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Need new health insurance NOW?

If you experience certain life changes, you don’t have to wait for Open Enrollment in November to enroll in affordable health coverage on healthcare.gov or your state’s marketplace. You have 60 days after the following events to apply for a Special Enrollment Period and enroll:

• Moving to a new zip code or county
• Getting married or divorced
• Having a baby, adopting or becoming a foster parent
• Becoming a U.S. citizen or getting a green card

You have 60 days before or after the following to enroll: 

• Losing your health insurance from your job
• Turning 26 and aging off your parent’s health plan

And if you are experiencing domestic violence and want to apply for your own health plan, you can do so at any time.

Learn more about Special Enrollment Periods at healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.

 

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RWVoices

Thursday
Feb142019

Big love for all our Raising Women’s Voices partners today!

Sending health policy valentines to all of our amazing partners!


Thanks to Nina Oishi and Carrie Rogers of Community Catalyst for dreaming up this Valentine!

Every day, our Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators in 29 states are working hard to protect our care from continuing attacks at the federal level and in a number of conservative states.  Today, we thank all of them for their incredibly hard work and persistence!
 
We also thank all of you who read our e-newsletters every week, follow us onFacebook and Twitter and take action when we call for it!


Shoring up the ACA’s consumer protections

 

In the face of ongoing federal attacks targeting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and women’s and LGBTQ health, our regional coordinators in some of the more progressive states have been working hard to push for proactive state level policies.
 
With an eye on the Texas v. Azar court case that threatens to overturn the entire ACA,  Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care (our regional coordinator in that state), is working to codify many of the ACA’s important consumer protections into state law.  “An Act to Protect Health Care Coverage for Maine Families,” or LD 1, was the first bill introduced during Maine’s legislative session, signaling its importance to progressive lawmakers who campaigned on health care. Among other protections, the legislation would enshrine the ACA’s requirement that insurers cover the ACA’s 10 Essential Health Benefits, prohibit insurers from refusing to cover people with pre-existing conditions and require insurers to offer coverage to dependent children up to 26 years old.  

 

State action to secure and expand reproductive health protections

 

New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (NM RCRC), our Albuquerque based regional coordinator, scored a victory last week when the House voted to Advance HB 51, a bill that would repeal the state’s unconstitutional, pre-Roe v. Wade statute on the books that criminalizes abortion in almost all circumstances. While the New Mexico Constitution protects abortion rights to an extent following a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling citing the Equal Rights Amendment, advocates are concerned that if Roe v. Wade is overturned and New Mexico’s old statute is still in place, these Constitutional protections could be tested. As a result, NM RCRC and their partners are working hard to remove their state’s outdated abortion law and protect New Mexico women and their health care.

 
As part of their efforts, NM RCRC co-sponsored a letter signed by a group of 90 clergy supporting women’s right to access abortion. The letter appeared as a full-page ad in the Albuquerque Journal. In a follow-up interview with the JournalJoan Lamunyon Sanford,Executive Director of NM RCRC said in reference to HB 51: “Any law that criminalizes doctors or patients needs to go and does not reflect the values of the people of New Mexico.” Lamunyon Sanford went on to say, “People of faith have been supporting access to abortion and reproductive health care even before Roe v. Wade, and the conservative evangelical right does not own the moral argument on this issue.”

This week, our Chicago-based regional coordinator, EverThrive Illinois, joined advocates to support the introduction of a package of bills that would expand abortion rights and access in the state. One bill would update the state’s 1975 abortion law, which treats abortion like a crime. The Illinois bill would remove criminal penalties for doctors providing abortion care, and treat abortion as health care, and not a criminal act. Another bill in the package would remove a requirement that minors without parental consent receive judicial approval for an abortion.
 
The momentum in New Mexico and Illinois comes on the heels of the successful passage of New York’s Reproductive Health Act, which RWV-NY supported. The Reproductive Health Act secures and protects access to abortion in New York by strengthening and updating New York state law and bringing it in line with the standard of Roe v. Wade.
 
The Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), our Denver-based regional coordinator, is pushing for the adoption of what could become one of the most progressive reproductive health bills in the country – the Colorado Access to Reproductive Health Equity Act. Also known as the CARE Act, this bill will ensure that everyone in the state can get the full range of reproductive health care they need without barriers due to financial limits, age, immigration status, stigma or personal agendas.

