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Thursday
May102018

ACA sabotage is going to hike our premiums! 

Don’t be fooled! ACA sabotage is causing those premium hike requests
 
We’re getting our first glimpse of the kinds of hefty premium increases we can expect in the Trump era, with Maryland and Virginia releasing their preliminary rates for 2019. Citing the numerous legislative and administrative attacks on ACA marketplaces that have transformed the health care law into Trumpcare, insurers around the country are predicting that they’ll need steep premium increases in order to compensate for GOP sabotage. 
 
In Maryland, the CEO of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest insurer in the Mid-Atlantic region, was blunt, telling a Washington Post reporter that “continuing actions on the part of the administration to systematically undermine the market make it almost impossible to carry out the mission” of providing affordable coverage through the ACA marketplaces.
 
As both insurance companies and independent health experts noted, ACA premiums were stabilizing before Donald Trump took office. From day one, however, Trump has done everything he could to sabotage and undermine the ACA, publicly admitting that he wanted the law to “fail” despite the harm to his own voters. 
 
First the administration slashed the open enrollment period in half and gutted funding for outreach and enrollment assistance. Then the GOP tax bill repealed the individual mandate, even as it lavished massive tax breaks on pharmaceutical companies and others driving up health care costs. Rules finalized last month will let insurance companies charge more even as they cover less. New rules expected soon for year-long “short-term” plans and association health plans will push healthy people out of comprehensive coverage and into worthless “junk” plans that discriminate on the basis of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and pre-existing conditions, including survivors of rape and domestic violence.
 
As a result, double-digit increases are likely to be the norm. Even Trump’s first Secretary for Health and Human Services, Tom Price, accidentally admitted that repealing the individual mandate increases premiums for millions of people who want or need quality comprehensive insurance through the ACA. Speaking to the World Health Care Congress hesaid, “There are many, and I am one of them, who believes that [repealing the mandate] actually will harm the pool in the exchange market because you'll likely have individuals who are younger and healthier not participating in that market. And, consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks in that market."
 
Between May 1 and July 31 insurers will submit their proposed rates for the coming year. Final rates won’t be locked in until October. We’ll keep you posted on what’s happening.
Trump seeks to slash children’s health funds
 
This week the Trump White House rolled out a package of $15 billion in proposed spending cuts, including $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and another $800 million from an Affordable Care Act program designed to help slow the growth of health care costs. After busting the deficit in December with a massive tax cut for corporations and the ultra-wealthy, Republicans are cynically using this “rescissions” package to once again pay for tax cuts for the rich with health cuts for the poor.
 
While the administration argues that CHIP won’t be affected by the cuts, that’s simply not true. At least $2 billion in cuts would come from a contingency fund that’s critical for responding to children’s health needs in emergencies, like the three devastating hurricanes that struck last year. And we haven’t forgotten that CHIP spent months in limbo, eventually expiring, while Republicans attempted to offset the costs of a reauthorization with damaging cuts to other health programs. If there are unused funds now that can’t be spent, as the White House claims, they must be allocated to shoring up health care for the most vulnerable, not covering tax cuts for the Mar-a-Lago crowd.
 
Under the law, Congress must act within 45 days of formally receiving the request.  The package can’t be filibustered in the Senate and can pass with just 50 senators. With Senator John McCain (R-AZ) being treated for cancer in Arizona for the foreseeable future, Senate Republicans currently have a working majority of just 50-49. If Congress rejects the proposal, the president can’t try these same cuts again.
 
At stake in this fight is more than just CHIP. If the package is successful, it significantly increases the likelihood of another government shutdown in October and threatens a number of our health care priorities. Republicans need bipartisan cooperation this fall to pass an FY 19 funding bill, which is subject to filibuster and requires a de facto 60-vote threshold for passage. But it won’t be possible to negotiate that package in good faith if Republicans are simply going to immediately rescind funding for Democratic priorities on a party line vote.
 
The White House has promised that if this package is successful, it’s just the beginning of additional spending cuts. While some GOP senators, including Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), have expressed some concerns about cutting CHIP, they need to hear from us. Tell your members of Congress to reject this brazen attempt to pay for tax cuts with health cuts.
 
Black Women’s Health Imperative at United State of Women conference
 
On May 5 and 6, the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), one of the Raising Women’s Voices coordinating team partners, participated in the United State of Women (USOW) conference in Los Angeles. USOW amplifies the work of organizations and individuals at the forefront of the fight for women’s equality.
 
BWHI tabled and presented the organization’s work around protecting the ACA, diversifying medical research and stressing the importance of access to contraception. The table itself (shown at right, with laptop depictingBWHI President and CEO Linda Goler Blount) provided a wonderful self-care experience. It included a photo booth with props and posters that detailed ways Black women practice self care.
 
Women were encouraged to join BWHI’s mailing list and everyone that came to the table left with brochures and other useful information about the organization’s initiatives. BWHI staff also met with representatives from Blavity, attended workshops on mental health, reproductive justice and women in the media.

 

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