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ACA sabotage is going to hike our premiums! 

Don’t be fooled! ACA sabotage is causing those premium hike requests
We’re getting our first glimpse of the kinds of hefty premium increases we can expect in the Trump era, with Maryland and Virginia releasing their preliminary rates for 2019. Citing the numerous legislative and administrative attacks on ACA marketplaces that have transformed the health care law into Trumpcare, insurers around the country are predicting that they’ll need steep premium increases in order to compensate for GOP sabotage. 
In Maryland, the CEO of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest insurer in the Mid-Atlantic region, was blunt, telling a Washington Post reporter that “continuing actions on the part of the administration to systematically undermine the market make it almost impossible to carry out the mission” of providing affordable coverage through the ACA marketplaces.
As both insurance companies and independent health experts noted, ACA premiums were stabilizing before Donald Trump took office. From day one, however, Trump has done everything he could to sabotage and undermine the ACA, publicly admitting that he wanted the law to “fail” despite the harm to his own voters. 
First the administration slashed the open enrollment period in half and gutted funding for outreach and enrollment assistance. Then the GOP tax bill repealed the individual mandate, even as it lavished massive tax breaks on pharmaceutical companies and others driving up health care costs. Rules finalized last month will let insurance companies charge more even as they cover less. New rules expected soon for year-long “short-term” plans and association health plans will push healthy people out of comprehensive coverage and into worthless “junk” plans that discriminate on the basis of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and pre-existing conditions, including survivors of rape and domestic violence.
As a result, double-digit increases are likely to be the norm. Even Trump’s first Secretary for Health and Human Services, Tom Price, accidentally admitted that repealing the individual mandate increases premiums for millions of people who want or need quality comprehensive insurance through the ACA. Speaking to the World Health Care Congress hesaid, “There are many, and I am one of them, who believes that [repealing the mandate] actually will harm the pool in the exchange market because you'll likely have individuals who are younger and healthier not participating in that market. And, consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks in that market."
Between May 1 and July 31 insurers will submit their proposed rates for the coming year. Final rates won’t be locked in until October. We’ll keep you posted on what’s happening.
Trump seeks to slash children’s health funds
This week the Trump White House rolled out a package of $15 billion in proposed spending cuts, including $7 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and another $800 million from an Affordable Care Act program designed to help slow the growth of health care costs. After busting the deficit in December with a massive tax cut for corporations and the ultra-wealthy, Republicans are cynically using this “rescissions” package to once again pay for tax cuts for the rich with health cuts for the poor.
While the administration argues that CHIP won’t be affected by the cuts, that’s simply not true. At least $2 billion in cuts would come from a contingency fund that’s critical for responding to children’s health needs in emergencies, like the three devastating hurricanes that struck last year. And we haven’t forgotten that CHIP spent months in limbo, eventually expiring, while Republicans attempted to offset the costs of a reauthorization with damaging cuts to other health programs. If there are unused funds now that can’t be spent, as the White House claims, they must be allocated to shoring up health care for the most vulnerable, not covering tax cuts for the Mar-a-Lago crowd.
Under the law, Congress must act within 45 days of formally receiving the request.  The package can’t be filibustered in the Senate and can pass with just 50 senators. With Senator John McCain (R-AZ) being treated for cancer in Arizona for the foreseeable future, Senate Republicans currently have a working majority of just 50-49. If Congress rejects the proposal, the president can’t try these same cuts again.
At stake in this fight is more than just CHIP. If the package is successful, it significantly increases the likelihood of another government shutdown in October and threatens a number of our health care priorities. Republicans need bipartisan cooperation this fall to pass an FY 19 funding bill, which is subject to filibuster and requires a de facto 60-vote threshold for passage. But it won’t be possible to negotiate that package in good faith if Republicans are simply going to immediately rescind funding for Democratic priorities on a party line vote.
The White House has promised that if this package is successful, it’s just the beginning of additional spending cuts. While some GOP senators, including Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), have expressed some concerns about cutting CHIP, they need to hear from us. Tell your members of Congress to reject this brazen attempt to pay for tax cuts with health cuts.
Black Women’s Health Imperative at United State of Women conference
On May 5 and 6, the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), one of the Raising Women’s Voices coordinating team partners, participated in the United State of Women (USOW) conference in Los Angeles. USOW amplifies the work of organizations and individuals at the forefront of the fight for women’s equality.
BWHI tabled and presented the organization’s work around protecting the ACA, diversifying medical research and stressing the importance of access to contraception. The table itself (shown at right, with laptop depictingBWHI President and CEO Linda Goler Blount) provided a wonderful self-care experience. It included a photo booth with props and posters that detailed ways Black women practice self care.
Women were encouraged to join BWHI’s mailing list and everyone that came to the table left with brochures and other useful information about the organization’s initiatives. BWHI staff also met with representatives from Blavity, attended workshops on mental health, reproductive justice and women in the media.



