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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

Tuesday
Jul022019

What can we celebrate this July 4?

Protest is patriotic!

As progressive advocates for women’s and LGBTQ health care, we have often felt under siege for the last 2 ½ years. At the federal level, we have seen the Trump administration roll out one harmful proposal after another to eliminate, interfere with or otherwise curtail our health care. In conservative states, we have witnessed the enactment of harmful abortion laws and adoption of work requirements for Medicaid enrollees that are designed to kick low-income people off coverage when they fail to fulfill bureaucratic requirements.

So, what is there to celebrate about our country on this July 4? Let’s lift up our proud revolutionary tradition of protest to bring about the changes we need!

We all saw the effectiveness of the waves of grassroots protests that stopped Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in Congress. There are new examples of powerful protests:

  • The Trump administration has been forced to delay implementation of its egregious religious provider refusal rule from July 22 to November 22 because of a lawsuit filed by the City of San Francisco protesting the likely harmful impact on patients who could be refused reproductive health care and gender-affirming care.
  • In Georgia, the Feminist Women’s Health Center (our RWV regional coordinator in that state) became one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuitchallenging that state’s new law effectively banning abortions after just six week.
  • New York City, meanwhile, appropriated $250,000 to help women from states like Georgia obtain abortions in the Big Apple, and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced thatNew York City will turn down federal Title X family planning funds to protest the Trump administration’s harmful restrictions on use of that money.

So, on July 4, embrace our power to protest.

And get ready for some new protests. We need to speak out forcefully against the attempt to overturn the ACA in the courts!
On July 9, there will be arguments in a federal appeals court in New Orleans on the lawsuit, Texas v. the United States. At issue is a lower court judge’s ruling that the entire ACA should dismantled because the Trump tax law eliminated the ACA’s individual mandate – the requirement that individuals have health insurance, or pay a penalty for being uninsured. The lawsuit was brought by 17 Republic Attorneys General, who now are backed by the Trump administration’s Justice Department.

If this lawsuit succeeds, it would mean an end to all the consumer protections the ACA has brought us, including requiring insurers to cover maternity care and provide contraceptive coverage with no co-pays. Also eliminated would be Medicaid expansion and the federal healthcare.gov marketplace, along with the premium subsidies that make insurance coverage more affordable. Insurers could once again deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and charge women more than men for the same health insurance policy.

What can we do to protest this threat to all that we have gained from the ACA?While we cannot be there in the courthouse arguing for protection of the ACA, we can all speak out in ways that will help influence the public dialogue about this case and, hopefully, make judges think twice about such a potentially momentous change in our health insurance system. Community Catalyst, one of the national organizations that coordinates Raising Women’s Voices, has developed a toolkit for advocates to use in protesting this lawsuit. It includes sample letters to the editor and op eds you could submit to your local newspapers, as well as a guide for planning a protest event.  The national Protect Our Care coalition is organizing protests on July 9 in a number of states, including Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If  you are in one of those states, check in with the lead health care organizing groups to see how you can join in.

Thursday
Jun272019

Speak out against Trump's plans to discriminate

Tell the Trump Administration to #PutPatientsFirst!

Now is the time to speak out against the latest attack on our health care! It’s a proposed Trump administration rule that would undermine enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination protections, often referred to as the Health Care Rights Law.Join us for trans week of action this week and reproductive health week of action next week, urging people to submit comments opposing the rule. Read on for details on how to participate!

The proposed rule would not change or reverse the Health Care Rights Law – that would require an act of Congress – but LGBTQ patients and people seeking abortion services could suffer increased discrimination because of it. That’s because the rule would send the wrong message to biased health care providers and insurers, who could feel emboldened to discriminate against people who already face barriers to care.

The rule would change the existing Obama administration definition of sex discrimination – which is prohibited under the Health Care Rights Law – by removing prohibitions on discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity, departure from traditional sex stereotypes and/ or need for abortion services. Transgender and gender non-conforming patients are already avoiding health care settings for fear of facing discrimination, and access to abortion care is under heavy attack in many states. The Trump administration’s proposal will only make both situations worse.    

The deadline for submitting public comments on the proposed Trump administration rule is August 13.  Raising Women’s Voices and health advocates all over the country are working hard to get the word out about this threat and encourage people to submit comments. Here are some ways that you can help speak out and push back against this proposal:

Spread the word on social media. To help increase awareness and drive up public comments, a coalition of health advocacy groups has created an extensive social media toolkit with resources that you can share. These include sample social media posts, graphics, as well as schedule of digital events and actions aimed at increasing awareness.

