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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

Monday
Aug122019

Don’t miss your chance to oppose discrimination!

Deadline is Tuesday to oppose Trump rule that would sanction discrimination

More than 110,000 comments have been submitted so far opposing a proposed Trump administration rule designed to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s landmark non-discrimination provisions. That’s great news, but we still have one more day to go.

Don’t miss your chance to weigh in! The deadline is tomorrow – Tuesday, August 13 -- to submit a unique and personalized comment about how the proposed rule would harm women, transgender people, the entire LGBTQ community, people with chronic illnesses and people who need language access services.

We’ve made it easy for you to do this. Simply go to a dedicated web page created by Community Catalyst, one of the Raising Women’s Voices national coordinators. It explains how patients would be harmed and provides direct links to comment pages set up by some of our allies.

What’s at stake? The proposed rule is designed to undermine enforcement of Section 1557 of the ACA, also known as the Health Care Rights Law (HCRL). It would reverse portions of a 2016 Obama administration rule, which had defined prohibited sex discrimination under Section 1557 to include discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity, departure from traditional sex stereotypes or use of abortion services. The proposed rule would send the wrong message to health care providers, who could believe they have been given a green light to discriminate.

The proposed rule would also harm patients whose first language is not English by lifting some important language access requirements for health providers. In addition, it could allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with HIV and other chronic illnesses by using unfair design of coverage, such as charging expensive co-pays for some types of prescription drugs.

Before the proposed rule is issued as a final rule, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required to seek comments from the public. It will absolutely make a difference if you submit a personalized comment. HHS is required to consider allunique comments received and respond to them—either by making the requested changes in the rule or explaining why the change was rejected.

We need you to join us and tell the Trump administration to #PutPatientsFirst!

Thursday
Aug012019

Two-Year Budget Deal a Win for Women’s Health? Not So Fast

Two-Year Budget Deal a Win for Women’s Health? Not So Fast

Today, the Senate is set to pass the two-year budget deal announced last week, clearing it for the president’s signature. The House passed the measure last Thursday, 284-189. The deal will suspend the debt ceiling through July 2021, eliminate the deep automatic spending cuts (known as “sequestration”) set to take effect in January, and increase the total amount of funding available for both domestic and defense priorities. House and Senate appropriators will then have two months to draft line-item spending bills to fund the government based on the new limits.

The Trump administration had been pushing to slash domestic spending while boosting defense spending through a budgeting gimmick that treats routine annual military spending as emergency war funding exempt from statutory caps. By setting topline spending numbers, the deal reduces the likelihood of a government shutdown when the current fiscal year ends on October 1 and increases the likelihood that core progressive priorities, from health programs like the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program to public education and housing assistance, are fully funded.

When congressional Democrats struck a similar deal in February 2018, we called it a “key win for progressives.”

This time, it’s not so clear-cut.

Suspending the debt ceiling averts the risk of a first-ever, economy-crashing government-wide default on our debts that could leave many low-income households without Social Security checks or access to their health care benefits. That’s a win for good governance.

Lifting the debt ceiling through the remainder of Donald Trump’s current term and leaving it as a time bomb for Trump’s potential successor to cope with just six months into his or her first term? That maybe isn’t such a great win.

In 2011, remember, Tea Partiers in Congress held the debt limit hostage and threatened default in the middle of the Great Recession in exchange for starving domestic priorities and creating sequestration. As the current deal shows, we’re still grappling with the fallout from that hostage-taking. There’s no reason to think that hardline conservatives have become more responsible since then.

Pelosi’s “Handshake” Deal and Women’s Health

But even more significantly for us—at least in the short-term—is the “handshake” dealthat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) struck with the White House to win higher domestic funding levels. While the details are a closely guarded secret—the handshake deal isn’t part of the bill itself, rather it’s a gentlewoman’s agreement on the side—the speaker agreed to not to insist on any “new” “poison pill” policy provisions in appropriations bills.

