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RWVoices

Friday
Oct062017

We won’t stand for Trump’s attack on birth control!

Expanded religious and moral exemptions will hurt women
 
Today, the Trump Administration released two new rules to weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s contraception coverage, effective immediatelyEmployers will be able to deny their employees birth control coverage because of the employer’s moral objections to birth control. In addition, the rules allow more employers to cite religious objections for denying the coverage. Raising Women’s Voices rejects this latest and most devastating anti-science and anti-women attack on our reproductive health and freedom.
 
What can we do to fight back? Already, our colleagues at the ACLU have filed a lawsuit challenging the new rules, and more court challenges are likely. What else? First, we can call on employers to stand up for their employees and publicly declare they will continue to provide contraceptive coverage. Second, all of us who are employees can demand that our employers affirm they will continue contraceptive coverage. And we all can call out the Trump administration on social media, using the hashtag #HandsOffMyBC.
 
Raising Women’s Voices will also be preparing comments on the rules, which are due by December 5. Even though the rules went into effect today, they are interim final rules on which the Trump administration is accepting comments. We must speak up!
 
What has the contraceptive coverage rule meant for women and their families? Under Obama-era regulations implementing the ACA, 62.4 million women have insurance coverage for their birth control free from out-of-pocket costs.  The percentage of womenwith insurance through their employers who were paying out-of-pocket expenses for birth control pills fell from 1 out of every 4 women before passage of the ACA to just 1 out of every 28 women in 2014. And in 2013 alone, women saved $1.4 billions in co-pays and deductibles on birth control pills.
 
Why is contraceptive coverage vulnerable to administrative attack even while ACA repeal efforts have stalled? While the ACA made some women’s preventive health protections explicit in the law, it expanded coverage for a broader range of measures by tasking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to draw up a list of “additional preventive care and screenings not described” elsewhere in the bill. Under the Obama Administration, HHS issued a list of preventive measures that included contraceptive counseling and all 18 FDA-approved contraceptive methods.
 
But the story didn’t end there. In response to objections from religiously affiliated employers, the Obama Administration issued an “accommodation” for non-profits and later, closely-held for-profits who object to contraception on religious grounds. While not ideal, the accommodation was a compromise that gave women access to seamless birth control coverage at no cost while also allowing employers with religious objections to avoid paying for it themselves. Fights over the accommodation famously played out over the course of two Supreme Court battles to determine whether religiously-affiliated employers must provide coverage.
 
With today’s announcement, the Trump Administration has thrown the existing Obama administration religious employer accommodation out the window. Instead of an accommodation that protects employers’ religious views and women’s access to vital health care, the new rules simply allow almost any employer to strip birth control coverage from their employees for either moral or religious objections to contraception. Universities can also deny birth control coverage in student health plans for religious or moral reasons. In addition, insurance companies can deny coverage for religious or moral reasons as long as the employer agrees.
 
Which leads us to the question, why did the administration issue two rules?Because while the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act serves as the basis for right-wing objections based on “sincerely held religious beliefs”—the crux of those two Supreme Court cases—there is no legal basis for broadening that standard to include “moral” objections. The Trump Administration is creating a new standard, seemingly out of whole cloth. Furthermore, by issuing the rules as “interim final rules,” which are effective immediately before public comment is sought, there’s a strong legal case to be made that the administration is breaking the law.
 
It’s possible and perhaps likely that the courts could block the rule from taking effect, particularly while HHS conducts its planned after-the-fact comment period through December 5. But while legal challenges make their way through the courts, women’s coverage is at risk now.

 

Wednesday
Sep272017

You stopped Trumpcare! Again!

Calls, rallies, social media and more made the difference!
 
You called your senators, posted on social media, joined rallies and reached out to the news media. It made all the difference! Yesterday, Senate Republicans announced that they will not be voting this week on the Graham-Cassidy bill, which was the last remaining Trumpcare bill!

We knew this was the worst attempt yet to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and slash Medicaid. The bill was opposed by an unusual coalition of doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies who warned that it would “cause patients and consumers to lose important protections,” “undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions,” “make coverage more expensive,” and force “millions of patients to lose their coverage and go without much-needed care.” S&P concluded that the bill would lead to “580,000 lost jobs and $240 billion in lost economic activity by 2027, ensuring that the GDP growth remains stuck in low gear of around 2% at best in the next decade.” In its preliminary score—the full score won’t be available for weeks—CBO found that “millions” of people would lose their health insurance.
 