 

Expanding health coverage to undocumented immigrants

 

Regional coordinators in bluer states have also been paving the way for the creation of more equitable access to health care through new  initiatives to expand coverage to more people.
 
After years of hard work by advocates like our Los Angeles based regional coordinator,California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ), California Governor Gavin Newsom recently made a commitment of $209 billion in health equity and prevention, including $260 million to expand access to 138,000 undocumented young adults after July 30. Despite this exciting step forward, there is still a great deal of work to be done to expand health care to undocumented adults of all ages in California. A recent report produced by University of California Berkeley found that expanding Medi-Cal to all low-income adults regardless of immigration status would extend eligibility to approximately 1.15 million undocumented adults in 2020. According to the report, it would close one of the biggest remaining coverage gaps in the state’s health care system, reducing the state’s uninsured population by as much as one-quarter. CLRJ is working in coalition to support legislation that would address this coverage gap.
 
Our regional coordinator in New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), is working to expand coverage to undocumented immigrant children. Through their Cover all Kids initiative, NJCA and their partners seek to extend coverage to the nearly 76,000 uninsured children in New Jersey. Although 75% of these children are citizens and therefore eligible for coverage, approximately half have a non-citizen parent. Many such parents remain fearful and confused about their family’s health insurance eligibility because of the recently proposed public charge rule. NJCA is working with partners to try to address some of the confidentiality concerns among immigrants by establishing barriers to information sharing between the state and federal government.
 
As we celebrate the progress being made at the state level by our regional coordinators in more progressive states, we recognize the challenges that remain not just at the federal level, but also in some of the more conservative states, where state lawmakers are working to roll back protections for women and LGBTQ people.  RWV will continue to work at the state and federal level to defend, and whenever possible, expand these protections.

 

Speaking of love….

 

If you and your Valentine are planning on getting married any time soon, you both may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period in which you can apply for coverage through healthcare.gov or your state insurance marketplace. You have 60 days after the wedding to shop for and enroll in an affordable health plan.  Want to learn more? Go to healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596
 
Want to learn more about Special Enrollment Periods, which allow you to apply for health coverage outside of the short open enrollment period that starts each November 1? Check out the Raising Women’s Voices website homepage to see what other Qualifying Life Events can make you eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.

Thursday
Feb072019

Number of underinsured people is rising

More people are underinsured or have gaps in insurance coverage

A new study out today from the Commonwealth Fund flags a troubling trend: While the number of people with no health insurance has declined dramatically since 2010, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, increasing numbers of American adults are underinsured. Underinsurance is growing fastest among adults with employer-sponsored health plans that have high deductibles. It is also rising among those who buy plans on the ACA marketplaces, but who are not eligible for premium subsidies or cost-sharing reductions.

What does underinsured mean and why are more people experiencing this problem? The Commonwealth Fund defines underinsured this way:

  • Having high out-of-pocket costs, excluding premium payments, equal to 10% or more of household income over the previous 12 months;
  • Having high out-of-pocket costs, excluding premiums, equal to  5% or more for households living under 200%  of the Federal Poverty Limit ($24,120 for an individual or $49,200 for a family of four).
  • Having high deductibles (equal to 5% or more of household income).

The  increase in the percentage of  underinsured people with health coverage through their jobs (up from 17% in 2010 to 28% in 2018 %) is most likely related to the trend among employers of increasing plan deductibles and co-pays to offset rising health care costs, the study suggests.  For those buying their own plans, such as through healthcare.gov and state-based insurance marketplaces, the problem is that people with incomes over 400% of the Federal Poverty Level ($48,240 for an individual or $98,400 for a family of four) are not eligible for federal premium subsidy assistance and reductions in the amount they have to pay for cost-sharing. So, people in this situation may choose ACA health plans with the lowest monthly premiums, but then are faced with high deductibles and other cost-sharing requirements.

The Commonwealth study, which was a telephone survey conducted from June to November of 2018, did not take into account the expanded sale of short-term “junk” health insurance plans made possible by new Trump administration rules that went into effect in November.  Those plans are not required to cover all of the benefits that are included in ACA plans, so people purchasing those plans may find themselves underinsured, facing considerable out-of-pocket costs.

Being underinsured, or having gaps in your coverage during the year, often means you will have trouble paying your medical bills, the study found.