Riders, as they’re known, are policy provisions attached to appropriations bills that limit how the funds can be used. The Hyde Amendment, for example, isn’t codified into permanent law (though other federal restrictions on abortion are). It’s a policy rider that must be attached anew each year to the bill funding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Other longstanding or frequent policy riders have limited the CDC’s ability to research gun violence and blocked the District of Columbia from using its own funds to cover abortion care. These riders are poisonous, but they aren’t considered “poison pills” because the two parties have collectively agreed to include them for years.

What we know so far is that the deal was designed to prevent a fight over Hyde (even though House Democrats had already preemptively included it in the HHS appropriations bill they passed earlier this year) and stop Trump’s humanitarian critics from trying to impose new restrictions on his immigration policies. A faction of House Democrats had sought to add protections for children and other immigrants detained at the southern border and to limit Trump’s legal ability to transfer funds appropriated for other purposes to build his wall.

But what about other core priorities? The appropriations process likely represents the best chance that women’s health advocates have to overturn dangerous Trump rules eviscerating the Title X family planning program and taking food away from millions of families through proposed red tape additions to the food stamp (SNAP) program.

While the SNAP rule was just proposed at the end of July and won’t be finalized for months,the Title X rule is in effect NOW after a federal appeals court overturned lower court decisions blocking it from going into effect. The administration has announced that they won’t begin enforcement yet, though clinics must submit an action plan for compliance by August 19 and must show evidence of compliance by September 18.

Killing Title X and ‘Defunding’ Planned Parenthood—Unless We Stop Them

The new rules represent a significant fulfillment of abortion opponents’ dream of “defunding” Planned Parenthood, which is currently the single largest grantee and 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 clinics and is likely to be particularly devastating for independent clinics that lack Planned Parenthood’s clout or resources. The rules will force full-service clinics out of the program and shift federal funds to religiously-affiliated clinics that oppose contraception. In addition to the restrictions on referrals, the rules require any clinics that also provide abortion care to create a physically separate facility, a step that is medically unnecessary and very likely too expensive for most clinics to accomplish. The new rules also do away with the long-standing requirement that federally-funded clinics offer a wide range of contraceptives and agree not to impose coercion of any kind on their clients’ choice of contraceptive method. By doing away with that requirement, the administration has opened the door to religious facilities like the Obria Group, which teaches natural family planning and opposes contraception.  

While the courts have not yet even begun to debate the merits of the rule (court proceedings thus far have been focused on whether to block the rule while the cases are pending), we know we can’t rely on the Roberts Supreme Court to side with women’s health or even a plain reading of the statute.

But Congress has the power to kill the rule for good on October 1—if we demand it.Earlier this year, the House passed an appropriations bill with a policy rider that would unwind the Trump changes and restore the program to its 2016 configuration, which received bipartisan support in Congress for years.

We're making the case that riders overturning the new Trump rules in order to maintain the same status quo that Republicans have agreed to fund, year after year, shouldn't be excluded under the deal. These riders don't make new policy, they keep existing policies in place, policies that Republicans have already accepted. If the Hyde Amendment isn’t a “poison pill” because of its longevity, then a rider to maintain the longstanding Title X program isn’t either.

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

After today’s vote, 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 deal will “defund” Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics.

Thursday
Jul252019

Activists challenge Georgia abortion ban, expand access in California.

Major health coverage gains for immigrants in California

We have great news coming from California, as the state moves forward with expanding health coverage for young adult immigrants!

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that will allow all low-income young adults in the state access to health coverage – regardless of their immigration status. Under this new law, an estimated 138,000 California residents age 19-25 will now qualify for health coverage under Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. This is an expansion on existing California law, which already provides coverage to all residents, including undocumented immigrants, age 18 and under. Now, all California residents low-income aged 25 and under are guaranteed health coverage under Medi-Cal.

