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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
Apr112019

It’s Black Maternal Health Week!

Why Black maternal health must be a priority

Today is the start of Black Maternal Health Week, which runs through April 17. The Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) has organized this week’s activities, and Raising Women’s Voices is proud to be a co-sponsor. Several RWV regional coordinators are active in BMMA and have been working in their own states to address maternal health disparities through establishment of state Maternal Mortality Review Boards, Medicaid funding for doulas and extension of Medicaid coverage for pregnant women for up to a year following childbirth. We present highlights of their work below.

The United States is the only developed country where the maternal mortality rate has increased over the last two decades. This problem is especially acute for Black women, who are dying in childbirth, or the immediate post-partum period, at rates three to four times higher than for white women. In some parts of the country, the problem is even worse. In New York City, for example, Black maternal mortality is 12 times higher than for white women.

Poor maternal health also has a severe impact on Black infant health. Black infants die at rates 2.4 times higher than for white infants, primarily because Black women have high rates of preterm births. While pre-term births are typically associated with low-income women, Black women from all socio- economic backgrounds experience higher rates of preterm births and infant mortality than other women, suggesting that income is not the sole driving factor.

Factors contributing to Black maternal and infant mortality include lack of access to quality, culturally-sensitive health care services. One area of focus is implicit bias on the part of health providers, who may unconsciously discount the concerns and reported symptoms of Black pregnant women. Studies are also showing that Black women who deliver at hospitals that primarily serve the Black population are much more likely to experience complications and death during and after delivery. Black women are also disproportionately experiencing health conditions that can increase maternal mortality risks, including hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Congressional action is underway

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) are introducing a resolution today officially recognizing Black Maternal Health Week, in order to bring national attention to the maternal health crisis in the Black community. Reps. Adams and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) this week officially launched the first-ever Black Maternal Health Caucus.  Meanwhile, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) and Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) are circulating for Senate co-signers a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter that urges funding for programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that seek to prevent maternal mortality, improve maternal health and eliminate disparities in maternal health outcomes.

There have also been several bills introduced in Congress addressing maternal mortality. Incremental progress has been made with the passage of the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018, which was sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3). It established a program under which HHS may make grants to states for such actions asestablishing maternal mortality review committees to investigate the causes of maternal deaths and improving the quality of maternity care through provider education.

Recently, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) reintroduced the Mothers and Offspring Mortality & Morbidity Awareness (MOMMA) Act (H.R. 1897 and S. 916.) This measure would (1) expand Medicaid coverage to the full postpartum period (one year) for mothers; (2) standardize data collection and empower a designated federal agency to collect uniform data; (3) ensure the sharing of best practices between practitioners and hospital systems (4) establish and enforce national and emergency obstetric protocols; and (5) improve access to culturally competent care. 

Rep. Adams and Sen. Harris have introduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act. This bill focuses on increasing comprehensive and quality health care access by creating two grants: (1) implicit bias training program grants to support specific training programs in medical, nursing and other training schools; (2) Pregnancy Medical Home Demonstration Project to establish a demonstration project to assist up to 10 states with developing and sustaining pregnancy medical home (PMH) programs.

State action: Maternal mortality review boards, post-partum Medicaid coverage, doulas!

One of the most important things states can do is to establish and support Maternal Mortality Review Boards, with confidential protections for providers that require a review for every pregnancy-related death, and which can develop recommendations to prevent future deaths.

Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR),our Denver-based regional coordinator, is advocating for the inclusion of funding that would give the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee the authority and resources needed to ensure robust participation and strong, timely recommendations to the legislature to prevent future maternal deaths. COLOR notes that Colorado’s maternal mortality rate roughly doubled between 2008 and 2013, and is urging its members to call on the state to treat this as a public health crisis.  Raising Women’s Voices - New York is applauding the state Legislature, which overwhelming passed a bill to create a maternal death review board, and included funding in the state budget to support it.

