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Friday
Mar242017

House leaders pull bill that would have devastated our health care


Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D- Illinois, stood on the House floor today and addressed Republicans who were announcing their support for the American Health Care Act (AHCA): “Did you really come to Congress to take health care away from 24 million people?”

No, as it turned out, not all of the Republicans thought that was a good idea. Thousands of calls from constituents and warnings from the Congressional Budget office about the likely impact of the bill apparently convinced enough Republicans that the AHCA was not ready for prime time. Last-minute changes to the bill to assuage the far-right House Freedom Caucus had made the bill even worse by opening the door for insurers to drop coverage for maternity care, hospital stays, prescription drugs, mental health care, cancer treatment and more. People with pre-existing conditions faced the possibility of exorbitant prices for health coverage.

Raising Women’s Voices joins our colleagues in the #ProtectOurCare coalition in a big sigh of relief that the American public has been spared this devastating bill – at least for now. We helped make the case to moderate Republicans that this bill went too far.

We extend our deepest thanks to all of Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators, supporters and allies who helped make possible today’s action halting the AHCA in its tracks. Our families can rest easier tonight, with peace of mind that the health coverage we count on will still be there for us.

But, we must stay vigilant. This is only the first attempt to roll back the advances we have made with the Affordable Care Act! We must be mindful that a number of the Republican members of the House who refused to support the bill thought it didn’t go far enough!

As you celebrate tonight and this weekend, plan to stay with us going forward. We need to pull together to protect our health care in this turbulent political time.
Friday
Mar242017

Action Alert! #Killthebill that devastates women and families!


 

Overnight, House Republican leaders have once again amended the already awful proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) and they are rushing to vote on it this afternoon. We must do everything we can to #Killthebill today and stop the momentum in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cut Medicaid.


We already knew that the proposed AHCA would raise premiums 20 percent, charge older people five times more than young people, provide only skimpy subsidies, cut Medicaid, block women from using their Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood and cause 24 million people to lose their health insurance. The new amendments have made a bad bill even worse:
  • Maternity coverage would no longer be guaranteed. Nor would coverage for any of the Essential Health Benefits that women and our families need, such as ER visits, doctor visits and prescription drugs.
  • As a result, women would once again end up paying more than men. Anyone who needed maternity coverage (women of reproductive health age) would have to pay more for it. Trei Clark of Atlanta recalls paying $350 a month extra for maternity coverage before the ACA.
  • People with pre-existing conditions would end up having to pay exorbitant prices for health coverage. That’s because insurers would eliminate from their basic plans coverage for things like breast cancer treatment. Coverage for such treatment would become an expensive extra, effectively pricing health coverage beyond the reach of people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Because the ACA’s ban on annual or lifetime caps on coverage applied only to the Essential Health Benefits, when the EHBs are eliminated, insurers are free to once again impose annual and lifetime limits on coverage. This means that once again, we and our families could find ourselves running out of coverage part way through treatment for an illness, such as breast cancer, or accident. Once again, families could face bankruptcy because of skyrocketing medical bills.
What can you do?
  1. Call your members of the House of Representatives immediately! Here are the toll-free call-in numbers: English: 866-426-2631 Spanish: 877-736-7831
  2. Find a protest event near you and join it today! Check out ResistanceNearMe.org for events.
  3. Use social media to alert your family, friends and colleagues about this emergency call to action to save our health care. Check out the Raising Women’s Voices Facebook page at RWV4Healthcare.
Wednesday
Mar222017

The vote is here! Act now to save our health care!

We’re celebrating the seventh anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the biggest leap forward for women's health in a generation. Those first two words of the law’s name are often dropped for convenience but as we reflect on everything the law has done, it’s important to remember that “patient protection” is at the core of the ACA. It’s particularly important today, as we face a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives tomorrow on a bill that would partially repeal the ACA and change Medicaid as we know it in ways that will be devastating to women, LGBTQ people and our families.
 
What have we gained through the ACA?
 
The ACA has changed what Americans expect of their health system in ways that will make it difficult or impossible for Republicans to ever fully repeal, even as they attempt to strip insurance coverage from millions of people. Women are protected from being charged more than men for the same policy. We are guaranteed maternity coverage and other essential benefits that were often omitted from policies before the ACA. We cannot be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. And our preventive services—ranging from mammograms and Pap tests to osteoporosis screenings and contraception—are covered without co-pay.
 