RWV’s California-based regional coordinator, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ), was part of a team of health advocates that played an integral role in passing this bill. "CLRJ was proud to join our many coalition partners in advancing legislation and budget advocacy to expand health care to low-income undocumented immigrants in California,” the organization said in a recent statement. “We are pleased that the budget that was recently signed included $98 million to expand Medi-Cal to young adults.” Though this law is a huge step in the right direction, CLRJ vows to continue pushing for health coverage to be available to all California residents, including undocumented seniors age 65 and up. “CLRJ will continue strategize with our partners and fight to ensure all Californians have access to care, regardless of immigration status."

Advocates file for injunction against Georgia abortion ban

Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC), our Atlanta-based regional coordinator, and their coalition partners have filed for an injunction to prevent the state of Georgia fromenforcing the abortion ban when the law goes into effect. The lawsuit was filed by a wide range of health providers, including SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the lead plaintiff, Feminist Women’s Health Center, and Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. The groups are suing Governor Brian Kemp and several other state and local officials and are asking the court to find that the law is unconstitutional.

“Feminist Women’s Health Center has been providing comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion care, to Georgians since 1976 and mobilizing in our communities since 1996. We are challenging this unconstitutional law because we are committed to serving our patients and to a vision of Georgia where reproductive justice is fully realized for everyone. This clinic stays open,” said Kwajelyn J. Jackson, executive director of FWHC.

Just this year, 12 states across the country have passed some sort of abortion ban, in a direct challenge  to Roe v. Wade. Fortunately, none of these bans have gone into effect. Some have been temporarily blocked by a court and others are being challenged before the effective date. The Georgia law is supposed to take effect on January 1, 2020 and the court may take much longer to reach a final decision on the validity of the law. The plaintiffs requested an injunction to ensure that people who need abortion care will be able to receive services while the lawsuit is pending. “We are confident that our request will be granted and that abortion will continue to remain legal in Georgia, as it is currently in all 50 states,” said Jackson. To learn more about how the lawyers working on SisterSong v Kemp have integrated a reproductive justice analysis into their legal arguments, look here.

Thursday
Jul182019

RWV roundup: Title X, Medicaid & high drug prices

Big win for prescription drug costs in Maine!

Maine’s governor has signed into law a comprehensive bill package to tackle high prescription drug costs.

Pictured above: Kate Ende, CACH Policy Director, 3rd from left; Ann Woloson, CACH Executive Director, 1st from right; Governor Mills at podium
 
Ann Woloson, Executive Director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care (our Maine-based regional coordinator), hailed the signing saying: “We are thrilled the Governor has signed all four bills in this important package of legislation.” Collectively, these bills give Maine people and policymakers a variety of powerful tools to help understand why drug prices are increasing and to bring down the soaring costs of lifesaving medicine.” She added: “Maine people are concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs, with two out of three worried about not being able to afford prescription drugs or medicine they need. This bill package takes a comprehensive approach to addressing these concerns.”

The four bills take a comprehensive approach to addressing high drug costs in Maine:

LD 1499, An Act to Establish the Maine Prescription Drug Affordability Board, establishes an independent Board that will develop spending targets for prescription drugs purchased by certain public payors.

LD 1162, An Act To Further Expand Drug Price Transparency, builds on legislation passed in the last legislative session that requires the Maine Health Data Organization (MHDO) to post a list of: the 25 most prescribed drugs; the 25 most expensive drugs; and the 25 drugs with highest cost increases in Maine.

In addition, LD 1162 requires drug manufacturers, drug distributors, and pharmacy benefits managers to provide pricing component data that must explain the cost of making the prescription drug available to consumers, including payments received (taking into account any price concessions), as determined by rules adopted by MHDO.

LD 1272, An Act to Increase Access to Low-cost Prescription Drugs (safe wholesale importation from Canada), establishes a wholesale importation program for certain prescription drugs from Canada, by or on behalf of the State, in order to provide cost savings to consumers.