The new Trumpcare: Don’t get sick on a weekend!

Last year, they tried to give us Trumpcare

This Friday marks the one-year anniversary of House passage of the GOP Trumpcare bill.With so many attacks on women’s health over the last year, it’s easy to forget just how disastrous the GOP bill would be for women. 

But we can’t afford to forget because we know Republicans haven’t given up on their dream of full repeal.  While rumblings in the right wing press about a secret group of House conservatives and White House officials negotiating to bring another Trumpcare bill back probably won’t come to much this year, there’s no question that opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will make another run at full legislative repeal next year if they retain control of the House and Senate in November’s mid-term elections. That means holding those representatives accountable for how they voted.

So what exactly were House Republicans raucously celebrating at the White House this time last year? Their bill would have:
  • Barred Medicaid enrollees from using their coverage at Planned Parenthood.
  • Let states drop coverage of maternity care and other Essential Health Benefits, such as hospitalization, prescription drugs, and mental health services.
  • Let states allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, including survivors of rape and domestic violence.
  • Caused at least 24 million people to lose their health insurance.
  • Let states bring back annual and lifetime spending limits on our health coverage.
  • Cut money from Medicaid, Medicare and other health programs to finance a huge tax cut for wealthy individuals. 
This May 4, make sure your member of Congress knows that you haven’t forgotten how he or she voted. Find the vote tally HERE

Here’s the new Trumpcare: Don’t get sick on a weekend!

Stymied in Congress, the Trump administration has been using administrative rule changes to try to sabotage the ACA. The administration’s ongoing regulatory attacks – through the recently finalized Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters, proposed rule onshort-term plans, and proposed rule on Association Health Plans – have serious consequences for women’s health care. These rules would water down important Essential Health Benefits like maternity care, and allow insurers to deny women care based on pre-existing conditions.

How can advocates fight back at the state level against the rollback of these important consumer protections? One state model to protect against the harmful changes that would result from the Trump administration’s rule to expand “short-term limited duration plans” comes from our Chicago-based regional coordinator, EverThrive Illinois.  

Short-term health plans offer only barebones coverage and don’t cover the care that women need. These plans can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and are not required to cover the ACA’s 10 Essential Health Benefits, including maternity care. In fact, anew brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation that looks at benefits covered by short-term plans in major cities in each state, shows that none of these plans cover maternity care.

Under current law, short-term health insurance plans are intended to cover very short gaps in coverage and don’t have to comply with the ACA’s consumer protections. Under Obama-era regulations, they are limited to just three months. If Trump’s rule on short-term plans is finalized, these “junk” plans could last up to 364 days.

As part of their research into what, exactly, these junk plans do and (more likely) do not cover, EverThrive found a number of shocking fine print exclusions in the short-term plans offered in Illinois. One plan, for example, states they will not cover hospital room and board on a Friday or Saturday (unless for an emergency). The plan excludes pregnancy on the basis that it’s a preexisting condition, and also excludes coverage for any other condition “for which medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received” in the two years prior to the start of coverage.

EverThrive is working to illustrate the harmful consequences of short-term plans, particularly on Illinois women, by highlighting their stories. They’re collecting those stories here.  