But the ACA has also empowered women in more subtle ways. Women live in poverty at higher rates than men do and we are much less likely than men to have employer-provided insurance in our own names. We’re also much more likely to serve as family caretakers. The “affordable care” part of the ACA means subsidies to help low- and moderate-income households purchase private insurance and an expansion of Medicaid for households living near the poverty line. The ACA’s subsidies are pegged to age, income, and cost of insurance, so they rise even if premiums do. As a result, the law has provided not only health benefits but also much greater financial independence and stability. These benefits have ranged from fewer missed housing payments to the freedom to leave an abusive partner.
 
But that’s not the only way that the ACA has worked toward affordable care. Under the law, insurance companies must spend at least 85 percent of the premiums they collect on health care, not executive salaries and bonuses, helping keep premiums lower. And out-of-pocket costs are capped to limit how much insurance companies can charge in deductibles and copays. And for seniors on Medicare, the ACA closes the prescription drug "donut hole," saving women millions of dollars in prescription drug costs.
 
What can we lose through ACA repeal?
 
On Thursday, House Republicans will vote on their bill to repeal key parts of ACA. The bill replaces the ACA’s subsidies with much skimpier financial assistance, slashing help for low-income families. It will also significantly raise premiums on people aged 50-64 and block women from using Medicaid at Planned Parenthood. Significantly, it will not only end the expansion of Medicaid but will also force deep cuts in traditional Medicaid. Half of all births in the U.S. are paid for by Medicaid.
 
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congress’s official budget scorekeeper, concluded last week that the bill will lead to higher premiums, higher deductibles and co-pays, 7 million fewer people receiving insurance through their employer, and 24 million people losing insurance altogether.
 
One might wonder why Republicans are willing to spend so much time and political capital on a bill that will take coverage away from millions of their own supporters. But this bill goes far beyond the ACA. Perhaps its biggest goals are a massive tax cut for the wealthy paid for by a radical restructuring of original Medicaid. Under the guise of “Obamacare repeal,” this bill rewrites the rules for Medicaid, eliminating the federal government’s guarantee to cover a percentage of the costs of every eligible enrollee. The bill cuts $880 billion from Medicaid in the next decade
alone and uses those funds to provide tax cuts for corporations and the ultra-wealthy. Under the bill, the 400 richest households in America will receive an average tax cut of $7 million.
 
On late Monday, Republicans introduced an amendment re-writing over a third of their bill, promising to bring it up for a vote even before the CBO has a chance to update its score. The re-write includes a New York-only kickback of dubious constitutionality in order to win over moderate Republicans in the state. It allows states to impose work requirements for Medicaid that are guaranteed to punish women who serve as caretakers. It speeds up the tax cuts for major corporations and the wealthy. And it retains the ability of insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more than younger ones. Perhaps most shockingly, the amendment pretends to make the tax credits for purchasing insurance more generous for seniors without actually changing the subsidies at all.
Instead the bill simply kicks the can to the Senate to figure out.
 

With five open seats in the House, Republicans need 216 votes to pass the bill. Every Democrat is expected to oppose, meaning just 23 Republican no votes could sink the bill. Because the bill accepts (however grudgingly) the principle that government has a role to play in helping people afford health care, it has angered hard-right conservatives who have labeled it “Obamacare Lite” and have called for a full repeal without a replacement. Furthermore, some of the provisions included to win conservatives’ support—such as attacks on abortion coverage in private insurance—could be stripped out under Senate parliamentary rules. This group in the House—the Freedom Caucus—has threatened to vote no, but their opposition could crumble in the face of lobbying by the White House. In contrast, a number of vulnerable Republican moderates have signaled their openness to support the bill, even though Donald Trump remains unpopular in their districts and they could be facing steep re-election prospects for 2018.

If the bill passes the House, Senate Republicans are expected to bring it straight to the floor next week with no committee action at all. It would be the first health care bill of its size to ever be rammed through without a single hearing or amendment in the Senate Finance Committee. As in the House, every single Democrat in the Senate has publicly committed to oppose and just three Republican senators could sink the bill.
 
But we need to stop the bill before it gets any momentum.
 
What can we do to stop this attack on our health?

First, and most important, we must CALL our members of the House of Representatives! You can use Community Catalyst’s Take Action Page to find the name and phone number of your member, or if you already know who your representative is, call the U.S. House of Representatives switchboard at 202-225-3121. Your calls matter. Urge your representative to vote NO—and ask family and friends to call their representatives too.

Second, you can participate in a local phone bank or join a protest in your community. Look for events and phone banks near you through lists managed by the Center for America Progress, Organizing for America, and other alliesIt's critical to make your voice heard both BEFORE and AFTER Thursday's vote.

