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RWVoices

Wednesday
Dec202017

Help us protect the true “heart” of the ACA!

Tax bill sets up 2018 attacks on our health care
 
This week, House and Senate Republicans passed their deficit-busting tax giveaway to corporations and the ultra-rich without a single Democratic vote, clearing it for Donald Trump’s signature. After failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act outright earlier this year, GOP leaders gloated that “doing away with the individual mandate [in the tax bill] makes the ACA unworkable” and “takes the heart out of Obamacare.”
 
It’s true that repealing the individual mandate will do real damage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums will rise an average of 10% (wiping out any short-term tax cut that low- and middle-income families might see under the bill before their tax rates jump up again in a few years) and 13 million people will lose their health insurance as a result of the Republican tax bill. Combined with regulatory changes proposed by the Trump administration to make “junk” plans more attractive to healthy people and the GOP’s ongoing efforts to sabotage consumer protections, the coming year could be turbulent, expensive and scary for millions of people in need of affordable care.
 
But while it’s easy to feel despair, Republicans have not taken the “heart” out of the ACA. Not yet!

It will be up to us next year to fight against attacks on the true heart of the ACA: the Medicaid expansion, subsidies to help low- and moderate-income families pay their premiums and consumer protections for women and people with pre-existing conditions. That’s because GOP leadership has made clear that, having blown a giant hole in the deficit with tax cuts, they intend to use that hole as an excuse to dismantle core safety net programs including the ACA, Medicaid, food stamps and more.
 
Help Raising Women’s Voices protect the true heart of the ACA in 2018 by making a tax-deductible charitable donation before year’s end! You can donate through theNetwork for Good page of Community Catalyst, one of our coordinating organizations. Earmark your gift for RWV.

 
Our 2017 work isn’t over yet!
 
Meanwhile, our fight for affordable health care isn’t even over for the week. Having now given themselves and their donors an expensive Christmas bonanza with the national credit card, Republicans are hoping to leave town for the holidays without reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired in September. CHIP funds health insurance for nine million kids, including two million kids with serious chronic conditions, but without federal support, states are spending down reserves and moving to cut off new enrollments as a first step to shutting down their CHIP programs altogether.
 
Today, the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families released new analysiswhich found that if Congress does not act soon to fund CHIP, an estimated 1.9 million children in separate CHIP programs could lose coverage in January. An additional 1 million children would also be at risk of losing coverage by the end of February.
 
According to congressional Republicans, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is we don’t have any money anymore.” Having just voted to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit in order to slash taxes on the rich, Republicans are refusing to fund the $14 billion CHIP program unless they win deep health cuts elsewhere. They hope to push off dealing with CHIP until after the New Year, even though states like Alabama have already announced that they will be forced to freeze enrollment on January 1.
 
Also left without continuing funding are community health centers, which provide vital primary care to many low-income families, the Maternal Infant Childhood Home Visiting Program, and the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments program, which supports safety-net hospitals that serve large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients. Word today is that Congress will pass yet another short-term extender of government funding until early in 2018.
 
There’s still time to push Congress to take more decisive action this week! The number for the Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. You know what to do!

 

Tuesday
Dec122017

Tick tock! Tick tock!

Friday is the last chance to get covered!

 
This Friday, December 15, is the last day to sign up for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance in most of the country. While millions of people have already signed up for health insurance at Healthcare.gov, there is still a lot of work to do to make sure everyone who needs insurance knows about the deadline.
 
Weekly enrollment totals have outpaced last year’s sign-up rate, but this year’s Open Enrollment Period is much shorter, only six weeks. So we’re going to have to work extra hard to achieve total enrollments for 2018 coverage that are anywhere near the 10 million 2017 sign-ups.
 
Former President Barack Obama weighed in on this year’s enrollment period on Monday, during a call with the Get Covered campaign: “The record numbers of people who’ve signed up so far this year prove how important health insurance is to so many people. It gives peace of mind to young families.  It gives freedom for young people who want to change jobs, or entrepreneurs who want to start a business.” We especially applauded this line:  “It gives justice for women who can’t be charged any more just because they’re women.”
 
During last week’s LGBTQ Week of Action, one of our favorite actresses, Sara Ramirez(now starring in Madame Secretary on CBS with an awesome new haircut) helped get the word out by tweeting out an open enrollment message. Thanks to our friends at Out2Enroll, her tweet included one of the social media badges we’ve created to reach the LGBTQ community. How cool is that!
 

Make sure your friends and family are covered!  You can help. Reach out to people in your network and make sure they have health insurance. We all need reminderssometimes.  Email, text or call your friends and family to remind them Friday is the last day to sign up. Let them know financial assistance is available and that 8 in 10 people can find plans for under $75 a month. If they have questions or need help enrolling, direct them to Young Invincibles’ Connector Tool so they can find an enrollment assister near them.  

