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 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 or call 1-800-318-2596.


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Health care was the winning issue!

Whew! ACA repeal off the table in Congress

Thanks to your efforts and those of activists all around the country, there were huge victories for high quality, affordable health care on Tuesday!

You marched, called, wrote, protested, canvassed and spoke out. And it worked! In exit polls nationwide, voters confirmed that health care was their top priority, and they punished those officials who had sought to take it away. Even in races where health care proponents ultimately lost, the margin of victory was often significantly closer than anyone would have predicted two years ago in states won handily by Donald Trump – thanks to health care voters. Strikingly, a number of the Affordable Care Act’s harshest foes were forced to lie about their opposition to the law’s consumer protections, in a sweeping reversal of health care politics from previous election cycles.
With Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the door has been firmly closed on further legislative attempts next year to repeal the ACA, gut Medicaid, block low-income patients from receiving care at Planned Parenthood or cut Medicare to pay for the GOP tax cuts. The change in power also has significant implications for the kinds of oversight that the House will conduct. House committees are now expected to investigate the administration’s efforts to sabotage the ACA and its refusal to defend the law in court. We may even get a full investigation of Brett Kavanaugh by the House Judiciary Committee next year – something the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to do this year.
The next two years could be particularly turbulent for House Republicans, two-thirds of whom have never served in the minority before. We can look to a recent analog in the 2006 wave elections, where a similarly long-standing Republican majority was handed defeat. Chafing in the minority and facing another tough re-election fight defined by an unpopular president, large numbers of Republicans who’d survived 2006 announced their retirement. How this could affect a smaller, Trumpier GOP conference’s approach to health care, we’ll have to wait and see.
In the Senate, where Democrats were defending 10 seats in states won by Trump, Republicans only increased their narrow majority by 2 to 4 seats. We may not know the outcome of races in Arizona and Florida until next week. The loss of the House neuters Senate Republicans’ ability to pass harmful legislation but the additional seats gives them a larger buffer to confirm extremist conservative judges. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to spend the next two years aggressively attempting to remake the federal judiciary in Trump’s image. As disturbing a prospect as this is, however, it’s still a marked reversal in fortunes from the filibuster-proof majority that Republicans had once envisioned for 2019.
But even as we celebrate our health care victories, we know our work is far from over. In Texas, one of the most openly partisan judges on the federal bench is set to rule very soon against the ACA's consumer protections, including those for people with pre-existing conditions. Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer both called on Republicans to prove their supposed support of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and withdraw from the lawsuit. “We think as a sign of good faith and in keeping with what they’re saying on the campaign trial – prove it, withdraw the lawsuit. So that would be one place that we could start,” Pelosi said during a Wednesday press briefing. Meanwhile, two newly elected Democratic attorneys general in Wisconsin and Michigan could lead those states to withdraw from the lawsuit.

The Trump administration is also rushing full speed ahead to push "junk" plans on unsuspecting consumers and continue to sabotage ACA marketplaces.  On Wednesday, the administration released two final rules designed to make it easier for employers to cite religious or moral objections to birth control and gain exemptions from the contraceptive coverage requirements established through the ACA. The initial versions of these rules were blocked by courts, and the final rules should be, too!

The Trump administration also issued a proposed rule that would impose unnecessary and burdensome requirements on health insurance plans that cover abortion care, as well as the enrollees in these plans. This proposed rule would force such health plans to send separate monthly bills to enrollees for the abortion coverage, instead of one bill that itemizes the abortion coverage. Enrollees would have to send in two separate payments, one for abortion coverage and one for everything else. The ostensible purpose of this process is to ensure that no federal funds are used to pay for abortion coverage that is not allowed under the Hyde Amendment (which allows federal funding of abortion only for cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman’s life). But the true purpose of this rule is to discourage health plans from covering abortion because of the administrative hassles. There will be 60 days of public comment on this proposal, and we will be weighing in firmly in opposition.

State victories for Medicaid expansion

In Nebraska, Idaho and Utah, voters overwhelmingly passed Medicaid expansions by ballot initiative, closing the coverage gap for more than 300,000 people. Our early sense from all three states is that none of their Republican governors is likely to follow the lead of Maine’s departing Republican governor, Paul LePage, who has been illegally blocking a voter-approved expansion this year. 