Our regional coordinators have been hard at work showing their support for the ACA. On Wednesday, RWV-NY’s Cindi Azuogu participated in New York City as health care advocates and consumers of health care gathered in Manhattan’s Foley Square to speak out about the importance of Medicaid to so many New Yorkers—whether they are seniors, people with HIV, people with mental illness, moms or kids. People who are worried about losing their Medicaid coverage chanted, “We are not disposable!”

At a press conference in Annapolis on Monday, Consumer Health First, our Maryland regional coordinator, joined Congressmen Elijah Cummings (D-MD 7), Steny Hoyer (D-MD 5), John Sarbanes (D-MD 3), and Jamie Raskin (D-MD 8) in calling on Governor Larry Hogan (R) to speak out publicly in opposition to the Republican repeal bill. If it is enacted, 390,000 Marylanders will be at risk of losing their health care coverage, and Maryland will lose $1.4 billion in Medicaid funding. “It is our watch to pave the way for generations yet unborn. Fighting for what we believe—
healthcare as a human right—is NOT grandstanding,” Representative Elijah Cummings (pictured) told the crowd.

Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), our regional coordinator based in Denver,  attended a local town hall on “Transparent and Affordable Health Care” at West High School in Denver. Town hall attendees packed the school gym, where they heard from first Latina Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Crisanta Duran (D-Denver), Lt. Governor Donna Lynne (D), and Colorado State Representatives Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), Susan Lontine (D-Denver), and Janet Buckner (D-Aurora). They discussed the work they are doing to expand access to affordable health care in Colorado, and what their next steps at the state level will be if the ACA is repealed. Members of the audience expressed concerns about the GOP’s proposed changes to the ACA, including its impact on Medicaid and Medicare. COLOR tabled at the event (pictured above: Alicia Ybarra, Operations Manager; Gina Millán, Community Organizer; Gianella Millán, COLORistx), where they distributed bilingual RWV “What’s at Stake” materials. 

RWV’s regional coordinator in Maine, Consumers for Affordable Health Care, partnered with AARP Maine, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, and Maine Medical Association at King Middle School in Portland for "My Health Care Town Hall." See live video from the town hall here.

London Lamar, policy associate for RWV’s coordinator in Tennessee, SisterReach, and staff got the crowd fired up at the #ResistTN Rally in Nashville, Thursday, March 16 advocating to protect the healthcare of women of color, rural women, and poor women! The rally was done in partnership with Planned Parenthood. Check it out here.
Wednesday
Mar152017

Tomorrow is a day of action to defend women’s health care!


With the House of Representatives moving rapidly to pass a bill that would cause 24 million people to lose health coverage, Raising Women’s Voices is partnering with allies to sponsor a national day of action tomorrow, March 16. We will be doing calls to Congress and social media action. Join us!

What’s the emergency? Women and our families would be devastated by the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCH), according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of the bill released late Monday. See our analysis here. Since the CBO report was released, more than 50 Republican members of Congress from both chambers and both wings of the party have expressed concern, but House leaders insist they are moving ahead with their timeline. The House Budget Committee is set to take up the bill tomorrow.

Republican leaders hope to force the full House to vote next week (the week of March 20) with the Senate taking up the bill the week after that (the week of March 27). House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell know that if members go home for the two-week Easter recess in April before passing the AHCA, it could kill the bill. That’s because when lawmakers are home, they will hear directly from many of their constituents who will lose insurance under this bill and the millions of middle-aged people who will see their premiums skyrocket. A new Kaiser Health tracking poll found a majority of the public think the repeal plan will make things worse, not better.

What can we do to stop this destructive bill? At the suggestion of one of our regional coordinators (Myra Duran from California Latinas for Reproductive Health) Raising Women’s Voices is partnering with women’s health and consumer health allies for a national day of action to defend women’s health care tomorrow, Thursday, March 16. There are both social media and call-in components to the day of action. You can find an overview of the actions here, along with social media badges, suggested Facebook posts and tweets and call-in scripts. All of the materials are available in both English and Spanish.

The call-in numbers we are suggesting are either: 1. The House of Representatives switchboard at 202-225-3121, which can transfer you to your Representative. (You will need to know the name of your Representative, which you can find here) or 2. The SEIU toll-free call-in number, which is 866-426-2631. (If you use SEIU’s number, please note that you will hear a brief script about the harms of the ACA repeal plan and its impact on Medicaid, as tomorrow is also SEIU’s Medicaid call-in day. You will be asked to enter your zip code, and will then be transferred directly to your Representative’s office.)
 
Our messages will highlight what’s at stake for women, listing 10 ways that women would lose if the ACA repeal/replace bill is passed. We are centering women of color groups within RWV for this day of action, so we have produced social media “badges” that reflect them. We will be using these hashtags when posting and tweeting: #ProtectOurCare #IfILoseCoverage.
 