Spread the word to your larger social networks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever else you use! Share our social media badges that emphasize the quickly approaching deadline
Looking for a badge with holiday cheer? You can find gift-giving themed badges, like this one, here!
 
Don’t forget to prompt the young adults in your life!

This week is Young Adults Week of Action. While the uninsured rate for millennials is improving, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millennials are still less likely to be covered than other age groups. Young Invincibles has been leading the charge, encouraging young adults around the country to enroll in health insurance using the hashtag#GetCoveredMillennials. Encourage the young adults you know not to wait any longer.  
 
Thank you to everyone who has helped get people signed up this year. Let’s keep up the energy and give it our all in the final days of Open Enrollment!
 
We’re running out of time on CHIP, too!
 
Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel brought his young son Billy, who recently had a second successful heart surgery, on his show Monday to urge Congress to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP funds health insurance for nine million kids, including two million kids with serious chronic conditions. Kimmel stated, “Overwhelmingly, Democrats and Republicans supported it (CHIP) until now.” Federal funding for CHIP expired September 30 and if Congress does not reauthorize CHIP, children will lose their health coverage. He urged viewers to contact their members of Congress and demand they reauthorize CHIP.
 
Kimmel also reminded people Friday is the last day to enroll in health insurance and that “millions of people qualify for reduced rate or totally free plans.” Watch the full clip here.
 
Your year-end donation will help us strengthen our work in 2018!
 
Like what you’ve seen us do this year? Want us to keep speaking up for the health care needs of women, LGBTQ people and our families in 2018? Your year-end donation will help us strengthen our work to protect everyone’s health care!
 
You can make a tax-deductible charitable donation to support Raising Women’s Voices by going to the Network for Good page of Community Catalyst, fiscal sponsor of MergerWatch, one of our coordinating team organizations. Designate your gift for Raising Women’s Voices.

 

Thursday
Dec072017

Taxes and birth control and CHIP… Oh, my!

The year-end crush in Washington
 

Who has time to enjoy the holidays when the future of our health care is on the line in Washington? The federal government is due to run out of money on Saturday, and states are desperately seeking renewed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). But Republicans in Congress have been busy with other things, including trying to enact a giant corporate tax cut that will create a $1.4 trillion deficit, and thus pave the way for big deficit-reduction cuts to Medicare and Medicaid next year. Oh, and did we mention that the tax bill would undermine the Affordable Care Act, repealing its individual mandate and causing 13 million Americans to lose their health insurance?  More on all of those developments in a minute!
 
But first, this week we submitted comments expressing our strong opposition to the birth control rules issued by the Trump administration in early October. As we wrote about previously, the new rules (which went into effect immediately, even before public comments were sought) allow almost any employer to strip birth control coverage from their employees if the employer has either moral or religious objections to contraception. Under the new rules, universities can also deny birth control coverage in student health plans for religious or moral reasons, and insurance companies can do the same as long as the employer they're insuring agrees. 
 
In our comments we noted that the new rules harm women and their health and well-being, violate multiple federal laws and the Constitution, ignore Congress's explicit intent, and are based on false and distorted medical claims. We stated that there is nothing the administration could do to make the rules better and concluded that they should be struck in their entirety.
 

Reading the not-so-fine print of the tax bill
 

Senate Republicans successfully passed their bill to cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations at 2 am Saturday, voting 51-49 to pass a literally hand-written bill that none of them had read. They even voted down on strict party lines (52-48) a Democratic motion to delay voting for three days to give senators a chance to read through the new bill first. Every false complaint Republicans made about passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seems to have been part of a playbook for how they would operate once in power.
 
Careful, deliberative lawmaking with hearings, public input and outside analysis isn’t window dressing. It’s critical for crafting laws that work as intended. In the days since the vote, experts poring over the bill have uncovered countless bugs, loopholes, and unworkable provisions in the Senate bill.
 
In the words of Greg Jenner, a former top tax official in George W. Bush’s Treasury Departmentquoted by Politico this week, “The more you read, the more you go, ‘Holy crap, what’s this? We will be dealing with unintended consequences for months to come because the bill is moving too fast.” Most concerning of all for Republicans, the Senate bill as passed currently eliminates all corporate tax deductions–the opposite of their intent.
 
While Republicans’ rush to pass a shoddy bill creates problems for them, it opens up both opportunities and challenges for health care advocates. Key Republican senators traded their votes in favor of the bill for assurances from GOP leadership that their other priorities would become law. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), for example, said she was voting for the tax bill, despite its repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate, because she was promised that two of her health care priorities would get a vote before the tax bill became law. Those are the Alexander-Murray package to fund cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments and open enrollment outreach and assistance, and $10 billion in re-insurance funding modeled on her bill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL). While these bills would not make up for the loss of the individual mandate, we support their enactment to address other components of GOP sabotage.
 