Are women more affected by these trends? Unfortunately, the Commonwealth study did not provide gender breakouts.  But, we know from other studies that the highest growth in out-of-pocket health spending over the past few years has been among those who are younger, lower income and female.
 
What can be done to address these problems? The Commonwealth Fund study suggested that federal and state governments could enact policies to extend the ACA’s coverage gains and improve cost protections in ACA and employer-sponsored plans.  Examples of such efforts include expanding Medicaid in those states that have not yet done so, in order to cover more people with affordable plans, and limiting or banning the sale of those short-term junk plans (which are likely to be a bigger factor this year in causing underinsurance). Some states are also trying “reinsurance” policies that create a state fund to reimburse health plans for extraordinary expenses in treating seriously ill people, so that the plans do not pass on those costs to all enrollees. Some states are also examining the possibility of allowing people to buy into Medicaid plans, if they earn a little bit too much to qualify for Medicaid. The study findings may also help groups pushing for Medicare for all plans, since one of the chief objections to some of these proposals is that people will not want to lose their employer-sponsored health plans.

The study also recommended reinstating ACA marketplace navigator and outreach funding, to help people make choices of health plans that will not saddle them with unaffordable deductibles. That recommendation was issued on the same day the news broke about more ACA-related pages disappearing from websites operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Researchers from Sunlight, who have documented a series of quiet website content removals since the Trump administration took office, reported today that 10 pages about the Affordable Care Act and its benefits were taken down from the Office of Population Affairs website in early 2017 and the content has yet to be replaced.

Thursday
Jan312019

Women lead push to protect our health care!

House hearing on protecting people with pre-existing conditions!

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee held its first policy hearing of the new Congress, highlighting ways that the Trump administration has put people with pre-existing conditions at risk by expanding junk insurance plans, sabotaging ACA outreach and enrollment, and refusing to defend the ACA in court. More than 67 million American women have pre-existing conditions.

In a surprise announcement during the hearing, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) highlighted what is at stake with news that that she had been diagnosed with small cell lymphocytic lymphoma last year. “Ways and Means Republicans have voted to defund, undercut, and undermine our country’s health care system. They have made it clear as day that they care more about the cost of the ACA than the value of human life,” Moore said. “I am announcing my remission today to remind everyone on this committee that I am a living example of the lifesaving value of essential health benefits. For my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that is a cost worth paying.”

The House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee is also planning a hearing in the coming weeks into the Texas v. Azar court case that threatens to unwind the entire health care law, including consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

RWV joins advocates from across the country at Families USA Health Action Conference!

Ann Danforth, Senior State Advocacy Manager for the Community Catalyst Women’s Health Program, and Sarah Christopherson, Policy Advocacy Director for the National Women’s Health Network, represented Raising Women’s Voices last week in Washington, D.C., at Families USA’s 2019 Health Action Conference, “Fighting for America’s Families.” We joined national and state leaders in the health care movement for an opportunity to reflect, share stories, learn from one another and re-energize for our work in the year to come.

A theme that ran throughout the entire conference was one of strong women leaders, and was embodied by the conference’s first speaker, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (pictured above).  Speaker Pelosi kicked off the conference by celebrating the work of the advocates in the room. She told the audience that thanks to our work, “the most important issue in the campaign was health care,” adding that “thanks to you, there were 10,000 grassroots events across the country to protect the ACA.” She spelled out the House Democrats’ “For the People” agenda, which includes preserving the ACA, expanding health care, and reducing prescription drug prices. She reminded us that, as advocates and policy makers, “We don’t just want the grassroots to mobilize, we want them to give us their views on what policy should look like.”

Sister Simone Campbell spoke about the moral imperative she feels to engage in health advocacy. She is Executive Director of NETWORK and a longtime health advocate who organized the 2014 “Nuns on the Bus Tour” in support of the ACA. Most recently, she and her colleagues took to the road again with their “Nuns on the Bus ‘On the Road to Mar-a-Lago’” tour, which included 54 events in 21 states. The goal of the tour was to hold members of Congress accountable for their multiple attempts to repeal the ACA, and their eventual successful attempt to repeal the ACA’s individual mandate through the 2017 tax bill. She highlighted the power of real people’s stories, and echoed Speaker Pelosi’s call to hold elected officials accountable. “You all need to continue to knock on the doors, engage, and make clear that we, the people, are watching,” she urged.