The Afiya Centerour Dallas-based regional coordinator and an active member of theBlack Mamas Matter Alliance, has been a leader on maternal mortality work, successfully advocating for the passage of a 2017 bill to address the maternal mortality crisis in Texas.The Texas Moms Matter Act created a Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force within the Department of State Health Services to review cases of pregnancy-related deaths and trends in severe maternal morbidity, which has disproportionately affected Black women.

In the last month of the Texas state legislative session, the Afiya Center has been working with Rep. Toni Rose, Rep. Shawn Thierry and Rep. Victoria Neave on maternal mortality-related legislation. They worked with Rep. Rose to provide language on how to extend Medicaid for pregnant mothers from 60 days to one year post partum (HB744). Afiya Center Policy Director Deneen Robinson testified at the hearing (photo below) on the bill, which is still pending.

With support from RWV, the The Afiya Center has been working to train doulas – hosting a Full Spectrum Doula Training presented by Ancient Song Doula Services, which honored the legacy and traditions of Southern midwives and birth doulas. Doulas are trained professionals that serve as a physical and emotional support to women before, during, and after pregnancy, and also help to connect them with other social supports. Patients with doulas for pre-natal, labor and post-partum support have better birth outcomes and are less likely to have cesarean births.

Currently, doulas are mainly affordable only for upper middle-class or affluent women and families who can pay out-of-pocket for these services. Advocates hope that making doulas more accessible to low-income women and women of color could help address maternal health disparities. In Rhode Island, our RWV coordinator – Planned Parenthood of Southern New England is advocating for legislation ensuring that doulas are covered by Medicaid in that state. Under H5609, qualified, trained doulas would be eligible for reimbursement through private insurance and Medicaid for up to $1,500 per pregnancy. If this legislation passes, Rhode Island would join Oregon, Minnesota, and a pilot program in New York allowing Medicaid coverage for doula services.

According to an article in Uprise RI, the bill was announced at “what may have been the first press conference held at the Rhode Island State House in which all of the speakers were women of color.” Speaking at the press conference, Kavelle Christie, Public Policy and Organizing Specialist of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (pictured above in a photo from Uprise RI), said “Planned Parenthood of Southern New England believes that carrying a pregnancy to term should not put women’s lives at risk. As a member of the Rhode Island Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, we will fight to ensure black women receive the high-quality care they deserve, and perinatal doulas are fairly compensated for the care they provide. Maternal mortality in the United States is a public health crisis and its severe impact on black women is unacceptable.” Click here to see Kavelle’s full speech.

New Jersey Citizen Action, our regional coordinator in that state, recently joined other health care advocates for a roundtable hosted by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy. The roundtable highlighted the $1 million in funding in Governor Murphy’s proposed 2020 budget to provide coverage for doula care services to expectant mothers on Medicaid to help combat New Jersey’s Black infant and maternal health crisis. In the program’s initial phase, community doulas will be trained to provide services in Newark, Trenton, Camden and Atlantic City.  So far, 50 community doulas have been trained, and another 50 are in the pipeline.  This is just one of several initiatives the First Lady is actively promoting as part of her push to address maternal health inequities for women of color in New Jersey.  Other proposals pending include a bill to extend Medicaid coverage for 12 months post-partum. Currently, pregnant women with incomes under 200% of the federal poverty limit can qualify for Medicaid, but that coverage expires 60 days post-partum. 

As part of New Jersey Citizen Action’s advocacy efforts in support of the First Lady’s initiative, Maura Collinsgru, Health Care Program Director at New Jersey Citizen Action, included these proposed maternal health bills in her budget hearing testimony. In her testimony on behalf of New Jersey Citizen Action, Collingsru cited the alarming statistic that Black women in New Jersey are five times more likely than their white counterparts to die from pregnancy-related complications. “Providing support to moms during and after pregnancy is vital if we are to turn around this unacceptable statistic,” she said.

Thursday
Apr042019

Protect Medicaid to protect women and families!

Highlighting the importance of Medicaid for women and families

April is Medicaid Awareness month! Every week this month we’ll highlight the importance of Medicaid to women and our families and provide updates on the continuing fight to save Medicaid from conservative efforts to dismantle it.