EverThrive Illinois and their Protect Our Care Illinois colleagues are advocating for a proposed policy that would regulate short-term health plans in IllinoisSB2388 SFA1 would protect consumers in Illinois from short-term health plans by:
  • Defining short-term, limited duration health insurance in state law as individual health insurance, which means that all the consumer protections already enshrined in state law will apply to short-term health plans;
  • Preventing issuers of short-term plans from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions by refusing to sell coverage to them or canceling coverage when someone needs care;
  • Requiring that any short-term plan sold in Illinois be limited to 90 days of coverage and prevent the plan from being renewed within a one-year period; and
  • Requiring the application, sales, and marketing materials for short-term plans to include clear disclosures, such as: “WARNING! This plan may not cover all of the health care you need and may leave you with very high medical bills.”
Here are some other ways states can mitigate the harmful impact of short-term health plans.
Maine advocates sue Governor for delayed Medicaid expansion

Last November, our regional coordinator, Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC), played an important role in building the massive public support for Medicaid expansion that resulted in a victory for expansion by popular referendum. Mainers voted to extend coverage to 80,000 people who are currently in Maine’s coverage gap because they are ineligible for traditional Medicaid, but don’t earn enough to afford the private marketplace health plans offered through

Now CAHC and allies are suing Maine Governor Paul LePage, a conservative Republican, to force him to expand Medicaid. Supporters say the Governor has refused to join the coverage program despite the ballot initiative. He has vetoed bipartisan Medicaid expansion bills passed by the state legislature five times, and he campaigned hard against the referendum.

According to LePage, he won’t move forward with the expansion until lawmakers meet his funding requests for the program. Maine’s last legislative session ended without a funding agreement, which fueled the lawsuit against LePage’s administration. CAHC, Maine Primary Care Association, Maine citizens, Maine Equal Justice Partners and Mainers for Health Care have filed the lawsuit against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

“The people of Maine have spoken and now it is time for the Governor to follow the law and implement Medicaid expansion,” said Kate Ende, Consumer Assistance Program Manager or CAHC.

CAHC has joined other Maine health care advocates in demanding action on Medicaid expansion during a special legislative session. They have also encouraged direct action by fellow Mainers to call their legislators. Maine would become the 32nd state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Trump rule would endanger immigrants’ health!

DACA saved again, but Trump rule would jeopardize immigrants’ health!

A federal judge this week ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that is protecting some young undocumented immigrants (“Dreamers”) from deportation must stay in place for now because the Trump administration’s rationale for canceling the program was “arbitrary and capricious.” But, the Trump administration is preparing yet another attack on American immigrant families, with implications for their ability to get affordable health insurance coverage.  

Under a proposal now being reviewed by federal agencies, immigrants could be denied legal status in the U.S. if they or anyone in their family gets Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance, subsidies to purchase private marketplace health coverage or other benefits.  

That’s because any immigrant who receives such benefits (or whose family member receives the benefits) would be considered a “public charge” under the proposed rule changes. It’s  designation that the federal government assigns to an individual who is considered “primarily dependent” on the government for subsistence. If an immigration applicant is deemed “likely to become a public charge,” it can be used by the federal government as grounds to deny the individual admission into the country. For immigrants already in the country,  that designation can be used to deny lawful permanent residency (LPR) status.

Currently,  these restrictions apply only  to individuals who receive cash assistance programs. This means immigrants can only be denied entry or LPR if they receive assistance from programs that provide cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). But the Trump administration’s proposal would change the definition to include individuals who use almost any form of government –provided benefits program. According to the National Immigration Law Center, these benefits would include:
  • Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Health insurance subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Food stamps (SNAP) and housing assistance
  • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance for pregnant and postpartum mothers and their children
The only programs exempted from the new rule would be emergency or disaster assistance, student loans and military service benefits. These changes have been submitted by the US Department of Homeland Security and Department of Citizenship and Immigrant Services to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

So what does this mean for immigrant families? It means immigrants can be denied entry or residency if they have ever used, or are likely to use, any government benefit. Immigration officials can also turn away immigrants if other members of their household have ever used government benefits, including their US-born children. If Trump’s rule change is adopted, immigrants and their families who use these benefits risk jeopardizing their ability to stay in the country.