We outlined the devastating consequences for women in our RWV newsletters and blog, and in a guest blog for Community Catalyst.
 
Across the nation, Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators and supporters worked hard to get the word out!
 
In Wisconsin, our regional coordinator, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, participated in the Wisconsin Health Matters’ six-hour-long speak-out-a-thon to help raise awareness of what was at stake in the latest ACA repeal bill. This online event featured advocates sharing how a variety of communities -- including women, children, the disabled, the aging, cancer patients and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault – would be negatively affected.  Under the bill, at least 414,000 Wisconsinites would have lost coverage by 2027 and Wisconsin would have seen a $29 billion cut in Medicaid over two decades. "It was amazing! The six hours flew by and we reached over 4,000 people through Facebook. Over 40 people shared our event on Facebook!" said Sara Finger, Founder & Executive Director, Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health (shown at right in photo).

Our Charleston-based regional coordinator,WV FREE, participated in a press conference to draw attention to the threat the new Republican repeal plan would have posed to West Virginians. Under the Graham-Cassidy bill, West Virginia would have lost $1 billion in the next decade, and $27 billionover the next two decades. During that time,156,000 people, or one out of every twelve West Virginians, would have lost their health insurance.  WV FREE also attended a Medicaid summit, where they and their coalition partners discussed the future of Medicaid in West Virginia – a state that has hugely benefited from expansion under the ACA – and strategized about how to defend it from federal attacks like Graham-Cassidy. An example of one of their campaign material is pictured left.
 
Meanwhile, Maura Collinsgru, Health Care Program Director at New Jersey Citizen Action, the RWV coordinator for that state, spoke at a September 22 rally against the Graham-Cassidy bill held at Newark City Hall (pictured right). Graham-Cassidy would “undermine the progress we have made in achieving historically low rates of uninsured people,” Maura told the crowd. “Here in New Jersey, we have 900,000 people who have coverage directly as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” Maura said. See Maura’s full speech here.
 
Celebrate, but we must stay vigilant!
 
There are two important things we’ve learned this year:

First, the Trumpcare zombie never truly dies, which is why we are keeping this graphic on hand for future use.  
 
But second, grassroots action can keep pushing Trumpcare back into the grave. 
 
So, what’s likely to be our next challenge?On September 30, the 2017, fiscal year will die, killing the FY 2017 reconciliation package (which was the vehicle through which Graham-Cassidy could have been enacted with just 50 senators voting yes). But congressional Republicans are already plotting their next scheme to ram through ACA repeal in a partisan process by tying it to tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.
 
Back in January, Republicans in Congress announced a plan to use an FY 2017 reconciliation package to kill the ACA by Easter, and then use another reconciliation package for FY 2018 to enact deep tax cuts by August. Now some Republicans want to combine the two strategies into one.
 
Reconciliation is the parliamentary tool that lets Senate Republicans bypass a Democratic filibuster. But it’s not an easy or immediate process. In order to authorize reconciliation, each chamber must pass an identical budget resolution. Budget resolutions aren’t spending bills and they never become law. Rather, they serve as blueprints for big picture decisions about taxes, spending, and the debt. In 2016, Republicans couldn’t pass one at all—which, ironically, is why they could attempt two resolutions this year.
 
As of now, the House Budget Committee has passed an FY 2018 resolution that would authorize a reconciliation package of deep tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy paid for by equally deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid (on top of the ACA and Medicaid cuts that House Republicans assumed would be law by now).
 
The Senate Budget Committee is expected to vote on a resolution next week that would authorize deep tax cuts and increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. But two Budget Committee members, Senators Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson (of Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson infamy), have said they will block any resolution that doesn’t also authorize another round of attacks on the ACA. To move forward, Republicans will need to resolve differences between the two houses and between those Republicans who aren’t ready to give up on the ACA fight and those who don’t want to jeopardize the tax cut bill with another toxic health care fight.
 
But even with the possibility that Congress will tackle another ACA repeal attempt sometime next year, there are some glimmers of hope that the bipartisan market stabilization package quashed during the rush to Graham-Cassidy could be picking up steam again. You may recall that in early September, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held two weeks of hearings on a bipartisan plan to fund cost-sharing reductions and a national reinsurance program, taking testimony from governors and state health officials from both parties. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was strong-armed into stopping the talkswhile his leadership whipped up support for Graham-Cassidy. But with that effort dead, Alexander announced yesterday that talks would be resuming.
 