For each week leading up to the August 13, all digital actions will be themed around a different population or issue that will be affected by the proposal. This week is trans week and next week is reproductive health week. Social media content for both theme weeks are or will be available on this toolkit. The toolkit is being regularly updated with new material, so please be sure to check in on it regularly!

Submit your own comments opposing the rule.  The U.S, Department of Health and Human Services is currently accepting comments from members of the public who wish to voice their concerns about the harmful effects of this proposal. You can find guidance on how to craft and submit your own comments here and here. Be sure to get your comments in before the August 13 deadline!

Appeals Court sides with Trump, family planning clinics face loss of funding

A panel of judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that new rules for the federal family planning program, known as Title X, may go into effect immediately.  The rules prohibit clinics from referring their patients for abortion care unless they move all referral conversations off-site, to an entity that is physically and financially separate from the family planning clinic.  The new rules also require clinics to provide referral information that includes multiple non-abortion providers, putting the burden on the pregnant person to try to figure out where to get abortion care.  The Trump administration claims that these changes are necessary to ensure that Title X funds are not used to “perform, promote, refer for or support abortion.”   However, anti-abortion supporters of the Trump-Pence administration have made it clear they want the administration to do everything it can to defund Planned Parenthood, a likely outcome if the rules go into effect.

Some clinics have announced that they will withdraw from the Title X program rather than subject their staff to gag rules and provide inadequate care to their clients.  “All Title X providers will be faced with two bad choices: withhold critical information and limit care to patients or leave the program and be less able or unable to care for poor and low-income people in their community,” Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), one of the plaintiffs challenging the Trump administration’s Title X changes.  The program currently serves 4 million clients every year through grants to nearly 4,000 facilities nationwide.

The rules were fiercely opposed during the regulatory process.  RWV and its regional coordinators educated their supporters, many of whom wrote to HHS expressing opposition.  Despite receiving thousands of comments in opposition, HHS finalized the rules in February.  They were slated to go into effect on May 3, but were enjoined by district courts in Maryland, Maine and California.  The case being heard by the 9th Circuit Court impacts every state except Maryland.

In another sign of the administration’s determination to push comprehensive family planning providers out of the program, in March HHS announced that it was giving a Title X grant of up to $5.1 million to the Obria Group, religiously-affiliated clinics that do not provide any contraceptives aside from instruction in natural family planning.  At the time the grant was awarded the Obria Group was not eligible because the Title X statute required all participants to provide the full range of medically approved contraceptives.  However, the new rule drops this requirement, opening the door for even more government support for crisis pregnancy centers and other fake clinics. 

Multiple lawsuits have been filed opposing the Title X regulations and none of the cases have been decided, meaning that the fight to have the new rules declared invalid isn’t over.  However, clinics and their allies, including several states, have argued that people who need family planning services will be irreparably harmed if Trump’s regulations go into effect while the cases are being tried.  Earlier this week, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association used this argument to file an emergency petition asking the full court to reinstate injunctions that had blocked the rule.  The court has asked the administration to respond by this evening, but there is deadline for the court to make its decision, leaving the rules in effect for now.

Thursday
Jun202019

Don't let Trump take coverage away from thousands of people!

Trump Wants to Lower the Definition of Being Poor...

...because if you aren’t called “poor,” then you aren’t anymore. Right?

Wrong. Last month, the Trump administration proposed changes to the Census Bureau’s poverty guidelines, which would leave fewer low-income people with the designation they need to qualify for life-saving federal benefits. More specifically, millions who currently rely on public health coverage (think Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP), housing support, or food assistance would increasingly become ineligible for those programs--and it’s going to get worse over time

This change would affect you even if your income is above the Federal Poverty Line. Many people who get ACA subsidies currently won’t qualify for that same support if this change goes unchallenged. The Coalition on Human Needs wrote, “It is estimated that by the 10th year, more than 150,000 ACA marketplace consumers would lose cost-sharing assistance and be required to pay higher deductibles. Tens of thousands of people would lose premium tax credits.”