For lower to moderate-income immigrant families who depend on these benefits to make ends meet, the results of these changes could be devastating. A reported 43.5% of immigrant families depend on government food assistance programs, including 800,000 non-citizen women and nearly 4 million US citizen children born to non-citizen parents who receive SNAP. Many of these families will no doubt forgo benefits that they need and qualify for, out of fear of jeopardizing their immigration status or putting immigrant family members at risk. We can also expect a “chilling effect” on immigrant health care, as many immigrants will be deterred from seeking care at Federally Qualified Health Centers. The health consequences will disproportionately affect women, as the majority of Medicaid enrollees (58%) are women.

Even though these changes are not yet official, we are already seeing the effects as fear takes hold in immigrant communities. WIC enrollments in states like Texas and Florida, where many immigrants live, have seen huge drops since Trump’s election, leaving the health and wellbeing of many pregnant women and children at risk. In two New Jersey counties where more than 25 percent of residents are immigrants, SNAP enrollment has dropped by double digits.

That’s why we must fight back against the anti-immigrant agenda, and take action to protect the rights and health of immigrants and their families! The Center for Law and Social Policy has compiled resources that you can use to stay updated on this topic.  You can engage local, state and Congressional leaders to educate them on the implications this rule would have for immigrant families in their communities.

Could counties fill coverage gaps for uninsured immigrants?

In a new report, “County-Based Health Coverage for Immigrants: A Proposal for Counties in Washington State,” our Seattle-based regional coordinator, Northwest Health Law Advocates (NoHLA), makes recommendations about how the Washington counties of King and Yakima could fill the gaps in coverage that remain for the counties’ close to 51,000 uninsured immigrants. Some of NoHLA’s findings could inspire efforts in other states.

While the ACA expanded coverage for many low-income Washington residents, many are ineligible for subsidies and cannot purchase coverage on the state insurance marketplace due to their immigration status. For many, individual insurance on the commercial market is out of reach financially.

“County-based health coverage is an approach with real potential to address health inequities people experience every day in Washington State,” said NoHLA Staff Attorney Huma Zarif. “This innovative way to ensure folks are getting the health care they need has worked well in programs across the country as highlighted in our report. I am excited to move forward and begin conversations in counties across the state!” Read more here about Huma’s experience working on the report, and the personal connection she has to the project from her time working as a medical social worker.

While Washington State already offers full-scope coverage to children through the age of 18, regardless of immigration status, through the Apple Health for Kids program, a county-based program could fill many of the unmet needs of uninsured low-income individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid.

In their report, NoHLA staff explore how Washington can implement a county-based health insurance program to provide comprehensive health coverage to immigrants who would otherwise remain uninsured. NoHLA researched county health programs in other states to learn how they fill gaps in coverage that result from federal and state program limitations that exclude certain immigrants.

County-based programs in states like California, New York, Maryland, and Nevada have been successful in delivering care to these populations. The six counties that were studied offer varying levels of coverage and enable the uninsured to access health care services that were previously unaffordable and inaccessible.  

How do these programs work?
  • Eligibility requirements: The county-based programs NoHLA examined generally had eligibility requirements that limited enrollment to adults who are residents of the county  and have certain income ranges and uninsurance/uninsurability status.
  • Enrollment process: The programs primarily used two enrollment models. One model conducted enrollment activities through a centralized process, identified a medical home for the individual, and referred them for an initial appointment to establish care. The other model used onsite enrollment processes at participating clinic locations. NoHLA stresses that enrollment must be done in a culturally appropriate and linguistically accessible manner, and that social security numbers and information about immigration status should not be collected as part of enrollment.
  • Model for providing care and participating providers: All of the programs NoHLA researched provided care using some form of “medical home” model, in which enrollees were assigned to a clinic or hospital facility at which they received most of their primary and preventive care services. This leads to more comprehensive, coordinated, patient-centered care that eliminates duplicative services, reduces inpatient hospital admissions and emergency department use, thereby lowering overall costs and spending.
  • Benefits: All of the programs NoHLA looked at cover primary and preventive services. Pharmacy services/prescriptions, reproductive health and diagnostics are almost all either covered by the county programs themselves, or provided by an existing program. Most programs include a care management/care coordination component. NoHLA found that other benefits, such as specialty care, emergency services and behavioral health, are covered by some county programs, but not others. For a benefits comparison chart, see Appendix B in NoHLA’s report. Based on their analysis, NoHLA recommends that benefits should be similar to the full scope Medicaid service package with as robust a benefit package as feasible, wrapping around already-available services such as emergency Medicaid and hospital charity care.
  • Out of pocket costs: Some of the programs NoHLA looked at with higher income-eligibility criteria include cost-sharing provisions for services obtained. Some programs also require monthly or quarterly participation fees from enrollees. NoHLA recommends that there should be no out-of-pocket costs for individuals at or below 138% of the Federal Poverty Limit and limited participation costs on a sliding scale for incomes above that level.
How are these programs funded? NoHLA found that the ways that county-based programs finance their programs vary. Sources of funding include county governments, hospitals, foundations, individual donations and in-kind donations of services and materials.