LD 1504, An Act To Protect Consumers from Unfair Practices Related to Pharmacy Benefits Management, requires that compensation paid by, or on behalf of a pharmaceutical manufacturer, developer or labeler, directly or indirectly to a carrier (insurer) or to a pharmacy benefits manager related to its prescription drug benefit must be paid directly to the covered person at the point of sale or to the carrier.

New study shows that Medicaid work requirements don’t work

A recent study showed work reporting requirements imposed on Medicaid recipients by the state of Arkansas led to significant losses in health insurance with no significant increase in employment.  The researchers, who are based at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed nearly 6,000 people in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas to determine whether they were employed, had private insurance or Medicaid coverage before and after June 2018, when the work reporting requirements went into effect.   In addition to comparing Arkansans to their neighbors, the study also surveyed people living in Arkansas who were outside the age range affected by the new requirements (ages 30 – 49).  In all comparisons, the people subject to the work reporting requirements did worse:  Medicaid coverage dropped from 70% to 64% and being uninsured increased from 10.5% to 14.5% while having insurance through an employer did not significantly increase

The new study provides the best evidence yet available about what happened to the 18,000 people who were dis-enrolled from Arkansas Medicaid in 2018 for failure to file monthly reports on their work or volunteer activities.  It also stands in stark contrast to administration officials’ claims that reporting requirements result in more people getting jobs with employer-provided health insurance.  

According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar in testimony before Congress in March, "Only 1,452 of those 18,000 people even reapplied for Medicaid" this year.  "That seems a fairly strong indication that the individuals who left the program were doing so because they got a job [in] this booming economy.  Shortly after Azar’s testimony, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Seema Verma (pictured below) issued a new guidance on how CMS will review and approve applications for Medicaid work requirements.  Verma has already approved work reporting requirements in seven states, and requests from seven more states are currently pending. 

Verma has made no secret of her ideological commitment to undermining Medicaid’s safety net by allowing states to make their own rules, stating that, “This administration stands for a policy that makes Medicaid a path out of poverty by empowering states to tailor programs that meet the unique needs of their citizens.”  In Arkansas, Verma originally allowed the state to require Medicaid recipients to report on-line through website that was only available between 7am and 9pm.  The on-line reporting requirement was identified as a significant barrier in the Harvard study:  32% of the people surveyed who had been told by the state that they needed to report were not doing so because they had no internet access.  

Title X gag rule enforcement begins immediately

Trump administration officials announced earlier this week that they would immediately begin enforcing a new rule that prohibits federally-funded family planning clinics from providing their clients with referrals for abortion care.  The prohibition on abortion referrals is part of a sweeping change to the Title X program, which was originally proposed by the Trump administration in 2018.  Planned Parenthood and some independent clinics have declared that they will withdraw from the program rather than comply with rules that put limits on the care they can provide to clients. Planned Parenthood has assured clients that their clinics will rely on emergency funds if necessary to stay open.

The Title X rules were adopted by the Trump administration in spite of a wave of opposition from professional organizations and individuals.  The new rules will likely force full-service clinics out of the program, and shift federal funds to religiously-affiliated clinics that oppose contraception.  In addition to the restrictions on referrals, the rules require any clinics that also provide abortion care to create a physically separate facility, a step that is medically unnecessary and very likely too expensive for most clinics to accomplish.  The new rules also do away with the long-standing requirement that federally-funded clinics offer a wide range of contraceptives and agree not to impose coercion of any kind on their clients’ choice of contraceptive method.  By doing away with that requirement, the administration has opened the door to facilities like the Obria Group, which teaches natural family planning and opposes contraception.  
 
The administration’s announcement that it would begin enforcing the new Title X rules came just a few days after a federal court of appeals ruling gave the government permission to activate the rules before the legal challenges have been fully decided.  Law suits challenging the rules have been filed by individual clinics, the association of federally-funded family planning clinics and twenty states.  The lawsuits are still working their way through the courts, but in the meantime, the administration is making it more difficult for people who depend on federally-funded clinics to get comprehensive care and information. 