The Office of Management and Budget is accepting comments up until Friday, June 21st on how this switch to a “shrinking inflation adjustment” would affect you, your organization, or your community. If those numbers sound as bad to you as they do to us, you can send your own comment to the OMB here or comment on behalf of your organizationhere. Don’t worry, they have template comments for the writing-wary.

Thursday
Jun132019

Good news, for a change, about state abortion laws!

Progress in state legislative work

We’re thrilled to report real progress this week by some of our regional coordinators in two important areas of health policy: enshrining Roe v. Wade-type protections at the state level, to protect against potential undermining of Roe by the U.S. Supreme Court, and extending Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum.

States take action to protect access to abortion care

Illinois and Maine recently took steps to protect and expand access to abortion care, in contrast to the recent wave of state laws banning all or nearly all abortions.  Illinois’ Legislature passed, and its governor signed into law, the Reproductive Health Act, which ensures that abortion will remain legal even if Roe v Wade is overturned.  Input from advocates, including RWV regional coordinator EverThrive, ensured that the law goes beyond protecting abortion and includes contraception, sterilization, and pregnancy and maternity care as fundamental rights in the state of Illinois.

Maine took another approach to protecting and expanding access to abortion care when its new Governor Janet Mills (below), signing a law permitting nurse practitioners and physicians assistant to perform abortion.   According to a new analysis, more than 11 million women nationwide live more than an hour from the nearest source of abortion care.

“The limited number of professionals providing termination services has burdened women in rural areas of Maine,”  RWV’s regional coordinator Consumers for Affordable Health Care said in an official statement. Expanding the pool of medical professionals who are able to provide abortion care is an important way to make it less difficult to obtain.  The Act to Authorize Certain Health Care Professionals to Perform Abortions is set to go into effect in September.

States Make Progress on Postpartum Health Coverage

Strikingly high rates of maternal mortality in the United States, particularly among women of color, have alerted a wide range of stakeholders to a maternity care system in crisis. Across the country, advocates at the state level have demanded action on maternal health and have highlighted the particular importance of support for new mothers in the postpartum period following delivery.

During 2019 legislative sessions in Illinois, Texas, New Jersey and California, policy makers have started to pursue postpartum support as one critical way to address our national maternal health problem. Among these efforts, Illinois became the first state to take steps to extend Medicaid coverage for pregnant women beyond the federal requirement of 60 days in their public health code. However, the path to implementing the new policy is unclear, as no funds were specifically appropriated for it in the state budget. Meanwhile, a bill to extend Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum passed one house of the Legislature in Texas, a major step forward in that state.

Why the focus on postpartum care?

The majority of maternal deaths do not take place in the delivery room. Rather, they happen during the postpartum period – sometimes months after a woman has a baby. During this medically vulnerable phase, new mothers can face a range of medical conditions, such as complications from childbirth, chronic conditions, or postpartum depression all while caring for a newborn. Given these challenges, advocates and clinicians alike have named this period the “fourth trimester” and are calling for equal medical attention and supportduring this crucial time period.

However, many American mothers, and particularly those on Medicaid during pregnancy, lack adequate health insurance during this critical period after birth. States are federally required to provide Medicaid to low-income pregnant women through 60 days postpartum, in order to make prenatal care accessible. But immediately after that 60 day period, hundreds of thousands of mothers are kicked off the program and in states without Medicaid expansion often do not have other options for coverage. This Medicaid system exposes new mothers to a health insurance “cliff” and can leave them without access to medical services that are essential for their well-being, as well as the health of their infants.

So, what are states doing to address this problem?

During state legislative session so far this year, a handful of states have taken action on this issue by pushing forward legislation that would extend pregnancy Medicaid coverage through the full 12 months postpartum, instead of only 60 days.

Illinois’s legislature amended the state’s public health code to extend coverage for pregnant women on Medicaid through the first year after delivery. The change was written into the budget implementation plan language, but without specifically-dedicated funding,  so there will likely be robust discussion on implementation.

Raising Women’s Voices Regional Coordinator EverThrive was a key advocate for this legislation, which was one of its 2019 policy priorities. In an interview with Public News ServiceKathy Waligora, Executive Director of EverThrive, described the long-term benefits of this initiative for both mothers and children: "Things like maternal-depression screening and treatment, treatment for substance-use disorders, smoking cessation – all of those are benefits that Medicaid can and does cover. So, those are likely to have really positive, two-generational impacts." This initiative was part of a larger maternal mortality package that was not voted on, but the house sponsor of the wider bill was able to push postpartum coverage specifically into the budget implementation plan.