Stacey Abrams (pictured above) tell us to educate, advocate and activate! The 2018 candidate for Georgia governor and founder of Fair Fight shared her brother’s struggles with mental illness and pointed to a health care system that failed him. She stressed the importance of Medicaid expansion in increasing coverage for people with behavioral and mental health issues. Abrams called on health advocates to follow three simple steps that will enable us to achieve the social justice change we want to see: first, educate the public and our leaders using stories. “This is your life; make it their learning,” she said. Second,advocate on behalf of the issues we care about. And third, activate people to turn out and make a difference. “If you educate, advocate and activate, we will claim victory for America.”

Experts discuss threats to women’s health and LGBTQ health, and the negative impact of racial and gender biases. During breakout panels, national and state experts covered a variety of RWV priority issues, including state and federal threats to women’s health and LGBTQ health, and strategies for pushing back. Panelists from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), American Conference of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights discussed the harm of recent Trump administration regulations for women,  particularly low-income women of color. Examples include rules targeting the Title X family planning program and the ACA’s contraceptive coverage benefit. They also pointed to proactive state work, such as Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act and New York’s recent Reproductive Health Act, as a means to protect women at the state level against harmful federal threats.

At a panel focused on LGBTQ health, Out2Enroll’s Katie Keith talked about the health coverage gains for trans people under the ACA, as well as the remaining work that needs to be done. In 2013, 59% of trans people didn’t have health insurance, whereas in 2017, 25% of trans people didn’t have health insurance, she said. Luc Athayde-Rizzaro from theNational Center for Transgender Equality discussed the implications of the anticipated Trump administration rollback of the Obama administration’s rule interpreting the ACA’s Section 1557 non-discrimination provision, often referred to as a “health care civil rights law,” as well as some of the opportunities that exist at the state level to secure health care protections for transgender people.

 

                                                                               
At a breakout panel entitled Listen to us! How racial and gender biases undermine women’s health, Ann Marie Benitez of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Joia Adele Crear-Perry of the National Birth Equity Collaborative and Community Catalyst board member (pictured above), Rachel Hardeman of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Aisha Liferidge of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, talked about how racial and gender biases drive health inequities. Using a reproductive justice framework, speakers grounded the conversation by first explaining the history of eugenics in the U.S. They discussed the history of forced sterilization, coercion, and medical experimentation targeting women of color. They talked about the ways in which this legacy of racism has led to providers minimizing the pain of women of color, as their needs go unmet and racial health disparities among women of color persist. The panel concluded with a conversation about state policy efforts to begin to address disparities, such as Medicaid coverage for doulas, and requirements that health care providers undergo implicit bias trainings.

During the final plenary, And Still We Rise: Women Leaders who Resist and Thrive,Chirlane McCray, Founder of ThriveNYC and First Lady of New York City, spoke about the importance of prioritizing mental health care. “There is no health without mental health,” she said. The panel of social justice leaders who followed her – including moderator Sinsi Hernandez-Cancio of Families USA, Keisha Bradford of Health Center Association of Nebraska, Cristina Jimenez of United we Dream, Monica Simpson of SisterSong, andAnna Chu of the National Women’s Law Center – reiterated First Lady McCray’s message, speaking to the importance of mental health for everyone, including yourself. “Not taking care of yourself is an act of violence against yourself,” Jiminez said, when asked how she continues to fight for what’s right, even in the face of adversity and burnout.

What did the government shutdown cost?

This week, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the 5-week shutdown of the federal government cost the US economy $11 billion. Although most federal health programs were protected because HHS was already funded through this coming September, the longer-than-expected shutdown had serious health-related consequences for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Federal employees faced a reset of their deductibles right as they weren’t getting paid, federal contractors couldn’t make premium payments on their employees’ plans, and ACA marketplace enrollees dependent on the IRS to certify their income couldn’t receive financial aid to help offset their premium costs. And of course, Indian Health Service workers were asked to continue to serve 2.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives without pay, putting all non-emergency care on hold.

Late last Friday, Donald Trump caved to growing pressure from rank-and-file Senate Republicans and agreed to support a clean continuing resolution funding the government through February 15 without any money for the wall or other new anti-immigration measures. After preemptively declaring himself solely responsible for the shutdown in December, public opinion polls consistently showed that a majority of Americans oppose the wall and blamed Republicans for the longest government shutdown in history. In exchange for re-opening the government without wall funding, congressional leadership agreed to convene a bipartisan bicameral conference committee on the Homeland Security appropriations bill to negotiate the president’s demands, along with protections for the Dreamers and other outstanding immigration concerns.