If the Senate had passed a carefully drafted and vetted bill, individuals senators would have lost all of their leverage to demand fulfillment of these promises: the House could have simply passed the Senate bill as-is, clearing it for the president to sign without any additional input from senators. But passing a bill that accidentally angers the business community makes it significantly less likely that the House can simply push through the Senate bill if the conference process sputters out. That, ironically, gives senators another bite at the apple.
 
That is where we find both challenges and opportunities. To fix their bill, Republicans may need to come up with $300 billion or more in additional revenue to stay within the Senate’s rules for passing the bill with only 51 votes. The House bill included a host of noxious tax hikes on low- and middle-income households that weren’t included in the Senate bill, among them repealing the deduction for high-cost medical expenses. Eliminating this deduction would particularly hurt senior women.
 
According to the AARP, the majority of tax-filers who claim the medical expense deduction are 50 or older and make $75,000 or less. The deduction is often used to help pay the costs of long-term care, which isn’t covered by most health insurance plans and which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, research has found that the kinds of “extraordinary medical payments” likely to trigger the deduction account for more of women’s monthly take-home income than men’s, and leave “women with significantly more revolving credit card debt than men.” If the Senate were to fix its bill by taking up the House’s tax hikes, low- and middle-income women would pay the price.
 
But on the positive side, Senator Collins’ second bite at the apple means she could withhold her support for the tax bill until versions of Alexander-Murry and Collins-Nelson are enacted without additional conservative hostage-taking. Immediately after Senate passage, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House conservatives made clear that they wouldn’t honor any of the commitments that Collins had receive around health care funding. But with her vote once again critical to passing the tax bill, grassroots activists should pressure Senator Collins to use her newly-restored leverage to insist on the best possible package.
 
Finally, it’s worth noting that while the tax bill is still a cornucopia of conservative social engineering—for example, taxing the state and local taxes that Americans pay to support their public schools, while giving wealthy parents who send their children to private schools a big tax break—key provisions related to abortion and church political activity were rejected by the Senate parliamentarian as not qualifying under the rules of reconciliation. Short of Republicans tossing out the filibuster altogether, those provisions can’t make a reappearance in any final package.
 
The tax debate is playing out against the backdrop of major year-end fights around federal spending. Stopgap funding to keep the government open expires on Saturday. House Republicans are pushing a two-week bill to fund the government through December 22 to give the two parties and chambers time to finish negotiating a larger package. After two-year deals in 2013 and 2015, sequestration is once again set to take a big bite out of health care and social welfare programs. Thus, a year-end package could include:
  • Several additional weeks of government funding,
  • Another two-year deal to partially repeal sequestration for both defense and non-defense spending,
  • Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson funding for ACA individual health insurance markets,
  • A 5-year reauthorization of CHIP,
  • Funding for community health centers,
  • A waiver of the statutory PAYGO provisions that will automatically cut $25 billion from Medicare next year alone due to the deficits caused by the tax bill, and
  • Possibly (though less likely) Dream Act provisions granting legal status to DACA immigrants whose lives were thrown into limbo when Donald Trump announced that he was ending the program in March.
In each of these fights, advocates must push to protect health care and the social safety net from long-term cuts for the sake of short-term gains.
Tuesday
Nov282017

It’s Women’s Week of Action!

The timing couldn’t be better for Women’s Week of Action!
 
Time is running out before this year’s Open Enrollment Period ends on December 15 in most of the country.  That’s why we are urging women to take time this week to shop around and enroll in health insurance.

Already have coverage for 2018? Then talk to your loved ones and the important women in your life and make sure they are covered too!

And, since it’s Giving Tuesday, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our work helping women learn how to enroll in coverage and use it effectively. You can make a donation online through the Network for Good page of Community Catalyst, which is the fiscal sponsor of one of our RWV coordinating organizations, MergerWatch. Designate your gift for Raising Women’s Voices.
 
But those aren’t the only reasons we’re issuing a call to action for Raising Women’s Voices supporters and allies this week. We’re also facing a congressional attack on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through a provision of proposed tax legislation that could come up for a vote in the Senate within days.

The threat in the Senate
 
Senate Republicans are set to vote as early as Thursday on a tax package that would enact deep tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-wealthy at the expense of health care for millions of low- and middle-income families. The Senate bill would permanently repeal the individual mandate, driving up premiums and causing 13 million people to lose their health insurance. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concludes that the overall impact of the bill would be to hurt poor households in order to help wealthy ones. The bill would also add $1.4 trillion to the deficit, which Republicans have said will give them the excuse they need to cut Medicare and Medicaid next year.
 