Badge 2, for example, highlights the threat in states that expanded Medicaid, where low-income women finally got free or low-cost coverage for the care they need. If the ACA repeal bill passes, millions of women will lose their coverage when federal support for Medicaid expansion is slashed in 2020. Our message: Don’t repeal the ACA and strip away health coverage from people most in need!


Badge 3 warns that the repeal bill would stop women from using their Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood clinics for all types of care, such as cervical cancer screenings, just because Planned Parenthood provides abortions. Use of federal Medicaid dollars for abortion services is already banned (except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman’s life). This provision of the ACA would harm individual women needing essential care and would deprive clinics of revenue they need to stay in operation.

The new Kaiser Health tracking poll found that a majority of Americans think women should continue to be able to use Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood. The CBO analysis of the ACA repeal bill predicted low-income women with Medicaid insurance would have reduced access to family planning services, leading to more births paid for by Medicaid. Our message: Don’t block low-income women from getting the care they need at Planned Parenthood, using their Medicaid cards!
Tuesday
Mar142017

Raising Women’s Voices urges lawmakers to reject ACA repeal bill: CBO score shows health care repeal bill would be a disaster for women and families  

Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need and 23 women’s health advocacy groups from around the country today sent a letter urging Congressional leaders to reject the proposed American Health Care Act, after a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score predicted it would cause more than 24 million Americans to lose health coverage over the next decade.

Women live in poverty at higher rates than men, earn less in full-time jobs and are less likely to have employer-sponsored insurance in their own names, the groups noted. This is especially true for women of color. For women, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies for purchase of private insurance and the expansion of Medicaid coverage have provided not only health benefits, but also much greater financial independence and stability.

By contrast, the repeal bill would:
  • Provide skimpy subsidies, while allowing insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more than younger ones. The CBO predicts that it will “substantially rais[e] premiums for older people.” Women in their 50s and 60s who lose coverage through divorce or widowhood will be hard pressed to find affordable coverage.
  • Allow insurance companies to shift more out-of-pocket costs onto women who cannot afford them. The CBO noted that “lower-income people’s share of medical services paid in the form of deductibles and other cost sharing would increase.”
  • Prompt employers to drop coverage. The bill would eliminate tax credits that help small businesses provide coverage and repeal the mandate that large employers do so. By 2026, CBO reports, 7 million “fewer people, on net, would enroll in employment-based coverage” and “over time, fewer employers would offer health insurance to their workers.”
  • Prevent millions of low-income women from looking to Medicaid for help. The CBO predicts that more than two-thirds of those who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion will lose their eligibility within just two years of implementation of the repeal bill. The bill also radically changes original Medicaid, capping and ratcheting down federal support so that it provides less and less help each year. The bill would tie states’ hands, forcing states to cut benefits or drop children, pregnant women, disabled people and seniors from coverage.
  • Prevent women from being able to use their public health insurance, such as Medicaid, at Planned Parenthood, which would be barred from receiving federal funds. Planned Parenthood is often the only women’s health provider in rural and other underserved areas. CBO reported that “The people most likely to experience reduced access to care would probably reside in areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations.”

The bill uses these deep cuts to the health care of vulnerable women and their families in order to fund tax cuts for the very wealthy, the women’s groups said. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill provides an average $7 million tax cut to each of the 400 richest households in America.

In conclusion, the letter stated, “We strongly urge the House to reject this and any other bill that would roll back the coverage gains made by women under the ACA.”

Organizations signing on to the letter sent today include the three national coordinators of Raising Women’s Voices – the National Women’s Health Network, the MergerWatch Project of Community Catalyst and the Black Women’s Health Imperative – as well as the following regional Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators and allies: ACCESS: Women’s Health Justice in Oakland, CA; the Afiya Center in Dallas, TX; California Latinas for Reproductive Justice in Los Angeles; Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) in Denver; Consumer Health First in Maryland; Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC) in Maine; EverThrive Illinois; the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta; Mississippi in Action; Montana Women Vote; New Jersey Citizen Action; New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; New Voices for Reproductive Justice in Pittsburgh and Cleveland; Northwest Health Law Advocates in Seattle; Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health; Raising Women’s Voices–New York; SisterSong: National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective;  SisterReach in Tennessee; Trans Queer Pueblo in Arizona; and WV FREE in West Virginia.

Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need is a national initiative working to ensure that the health care needs of women and our families are addressed as changes to the ACA are considered. We have a special mission of engaging women who are not often invited into health policy discussions: women of color, low-income women, immigrant women, young women, women with disabilities, elderly women, and members of the LGBTQ community.