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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
Mar142019

Trump budget horrors; repro wins in WV!

Trump budget horrors: Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, repeal of the ACA

This week, the White House rolled out its budget request for fiscal year 2020 and it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Trump administration. The LA Times characterized it this way: "Trump has taken the lack of regard for budgets to new lows, reflecting his own lack of interest in policy details, his administration’s thin staffing and its overall ambivalence about the nitty-gritty of policy-making." 


Trump’s request for $8.6 billion in new border wall funding grabbed most of the headlines because it sets up another potential showdown with Congress this fall. The budget’s draconian approach to programs that benefit poor and middle-class families and wildly unrealistic economic assumptions have gotten less coverage, perhaps because they’re in keeping with the budgets House Republicans passed for years.

Over the next 10 years, the White House budget quietly proposes making the 2017 tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy permanent (by building the costs into its revenue assumptions) while imposing staggering cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other public health programs, food stamps, public education and more.

The budget revives the Trumpcare zombie, repealing the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion, and replacing them with a Graham-Cassidy style block grant. As we wrote when it was first proposed in 2017, this would gut protections for pre-existing conditions and give states free rein to reinstate all of the worst insurance practices of the bad old days. That means insurance companies could once again charge non-smoking women more than smoking men, treat rape and domestic violence as pre-existing conditions, reinstate annual and lifetime caps on coverage, and drop patients from coverage as soon as they got sick.

A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis concludes that the combination of these funding cuts and the imposition nationwide of bureaucratic red tape—such as additional citizenship documentation and work requirements designed to cut people from the program—would take Medicaid coverage away from millions of vulnerable people. We know that women would be particularly hard hit. The budget also envisions cutting between $575 and $845 billion from Medicare (depending on how one counts)—potentially making it harder for seniors to access care—and $25 billion from Social Security.

Absurdly, the budget also predicts uninterrupted economic growth for the next decade. As the Washington Post reported, “To achieve Trump’s projection, the economy would have to grow at A-plus potential for years with no recessions, something the United States has not achieved before.”

Even with these deep cuts and economic fantasies, the budget still shows trillion-dollar deficits in 2020 and for years to come. While progressives are rightly distrustful of deficit hawks who moralize about the debt in order to attack social safety net programs, these numbers show the opportunity and need for women’s health advocates to start talking boldly about taxation. The GOP’s own numbers prove that even taking health care away from millions of Americans and pretending we’ll never face a recession again isn’t enough to make up for the budget holes their tax policies created.

In 1981, the year the first Millennials were born, the top marginal tax rate in the U.S. was 69 percent. From 1951 to 1963, the top rate never dropped below 91 percent. These were the birth years of the Boomers, when significant government investment in education, infrastructure and science helped fuel a strong white middle class (even as Jim Crow policies excluded many Black families from those gains). Conservatives have so successfully shifted the window on taxes that even a Washington Post economics reporter had no idea such a thing was possible. But higher top tax rates worked, here, in the United States, in our lifetimes, and proactively re-normalizing bold taxation is necessary for protecting our existing social safety net and expanding high quality, low-cost coverage to everyone.

Big wins for reproductive health in West Virginia!

WV FREE, our Charleston-based regional coordinator, recently had not one, but TWO policy victories that will expand reproductive health coverage and access for West Virginian womenIn photo above, WV FREE Executive Director Margaret Chapman Pomponio, Communications Director Julie Warden and advocate Renate Pore watch as one of the bills, SB 564, passes the West Virginia Legislature. In photo at below, WV FREE babies Remi, Wendell, and Sylivie joined their parents at the West Virginia State Capitol building for the passage of the Family Planning Access Act 

The first bill, SB 564, expands Medicaid and CHIP coverage for pregnant women between 185 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty level, and includes prenatal care, delivery and 60 days postpartum care.  According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, over 24,000 women age 19 to 44 in the state did not have health insurance in 2017. Among new mothers in that age range, an estimated 3 percent (about 535) did not have health insurance, making the cost of childbirth out of reach for many.

In West Virginia, the average cost of childbirth ranges from $10,000 for a vaginal birth, and $14,000 for a C-section, combined with $20,000 for pre- and postnatal care, West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy reports. By expanding access to care before, during, and after pregnancy, SB 564 will help improve the health and wellbeing of West Virginian mothers and children.