In Kansas and Maine, voters elected pro-health care governors, easing the path for their states to expand Medicaid, which would cover an additional 200,000 people.Both states had previously passed Medicaid expansions through their Republican-controlled legislatures only to see extremist governors veto them. Pro-expansion gubernatorial candidates also won in states like Wisconsin (which has a partial expansion) and Michigan (which had sought to undermine its expansion through the waiver process). In Georgia, where Republicans engaged in blatantly illegal efforts to suppress the African American vote, pro-expansion candidate Stacey Abrams could be headed to a run-off election, depending on the outcome of a recount. 
In Nevada and New Mexico, newly-elected state leaders are considering Medicaid buy-in programs. These would allow residents with incomes above the threshold for Medicaid eligibility to use their ACA premium assistance dollars to purchase Medicaid coverage instead of a private plan. Nevada’s legislature passed Medicaid buy-in in 2017 but the program was vetoed by outgoing Republican Governor Brian Sandoval. By contrast, incoming Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, is supportive.

Montana's I-185 initiative fails, but Medicaid expansion still possible

On Tuesday, 55% of Montanans voted against the I-185 Healthy Montana Initiative, an plan to raise taxes on all tobacco products and include e-cigarettes and vaping products. The proposal would have dedicated a percentage of these funds to ce
rtain health-related programs, including some of the costs for Montana’s ongoing Medicaid expansion program (covering nearly 100,000 Montanans) veterans’ services smoking prevention and cessation programs and long-term care services for seniors and people with disabilities.

Our Montana-based regional coordinator, Montana Women Vote, worked extremely hard this year, prioritizing participation in theHealthy Montana Coalition. Dedicated volunteers from across the state worked hard to gather 40,000 signatures for the I-185 initiative to be on the 2018 election ballot. Unfortunately, the tobacco industry wages a fierce and expensive campaign against the initiative.  Now the legislature will determine the fate of the expansion, eliminating it completely or finding a new way to fund the program. Montanans value health coverage for their families and are dedicated to saving their state expansion, Medicaid saves lives in Montana.

Mixed results on abortion policy at the state level

On Tuesday, voters in three states – Alabama, Oregon, and West Virginia – voted on ballot measures affecting abortion rights and access in their state. While we saw a pro-choice victory in Oregon, we were disappointed by the outcomes in West Virginia and Alabama, where pro-choice advocates engaged in hard fought campaigns pushing back against harmful anti-choice ballot measures, which unfortunately  passed.

In Oregon, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, our Portland-based RC, helped successfully defeat Measure 106, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have prohibited public state funds from paying for abortion. Oregonians showed up at the polls in full force to defeat this backdoor ban on abortion. With the resounding rejection of Measure 106, Oregon remains the most pro-choice state in the nation, and the only state with no additional barriers to accessing abortion care.

Despite tireless efforts by our Charleston-based RC, WV FREE, West Virginia voters approved Amendment 1, which will add language to the West Virginia Constitution stating "nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion. The amendment negates a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that affirmed a right to abortion care and state Medicaid funding for abortion in the state. Although the West Virginia amendment "won't have an immediate impact," Julie Warden, WV FREE Communications Director told CNN, "it is ominous for low-income women who already face insurmountable barriers to healthcare.” With so many restrictions already in place, if the state takes away Medicaid coverage for abortion, it will disproportionately impact women already struggling to make ends meet, and will be devastating for women and families.

As part of their campaign, WV FREE and their coalition partners called nearly 200,000 unique voters across West Virginia, ran television ads in three major West Virginia markets, reached nearly 150,000 voters via mail and communicated with over 200,000 West Virginia voters through digital advertising. Their hard work made a difference. The narrow margin of victory for the opposition (52%-48%), made it clear that Amendment 1 was not a mandate. WV FREE will continue to make sure West Virginians can navigate their way through the restrictive healthcare landscape created by politicians.

In Alabama, voters approved a ballot measure known as Amendment 2, which gives fetuses
the same rights as people by adding personhood language to the state constitution. The amendment also adds that the state constitution “does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” Amendments like those passed in West Virginia and Alabama are particularly concerning at a time when the fate of Roe could lie in the hands of the Supreme Court, with newly appointed anti-choice Justice, Brett Kavanaugh. Since West Virginia and Alabama both have pre-Roe abortion bans, the new amendments could be used to restrict abortion in the state outright if Roe falls.

Beyond ballot initiatives, Tuesday’s elections had additional state-level implications for reproductive health, rights and justice, as a number of state legislatures flipped to a pro-choice majority. For example, New York will now have a Democratically-controlled state Senate, which will likely move quickly to pass the Reproductive Health Act. The Reproductive Health Act, which continues to pass in the Assembly, but until now, has stalled in the Senate, would move abortion from the criminal code into the health code, and bring New York State law in line with Roe v. Wade. The Reproductive Health Act would serve to back up abortion rights in New York State should the Supreme Court undermine or overturn Roe.