First enacted in 1965, with expansions over time, Medicaid has become a lifeline for women and families. Women live in poverty at higher rates than men do and are much less likely than men to have employer-sponsored insurance in their own names. Women with private health insurance are at greater risk than men of losing it following divorce or changes in the family coverage offered by their spouse’s employer.Unsurprisingly, then, women make up a majority of the adult Medicaid population, and it is especially important for women of color. 

As of 2014 (the most recent year for national enrollment data), Medicaid covered 25 million women age 19 and older. (The number is likely higher now that additional states have used the Affordable Care Act to expand their Medicaid programs to cover more adults since then.)

Medicaid and reproductive health

Approximately two-thirds of women with Medicaid are in their reproductive years (age 19 to 49). Medicaid covers critical reproductive health care services, such as family planning and contraception, prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care. Women cannot be charged out of pocket costs for reproductive health services and the law guarantees them “free choice of provider” to see the qualified health care provider of their choosing.

Nearly half of all pregnant people get their prenatal care through Medicaid, which also covers almost half of all births in the U.S. Medicaid also helps new parents struggling with postpartum depression. However, in those 14 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid  under the authority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many women lose their Medicaid coverage 60 days after giving birth. In DC and the 36 states that have expanded their Medicaid programs, most women are able to retain their coverage, ensuring better access to care.

Recently, WV FREE, our Charleston-based RWV regional coordinator, helped successfully advocate for the passage of SB 564, which 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 did not have health insurance, making the cost of childbirth out of reach for many. The average cost of childbirth in West Virginia 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.

Recognizing the importance of postpartum Medicaid coverage to the health and well-being of mothers and babies, some of our RWV regional coordinators – including New Jersey Citizen Action, EverThrive Illinois and Northwest Health Law Advocates  – have been supporting state efforts to extend postpartum full-scope Medicaid coverage to 12 months in their states. 

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) together cover 35 million children. Almost half of all young children, ages three and below, are covered by Medicaid.

Who else needs Medicaid? Older women

Another 16% of women with Medicaid coverage are 65 and older. Women live longer than men and enter their senior years with fewer financial resources. While Medicare and most private health insurance does not cover the cost of long-term care, including nursing home care, Medicaid does, making it particularly critical for older women. 

Perhaps most importantly, Medicaid works! As the Kaiser Family Foundation noted, “A large body of research shows that Medicaid beneficiaries have far better access to care than the uninsured and are less likely to postpone or go without needed care due to cost. Moreover, rates of access to care and satisfaction with care among Medicaid enrollees are comparable to rates for people with private insurance.” 

Finally, while Medicaid is essential for public health, it also helps lift millions of families out of poverty by lowering their health care costs, reducing their debt burden, and keeping them healthy for work and school. A 2017 study published in Health Affairs concluded that Medicaid is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs.

Thursday
Mar282019

Trump’s ACA shocker; Pelosi’s ACA rescue plan

Health care back at center of national stage

Two diametrically opposed approaches to health care were on display this week. On Monday, the Trump administration shocked legal observers—and even members of the GOP—by announcing that it would not defend any part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court. On Tuesday, House Democrats unveiled sweeping new legislation to significantly expand and improve upon the ACA.  Then on Wednesday, a federal judge struck down a core part of the administration’s attacks on Medicaid, its promotion of work requirements.

On Monday, the Trump Justice Department announced that it is no longer asking the courts to uphold any part of the ACA in the Texas lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health care law.  Previously, the Trump administration had surprised legal observers by declining to defend the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, even as it defended the rest of the law. (The department’s refusal to fully defend the law was so controversial that several Justice attorneys ultimately removed themselves from the case.) 
 