Thursday
Jul112019

RWV speaks out while court debates ACA

We’re speaking out about the Texas lawsuit’s threat to the ACA!

Raising Women’s Voices and many of our regional coordinators joined national organizers in a TweetStorm this week to protest and raise awareness about the Texas v. United States lawsuit threatening to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The suit, brought by Attorneys General from Texas and 17 other conservative states, was argued before an Appeals Court in New Orleans on Tuesday.

Raising Women’s Voices explained how the lawsuit, if successful, could end Medicaid expansion and other provisions of the Affordable Care, including protections for consumers with pre-existing conditions, and required coverage for maternity care and contraception. We were joined by The Afiya Center, Consumers for Affordable Healthcare, Consumer Health First, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health and WV Free.

With over a hundred tweets and retweets, Raising Women’s Voices and our team of regional coordinators helped the hashtags #WhatsAtStake and #TXvUS trend in DC and #ProtectOurCare trend nationally.

Kate Ende of Consumers for Affordable Healthcare, our Maine regional coordinator, spoke about the threats from the lawsuit: “The importance of keeping the ACA in place at the Federal level cannot be overstated. Despite Maine’s new protections, more than 80,000 Mainers would still likely lose coverage...We know that thousands of Mainers benefit from the ACA…We must contact our policy makers and let them know we want to protect our care.”

The press conference also featured State Senator David Miramant and Representative Thom Harnett. Ende (shown second from left in photo below) was also featured in an article posted on Maine Public about the impact of the lawsuit.

During the press conference, a presenter read a statement by Representative Donna Doore, who is battling cancer for the third time and was too weak to attend, because of radiation treatment. Her prepared statement on the importance of the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions: “The very idea that people like myself and millions of other Americans with pre-existing conditions would not be able to obtain insurance coverage under the ACA or other venues is ridiculous.” Her statement and the messages of others in attendance can be watched here.

Community Catalyst, one of three national organizations that co-coordinates Raising Women’s Voices, participated in a press conference in Boston. Community Catalyst’s Associate Director of Policy, Eva Marie Stahl (shown speaking in photo below) declared: “We come together today to send a clear message. The Affordable Care Act is worth fighting for. And we will do whatever it takes to ensure the progress we’ve made remains. There is too much at stake to do anything different.”

Community Catalyst was joined by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is fighting alongside Attorneys General from 16 other states to defend the ACA from the Texas lawsuit challenge. “The good news is there are people in this fight,” she said. “I am really proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my colleagues from many other states who are standing up for the basic principle that healthcare is a right and that no American should be unfairly denied from the access to the care they need.”

This fight is not over! What can you do? The Texas lawsuit is likely to make its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. We need to keep on influencing the public dialogue, so justices will feel wary about completely overturning the ACA. Be sure to share your own content that includes stories and highlights #WhatsAtStake. You can check out Community Catalyst’s TX v US Advocacy Guide for social content and graphics.

Trump’s more-than-a-gag rule on hold for now

Federally funded family planning clinics are able to continue providing comprehensive reproductive health services, including giving their clients information about abortion, for now. On July 3, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated an earlier ruling from a three-judge panel that allowed the rules to go into effect. The appeals court said that it will reconsider the request by more than 20 states and several health organizations to declare the new rules invalid. If the earlier decision had been allowed to stand, federally funded clinics would have had to stop providing referrals to abortion providers, or remodel their clinics to create physically separate spaces for abortion counseling. In addition, the new rules would allow the administration to give family planning grants to clinics that do not provide the full range of contraceptive methods, such as the Obria Group, religiously-affiliated clinics that only provide instruction in natural family planning. The appeals court has not announced when it will hear arguments about the case, but for now at least, clinics still have funding to provide the full range of contraceptive methods and information about all reproductive health services.