ACA enrollment starts today; sabotage continues

Open Enrollment starts TODAY!

Today, November 1, is the first day of 2018 Open Enrollment season! Despite repeated attempts by Trump and the GOP to undermine or repeal the ACA, including a 90% cut to open enrollment advertising, Open Enrollment begins with great news for consumers. Premiums are stabilizing or even dropping, and most people have more options than before.
Open Enrollment only lasts 6 weeks in most states, so don’t wait to sign up! You can go to to explore your options, and find free enrollment assistance near you at If you would like to help us spread the word about Open Enrollment and help more people get covered, you can learn more about our outreach resources here

Another attempt to sabotage the ACA

In the closing weeks before the election, the Trump administration has done everything it can to change the message away from the GOP’s disastrous health care proposals. The president casually floated the idea of overturning the 14th amendment by executive order—he can’t. And GOP candidates around the nation have been trying to convince voters that they don’t support repealing protections for pre-existing conditions—they do.
Citing a number of Republican House members who’ve made false claims about their support for health care using an unrelated Washington Post fact-check, the Post wrote: “These lawmakers have been put on notice that they are peddling a falsehood—and politicians who care about their reputation should acknowledge they made a mistake and offer an apology. Instead, they apparently believe it is politically advantageous to continue to deceive the voters in their districts.”
But while the public’s attention has been on the election, the administration has been diligently working to gut those same protections through executive action. Last week, the administration issued new guidelines that will allow states to effectively eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections through the 1332 waiver process.
Under section 1332 of the ACA, states may apply to waive some of the law’s requirements in order to explore innovative alternatives for providing the same level of coverage. The law establishes certain guardrails to ensure that a comparable number of people are covered with the same quality of care at no additional cost to the federal government. Guidance issued by the Obama administration emphasized coverage for low-income and vulnerable populations.
Most of the waivers granted since 2015 have established state reinsurance programs. For example, Consumer Health First—Raising Women’s Voices Regional Coordinator in Maryland—helped successfully shepherd that state’s 1332 waiver for reinsurance. More radical proposals have been rejected.
But the guidance issued by the Trump administration is specifically intended to push states into promoting non-ACA compliant plans like Association Health Plans and short-term“junk” plans, driving up costs for those who remain in comprehensive ACA marketplaces. Using the same semantic sleight of hand that Republican leaders used for their repeal efforts last year, the new guidance emphasizes “access” to coverage over actual coverage.
Last year we warned you about the real-world impact of the Cruz amendment to undermine protections for pre-existing conditions: “the choice Cruz is offering is between insurance you don't want (the skimpy plans) and insurance you won’t be able to afford (the comprehensive plans, which will cost much more than they do now). … Even the insurance companies think the Cruz amendment is a bad idea! AHIP, an insurance industry trade group, says it would ‘de-stabilize the individual market and increase costs for those with pre-existing conditions.’”
Now, writing in the Commonwealth Fund, Timothy Jost warns that the new guidance is worse: “With its 1332 waiver guidance, the Trump administration is attempting to accomplish through administrative fiat changes in the ACA that Republicans repeatedly tried and failed to bring about through legislation in 2017. The waiver guidance, for example, resembles but goes even further than the Cruz Amendment to the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act or the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill, which would have allowed coverage that is not legal under the ACA and funneled money directly to the states to spend on their own health coverage priorities. Like those bills, the 1332 guidance promises to further exacerbate differences in coverage between red and blue states.” It’s clear that in states that take up Trump’s offer now, those with pre-existing conditions could find themselves quickly priced out of the coverage they need.
Furthermore, despite touting increased “flexibility” for states, that flexibility only runs in one direction. The guidance makes it more difficult for states to use 1332 waivers to create a public option or pursue a Medicaid buy-in program to allow residents with incomes above the threshold for Medicaid eligibility to use their ACA assistance to purchase Medicaid coverage instead of a private plan.
Unlike a proposed regulation, the guidance went into effect immediately upon being issued on October 22 and will be used to evaluate all new 1332 waiver requests. Outside of a legal challenge, there’s no way to stop the guidance from moving forward. But activists can and should share concerns with state officials about the ways in which these Trump waivers will result in worse coverage, higher costs, and harm to people with pre-existing conditions.


It’s almost time for open enrollment in ACA coverage!

Open enrollment starts in one week! Get ready!

