve been able to advance in my career. I now work full time to make sure that other black women of color have access to the care they need. In the course of this work, I’ve seen first-hand how many women, especially black women, the ACA helps – and how many Texans would lose health care due to pre-existing conditions without the ACA’s protections.”

But now Deneen and others with pre-existing conditions are fighting to keep those life-saving protections!  A group of conservative state Attorneys General have filed alawsuit alleging that the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional. The Trump administration has refused to defend the ACA in this case, which could make its way to the Supreme Court.

Deneen wrote an article for TribTalk, a publication of the Texas Tribune, speaking out about her concerns:  “The recent announcement of a new vacancy on the Supreme Court creates even more danger for the clients of The Afiya Center, my community and other women like me. President Donald Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, will further undermine the ACA…Black women and other women of color will be among the hardest hit if President Trump and his conservative court succeed in stripping away the protections built into the ACA.”

She pointed out that, “Nationally, 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could face discrimination from insurance companies if the ACA’s protections are repealed. These companies could charge us sky-high rates – or deny us coverage altogether. People like me could lose our homes, our savings, or even worse: our lives.” You can read the rest of Deneen’s powerful article here.

What can you do to protect women and families with pre-existing conditions?

Raising Women’s Voices is joining with national partner groups to raise awareness about the attacks on protections for people with pre-existing conditions, while elevating the voices of people who would be affected, like Deneen Robinson.  Do you or a loved one have a pre-existing condition that insurers could use to deny you coverage, if the ACA protections were eliminated? Check the list below. Remember that before the ACA, women were often denied coverage for other “pre-existing conditions” such as having had a Cesarean section delivery, or having been a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence.
 

 
You can participate in any of the following activities:
  • Share personal stories about how you or your loved ones would be affected by rolling back protections for pre-existing conditions. Use  the hashtag #130MillionStrong, which the Protect Our Care coalition is using to remind us of how many people have pre-existing conditions and to communicate our determination to stand strong against attempts to roll back ACA protections.
  • Join a Twitter Chat on August 23 focusing on protections for pre-existing conditions. We’ll have more details about this in next week’s newsletter.
  • Contact your members of Congress  and ask them to sign resolutions that have been introduced in the House and Senate in support of joining the Democratic AGs defending the court case
  • Spread the word to friends, family and colleagues about the multiple threats to protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including  Trump’s SCOTUS nominee and short term “junk” plans.
Odds are we all know someone who lives with a pre-existing condition. Now is the time to speak out to protect our care! Stay tuned for further opportunities for action throughout the campaign!
Friday
Aug032018

Congress is back home. Time to speak out!

Ask Your Members of Congress to Protect Our Care!
 
Members of Congress are back in their home districts for a recess that extends to the end of next week. That means we have the opportunity to engage directly with them, such as by showing up at scheduled town hall meetings.  Ask them to protect our care and hold them accountable as we face continuing threats to our health care!
 
Check out this website from Indivisible to find out if your member of Congress will be hosting a town hall near you. Some of these meetings are taking place as early as today, and continue over the weekend and into next week. If there is no town hall meeting near you, you can go here for assistance with setting up an in-person meeting at the district office of your member of Congress.
 
What are some specific issues you could raise when talking with your member of Congress? Protections for people with pre-existing conditions are under attack from alawsuit, Texas v. US Dept of HHS, filed by group of Attorneys General from conservative states hostile to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Trump administration has refused to defend the ACA against this lawsuit, meaning the law’s prohibition against denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions is at risk. So, Democratic members of the House and the Senate have both introduced resolutions to take action and join a group of Attorneys General from progressive states who are defending the ACA’s requirements. Ask your members of Congress to make a commitment to protecting health care consumers by signing on to these resolutions.
 
That court case is also a reason to be concerned about Trump’s nomination of conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Some analysts believe his past record of decisions indicates he might vote to overturn the ACA, should the Texas case reach the high court. Moreover, Kavanaugh is considered likely to vote to undermine or even overturn Roe v. Wade, should the opportunity arise in a case brought to the Supreme Court.
 