A proposed bill in Texas would have similarly amended the state’s Human Resources Code to require that women on Medicaid during pregnancy remain covered for at least 12 months postpartum. The Afiya Center, our Dallas-based regional coordinator, had a powerful impact in pushing the bill forward. Afiya leadership worked closely with representatives to provide language for the bill and Policy Director Deneen Robinson (below at the podium) testified at the hearing. The bill ultimately passed in the House, but didn’t make it to a vote in the Senate. Instead, the legislature agreed to a narrower and less expensive two-year initiative to address postpartum depression and substance abuse treatment for some low-income women.

The bipartisan bill to extend Medicaid coverage was the top recommendation of a taskforce convened by the state to tackle high levels of maternal mortality. This initiative was particularly critical in Texas, which has the highest rate of uninsured women of reproductive age. Advocates have expressed disappointment that the state missed the opportunity to reduce gaps in coverage, and are eager to see the legislature build on the progress made in the house to achieve lasting policy on this issue.

In New Jersey and California, similar bills have made progress on the legislative floor and are still being reviewed. New Jersey Governor Murphy signed a robust four bill package to address maternal health into law, but extended postpartum Medicaid coverage was not included.

The legislative action across these states has the potential to fill gaps in maternal health coverage and lead to healthier mothers and babies. A recent report from Georgetown University Health Policy Institute shows that states that increased health coverage for women of reproductive age through general Medicaid expansion have reduced adverse maternal health outcomes and maternal mortality rates. Illinois’ success and other states’ progress are major steps in the right direction for supporting America’s mothers and tackling our maternal health crisis. 

 

Thursday
Jun062019

Louisiana activists speak out against abortion ban

Louisiana passes copy-cat abortion ban

Last week, John Bel Edwards, the governor of Louisiana, signed the latest legislation banning abortion ban.  Similar to laws passed in five other states, the act would ban abortion when electrical activity is detected in embryonic cells, referred to by its supporters as a “heartbeat bill”.  If it were to go into effect, the law would ban abortions at around six weeks of gestation, typically two weeks after a missed period.  There would be no exceptions for rape or incest. 

In a sign that state policymakers want to be seen as opposing abortion, but realize that the law is unconstitutional, the Louisiana law will only go into effect if a similar Mississippi law is upheld in federal appeals court.  The Mississippi law is temporarily blocked by Federal Judge Carlton Reeves, who wrote that the law “prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy.”

Lakeesha Harris, Director of Reproductive Justice and Health of Women With A Vision (our New-Orleans based regional coordinator), told Rewire.News that Democrats in Louisiana often mirror Republicans when it comes to issues like abortion. They will say one thing and vote another way, or they will “take a walk” and be absent.  The bill passed the Louisiana House with an overwhelming 79-23 vote.

Earlier last month, Lakeesha Harris (standing in center) put herself on the line to protest the draconian proposed abortion ban in Louisiana. “I wish I were surprised that when so many people are struggling, state Sen. John Milkovich and other lawmakers choose to waste their time and our tax dollars denigrating the decisions of women who seek abortion.” said Lakeesha in her op-ed piece for The Advocate.

“We haven’t been a part of the national conversation, so today was about claiming our rights but also letting people know that we fight in Louisiana,” said Deon Haywood, Executive Director, WWAV. “Southerners stand up, and we are always fighting. We’re always on the front lines.”

Medicaid expansion supports housing stability

In case you need another reason to support Medicaid expansion (we don’t, but if you’re trying to convince a recalcitrant policymaker, you might), a new study demonstrated that expanding Medicaid helped low-income people avoid being evicted.  How can a Medicaid card help you pay your rent?  By covering health care costs that you could otherwise have to pay out of pocket, leaving you without enough money to pay rent. 

Researchers Heidi Allen, Erica Eliason and Naomi Zwede at Columbia University and Tal Gross at Boston University looked at all evictions in fourteen states from January 2009 through December 2013, which is roughly two years before and after California expanded Medicaid coverage.  They found that in the California counties that expanded Medicaid in 2011-2012, there were 59 fewer evictions per month - a 25% drop in the number of families that experienced eviction.  Medicaid expansion helps women and their families maintain stable housing, which is a crucial underpinning to good health.  Reason number 3,427 to support Medicaid expansion.  But, who’s counting?