Open Enrollment for 2019 health plans begins in just one week, on November 1st. This is the sixth year people who otherwise might not have access to health coverage can go to and enroll in a high-quality health plan. That’s because all of us have succeeded in keeping the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the law, despite attempts by Congress and the White House to repeal or undermine it.
What’s new this year? The good news is that in some states, people will be paying less this year for health insurance. It’s important that anyone interested in enrolling -- or re-enrolling -- in a health plan compare options at each year. As the markets have matured, new insurance carriers have entered some parts of the country, expanding choice and competition. In addition, subsidies to people meeting income thresholds rise in proportion to rate increases. So, even if you have heard that rates have gone up in your area, you should still research your options since you may qualify for a money-saving subsidy.
Something else new this year is the expanded sale, in some states, of short-term health plans that are not ACA marketplace plans. These plans were originally intended as “stop-gap” health insurance policies for people who are between plans -- such as when changing jobs and waiting to become eligible for a new employer’s health plan.. The short-term plans may appear cheaper than the plans being sold through, but they are NOT comprehensive coverage! Many omit coverage for maternity care, prescription drugs or mental health care. They have hidden coverage gaps that can leave you stuck with large medical bills, and also can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. That’s why these policies are often referred to as “junk” health plans or “band-aid” plans. We urge you to ask questions about what such a plan would really cover before buying one.
For the second year in a row, Raising Women’s Voices is proud to be participating in an outreach campaign designed specifically to reach low-income people, women of color, Latinx people, immigrants, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities and their families. Along with Community Catalyst and other national non-profits, Raising Women’s Voices and our regional coordinators will be using social media to reach our constituencies with messages like those seen here. In addition, Raising Women’s Voices has created flyers for advocates to customize and distribute within their communities. You can find all of these materials here in both English and Spanish.
We know that many of the immigrant families we serve are worried that enrolling in health coverage could cause them to be deemed a “public charge,” and become ineligible for visas or green cards. So, it’s important to know that federal subsidies for purchase of an ACA marketplace plan are not included in the Trump administration’s proposed “public charge” rule. Enrollment in a Medicaid plan -- except for “emergency Medicaid” --would be considered in deciding whether someone is a “public charge,” but only 60 days after the final rule goes into effect. The proposed rule won’t take effect until sometime next year, and it will not be applied retroactively. So, there is no reason to drop coverage now, or fail to enroll if you are an eligible immigrant. 
In most states, Open Enrollment will last just six weeks, ending December 15. However, people who become uninsured at other times of the year due to certain life events including job loss, marriage, divorce, a move or domestic violence can apply for aSpecial Enrollment Period outside of Open Enrollment. People who qualify for Medicaid based on their income do not need to wait for Open Enrollment. Similarly, children can be enrolled in CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) at any time of the year. Learn more about Medicaid and CHIP here.


Who will really protect people with pre-existing conditions?

Voter beware! Don’t believe all the candidates’ claims

With the midterm elections just weeks away, candidates on both sides of the aisle are rolling out campaign ads claiming to support protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But that doesn’t mean that the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare are safe. As the New York Times reported this week:

"For months, Democratic candidates have been running hard on health care, while Republicans have said little about it. In a sign of the issue’s potency, Republicans are now playing defense, releasing a wave of ads promising they will preserve protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions.

The ads omit the fact that the protections are a central feature of the Affordable Care Act and that the Republican Party has worked unceasingly to repeal the law, through legislation and lawsuits.

Republicans in Congress have recently come forward with limited legislative proposals to ensure some pre-existing conditions protections if the health law is overturned. One, a House resolution, would have no force of law, even if adopted. The other would contain a significant loophole: Insurers would have to cover those with pre-existing illnesses, but would not have to cover care for those particular illnesses." [emphasis ours]

In Missouri, for example, Attorney General Josh Hawley (R-MO) has been running ads touting his support for people with pre-existing conditions even as he has signed the state onto the lawsuit that would gut them. As the Times reports, “If his lawsuit invalidates the entire health care law, it would return the country to a time when people with prior illness sometimes couldn’t buy coverage at all. Republicans could pass a law restoring Obamacare’s consumer protections, but Mr. Hawley has not yet explicitly endorsed such a strategy.”

Hawley’s ad—called “ridiculously dishonest” in the Washington Post—and those of other candidates raise questions about what to make of so many competing claims this year and how health care advocates can speak up for truth about the ACA.

How to tell which candidates will protect people with pre-ex conditions?

Last week, our allies at Families USA rolled out a simple three-part test to cut through the noise:

Questions 1 and 3 are critical because none of the replacement proposals put forward by the ACA’s opponents have ever come close to providing the full consumer protections guaranteed under current law. In fact, these replacement plans would once again makerape and domestic violence pre-existing conditions.