A second proactive reproductive health bill, the Family Planning Access Act, also recently passed in West Virginia, and now goes to the governor’s desk. HB 2583 would increase access to contraception by allowing pharmacists to dispense birth control (in the form of a pill, ring or patch) over the counter to any woman who is 18 or older. If signed by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, this bill would make West Virginia the 10th state in the country with over the counter access to birth control.

Reflecting on their wins, WV FREE Communications Director Julie Warden said, “It was heartening to see a focus on family planning as opposed to abortion restrictions. We look forward to working in a bipartisan effort to pass more bills like this in the future.” 

Save the Date! ACA Anniversary Twitter Storm

This month marks the 9th Anniversary of the ACA. Raising Women's Voices is celebrating with a Twitter Storm on March 21, 3-4 pm ET.  Along with our regional coordinators and over a dozen national partners, we will celebrate the many ways the ACA has improved access to health care in America—especially for women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, people of color, low-income people and those with disabilities. We're creating a toolkit participants can use with graphics highlighting some of the advances we gained with the ACA:

  • Birth control coverage free from co-pay or deductible
  • Pre-existing condition coverage
  • Breast and cervical cancer screening
  • Ending sex discrimination in health coverage
  • Maternity care coverage
  • Mental health coverage
  • Preventive care for children
  • Staying on parent’s insurance until 26

Want to receive the toolkit and join in the Twitter Storm? Email amy@raisingwomensvoices.net

Protecting Title X!

Planned Parenthood launched a Protect X campaign yesterday to protest the Trump administration’s Tile X rule, due to go into effect shortly.  Raising Women’s Voices was on hand at the kick-off rally in Washington, D.C.  Shown above are Maggie Gorini and  Mackenzie Flynn, both interns with the National Women’s Health Network, one of the RWV national coordinating organizations.

The new Trump rule would threaten care for more than 4 million low-income people, more than half of whom identify as Black, Hispanic or Latino. That care includes birth control, cancer screenings, STI tests and other preventive care. The rule would deny Title X funding to any clinics, such as Planned Parenthood affiliates, that also provide abortions, unless move abortions to a whole new clinic, which would impose significant financial burdens. Title X providers would also be prohibited from directly referring a patient for an abortion. 

Thursday
Mar072019

Conservative states pushing for change

Montana optimistic for permanent Medicaid Expansion

In 2015, Montana Women Vote, our Montana-based regional coordinator, led the effort to pass Medicaid expansion in the Montana Legislature. Since then, nearly 100,000 Montanans have gained healthcare coverage, almost 1 in 10 Montanans. Medicaid expansion has reduced Montana’s uninsured rate from 20% to 7% and has resulted in state savings to Montana’s general fund. Forty eight percent of Medicaid expansion enrollees reside outside of Montana’s seven largest urban areas, and the program covers nearly 16,000 American Indians, roughly 20% of the American Indian population in Montana. Medicaid expansion has been a lifeline for access to healthcare in rural Montana and Indian Country. Unfortunately, without legislative action, the program will expire in July 2019.

Montana Women Vote is organizing to reauthorize Montana's Medicaid expansion program in the 2019 Legislative Session. During a press conference in the Montana State Capitol, Rep. Mary Caferro announced House Bill 425 (left in photo), which would lift the MedEx sunset, and make the program permanent, without restrictive barriers. Some legislators are calling for changes to the program that would kick up to 43,000 Montanans off their health insurance, according to a recent study by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Proposed work and reporting requirements will increase costs in Montana, create new bureaucracy, and cost people their insurance. Montana Women Vote will continue organizing and putting pressure on lawmakers to protect this vital program without burdensome requirements designed to take coverage away from those who need it most.

Advocacy day in Mississippi, making women a priority

The 2019 Mississippi legislative session has started and the Mississippi Black Women's Roundtable (MS BWR), our Jackson-based regional coordinator, has been walking through the hallways, offices, and chambers of the State Capitol to advocate for women's rights and centering women's economic security. More than ever, their network has stood with them as they work to protect women's wages through Equal Pay legislation, provide safer workplace environments for pregnant women, expand access to healthcare and reproductive health care for women, increase women's wages including tipped workers, expand protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, protect child care for low-income working women, and protect safety net programs for women and their families including child care. 
 
Through their advocacy, MS BWR was able to give voice to the important economic security issues women face every single day and build a broad based bipartisan coalition.  They partnered with Planned Parenthood for successful Women in the Halls Advocacy Days and hosted their annual Equal Pay Advocacy Day. MS BWR understands that until women fill the halls of the state capitol there is no accountability to prioritize women and our families in the policy making process. During their Equal Pay Advocacy Day, the special guest, Equal Pay Advocate Amanda McMillian, shared her empowering story of triumphing against wage discrimination.