Quick action on a stabilization package is important to ensure that enough insurers are participating in the healthcare.gov marketplace when open enrollment opens Nov. 1! We were troubled by HHS action yesterday to extend the deadline from today until right before open enrollment for insurers to sign contracts to participate in the marketplace.
 
 
 
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Monday
Sep182017

Radical Trumpcare bill is gaining speed!

 
We’re back on high alert for the most radical Trumpcare bill yet!
 
Last week, we warned that Senate Republicans might make one last push to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and gut Medicaid before they run out of time. This week, we’re moving to red alert in response to reports that Republican leadership is gearing up for a vote the week of September 25, and a possible sham hearing before then.
 
Now is the time to call, write and rally to urge senators to reject this new threat! Tell them to instead support a bipartisan package to stabilize the insurance markets and fund the cost-sharing reductions that make coverage more affordable for many of us. You can call Congress toll-free at 844-898-1199.
 

The bill is known as Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson for its sponsors—Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Ron Johnson (R-WI). This legislation is being sold as a “compromise” and “non-partisan” solution, even though no Democrats support it. Not only is Graham-Cassidy not a compromise, it is the most radical proposal yet.  The bill goes far beyond Republicans’ campaign pledge to repeal the ACA, including Medicaid expansion. This measure also attacks long-standing traditional Medicaid.  
 
Republicans have only two weeks to ram through repeal with just 50 senators, plus the tie-breaker vote from Vice President Mike Pence. That’s because on September 30, when the current fiscal year ends, the special process known as “reconciliation” will turn back into a pumpkin and Republicans will once again need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster on any health care package.
 
Medicaid and the ACA
 
What’s at stake for women and families in the Medicaid portion of this latest Trumpcare bill? Traditional Medicaid, enacted in 1965, is sometimes described as “low-income and...” because to qualify, an individual must fit into a second category—such as low-income and pregnant, low-income and disabled, low-income andelderly.  Prior to the ACA, simply living below the poverty line wasn’t enough to qualify for coverage in most states, so millions of low- and middle-income adults had no access to health insurance.
 
The ACA, enacted in 2010, increased coverage in two ways. First, for those living below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, the ACA expanded Medicaid, giving low-income adults who didn’t otherwise qualify for Medicaid the same guarantee of high quality coverage. The ACA as written made the Medicaid expansion mandatory for all states, but in 2012 the Supreme Court made it optional. Nineteen states have refused to expand, leaving millions of their residents in a coverage gap. The intra-party battle in Congress this year has been heavily influenced by the dispute between the Republican governors who responsibly covered their constituents by expanding Medicaid and those who didn’t and now want to be rewarded by the party for fighting “Obamacare” at the expense of their constituents and state budgets.
 
The second way the ACA expanded coverage was by helping low- and moderate-income households living over the federal poverty line buy private health insurance in the individual market. The ACA subsidizes both premium expenses and out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles.
 
Under current law, everyone who is eligible for Medicaid or for financial help purchasing private coverage is entitled to it. That coverage guarantee means that the programs are flexible enough to respond to economic downturns, natural disasters, rising medical costs, and an aging population. By contrast, Graham-Cassidy would end these guarantees for both Medicaid and the ACA.

Graham-Cassidy Guts Traditional Medicaid
 
Graham-Cassidy would replace traditional Medicaid’s 50-year federal-state partnership with a cap-and-slash system designed to cover less and less each year. Under current law, Medicaid automatically adjusts when public health crises like those resulting from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suddenly drive up per-person costs. But under Graham-Cassidy, once the federal per-person spending cap has been reached, federal funding cuts off. And natural disasters aren’t the only variables sure to raise costs.
 
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)  warns that under a per capita cap, “federal funding [in traditional Medicaid] for seniors, people with disabilities and families with children would no longer automatically increase to account for higher costs such as prescription drug price spikes or rising costs resulting from an aging population. States would be responsible for 100 percent of all costs above the cap.”
 
So how does Graham-Cassidy expect states to cope with these huge cuts? By dropping coverage (like prescription drugs) and dropping people (like pregnant women) that they are currently required to cover.
 
Graham-Cassidy Repeals the ACA and Replaces It with … Nothing
 
Starting in 2020, Graham-Cassidy completely eliminates the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies for purchasing private insurance. As Cassidy himself tweeted, Graham-Cassidy “repeals entire architecture of Obamacare.”
 