Democrats are not expected to agree to more than fig leaf funding for Trump’s signature issue—for example, they may agree to additional funds to improve existing fencing—raising questions about whether parts of the government will once again shut down in two weeks. But even among Senate Republicans there appears to be very little appetite for another“kick from the mule,” in GOP Leader Mitch McConnell’s words.

Trump readying a sneak approach to Medicaid block grants

Continuing its seemingly relentless attack on Medicaid recipients, the Trump administration revealed earlier this month that it is working on guidance to allow states to institute Medicaid block grants through the existing 1115 waiver process. A long-time conservative goal, Republicans in the previous Congress repeatedly tried and failed to block grant Medicaid as part of their ACA repeal attempts. The proposal CMS is considering would allow states to apply for less money in exchange for greater “flexibility” to spend it how they want instead of on protected groups like pregnant women and people with disabilities.

 It’s not clear whether the administration actually has the legal authority to offer block grants under current law. But at least one important voice is adamant that they do not. House E&C Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said bluntly: "CMS doesn’t have the legal authority to block grant Medicaid. Block grants undermine the protections of the Medicaid program and put our most vulnerable citizens at risk.” Any move to issue such guidance would almost certainly prompt immediate oversight action by the new House majority.

Tuesday
Jan222019

The future of Roe, on the 46th anniversary

Celebrating the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade!

Today marks the day—46 years ago—of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. But even as we celebrate the anniversary of this momentous decision that gave women the right to choose if and when to have a family, we also recognize its limitations as well as its potentially uncertain future.

We are heartened by movement in progressive states to enact state-level protections for legal abortion, such as the Reproductive Health Act expected to finally pass both houses of the New York State Legislature later today. But in conservative states, women needing abortion care are facing increasing obstacles.

Despite GOP attacks on abortion, support for Roe is widespread

As we’ve noted before, Donald Trump has worked to fulfill his campaign promise to nominate only judges who would overturn undermine Roe v. Wade. With the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, Trump did just that. Kavanaugh has made clear his position on abortion rights, giving a speech praising Justice Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe v. Wade, and dissentingin last fall’s Garza v. Hargan case about an undocumented immigrant minor seeking an abortion.

Yet Kavanaugh’s opinions on abortion do not reflect those held by the rest of the country. In a recent poll73% of respondents said they do not want Roe overturned, and 67% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. When told that future access to abortion may depend more on the laws in their state than the Supreme Court, 63% of voters say they would want their state elected officials to protect or expand access to abortion

State attacks on abortion continue to target already marginalized groups

Even through Roe decriminalized abortion in 1973, Roe has yet to become a reality for allwomen. Because of racial and socioeconomic disparities, age, immigration status, geographic barriers and other factors, many women are already living in a post-Roe world in which it’s virtually impossible to get abortion services.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, states have been growing increasingly hostile towards abortion rights. Guttmacher’s research found that the number of states with policies hostile to abortion rights grew from only four states in 2000 to 21 states that have policies hostile or very hostile to abortion rights in 2019.
 
In 2018 alone, 23 abortion restrictions were enacted. State-level abortion restrictions, such as waiting periods,  targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) laws, and more, make it increasingly difficult for women to get the health care they need. As a New York Times editorial from today notes, 43 percent of all women of reproductive age, or approximately 29 million women, live in areas that are hostile to abortion rights. There are currently seven states that each have just one abortion clinic left.

What have advocates been doing to “back up” Roe and secure other reproductive health protections at the state level?
 
If Roe v. Wade were overturned or gutted, what might abortion rights and access look like across the country? In a “post-Roe” world, the authority to regulate abortion would go to the states. Currently, nine states – including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, and Washington – have adopted laws that protect the right to abortion at the state level prior to viability or when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.
 
In addition, states with archaic pre-Roe abortion bans that are still on the books have a renewed sense of urgency to repeal them. For example, last year, our Boston-based regional coordinator, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, successfully advocated for the repeal of the state’s 173 year-old abortion ban through their Negating Archaic Statues Targeting Young Women Act.