“Although we didn't get some key bills passed this year, we are empowered through continuing to push for important legislation around the issues that are important to women and their families, said Cassandra Welchlin, co-convener of MS BWR (center in photo).  MS BWR will continue to lift up the stories of the stories and issues of Mississippi women, particularly women of color and their families who are most affected by these issues.

Thursday
Feb282019

Why is the Title X rule so bad for women’s health?

Title X rule is a devastating attack on women’s health!

The Trump administration has rolled out its latest attack on women’s health, the final rule governing eligibility for federal Title X family planning funds. While the GOP effort to “defund Planned Parenthood” grabbed most of the headlines, the rule may be even more insidious. If allowed to go into effect, it could transfer millions of taxpayer dollars away from real reproductive health clinics and give that money to religiously-affiliated fake clinics.

That would be devastating to the more than 4 million low-income people who use the federal Title X family planning program to obtain free or reduced-cost birth control, STI testing, and cancer screening at clinics they know and trust! The rule is slated to go into effect 60 days after its official publication in the Federal Register on March 4 – so a little over two months from now.

Voice your opposition to the rule using our RWV social media badges (which you can find HERE) and activate your networks!

What makes this new rule so bad?

Family planning providers are already prohibited from using Title X federal funds to provide abortions. But under the new rule, clinics that also offer abortion care would no longer be able to serve Title X patients without creating a whole new clinic first. 

That’s because the rule requires both financial and physical separation, and is explicit about what that physical separation should look like. Under the rule, HHS would determine whether a clinic has separate “treatment, consultation, examination and waiting rooms, office entrances and exits, shared phone numbers, email addresses, educational services, and websites” and “separate personnel, electronic or paper-based health care records, and workstations” for abortion services and for those funded by Title X.

Clinic staff would no longer be able to provide patients with full and accurate information or a referral to an abortion provider. As a result of those restrictions, nearly half of current Title X grantees, including Planned Parenthood and three states, have said they won’t be able to participate. The medical community overwhelmingly opposes the rule, warning that it “would undermine patients’ access to high-quality medical care and information, dangerously interfere with the patient-physician relationship and conflict with physicians’ ethical obligations, exclude qualified providers, and jeopardize public health.”

Public health experts warn that blocking community clinics like Planned Parenthood from the Title X program would force other providers to “increase their client caseloads by 70%, on average.” The administration plans to fill the void with fake clinics, often religiously affiliated, that focus primarily on abstinence and “natural family planning” in lieu of the full range of contraception. That’s because the new rule isn’t just the latest battle in the rightwing war on Planned Parenthood. It’s also part of the Trump administration’s larger war on medical science.

The new rule permits Title X funded clinics to give biased and misleading counseling and to withhold information about all reproductive health care options, including medically approved contraceptive methods (such as birth control pills or IUDs). Under companion rules issued last November, religiously affiliated non-profits can now qualify as Title X providers if they offer “a broad range of family planning services” such as “abstinence counseling” and “fertility awareness-based methods” like the rhythm method. The rule requires providers to offer at least one hormonal method, like the Pill, but makes clear that “broad range” doesn’t have to include very much.

Today, a woman who qualifies for Title X can walk into her local Planned Parenthood and get a free or low-cost IUD, or year-long vaginal ring, or any one of more than a dozen other options depending on which method is right for her. Under the new rules, her only option might be a Christian clinic offering condoms, one kind of birth control pill, and lots of aggressive counseling on abstinence and the rhythm method—with a heavy dose of shaming.

Raising Women’s Voices has been active in fighting the rule and helping to build the strongest possible legal case. Our newsletter series last summer highlighted all of the ways that the rule could hurt marginalized communities and we helped publicize the public comment period. Ultimately half a million people wrote in opposition to the rule.

Earlier this month, RWV staff met with officials from the Office of Management and Budget to call out the administration’s failure under the law to evaluate the rule’s real health and economic costs, particularly for women of color. One state, Washington, has already filed suit and more lawsuits are expected. When this rule goes to court, the administration will have to justify why it ignored the law and the needs of four million low-income people.

Thursday
Feb142019

Big love for all our Raising Women’s Voices partners today!

Sending health policy valentines to all of our amazing partners!


Thanks to Nina Oishi and Carrie Rogers of Community Catalyst for dreaming up this Valentine!