In its place, the bill calculates how much money the federal government would have spent on ACA programs, cuts that by over one-third, and then redistributes the much smaller pot as block grants to the states with few strings attached. While the ACA includes consumer protections that prevent insurance companies from selling worthless “junk” insurance, rescinding coverage the moment someone gets sick, or discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions,Graham-Cassidy gives states free rein to reinstate all of the worst insurance practices of the bad old daysThat means insurance companies could once again charge non-smoking women more than smoking men, treat rape and domestic violence as pre-existing conditions, and reinstate annual and lifetime caps on coverage.
 
Even worse, there’s no requirement that states actually spend the money on providing coverage to low- and middle-income families. States would be free to spend the money on any purpose tangentially related to health care, and could design programs that discriminate against women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities.
 
Initially, the 19 states that have thus far refused to expand Medicaid—leaving millions of their residents without care—will get an increase in ACA dollars by taking money away from the states that covered their residents. While the bill’s formula for distributing funds is complicated, it can be summed up in under 140 characters, as tweeted by conservative Senator Rand Paul (R-KY): “#GrahamCassidy … redistributes money from dem states to republican states.”
 
But even many of those Republican states will actually still face deep cuts once the per capita cap on traditional Medicaid is factored in. Analysis by CBPP finds that all but eight states will lose millions to billions of dollars under Graham-Cassidy in the years between 2020 and 2026.
 
But, no state will benefit for long. That’s because after 2026 under Graham-Cassidy, traditional Medicaid will be reduced by over one-third, while the ACA-turned-block grant funding will disappear altogether to be replaced with… nothing. That’s right, starting in 2027, the bill eliminates every last dollar spent on the ACA.
 
Finally, the bill once again attacks the ability of women and men to use Medicaid or other forms of government health insurance at Planned Parenthood for services like cancer screenings, STD treatments, family planning services like birth control, and more.

What’s Happens Next?

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who dramatically voted against an ACA repeal in July out of concern that the bills hadn’t gone through “regular order”—including a bipartisan process of committee consideration—has said that he supports the bill (bill sponsor Graham is his best friend).  But he has hedged about whether he could support it in absence of a committee process. In response, bill co-sponsor Johnson told the press, “I’m chairman of Homeland Security. If either the Finance Committee or HELP committees [with jurisdiction] won’t hold a hearing, I’ll [set up] one this afternoon,” simply to check that box.


Under Senate rules, Graham-Cassidy will need a budget “score” from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and a “Byrd bath” from the Senate parliamentarian—the process of determining whether individual provisions qualify under the “Byrd rule,” which limits what can be included in a reconciliation package. Republican leaders are pushing for a partial CBO score by next week, one that shows the fiscal impact but not the number of people harmed by cuts to their care.
Should Republicans secure 50 votes on Graham-Cassidy or any other Trumpcare proposal, they will be able to pick up from where they left off in July, with all debate time expired and only the rapid-fire amendment process known as vote-a-rama left. In other words, some of the most consequential legislation in our nation’s history, affecting one-fifth of our economy, could get a vote after only 5 minutes of debate on the Senate floor.
 
If we can prevent the Senate from passing repeal legislation before September 30, we will have blocked their ability to pass Republican-only health care legislation for the foreseeable future. But if the Senate passes Graham-Cassidy, the House faces no similar time limit on their ability to pass the bill. They could—and likely would—move to immediately take up the Senate bill and pass it without changes, sending it to Donald Trump for signature. But they could also use the remaining 15 months of this Congress to pressure blue state Republicans to vote for the bill and stymying hope for a bipartisan package.
 
 
 
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Tuesday
Sep122017

This week’s view from Washington, D.C

This week’s newsletter will be shorter than usual as we get ready for our annual convening in Washington, D.C. this week, when Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators from around the country gather to discuss the months and year ahead. We’re excited to bring together so many different voices and perspectives at a time when the challenges facing us are so many!

But first, a quick update on what is happening in Washington, where conservatives still hope to beat the odds and push through a Trumpcare bill before the clock runs out on September 30 --  even as a bipartisan group of senators is working on a bill to stabilize health insurance markets upended by Trump’s sabotage.