Then in December, federal court Judge Reed O’Connor (hand-picked by the GOP plaintiffs) issued a ruling to overturn the entire ACA that was so shocking even prominent conservatives called it “bananas” and “an exercise of raw judicial power.” Now, under DOJ’s new filing, the administration has abandoned its previous position without explanation, arguing that O’Connor’s decision striking down the entire law should be upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
 
Behind-the-scenes reporting makes clear that the White House is attempting a cynical, if politically dubious, ploy to force Democrats to support a Trumpcare alternative by blowing up the current system. But University of Michigan law professor and former Justice official Nicholas Bagley points out that it’s actually far more sinister.
 
Calling the move “far beyond the pale” and a “serious threat to the rule of law,” he writes: “The duty [to defend the law] is a close cousin to the president’s constitutional duty to enforce the law. If the Justice Department really thinks that Obamacare is so blatantly unconstitutional that it can’t be defended, that implies that the president is violating the Constitution whenever he applies it. It’s not hard to see that as an incipient justification for refusing to enforce any law that the president believes to be unconstitutional, however ridiculous or partisan that belief might be.”
 
While the case is still considered a long-shot despite the Trump administration’s new stance, it’s worth considering what’s at stake if the ACA is overturned. More than 12 million people who gained coverage through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion would immediately lose their care. Another 9.2 million people who receive federal subsidies to buy insurance through ACA marketplaces could find their care unaffordable without help. An estimated 133 million Americans have pre-existing conditions that could disqualify them from buying health insurance if the law falls, 171 million people could see annual and lifetime caps on coverage return, 60 million Medicare recipients would face higher costs, and 2 million young people currently on their parents’ health plans could be kicked off of coverage.

Women live in poverty at higher rates than men do, live longer than men, and are much less likely than men to have employer-provided insurance in their own names, making them particularly vulnerable to attacks on Medicaid, Medicare, and the ACA. At the same time, all of the law’s protections against discrimination and benefits for women—including contraceptive coverage, maternity care, breastfeeding support, well-woman visits and more—would fall. 
 
Downplaying these real-world harms, Trump told reporters, “If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we’ll have a plan that is far better than Obamacare,” he said. Despite making similar promises during the campaign, the Trump White House has never put out its own health care plan and has no realistic path forward.

Pelosi and House Dems propose plan to expand, improve on the ACA

While congressional Republicans groused anonymously about the possibility of ripping health care away from 21 million Americans and affecting millions more without any idea of how to help them, House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, put on a united front on Tuesday in rolling out sweeping new legislation to significantly expand and improve upon the ACA.

The new bill would unwind Trump administration sabotage of the ACA by blocking “junk” health plans and other Trump-exploited loopholes that circumvent protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It would also end Trump efforts to weaken the ACA’s essential health benefit coverage requirements and would restore funding outreach for open enrollment, among other steps. It would also fix long-standing problems with the current law, like eliminating the “family glitch,” which bases affordability on an individual’s premiums even when the family needs coverage.
 
But most importantly, the bill comes closer to fulfilling the promise of the ACA by making coverage far more affordable for working and middle class families. The bill takes important steps that we have long called for, such as making existing financial assistance much more generous for people with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) and eliminating the current cap on assistance for people with incomes above that threshold.
 
For middle class families with incomes above 400 percent FPL, the bill would make them eligible for premium support if the premiums for the benchmark plans in their area would cost more than 8.5 percent of their incomes. For example, a typical 60-year-old making $50,000 would see her premiums cut significantly. Where she now pays a monthly premium of $1,016, she would pay $354 per month under the new bill, or 8.5 percent of income. All together, the bill would lower premiums for 13 million people and extend coverage to millions more who are currently uninsured.
 
The lead sponsor of the House’s Medicare for All bill, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), told reporters that “We are completely united, as I’ve said for a while, on shoring up the ACA” even as their long-term goal is moving to a single payer system.

Judge throws out Medicaid work requirements in KY, AR

In a huge win for health care, on Wednesday, a federal district court judge threw out Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas, arguing that they violate the law. The Trump administration has encouraged states to seek waivers to Medicaid’s existing coverage rules in order to impose a host of new bureaucratic obstacles designed to block eligible people from getting covered through the program. Thus far, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin have been given approval by the administration to start imposing work requirements, and several others have sought or are weighing approval.