Every day, our Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators in 29 states are working hard to protect our care from continuing attacks at the federal level and in a number of conservative states.  Today, we thank all of them for their incredibly hard work and persistence!
 
We also thank all of you who read our e-newsletters every week, follow us onFacebook and Twitter and take action when we call for it!


Shoring up the ACA’s consumer protections

 

In the face of ongoing federal attacks targeting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and women’s and LGBTQ health, our regional coordinators in some of the more progressive states have been working hard to push for proactive state level policies.
 
With an eye on the Texas v. Azar court case that threatens to overturn the entire ACA,  Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care (our regional coordinator in that state), is working to codify many of the ACA’s important consumer protections into state law.  “An Act to Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families,” or LD 1, was the first bill introduced during Maine’s legislative session, signaling its importance to progressive lawmakers who campaigned on health care. Among other protections, the legislation would enshrine the ACA’s requirement that insurers cover the ACA’s 10 Essential Health Benefits, prohibit insurers from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions and require insurers to offer coverage to dependent children up to 26 years old.  

 

State action to secure and expand reproductive health protections

 

New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (NM RCRC), our Albuquerque based regional coordinator, scored a victory last week when the House voted to Advance HB 51, a bill that would repeal the state’s unconstitutional, pre-Roe v. Wade statute on the books that criminalizes abortion in almost all circumstances. While the New Mexico Constitution protects abortion rights to an extent following a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling citing the Equal Rights Amendment, advocates are concerned that if Roe v. Wade is overturned and New Mexico’s old statute is still in place, these Constitutional protections could be tested. As a result, NM RCRC and their partners are working hard to remove their state’s outdated abortion law and protect New Mexico women and their health care.

 
As part of their efforts, NM RCRC co-sponsored a letter signed by a group of 90 clergy supporting women’s right to access abortion. The letter appeared as a full-page ad in the Albuquerque Journal. In a follow-up interview with the JournalJoan Lamunyon Sanford,Executive Director of NM RCRC said in reference to HB 51: “Any law that criminalizes doctors or patients needs to go and does not reflect the values of the people of New Mexico.” Lamunyon Sanford went on to say, “People of faith have been supporting access to abortion and reproductive health care even before Roe v. Wade, and the conservative evangelical right does not own the moral argument on this issue.”

This week, our Chicago-based regional coordinator, EverThrive Illinois, joined advocates to support the introduction of a package of bills that would expand abortion rights and access in the state. One bill would update the state’s 1975 abortion law, which treats abortion like a crime. The Illinois bill would remove criminal penalties for doctors providing abortion care, and treat abortion as health care, and not a criminal act. Another bill in the package would remove a requirement that minors without parental consent receive judicial approval for an abortion.
 
The momentum in New Mexico and Illinois comes on the heels of the successful passage of New York’s Reproductive Health Act, which RWV-NY supported. The Reproductive Health Act secures and protects 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.
 
The Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), our Denver-based regional coordinator, is pushing for the adoption of what could become one of the most progressive reproductive health bills in the country – the Colorado Access to Reproductive Health Equity Act. Also known as the CARE Act, this bill will ensure that everyone in the state can get the full range of reproductive health care they need without barriers due to financial limits, age, immigration status, stigma or personal agendas.

 

Expanding health coverage to undocumented immigrants

 

Regional coordinators in bluer states have also been paving the way for the creation of more equitable access to health care through new  initiatives to expand coverage to more people.
 
After years of hard work by advocates like our Los Angeles based regional coordinator,California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ), California Governor Gavin Newsom recently made a commitment of $209 billion in health equity and prevention, including $260 million to expand access to 138,000 undocumented young adults after July 30. Despite this exciting step forward, there is still a great deal of work to be done to expand health care to undocumented adults of all ages in California. A recent report produced by University of California Berkeley found that expanding Medi-Cal to all low-income adults regardless of immigration status would extend eligibility to approximately 1.15 million undocumented adults in 2020. According to the report, it would close one of the biggest remaining coverage gaps in the state’s health care system, reducing the state’s uninsured population by as much as one-quarter. CLRJ is working in coalition to support legislation that would address this coverage gap.
 
Our regional coordinator in New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), is working to expand coverage to undocumented immigrant children. Through their Cover all Kids initiative, NJCA and their partners seek to extend coverage to the nearly 76,000 uninsured children in New Jersey. Although 75% of these children are citizens and therefore eligible for coverage, approximately half have a non-citizen parent. Many such parents remain fearful and confused about their family’s health insurance eligibility because of the recently proposed public charge rule. NJCA is working with partners to try to address some of the confidentiality concerns among immigrants by establishing barriers to information sharing between the state and federal government.
 