Replicating these programs in Washington State: The report suggests creating similar programs in Washington to provide more consistent access to health care services, and reduce expensive and avoidable emergency care. County-based coverage would mitigate long-standing health inequities and would begin to restore coverage that immigrants lost when the state’s Basic Health Plan (a pre-ACA state-subsidized health insurance program in Washington that became a model for the state option under the ACA) ended their coverage in 2011.

Watch out! Stealth campaign to give us Trumpcare, after all!

New Trump administration rules threaten our health care
Having failed to pass Trumpcare through Congress last year because of widespread public opposition, the Trump administration has been steadily working to quietly implement it through rule changes issued by the Executive Branch. Last week, the administration finalized rules for the individual and small business marketplaces that significantly weaken core consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act.
Using an annual rules update -- known as the Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters (NBPP) -- as the vehicle, the administration announced sweeping changes to everything from the 10 essential health benefits (EHBs) that health plans must cover to how much insurance companies can charge in premiums. 
EHBs such as maternity care, prescription drug coverage, hospitalization and mental health care are guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  But under the new rules, the administration is granting states significant leeway to determine which services are actually covered under each broad category of benefits. It’s not hard to imagine, for example, a state approving a plan with maternity care that only covers a few prenatal visits and screenings. Even more troubling, states can shift coverage between categories, skimping on, say, mental health care, while increasing coverage for physicians’ visits. States will have significant freedom to design coverage requirements that help politically powerful groups at the expense of marginalized groups.
What can you do? Start talking to your state officials now to make sure they aren’t considering harmful changes to your state’s current EHB standards. States have until July 2, 2018, to change what is known as the “benchmark” plan for 2020. The ACA created guidelines for EHBs, but left the specific details up to each state. The benchmark plan is the plan each state designates as the standard for EHBs. So, it’s important to act quickly to get a seat at the table, and speak out to make sure the process is robust, transparentand open to public input. In future RWV newsletters, we will be sharing more ideas about how to oppose state actions weakening coverage requirements.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, the new Trump rule could have an impact on health benefits at large employers, too. Under the ACA, insurance companies must limit how much a patient can be expected to pay out-of-pocket for essential health benefits and insurers are prohibited from imposing annual or lifetime limits on those benefits. By weakening EHB standards, the rule could mean even employees at large firms could find themselves subject to new limits on coverage or higher out-of-pocket expenses.
The new rule also expands on last year’s efforts to sabotage the open enrollment period by slashing support for in-person navigators to help people enroll. States could establish a single navigator per state (up until now it has been at least two), permit navigators to be based outside of the state and eliminate rules intended to ensure that navigators are offering help to groups that may not be able to navigate the marketplace on their own due to language barriers, lack of internet access or other factors.
The rule also makes it easier for insurers to raise premiums. Insurers will be able to raise rates up to 15% (instead of the current 10%) without being reviewed by a state insurance regulator first.  Moreover, health plans won’t have to spend as much of the premiums they collect on actually providing care. By loosening the medical loss ratio (MLR) provision, the administration will give insurers much more flexibility under the rule to raise premiums and spend the increase on executive salaries and bonuses and other administrative expenses.
Meanwhile, comments close next Monday on another proposed rule to gut the ACA, this time to radically expand so-called short-term health plans into full-year “junk” plans that offer only barebones coverage and discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.
Under current law, short-term health insurance plans intended to cover very short gaps in coverage don’t have to comply with the ACA’s consumer protections. But under Obama-era regulations, they are limited to just three months. They also never satisfied the individual mandate requirements. Under the Trump proposal, these short-term “junk” plans could last 364 days, and of course, the individual mandate has been repealed starting 2019.