Watching Graham-Cassidy bill as a “sleeper” threat

We wrote last week about the Graham-Cassidy bill, which is the last standing threat to repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill would turn the ACA and Medicaid’s guarantee of coverage into state-based block grants that cover millions fewer people, and would eliminate altogether both the Medicaid expansion and the ACA’s subsidies for private insurance after 10 years. The bill is expected to be released later this week after its initial introduction date of Monday was delayed. It is being backed by the White House and the House Freedom Caucus, but faces opposition from at least one Senate conservative after Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) announced this week that it doesn’t go far enough for him.

It’s clear that the bill doesn’t yet have the votes, and a number of Republicans are eager to set aside health care and move onto tax reform. But we will be monitoring it as a sleeper issue right up until 12:01 am October 1, when the current reconciliation process (allowing passage with only 51 votes, instead of the usual 60-vote requirement) loses its privilege on the Senate floor.
 
Work continues on bipartisan health coverage stabilization package

Meanwhile, there’s quiet optimism about the bipartisan package being crafted by the chairman and ranking member—Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), respectively—of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, even as a number of sticky issues remain. 

In August, CBO concluded that failure to fund the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments that lower out-of-pocket costs for low-income consumers payments “would increase the federal deficit, on net, by $194 billion from 2017 through 2026,” by driving up premiums and automatically increasing federal premium subsidies. A number of insurance companies have warned that they won’t participate in the health care marketplaces at all without a guarantee that the payments will be made. Most importantly, Republican leadership in Congress appears to have accepted that the payments must be made in order to stave off voter outrage.

In the ongoing negotiations, Republicans want to provide only a single year of CSR funding while Democrats argue that true stability demands a multi-year investment. At the same time, Republicans want Democrats to support unwinding key consumer protections in exchange for CSR money.
 
Senator Murray has been adamant that Democrats “will reject any effort to use this process as a back door to pass parts of Trumpcare that would erode protections for people with preexisting conditions — for example, women seeking maternity care or those with mental illness or substance-use disorders.” It’s likely that Democrats have the upper hand in negotiations. With a sizable block of Republicans in both chambers likely to oppose a deal no matter what, Republican leaders will have to depend on Democratic votes for passage, which should give Democrats significant leverage over the final deal.

Some of our regional coordinators will also be paying visits to their members of Congress while they are in DC this week for the RWV annual convening. We will be eager to hear what they learn.
 
Watch for next week’s newsletter, which will give highlights of our convening!

 

 

 

Thursday
Sep072017

Trump is back, and we’re fighting back!

Just back in Washington from his summer vacation, Donald Trump is already busy using the power of the presidency in ways that will harm marginalized people – young immigrants who dream of citizenship and uninsured people who desperately need affordable health coverage.
 
This week, Trump announced that over the next six months, he will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program initiated by President Obama. DACA has allowed hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children (often referred to as “Dreamers” for the DREAM Act, which would provide them with a pathway to citizenship) to gain work permits and live their lives free from the threat of deportation.
 
Unless Congress takes action, the DACA announcement will not only be a looming humanitarian crisis, it will also be a health crisis. Over 90 percent of the Dreamers surveyed in a recent study are currently employed, and hundreds of thousands of them get their health insurance through their employer. So, loss of their work permits will mean loss of their health care.
 

We express our solidarity with the thousands of activists throughout the country who have mobilized to defend the Dreamers and all of the undocumented people who face harassment and deportation. Raising Women’s Voices staff joined a protest march to Trump Tower in New York City last week, in anticipation of his action on DACA. Some of our signs are shown above. Our resolve for action was perfectly captured by two of our regional coordinators.

“We will continue to speak out and to organize and to fight any policy or any decision that will undermine our health, dignity and rights,” said Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Immigrants are here to stay. A strong, vocal, organized Latinx community is here to stay in this fight. We are not going anywhere.”
 
California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ) released this statement: “Today CLRJ continues to stand strong and follow the lead of immigrant youth, who consistently put their lives on the line, to fight for all immigrants - queer, black, trans, low-income, and other immigrants who are deemed “unworthy” by U.S. immigration policies. Let us be clear, a person’s worth is not determined by their economic contribution, their age at entry, or any other category that defines their status. We will fight for immigration reform that fulfills our dream to be with our families, for the 800,000 DACA recipients and for ALL 11 million undocumented people. We will accept nothing less.”

