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Thursday
Apr052018

We’re working in the states to protect our health care!

There’s a lot to do at the state and local levels!

With Congress on recess following the passage of an omnibus spending package (which we reported on last week), we’re turning our attention to what’s been happening in the states. Our regional coordinators across the country have been busy engaging in state and local advocacy/policy work to protect the health care of women and LGBTQ people. Here’s some of what they’ve been up to!

Massachusetts protects patient confidentiality

Earlier this week, staffers and members of NARAL Massachusetts, our Boston-based regional coordinator, celebrated their third legislative win of the session with the approval of the Protect Access to Confidential Healthcare (PATCH) Act.

Currently, insurers automatically send Explanation of Benefits (EOB) forms listing the provision of potentially sensitive health care services, such as reproductive health care, to the primary subscriber on a health insurance plan. This process compromises the privacy of Massachusetts residents receiving health insurance as dependents on the plan of a parent or spouse. It particularly affects young women, members of the LGBTQ community, domestic violence survivors and people with substance abuse or mental health issues.

 H.2960S.2296 addresses this problem by ensuring that EOBs are sent directly to each patient and that each patient can choose to receive her EOB at an alternate address or electronically. It requires that EOBs include only generic information when sensitive care is received, and guarantees that EOBs are not sent for preventive health services with no cost sharing (such as an STI test or a domestic violence counseling session).

SisterReach raises health issues during Black Folks Day on the Hill

SisterReach, our Tennessee-based regional coordinator, and their new policy initiative, the Deep South Regional Roundtable, held their 2nd annual Black Folks Day on the Hill. Deep South partners, community members and allies statewide went to their state capitols in Tennessee and Mississippi, speaking with key legislators about issues, including health, which affect Black community members in both states.

Some of those issues include proposals to introduce harmful work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, abortion rights and the rights of pregnant women. During the TN hill visit, participants made a presentation to the Shelby County (Memphis) delegation about the issues Memphians face and offered the coalition as a resource to legislators. Black Folks Day on the Hill 2018 was a success, and the partnership looks forward to bigger and better hill actions to come!  The photo shows SisterReach CEO & Founder Cherisse Scott, staff and volunteers posing with State Representative G.A. Hardaway Sr. during Black Folks on the Hill Day in TN.

Making health care more affordable in Maryland

With only a few days left in their state legislative session, members of Consumer Health First, our Maryland-based regional coordinator, are celebrating the passage of a proposed policy that will help protect access to coverage and care for Marylanders. HB1795, which is awaiting Governor Larry Hogan’s signature, will help stabilize Maryland’s individual insurance market by allowing the state to take steps to create what’s called a “reinsurance program.”

Reinsurance programs -- which are almost like insurance for insurance companies – are designed to offset the costs that health plans can incur if they enroll individuals who use a lot of expensive medical care. Without the reinsurance payments, health plans would raise their premiums for all enrollees to cover medical expenses for the higher-cost people.  With the reinsurance payments, health plans would stay affordable for Marylanders who are purchasing them through the individual market.

Where would the money for the reinsurance program come from? HB1795 would allow the state to apply for what’s called a 1332 waiver to take advantage of federal dollars and state funding in 2019. See Consumer Health First’s testimony in support of the proposal here. Consumer Health First is closely watching HB1792/SB387, which would establish the state funding sources for a reinsurance program. That bill also charges the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission with studying a number of critical areas that can affect the cost of health insurance. These include: creating a state-level individual mandate to have health insurance (to replace the federal mandate that Congress and the President eliminated in the tax bill); merging the small group and individual health insurance markets; the use of subsidies to lower costs and a Medicaid buy-in option.

"We've worked tirelessly since the passage of the Affordable Care Act to bring the voice of the over 200,000 individuals who depend on the individual market for their health care coverage to the Insurance Commissioner during the rate review process," said Beth Sammis, President, Consumer Health First. "The Maryland Insurance Administration staff during a legislative hearing acknowledged we hold their feet to the fire. We will continue our advocacy to hold all policymakers’ feet to the fire until the individual market is stabilized and coverage affordable."

Illinois health care advocates say: Do No Harm!

As part of their advocacy work in opposition to state-based work requirements for Medicaid, RWV regional coordinator EverThrive Illinois and Protect Our Care Illinois, along with 100 partner organizations, sent a letter to Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, urging him to oppose adding work requirements to Illinois’ Medicaid program. They outlined the ways in which work requirements would create barriers to health care for Illinois residents, strip people of health benefits, and cost the State of Illinois billions of federal dollars with no benefit for the state. Read the letter in full here.

Meanwhile, EverThrive Illinois and their Protect Our Care Illinois colleagues have been building support for the “Do No Harm Healthcare Act.” This proposed policy, which has been approved in committee, would require the legislature to approve any requests by the Governor to the federal government for waivers that would reduce or restrict health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans, State Employee Group Health Insurance or Medicaid.

This provision would apply, for example, to harmful Medicaid waivers proposals, like those recently approved by the federal government for Kentucky and Indiana, which would impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. The proposed policy would help ensure that any attempt to restrict access to health care is transparent and open to public debate. For more details on HB 4165 HA1, see Protect Our Care Illinois’ fact sheet.

Trans- and queer-led Brown and Black coalition launches LGBTQ+ Justice Week
 
Trans Queer Pueblo, our Phoenix-based regional coordinator, and other community groups are taking to the streets with rituals, drag performance, celebration and protests for LGBTQ+ Justice Week.  LGBTQ+ communities of color will bring the Pride celebration to the institutions that detain, incarcerate, deport and kill LGBTQ+ people of color.
 
At Monday’s Vigil for Liberation event, community members built an altar and performed drag in protest (pictured left) at Eloy Detention Center, the nation’s deadliest detention facility. The protest lifted up deaths in detention due to bad or no medical care and the trauma of trans detainees, such as being caged with people of the wrong gender and being subject to constant harassment, abuse and often rape.  
 
At a Drag Town Hall, community members invited Phoenix mayoral candidates to participate in an open forum about how to make Phoenix safe for LGBTQ people of color. Community groups discussed the need to fund trans-inclusive women's health clinics and rape crisis centers. The conversation continued with dialogue on economic opportunity as a health issue and the lack of job opportunities for LGBTQ+ people of color due to document status, poverty, racism and transphobia.
 
WV FREE celebrates ACA anniversary

WV FREE, our Charleston-based regional coordinator, participated in a press event at the state Capitol to celebrate the ACA’s 8thanniversary. At the event, health care advocates highlighted the positive impact the ACA has had on West Virginians, including its role in reducing the uninsured rate among adults from 29 percent to 9 percent. These powerful statistics were complemented by the stories that individual consumers shared about the real life impact the ACA has had on their families. For example, Parkersburg resident Janice Hill talked about her daughter’s struggle with cancer and the life-saving coverage the ACA has provided for her.

 

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