Confirmation hearings in the Senate could begin as early as next month, which means this recess could be last chance for Senators to hear their constituents’ concerns about Kavanaugh before the final vote. Take this Congressional recess as a chance to reach out to your Senators, and remind them what’s at stake for women and LGBTQ people with Trump’s SCOTUS pick. 
 
Members of the House of Representatives and a number of Senators are also running for re-election this year, and there are lively contests in most states. This week is a good opportunity to ask both the incumbents and their challengers about their views on key health care issues. FamiliesUSA has compiled a list of important questions to ask candidates about health care, which you can find here.
 
Take action against “junk” health plans!
 
On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services released a final rule to expand the sale of more junk health plans – this time, in the form of short-term health plans. The final rule allows insurers to sell short-term plans for a period of just less than 12 months (compared to a 3-month limit now) and to renew the policies for up to 3 years. These junk plans are likely to be available starting this October.
 
Short-term plans aren’t required to cover the 10 essential health benefits, such as maternity care, prescription drugs and treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. They can also charge higher premiums or deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Like all the other moves by the Trump administration to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, the expansion of short-term health plans will drive up premiums and may make comprehnsive coverage unaffordable. These junk plans won’t cover what women need!

What can you do now?  You could ask your member of Congress to support a just-announced effort by Senate Democrats to try to scrap the Trump administration's new rule on short-term health plans. They will try to pass a Congressional resolution to overturn the rule. It’s an uphill fight, though, as such a resolution must be passed by a majority vote in both chambers of Congress, which are currently controlled by Republicans  Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) plans to introduce the long-shot resolution within 60 days of the regulations being submitted to Congress."The Trump administration's new rule expands plans that are nothing short of junk insurance, and Democrats in the Senate will do everything in our power to stop it," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.  

There are also things you can do at the state level. Call your governor and state legislators and urge them to pass policies to regulate short-term health plans and to ensure consumer protections. EverThrive Illinois, RWV’s Chicago-based RC, has been working as part of the Protect Our Care Illinois coalition to define and regulate short-term plans through HB2624- the Short Term Limited Duration Health Insurance Coverage Act, which would help protect Illinois consumers from the Trump administration’s regulatory actions. HB2624 limits the sale of short-term health plans in Illinois to 180 days in any given year and would eliminate confusion by requiring insurers who sell short-term plans in Illinois to have clear, plain language on all sales and marketing materials. The bill has made it to Governor Rauner’s desk, where it is awaiting his signature.
 
Protect Our Care Illinois is launching a statewide day of action on Monday, August 6, to drive calls Governor Rauner asking him to sign HB2624 to protect Illinois consumers from plans that would expose them to high medical debt and coverage that will not cover all of their needs.

 

Tuesday
Jul312018

It’s the LAST DAY to speak out now against Trump’s Title X rule!

Submit your comments opposing Trump’s Title X rule today
 


Today, July 31, is the deadline for submitting your comments on Trump’s Title X rule! 
Tell the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that this rule wouldcompromise the quality and scope of family planning services patients can receive from Title X clinics, allow biased counseling and deny patients the full information they need to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. It would also push out of the Title X network those clinics, such as Planned Parenthood health centers, that provide abortions on site using separate funds. Tell HHS to withdraw the proposed rule because of the serious harm it would do to patients, especially those who are low income, women of color and LGBTQ people.
 
Take action today! CLICK HERE to submit your comments to HHS. (Don’t worry that the HHS page says the comments are about “Compliance with Statutory Program Integrity Requirements.” That’s just the bureaucratic way of describing the proposed Title X rule.

If you represent an organization, Raising Women’s Voices has drafted template comments that you can tailor to reflect the experiences of the people you serve and submit to HHS. Both the volume of comments submitted as well as the depth of the comments are critical, as they can set the stage for litigation or changes in regulations. HHS will also have to respond to all submitted comments, so quantity and diversity in comments will help delay finalization and implementation of the rule. We encourage you to share unique stories as to how the Title X proposed rule would impact your community. 