 Meanwhile, Trump is sabotaging our health coverage
 
As part of its wholesale attempt at sabotage of the ACA, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced late last week that it would only spend $10 million on nationwide advertising of the 2018 open enrollment period—down from $100 million the year before. In addition, HHS would cut the amount spent on in-person outreach through the federal navigator program by 41 percent. As Vox reported, “Those in-person outreach efforts also ensure that vulnerable populations, like those that don’t speak English or lack internet access, can still enroll. Instead of making Obamacare more robust and inclusive, they’re setting the law up to fail.”
 
Trump’s demand that Senate Republicans hold another Trumpcare vote was given extra urgency after the Senate parliamentarian ruled on Friday that the special expedited process (known as budget reconciliation) that Senate Republicans had hoped to use to repeal the ACA with just 51 votes would die with the end of the current fiscal year on September 30. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have been pushing a radical proposal that would turn the ACA and Medicaid’s guarantee of coverage into state-based block grants providing less than two-thirds of the current federal commitment to health care funding. The bill would completely eliminate both the Medicaid expansion and the ACA subsidies for private insurance after ten years.
 
While the crowded Senate to-do list makes action before September 30 difficult, a short-term deal announced on Tuesday between the White House and congressional Democrats to raise the debt limit and make a down payment on disaster relief funding could open the door for Republicans to make one last Trumpcare push. This time, they have locked up the vote of Graham friend Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who told reporters this week that despite his impassioned pleas for a return to “regular order” process of bipartisan committee hearings and careful deliberation, he would still vote for the proposal, even if leadership rushed it through.
 

Should Republicans secure 51 votes on Graham-Cassidy or any other Trumpcare proposal, they will be able to pick up from where they left off in July, with all debate time expired and the rapid-fire vote-a-rama on amendments under way. In other words, some of the most consequential legislation in our nation’s history could get a vote with no committee consideration and only 5 minutes of debate on the Senate floor.
 
Fortunately, there was also a hint of positive news this week as the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee began its first round of bipartisan hearings over the next ten days to help craft a bipartisan deal to stabilize health insurance marketplaces before September 27, when insurance companies must sign final contracts. Republicans had hoped to avoid giving insurance experts a chance to publicly unwind their most dishonest talking points by ramming a Trumpcare package through Congress without hearings, but this week state insurance commissioners were finally given the chance to knock down falsehoods and to urge Congress to fund the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments that Trump has repeatedly threatened to withhold. For example, Theresa Miller, Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner, testified that “the narrative that Obamacare is imploding is just false,” while Mike Kreidler, Washington State’s commissioner, compared not permanently funding CSR payments to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.

 
We’ve been keeping the pressure on Congress
 
While members of Congress were in their home districts for the recess, some of our regional coordinators and national allies participated in visibility events and district meetings to send a message that our health coverage must be preserved.

The Save My Care Drive for Our Lives bus hit the road again, touring the country to highlight the stories of people whose lives on are the line if the ACA is repealed. Among some of its final stops were in Charleston, West Virginia, and in West Orange, New Jersey. RWV regional coordinators WV FREE and New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) both showed up to welcome the bus to their state, and to highlight the impact ACA repeal would have on local women and families. 

WV FREE staff Chela Barajas, Julie Warden and Amanda Schwartz (pictured above from left to right) were at the August 24 Drive for Our Lives bus tour stop in Charleston, WV
 
At the September 1 bus stop in West Orange, New Jersey, NJCA and partners Health Professionals & Allied Employees (HPAE), Blue WaveNJ, NJ Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D Essex/Morris), local host Pastor Miquel Hernandez and 50 community members, pictured below, welcomed the tour’s crew and speaker Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL. The rally called on Republicans to recognize health care as a human right.  NJCA Health Care Program Director Maura Collinsgru issued a call to action urging people to continue the fight to save the ACA and join with NJCA in promoting the upcoming open enrollment saying, “boosting enrollment is the best defense we have against repeal.”  See a video of the event, including Maura’s full speech here




Meanwhile, RWV’s Memphis-based regional coordinator,SisterReach, took advantage of the August recess by meeting with some of their members of Congress in-district. As part of their Reproductive Justice Week of Action (August 22-24), SisterReach hosted a legislative day of action where they met withCongressman David Kustoff’s (R-TN 8) staff about the importance of fixing, rather than dismantling the ACA. SisterReach also held a policy briefing -- Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Voices: The State of Black Women and Reproductive Justice Policy -- with Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN 9), where they applauded his efforts defending the ACA.  London Lamar, SisterReach’s Policy Associate, is shown on the right in the photo.

 

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