Once again, Republicans want to use reconciliation to ram a massive, unvetted bill through with just 20 hours of debate, and the support of 50 senators and Vice President Mike Pence. According to press reports, GOP leadership is working hard to strong arm senators into voting this week, because wealthy GOP donors have threatened to close the “piggy bank” unless they get tax cuts. Republicans are also anxious to rush the bill into law before the special election in Alabama on December 12 to fill Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat.
 
The House passed its version of the tax cut bill on November 16. If the Senate passes its bill this week, the two chambers could hash out a compromise package. Even more likely, however, the House could simply pass the Senate’s bill as-is, clearing it for the president to sign into law as early as next week. This week represents our last, best chance to stop the GOP from ramming through this reverse Robin Hood transfer of resources from the poorest to the richest Americans. 
 
Once again, it’s critical to call your senators! You can reach them through the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121. Or you can use a toll-free call line set up by SEIU at 866-426-2631.
 
Join our Women’s Week Twitter Chat this Thursday!
 
Help us spread the word that it is Women’s Week of Action! Join us @RWV4HealthCare for a #GetWomenCovered Twitter chat this Thursday from 3:00-4:00 pm ET. RSVP to raisingwomensvoices@gmail.com to get the Twitter questions we’ll be asking ahead of time, so you can prepare some great answers.

There are many reasons to sign up for health insurance. Health insurance can help you stay healthy and give you peace of mind. It can protect you and your family from unexpected medical costs in the case of an emergency. Tell your family and friends that you care about their health and want them to check out their options at healthcare.gov. You can find a professional enrollment assister in your area to review health insurance options for free using this Enrollment Connector.  

While you are looking for the best online shopping deals this week, check outhealthcare.gov. Did you know that 80% of people can find plans for less than $75 per month? Also, 4.5 million people can get a plan with $0 premiums. Now that’s a steal! The last day to enroll in health insurance for 2018 isDecember 15, so don’t wait!  

 

Tuesday
Nov212017

Do something your family will thank you for!

It’s Thankful Week of Action for Health Coverage

Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably thankful for your family and want to keep them healthy. What better reason could there be to get health coverage at healthcare.gov?

We’re helping people make the connection by promoting this week as Thankful Week of Action.  We created timely graphics to post on social media as part of our outreach and enrollment campaign.  This is just one way we and our amazing regional coordinators are making sure women of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants and low-income families know that Open Enrollment is happening NOW.

As with all of our Open Enrollment social media graphics, we have created tailored versions which highlight people who often feel excluded from mass media depictions of families. We want everyone to see themselves in our photos and know that the message is truly meant for them.

For example, here are images highlighting LGBTQ and immigrant families.


You can download and post any of these Thankful Week graphics. Spanish-language versions are also available.

Besides thinking about family and health during Thanksgiving week, a lot of us are thinking about holiday gift-giving. So, we created a graphic that taps into the shopping frenzy that commences with the day after Thanksgiving. After all, healthcare.gov is an online shopping site!

Use our social media graphics, such as these two featuring a photo of an African-American family (left) and an LGBTQ couple (right):

     

You can download and post any of our Online Sale graphics.

Join Raising Women’s Voices in promoting Thankful Week of Action, along with other national non-profit groups that have partnered with Community Catalyst, to spread the word. Altogether, we have made hundreds of thousands of social media impressions. With 3-1/2 weeks to go, we intend to reach many thousands more.

You can help us bring the message about quality health coverage to more women of color, immigrants, low-income families and LGBTQ people! Won’t you include Raising Women’s Voices in your year-end gift-giving? You can make a tax-deductible donation designated to Raising Women’s Voices through our fiscal sponsor Community Catalyst. 

Looking ahead: Next week is Women’s Week of Action for Outreach and Enrollment. We’ll be hosting a #GetWomenCovered Twitter Chat on Thursday 11/30 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Plan to join us!

Giving thanks for MA action to protect birth control benefit

Women in Massachusetts can give thanks that their state lawmakers and governor have just acted to protect their access to contraceptive coverage with no co-pays!

On Monday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed into law the Advancing Contraceptive Coverage and Economic Security in our State (ACCESS) Act, which preserves and expands upon the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement.  H4009requires insurance carriers in Massachusetts (with the exception of self-funded plans, which are regulated by the federal government) to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods with no cost sharing. In addition, women will be able to pick up a 12-month supply of oral birth control at one time, as well as more easily obtain over the counter emergency contraception with no co-pays.

NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, our Boston-based regional coordinator, has been working tirelessly alongside their women’s health allies to advocate for the adoption of the ACCESS Act. The bill’s passage took on an increased sense of urgency when the Trump Administration issued new regulations in October that roll back birth control coverage at the federal level, making state contraceptive coverage protections like Massachusetts’ even more important. The ACCESS Act will help ensure continued coverage for the 1.4 million Massachusetts women who gained access to no-cost contraceptive coverage, thanks to the ACA.