Much like the Trumpcare proposals pushed by the GOP Congress last year, these plans would not be required to cover the EHBs. They could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, charge limitless out-of-pocket expenses and reinstate annual and lifetime coverage caps. Unlike ACA-compliant policies, these “junk” plans would also not be subject to the MLR provision and so not required to spend a minimum percentage of our premiums on actually providing health care.
Because these “junk” plans cover so little, they’d cost very little too, appealing to younger, healthier people who don’t expect to get sick, have an accident, or need much insurance throughout the year. That would make the market for comprehensive coverage older and sicker, driving up premiums for everyone who needs the quality coverage of ACA-compliant plans.
You can make your voice heard by commenting on the proposed short-term ruleHERE before 5:00 EST on Monday, April 23, and tweeting at the administration using the hashtags #junkplans #trumpcare.
Some states moving to protect health consumers from Trump sabotage
Our Newark-based regional coordinator, New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), has been working to help insulate New Jersey’s insurance market and consumers from GOP attempts to undermine the ACA. Last Thursday, the New Jersey legislature passed two bills that would help preserve access to affordable health insurance for New Jerseyans. These bills now await Governor Phil Murphy’s signature.
One of the bills, S1877, would establish a state-level individual health insurance mandate in New Jersey. The federal individual mandate, which was repealed as part of the GOP tax plan, was put in place to make sure younger and healthier people were part of the insurance risk pool. Health insurance only works when both healthy people and sick people pay health insurance premiums. Having people who need less health care in the risk pool helps to cover the cost of care for sicker people. This keeps premiums down for everyone and keeps the market stable. A state-level individual mandate would ensure that both healthy and sick people can get affordable health coverage in New Jersey.
The second bill, S1878, would allow for the creation of a reinsurance program in New Jersey. In a previous newsletter, we described our Maryland regional coordinator’s work successfully advocating for a similar bill, which has subsequently been signed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Reinsurance programs are designed to help insurance companies offset the costs of more expensive medical claims, without resorting to raising premiums on everyone.
NJCA is encouraging New Jerseyans to urge Governor Murphy to sign these bills without delay to help shield New Jersey from unaffordable health care premium increases. 
This week is a good time to realize what the tax bill  is doing
As they’re working to protect the ACA at the state level, NJCA is also raising awareness throughout the state about the terrible impact the GOP tax law will have on the health and economic security of New Jersey women and families. They’re reminding New Jerseyans that in addition to repealing the individual mandate – which the CBO estimated will lead to 13 million more uninsured Americans and premium increases of about 10% – the tax bill passed by Congressional Republicans in December gives huge tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations, and increases the national debt by trillions of dollars. Now, Republicans are looking to pay for those tax cuts with deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs women and families depend on.
On tax day, NJCA rallied outside the district office of Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ 3) – the only New Jersey Congressman to vote yes on the GOP’s tax bill – to demand that he work to #RepealTheTrumpTax.
Speaking at the rally, NJCA Health Care Program Director Maura Collinsgru told the crowd: “They revoked and are not enforcing the requirement that people who can afford insurance, maintain it, and because of that, there is an estimate that more than 300,000 New Jerseyans will not have coverage by 2025 unless the state of New Jersey acts. As our uninsured increase, so too will the premiums for every family in New Jersey, whether they get their coverage through an employer or they pay themselves. After we have cut our uninsured rate in half and slowed the growth of health care cost in the last five year to record lows, Tom MacArthur’s yes vote has meant we are reversing all the progress [we have made].”



Help raise awareness about Black maternal mortality!

Black Maternal Health Week starts tomorrow
Black women in the United States have among the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developed world.  Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than are white women. This week, we are joining the Black Mamas Matter Alliance in a campaign to raise awareness about this crisis and help support the development of solutions through community-driven policy advocacy and health systems change.