 

Thursday
Jul262018

Trump’s rule would undermine the Title X family planning program

SCOTUS nomination threatens women’s health
The nomination of conservative Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is the latest threat to women’s health from the Trump administration. If confirmed by the Senate, Kavanaugh would tilt the balance of the Supreme Court against reproductive rights and health care access. In the next few years, the Supreme Court could decide the future of Roe v. Wade, protections for people with pre-existing conditions and requirements for what health plans must cover.
 
We can’t be silent! The stakes are far too high. What can you do? Tell your senators that the next member of the Supreme Court must be committed to doing the right thing for women’s health. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 or attend a town hall meeting while your senators are back in their home states for recess during the week of August 6.  It’s particularly important if your senator is one of the Republicans who might be persuaded to vote against the nomination: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It’s also important if your senator is one of the following red-state Democrats:  Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana.

You can participate in a #SaveSCOTUS event near you. You can also join in the upcomingUnite for Justice Day of Action on August 26 – a date chosen for its significance as Women’s Equality Day. Activities will take place in all 50 states. People all across the country are signing up to host events. If you don’t see an event in your area, sign up to host one! You can find or create an event near you here.
 
How could SCOTUS undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions?
 
In a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a group of Republican-led states argues that because Congress repealed the individual mandate’s tax penalty as part of the GOP tax law, all of the ACA is now invalid. The Trump administration refused to defend current law and, instead, is calling for the elimination of “guaranteed issue” and “community rating” – both key ACA protections for people with pre-existing conditions.  These provisions state that an individual cannot be denied an insurance plan, and that the price of a health plan cannot be based on an individual’s medical history.

Polls have consistently showed that health care is a top issue in the upcoming midterm elections. Most recently, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 64 percent of voters do not want the Supreme Court to overturn protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
 
With a conservative district judge presiding over the case, the case will likely be appealed by a coalition of Democratic state attorneys general to the conservative 5th Circuit before making its way to the Supreme Court. Confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could mean a ruling that sends us back to pre-ACA times when women were routinely charged higher premiums or denied coverage for things like seeking treatment for domestic or sexual violence, having a cesarean birth, or being pregnant.
 
Another case challenging the administration’s finalized rule to expand the sale of unregulated “junk” health insurance, in the form of association health plans, could make its way to the high court. Association health plans are not required to cover the ACA-mandated 10 essential health benefits, such as maternity care, prescription drugs, and treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.
 
Without the ACA’s core protections for pre-existing conditions and with the entrance of “junk” health plans into the market, insurance companies could charge higher premiums to women, older adults, residents of rural areas and anyone else the insurance industry thinks may have higher health care costs. They could also deny coverage outright to people with pre-existing conditions. Cheaper “junk” plans will also siphon off young and healthy people, leaving behind an older and sicker pool of people in ACA plans. This sabotage will further destabilize ACA markets and drive up premiums.
 
Kavanaugh’s record suggests he might not hold the Trump administration accountable to uphold the ACA. In 2011, Kavanaugh had said, “Under the Constitution, the President may decline to enforce a statute that regulates private individuals when the President deems the statute unconstitutional, even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.” In other words, he believes a president can choose which parts of the law to enforce. In the era of Trump, this view is particularly alarming and poses a direct threat to the ACA.
SCOTUS nomination threatens Roe v. Wade
 
With Kavanaugh’s nomination, Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise that he would only nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark legal decision that established a constitutional right to abortion in 1973. A number of extreme anti-abortion state laws could make their way to the Supreme Court in the coming years, serving as an opportunity for the Supreme Court to potentially gut or overturn Roe.

Kavanaugh has already made clear his position on abortion rights. He gave a speech praising Justice Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe v. Wade, calling the decision that created the constitutional right to abortion part of a "general tide of freewheeling judicial creation of un-enumerated rights that were not rooted in the nation's history and tradition." We’ve alsohighlighted Kavanaugh’s dissent in last fall’s Garza v. Hargan case about an undocumented immigrant minor seeking an abortion. Kavanaugh dissented even though the minor woman met all the conditions to qualify for an abortion.
 