Now, NARAL Pro Choice Massachusetts is working to build on that success as they advocate for the ROE Act, or the Act to Remove Obstacles and Expand Abortion Access. The proposed policy would reform state abortion laws to ensure that anyone, regardless of age, income, insurance or immigration status, can access safe and legal abortion. This bill would codify the right to abortion in state law; remove mandatory parental consent to abortion, which disproportionately impacts low-income teens and teens of color; allow for abortions after 24 week in case of grave fetal abnormalities; update medically inaccurate definitions of abortion and pregnancy in the law; remove a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for abortion care (though currently unenforced due to litigation); and establish safety net coverage for abortion care for those without health insurance.

In New York, RWV-NY has worked alongside its women’s health colleagues to successfully advocate for the adoption of the Reproductive Health Act, which secures and protects access to abortion in New York by strengthening and updating New York state law and bringing it in line with the standard of Roe v. Wade. It also protects health care providers who perform abortion services, and treats abortion as health care, not a criminal act. The state Senate, where Republicans blocked passage of the bill in the past, is now controlled by Democrats, who are poised to approve the bill later today. Governor Cuomo is expected to sign this piece of legislation, alongside the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which protects and expands the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement, and the Boss Bill, which prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because the employee or their dependent made a reproductive health decision that conflicts with the employer’s personal beliefs.

In 2017, our Portland-based regional coordinator, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, successfully advocated for the adoption of one of the most far-reaching reproductive health policies to date. The Reproductive Health Equity Act requires coverage of the full range of reproductive health related services with no cost-sharing for all Oregonians, including undocumented immigrants and trans people. The new policy covers contraceptives, abortion, screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted infections and prenatal and postpartum care. Our Denver-based regional coordinator, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), as well as our Seattle-based coordinator, Northwest Health Law Advocates, are pushing for similar measures in Colorado and Washington this year.

Advocates in somewhat more conservative states can also take action to begin building the foundation for establishing abortion protections in their state. For example, pro-choice advocates are pursuing a lawsuit in Pennsylvania that would overturn the state’s ban on Medicaid funding for abortion. As the New York Times notes, currently, only 16 states allow for Medicaid coverage of abortion. This puts abortion out of reach of low-income women who rely on Medicaid for the health care they need.
 
Advocates in even redder states can work to counteract the anti-choice narrative by introducing pro-choice legislation, which, despite its unlikely passage, has the potential to start an important conversation and raise awareness about the need for state-level abortion protections.
 
Where do we go from here?
 
While the future of Roe remains uncertain, advocates can act now to shore up protections at the state level for abortion as well as other reproductive health services. In addition, advocates can expand our focus beyond abortion, and push for policies that will help to achieve true reproductive justice, including policies relating to immigrants’ rights, voting rights, paid family leave, maternal health for women of color, living wages and access to health care for incarcerated women.

Thursday
Jan172019

Whew! Birth control coverage safe for now

Nationwide injunction halts harmful Trump birth control rule

This week, federal judges in California and Pennsylvania issued injunctions halting implementation of the Trump administration’s attacks on birth control coverage under the ACA. Under the Trump rules first proposed in October 2017, employers would be able to deny their employees birth control coverage because of the employer’sreligious or moral objections.

While the injunction in California affects only the 13 states and DC that are parties to that case, the injunction in Pennsylvania blocks the Trump rules nationwide on the same day that they were set to take effect. Like Hobby Lobby and Zubik, the two previous court battles to determine whether religiously-affiliated employers must provide coverage, the current fight is likely to end up at the Supreme Court sometime next year.

As we wrote in 2017, the Trump rules throw out the existing Obama-era accommodation for religious employers. While not ideal, the Obama accommodation is a compromise that gives women access to seamless birth control coverage at no cost, while also allowing employers with religious objections to avoid paying for it themselves. Instead of an accommodation that protects employers’ religious views and women’s access to vital health care, the Trump rules would 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.

Right now, 62.4 million women have insurance coverage for their birth control free from out-of-pocket costs. While the administration has argued that few women would be affected by the new rules, there are reasons to believe that the real impact could be much, much higher. In an amicus brief to the Pennsylvania case co-signed by Raising Women’s Voices last year, the amici noted that under the “moral” exemption, “any university or non-publicly-traded private entity may claim an exemption for virtually any reason given the vast nature of what could be interpreted as a ‘moral’ objection.”