As we celebrate the progress being made at the state level by our regional coordinators in more progressive states, we recognize the challenges that remain not just at the federal level, but also in some of the more conservative states, where state lawmakers are working to roll back protections for women and LGBTQ people.  RWV will continue to work at the state and federal level to defend, and whenever possible, expand these protections.

 

Speaking of love….

 

If you and your Valentine are planning on getting married any time soon, you both may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period in which you can apply for coverage through healthcare.gov or your state insurance marketplace. You have 60 days after the wedding to shop for and enroll in an affordable health plan.  Want to learn more? Go to healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596
 
Want to learn more about Special Enrollment Periods, which allow you to apply for health coverage outside of the short open enrollment period that starts each November 1? Check out the Raising Women’s Voices website homepage to see what other Qualifying Life Events can make you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.

Thursday
Feb072019

Number of underinsured people is rising

More people are underinsured or have gaps in insurance coverage

A new study out today from the Commonwealth Fund flags a troubling trend: While the number of people with no health insurance has declined dramatically since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, increasing numbers of American adults are underinsured. Underinsurance is growing fastest among adults with employer-sponsored health plans that have high deductibles. It is also rising among those who buy plans on the ACA marketplaces, but who are not eligible for premium subsidies or cost-sharing reductions.

What does underinsured mean and why are more people experiencing this problem? The Commonwealth Fund defines underinsured this way:

  • Having high out-of-pocket costs, excluding premium payments, equal to 10% or more of household income over the previous 12 months;
  • Having high out-of-pocket costs, excluding premiums, equal to  5% or more for households living under 200%  of the Federal Poverty Limit ($24,120 for an individual or $49,200 for a family of four).
  • Having high deductibles (equal to 5% or more of household income).

The  increase in the percentage of  underinsured people with health coverage through their jobs (up from 17% in 2010 to 28% in 2018 %) is most likely related to the trend among employers of increasing plan deductibles and co-pays to offset rising health care costs, the study suggests.  For those buying their own plans, such as through healthcare.gov and state-based insurance marketplaces, the problem is that people with incomes over 400% of the Federal Poverty Level ($48,240 for an individual or $98,400 for a family of four) are not eligible for federal premium subsidy assistance and reductions in the amount they have to pay for cost-sharing. So, people in this situation may choose ACA health plans with the lowest monthly premiums, but then are faced with high deductibles and other cost-sharing requirements.

The Commonwealth study, which was a telephone survey conducted from June to November of 2018, did not take into account the expanded sale of short-term “junk” health insurance plans made possible by new Trump administration rules that went into effect in November.  Those plans are not required to cover all of the benefits that are included in ACA plans, so people purchasing those plans may find themselves underinsured, facing considerable out-of-pocket costs.

Being underinsured, or having gaps in your coverage during the year, often means you will have trouble paying your medical bills, the study found.

Are women more affected by these trends? Unfortunately, the Commonwealth study did not provide gender breakouts.  But, we know from other studies that the highest growth in out-of-pocket health spending over the past few years has been among those who are younger, lower income and female.
 
What can be done to address these problems? The Commonwealth Fund study suggested that federal and state governments could enact policies to extend the ACA’s coverage gains and improve cost protections in ACA and employer-sponsored plans.  Examples of such efforts include expanding Medicaid in those states that have not yet done so, in order to cover more people with affordable plans, and limiting or banning the sale of those short-term junk plans (which are likely to be a bigger factor this year in causing underinsurance). Some states are also trying “reinsurance” policies that create a state fund to reimburse health plans for extraordinary expenses in treating seriously ill people, so that the plans do not pass on those costs to all enrollees. Some states are also examining the possibility of allowing people to buy into Medicaid plans, if they earn a little bit too much to qualify for Medicaid. The study findings may also help groups pushing for Medicare for all plans, since one of the chief objections to some of these proposals is that people will not want to lose their employer-sponsored health plans.

The study also recommended reinstating ACA marketplace navigator and outreach funding, to help people make choices of health plans that will not saddle them with unaffordable deductibles. That recommendation was issued on the same day the news broke about more ACA-related pages disappearing from websites operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Researchers from Sunlight, who have documented a series of quiet website content removals since the Trump administration took office, reported today that 10 pages about the Affordable Care Act and its benefits were taken down from the Office of Population Affairs website in early 2017 and the content has yet to be replaced.