Question 2 gets to the heart of the Trump administration’s efforts to impose Trumpcare by executive fiat. The full-year “junk” plans allowed under a new Trump rule are not required to cover essential health benefits and they can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, charge limitless out-of-pocket expenses and reinstate annual and lifetime coverage caps. These plans are coming on the market this month, and we’ve urged consumers to carefully compare them with the comprehensive ACA marketplace plans for which open enrollment starts Nov. 1.

A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis from April found that none of these junk plans cover maternity care and only 29% cover prescription drugs. Kaiser’s analysis concluded that encouraging healthy people to switch to these junk plans “would raise the cost of coverage for people with health conditions who remain in the ACA-compliant market.”

Yet the Senate voted 50-50 last week to uphold these junk plans, with many of the senators who claim to support people with pre-existing conditions nevertheless voting to drive up the cost of health care coverage for those conditions.

With so many candidates running and so many health care issues at stake in federal, state, and local races, Families USA has pulled together a nonpartisan toolkit to help evaluate candidate claims.

Meanwhile, this week Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to take up another ACA repeal effort in 2019 if conservatives retain control of both chambers. In a separate interview, he also confirmed what we have long predicted: that conservatives hope to use the massive deficits triggered by their tax bill—“a 77 percent increase from fiscal 2015, when McConnell became majority leader”—as a reason to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. McConnell called the deficit “disappointing” but “not a Republican problem” before tarring public health and anti-poverty measures as the “real drivers of the debt.”

More Community Conversations with Black Women's Health Imperative

The Black Women's Health Imperative continues its Real Talk Real Women community conversation series, this time with events coming up in Atlanta and Maryland. The Atlanta event will take place on Oct. 22, 7 PM at the Gathering Spot, and will be focused on galvanizing black women voters ahead of the crucial midterm elections. The Maryland event will at the Rising Sun First Baptist Church in Gwynn Oak at 2 PM on Nov. 3, and will feature a discussion on health topics relevant to Black women today. For more information, check out the Facebook event page for the Atlanta event here, and for the Maryland event here


Post-SCOTUS reflection: Speaking up still matters!

Post-SCOTUS reflection: Speaking up still matters!

Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court this week, after the Senate voted on near-party lines late last week to confirm him. That vote hurt, and undoubtedly will endanger women’s health and rights, as we had warned. But we want to thank all of our Raising Women’s Voices supporters for your incredible #SaveSCOTUS advocacy and send you this message: Speaking up still matters!

One female Republican Senator heard our messages. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the lone Republican to vote no and she explained, “The Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.2 requires that a judge ‘act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.’ … After the hearing that we all watched last week, last Thursday, it became clear to me… that that appearance of impropriety has become unavoidable.”

In contrast, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) gave a lengthy speech in support of Kavanaugh in which she railed against the groups that had opposed him, while disingenuously ignoring the overwhelming spending advantage of the groups supporting him. Collins dismissed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that she was “100 percent certain” that Kavanaugh was her attacker. Collins also expressed confidence that Kavanaugh would be a moderating force on the Court, leading to fewer 5-4 decisions. That assertion was immediately undercut by Kavanaugh’s second day on the bench this week, when he argued in support of“harshness” for immigrants detained without bail hearings.

But even now, the fight over Kavanaugh is far from over. This week, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) questioned FBI Director Christopher Wray about why the investigation had ignored dozens of witnesses, confirming on the record that the White House had strictly limited the scope. In the House, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records related to the investigation. And Democrats have promised that if they win control of either chamber, they will conduct investigations into the assault allegations and the possibility that Kavanaugh committed perjury.

In the near-term, however, it’s easy to feel despair. A president accused of sexual assault won the confirmation of a judge accused of sexual assault. Along with another justice accused of sexual harassment, these men are certain to make the Court much more hostile to women’s health and autonomy. For millions of survivors who watched Dr. Blasey Ford painfully testify about her experiences, it may feel like their voices have been silenced again.

But even now, we find hope in this moment. When Professor Anita Hill bravely testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, it was in front of an all-white, all-male panel of senators, many of whom were guilty of the same conduct as Clarence Thomas. In 2018, some of the committee’s most effective senators are women of color. Inspired by the MeToo movement—the brainchild of Tarana Burke, a Black woman activist—and by the heroic examples of Hill, Blasey Ford, and others, women and men who’ve never shared their stories before have been talking openly about their experiences. And it is working! More Americans believe the survivors who spoke up than believe Kavanaugh’s denials. More Americans opposed his confirmation than supported it. Speaking up still matters. Fighting back still matters.

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