There are many ways that you can get involved! Join the Black Mamas Matter Alliance on social media with the official hastags #BMHW2018 #BlackMaternalHealthWeek. See their social media toolkit here.
Today (Tuesday) at 3PM EST there will be a pre-launch tweet chat with leading reproductive justice organizations to advocate for maternal rights and birth justice for Black women.
There will also be several information webinars that will amplify the issues:
  • Wednesday, April 11th at 12PM EST: Black Maternal Health Week launch webinar. Register here.
  • Thursday, April 12th at 12PM EST: "Best Practices in Black Mama Care Work” webinar. Register here.
  • Monday, April 16th at 12PM EST: BMHW Webinar highlighting African Immigrant women's advocacy in maternity care. Register here.
If you live in California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, or Texas you can also go here to find local events in your area where you can get involved. The week will wrap up on Tuesday, April 17th at 3PM EST with the BMHW finale tweet chat. 
Feminist Women’s Health Center, RWV’s regional coordinator in Atlanta,  will be tabling with the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Center for Black Women’s Wellness and other Black woman-led organizations, maternal justice advocates, and birth workers for a Film Screening and Community Discussion: Raising Awareness to Advance Black Maternal Health, Rights, and Justice on Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 6pm at the Auburn Avenue Research Library (101 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30303). There will be a community conversation and advocacy connection as they showcase Death By Delivery, a documentary about the staggering rate of maternal mortality for black women.
FWHC is also partnering with SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, the National Institute for Reproductive Health and the State Innovation Exchange to develop a multi-year proactive policy strategy, grounded in the reproductive justice framework, to demonstrate the connections between the harms inflicted on women by abortion restrictions and  the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers, and the high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in Georgia.
Racial disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity persist among women of all income and educational levels.  Many Black women report chronic stress associated with the constant discrimination and obstacles they have faced because of being both Black and a woman in America. Studies have shown that Black college-educated mothers are more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women with less than a full high school education.
Even highly-paid celebrities and athletes with good health insurance can be affected. Tennis star Serena Williams suffered a pulmonary embolism that nearly killed her a day after giving birth last September. She told a Vogue magazine interviewer that she had to fight to get the emergency care she needed from health providers who doubted what she was telling them about her symptoms, including shortness of breath. Williams said she persisted because she knew that she had a history of such embolisms.
“Racism is creating these inequities,” explained Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, an obstetrician-gynecologist who is a member of the steering committee of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and Community Catalyst board member.  Speaking at the New York Maternal Mortality Summit, she said that “When you see inequities in health, don’t think about individuals. Think about systems, because systems create inequities.”  She is founder of the National Birth Equity Collaborative.
The Black Mamas Matter Alliance grew out of a collaboration between the Center for Reproductive Rights and the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. The Alliance is now led by a steering committee that includes Kwajelyn Jackson of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, RWV’s regional coordinator in Atlanta.
Another of Raising Women’s Voices’ regional coordinators -- The Afiya Center in Dallas, TX -- is active in the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. The Afiya Center joined allies to successfully advocate for intensive review of all maternal deaths in Texas by a state board. “It’s systemic,” Afiya Center Executive Director Marsha Jones said of the maternal mortality crisis at last month’s Time to Show up for Black Women summit, according to KUT Austin. “It’s not going to be fixed black woman to black women or black man to black man. It’s not going to be fixed that way. We have to literally deconstruct the system that’s been put up.”
The Afiya Center recently released a call to action in order to accurately represent how Black women in Texas are affected during pregnancy. They are gathering stories from Texas women who have been pregnant and had any health issues during their pregnancy. Some of the health issues include preeclampsia, fibroids, preterm birth, heart disease, mental illness, postpartum hemorrhaging, and a host of others. Speaking at the Time to Show up for Black Women Summit, Dr. Joia Crear-Perry encouraged other local communities in Texas to mobilize around these issues. “You have motivated individuals and motivated systems here who want to see improvement and want to see work happen,” she said to the Austin audience. “So it’s now just building on that momentum and getting it going,” KUT Austin reported. For more information on the Afiya Center’s work in Texas, please email
What can be done to help address this health disparity? The Black Mamas Matter Alliance has prioritized driving research, advocacy, clinical improvements, empowerment of Black women, and cultural change: “We envision a world where Black mamas have the rights, respect and resources to thrive before, during and after pregnancy.”
Let’s support the Black Mamas Matter Alliance in bringing national attention to this pervasive health crisis so that more mamas can get the care they need to make it home safely with their babies!
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