Kavanaugh’s views on abortion and his anticipated willingness to overturn Roe are very much out of touch with the majority of Americans’ views on abortion. As shown below, a recent NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll found that 71% of Americans support Roe, including a majority (52%) of Republicans, 76% of independents, and 88% of Democrats. Given that Americans from across the political spectrum support upholding the constitutional right to abortion, we must urge the Senate to reject any nominee who will take women backwards and diminish our right to self-determination.
 
What if we lose Roe? Looking to the states
 
If Roe v. Wade were overturned, what might abortion rights and access look like across the country? In a “post-Roe” world, the authority to regulate abortion would go to the states. States could then act on their own to limit or expand access to abortion, creating a patchwork of state laws and a world in which a woman’s zip code determines her ability to access safe and legal abortion. Already, a woman’s ability to get an abortion varies greatly based on where she is, and who she is. Due to restrictive state abortion laws, racial and socioeconomic disparities, age, immigration status, geographic barriers and other factors, too many women are already living in a post-Roe world in which it’s virtually impossible to get the care to which they are constitutionally entitled.
 
As we’ve noted in a previous newsletter, 17 states have laws that could be used to restrict the right to legal abortion if Roe is overturned, with four of those positioned to automatically ban abortion outright, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In addition, 10 states – including some blue states like Massachusetts and New Mexico – have pre-Roe abortion bans on the books. These laws could be enforced if Roe were overturned. Seven states have laws indicating that in the absence of Roe, they will restrict the right to legal abortion to the maximum extent legally permitted by the Supreme Court.
 
Not all of the news out of states is bad, though. Nine states – including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, and Washington – have taken the opposite approach, adopting laws that protect the right to abortion at the state level prior to viability or when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.
 
With the looming threat to Roe, a number of advocates in states across the country are working to rid their state of archaic, pre-Roe abortion bans that are still on the books.RWV’s Boston-based regional coordinator, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, is doing just that. NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts worked to help build public support for the “NASTY Woman Act,” or “An Act Negating Archaic Statues Targeting Young Women,” which was recently passed and sent to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk. S. 2260 would repeal a number of harmful, outdated statutes, including a law that criminalizes abortion and distributing information about abortion.
 
In New York, RWV-NY is working alongside its women’s health colleagues to continue to push for the Reproductive Health Act, which would secure and protect access to abortion in New York by strengthening and updating New York state law and bringing it in line with the standard of Roe v. Wade. It would protect health care providers who perform abortion services, and treat abortion as health care, not a criminal act. This year, the Reproductive Health Act was passed by the New York State Assembly, but failed to pass in the Senate.
 
The Supreme Court vacancy provides a renewed sense of urgency to bolster our advocacy efforts to protect reproductive health rights and access in the states. 
 
Time to submit your comments opposing Trump’s Title X rule!
 
Raising Women’s Voices was on Capitol Hill this week, joining a march in protest of the Trump administration’s harmful proposed rule that would undermine the nation’s Title X family planning program.

The July 31 deadline for submitting your comments on Trump’s Title X rule is fast approaching! Raising Women’s Voices has created a Take Action page on the Community Catalyst website where you can find talking points about this harmful proposed rule and a direct link to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website where you can submit comments opposing this rule. 

Take action today! CLICK HERE to submit your comments to HHS. (Don’t worry that the HHS page says the comments are about “Compliance with Statutory Program Integrity Requirements.” That’s just the bureaucratic way of describing the proposed Title X rule.

Tell HHS this rule would compromise the quality and scope of family planning services patients can receive from Title X clinics, allow biased counseling and deny patients the full information they need to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. It would also push out of the Title X network those clinics, such as Planned Parenthood health centers, that provide abortions on site using separate funds. Tell HHS to withdraw the proposed rule because of the serious harm it would do to patients, especially those who are low income, women of color and LGBTQ people.