In issuing her nationwide injunction, federal Judge Wendy Beetlestone wrote that “the negative effects of even a short period of decreased access to no-cost contraceptive services are irreversible” and that the harm caused by the Trump rules “is not merely speculative; it is actual and imminent. … [T]here is no need to wait for the axe to fall before an injunction is appropriate, particularly where Defendants have estimated that it is about to fall on thousands of women—and, as a corollary, on the States.”

What makes the administration’s position even more galling is that it argues the harm will be mitigated as more women use Title X family planning programs to replace their missing contraceptive coverage. Of course, we are waiting any day now for the administration to issue final regulations gutting the Title X program and sharply limiting the ability of women to access real contraceptive choices at real family planning clinics. The rule would change the definition of “family planning” to include non-medical approaches such as abstinence-only or “fertility awareness” methods that have high failure rates.
 
If the administration is ultimately successful in all of its schemes, women denied employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage on religious or moral grounds may find that the only “Title X provider” in their community is a religiously affiliated fake clinic offering abstinence-only counseling in lieu of birth control.

Women are marching again on Saturday!

For the third straight year, women will be marching in the streets in cities across the nation on Saturday. The first women’s march in January of 2017 was a mass expression of women’s dismay over the election of Donald Trump, who was being inaugurated that month. Last year’s march targeted many of the policies the Trump administration and Republican Congressional leaders had been pushing – including repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  Raising Women’s Voices-NY staff and interns are shown above, participating in last year’s march in New York City.
 
This year’s march comes just after a major victory for women – the election of dozens of women to Congress and the return of Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House of Representatives, with Democrats now in control of the House.  That’s means some of the more egregious things the previous Congress tried will likely be off the table for now.
 
But there is still much to protest this year!  On the top of our list is the ongoing shutdown of the federal government over Trump’s demand for funding of his proposed wall along the Mexican border.  Then there are the numerous proposed and final regulations the Trump administration has been issuing, including the birth control rule we described above and other rules like these:

  • The Title X “gag rule,” which tries to limit federal funding for health clinics that provide abortion to low-income women;
  •   proposed rule that would impose burdensome requirements on coverage of abortion services in health plans being offered through Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces in states that permit or require abortion coverage;
  • Proposed changes to the public charge rule, which has resulted in many immigrant families dropping out of public assistance programs
  • Expansion of short term “junk” plans, which are not required to cover maternity care and other health services women need

New Jersey Citizen Action, our RWV regional coordinator in that state, will join dozens of other organizations in Trenton (the state capitol) for the Women’s March on New Jersey. The mission of that march is “to bring together kindred spirits of women, grounded in diversity, and celebrating the unique beauty of our strengths and differences. Our aim is to be a movement of authentic inclusivity – where no woman is left behind. Not because of her religion, education or lack thereof; not for the color of her skin, her economic status, or because of the person she loves. We will strive to successfully accomplish what has not been accomplished before – an unyielding solidarity borne out of love, tolerance, understanding, support and respect.”
 
WV Free, the RWV regional coordinator in West Virginia, will be joining the West Virginia Women’s March, ACLU-WV and Planned Parenthood South Atlantic on the steps of the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston for a rally at which WV Free’s Anduwyn  Williams and Katie Wolfe will be speaking. The rally will be followed by a march and ending with a happy hour (great idea!).
 
There is also much to celebrate this year.  Joan Lamunyon Sanford, Director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), which is the RWV regional coordinator for that state, will be speaking at Saturday’s march in Albuquerque.  She and other women’s health advocates in New Mexico have been celebrating the election of a new progressive governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and the election of a Native American woman from New Mexico, Deb Haaland, to Congress.
 
Some RWV regional coordinators are doing alternative actions this weekend. For example,Northwest Health Law Advocates (NoHLA) Seattle is participating in a Womxn's Day of Action on Sunday and will be co-presenting with the Somali Health Board on immigrant access to health care in Washington state. NoHLA will be discussing federal, state, and local policies that impact immigrant access to care and Somali Health Board will provide client stories to highlight how those policies impact community members directly.

In New York, where unresolved disputes have resulted in there being two separate Women’s March events on Saturday, RWV-NY will be conducting leafleting seeking women’s stories about problems with confusing and unfair medical bills. RWV-NY is part of a coalition advocating for state action requiring simpler medical bills and holding consumers harmless when they when go to a health provider they had been assured was in their health plan network, but later receive an out-of-network bill.

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