As we wrote last year, the Medicaid statute is clear: waivers must help improve access to care and any waiver that seeks to block coverage is in violation of the law. Judge James E. Boasberg agreed, writing “The Court cannot concur that the Medicaid Act leaves the [HHS] Secretary so unconstrained, nor that the states are so armed to refashion the program Congress designed in any way they choose.”

In April, we will be focusing on the Medicaid program, what it means for women, and what these bureaucratic red tape requirements are really intended to do. Stay tuned!

Wednesday
Mar202019

Celebrate ACA advances for women’s health!

Help celebrate the ACA’s impact on women’s health!

March 23 will mark the ninth anniversary of signing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Raising Women's Voices is hosting an ACA Anniversary Twitter Storm this Thursday, March 21, from  3-4 pm ET. We’ll be tweeting about how this groundbreaking law has helped reshape health care in America—especially for women! We will be joined by 18 national organizations that have signed on as co-sponsors, as well as many of our regional coordinators.

Why is it so important to celebrate the ACA this year? While we defeated the ACA repeal efforts in Congress, the Trump administration continues its efforts to sabotage the ACA through new regulations. Moreover, a lawsuit working its way through the courts is threatening to overturn the entire ACA, or invalidate its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

How can you join the celebration? During the one hour of the Twitter Storm, please tweet and re-tweet as many times as you can, using the hashtag#WinningWithTheACAGo to our toolkit now and check out the links to the free graphics available for you to use and sample tweets.

What has the ACA done for women?

March is also Women’s History Month, and there is a lot of women’s health history to celebrate. After the passage of the ACA, the uninsured rate among women ages 19-64 from dropped 19% to 11% according to a December 2018 Kaiser report. Women of color experienced particularly large coverage gains under the ACA, helping to narrow coverage disparities.

The ACA has truly helped level the playing field for women when it comes to health coverage. The ACA put an end to the common insurance company practice of charging women more than men for the same health plan. It also banned insurers from denying health plans to anyone with pre-existing conditions. While this provision of the law is one of its most universally popular, it is also particularly important for women. Incredibly, some insurers had defined pre-existing conditions to include having had a C-section or having been a domestic violence survivor!

The ACA didn’t just curb many of the insurance industry’s unfair practices. It also introduced many new protections, including requiring insurance companies to allow young adults to stay on their parent’s health plan until they turn 26. This means that more young women will be able to access the preventive health benefits, such as no-cost Sexually Transmitted Infection and HIV screenings. The ACA also gives women access to 18 FDA-approved forms of birth control with no cost sharing. Because health plans must pay the entire cost of prescribed birth control, the financial burden is no longer on the backs of women who do not want to become pregnant.

For women having children, maternity coverage is no longer an add-on benefit that insurance companies charge more for. It is one of the 10 essential benefits included in every health plan. Another of the essential health benefits the ACA requires all plans to include is mental health care, which women are more likely to utilize than men. Insurers must cover mental health care the same way they cover physical health care, without caps on the number of visits or dollars spent.
 
For this week’s Twitter Storm, we have created over 50 graphics -- some of which are shown here --  highlighting some of the advances we gained with the ACA. As usual, we are offering multiple versions of graphics for each topic so that participants can choose those with photos of people who reflect the people they work with. For example, our badges include photos of LGBTQ people, immigrant women, women of color, low-income women and families and women with disabilities.
The topics covered in our social media materials include:

  • Birth control coverage
  • Protection for people with pre-existing conditions
  • Breast and cervical cancer screening
  • Family health
  • Sex discrimination
  • Maternity care coverage
  • Mental health coverage
  • Preventive care for children
  • Staying on parent’s insurance until 26
We hope you’ll join us for Thursday’s Twitter Storm. Please check your time zone!

Time:  
3:00 - 4:00 Eastern
2:00 - 3:00 Central
1:00 - 2:00 Mountain
12:00 - 1:00 Pacific

 

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.