This is not the update we had hoped to be sending this week. Like many of you, we are shocked and worried about the future of our country and our work. The tone set during this campaign was so hurtful to so many of us. It is difficult to see these messages accepted and even embraced by many Americans.
But, as the founding “mothers” of Raising Women’s Voices, we know that after we recover and regroup, we must redouble our efforts. We must be the voice of the opposition in Washington and in many states across the country. We must speak effectively and powerfully for the health care needs of women, people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, people with disabilities, low-income people and all those who are likely to be even more marginalized come 2017.
We will use the coming weeks to strategize about how to protect the gains we have made with the Affordable Care Act. In the meantime, stay strong and be in touch with us!
Byllye Avery, Cindy Pearson, Lois Uttley
Co-founders, Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need
But in other areas, we expect Republicans to attempt quick action. Trump has promised to make repealing the Affordable Care Act a top priority and congressional Republicans have proven willing to vote on repeal without having a replacement proposal in hand. In late 2015, congressional Republicans used a procedural tool known as budget reconciliation to sidestep a filibuster in the Senate and pass an ACA repeal. Vetoed by President Obama, the bill would have phased out the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and tax credits for purchasing insurance on marketplaces over a 2-year period while doing nothing to replace lost coverage. This is widely expected to be their template for 2017.
While Speaker Ryan is unlikely to win White House support for his proposal to voucherize Medicare, he is likely to win Trump’s blessing for deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and to Medicaid—with devastating consequences for women.
In June, we highlighted Ryan’s plan to not only eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion but also to slash the federal investment in traditional Medicaid. Under Ryan’s plan, states would be given the choice between a per capita cap on funds or a block grant. In either case, states would be stuck with 100% of the costs above the capped amount. As with Ryan’s Medicare voucher, both the cap and the block grant would be designed to lose significant value over time, saving the federal government money by shifting costs onto the most vulnerable.
The Ryan outline would also eliminate current federal rules that require states to cover poor children and pregnant women. Instead, the states would determine which groups to cover, would be free to impose harmful work requirements and charge premiums (read our brief to learn more about how these provisions impact women), and could establish enrollment caps and waiting lists. Many of these changes could be rolled into the same reconciliation bill repealing the ACA.
At the same time, the continued existence of the filibuster shouldn’t be assumed. As long-time Senate watchers know, only 51 votes are required to change Senate rules on the first day of the legislative session—and the “first day” can be extended through many calendar days. During the campaign, several prominent Republican senators and high-profile conservative think tanks argued for leaving the ninth Supreme Court seat unfilled during the entirety of a Clinton administration—a once-unthinkable departure from Senate norms and precedent. Following an election in which so many norms were violated, we shouldn’t take any for granted.
—Analysis by Sarah Christopherson, Policy Advocacy Director for the National Women’s Health Network
So what can you do?
Now, more than ever, your voice is needed to highlight the real-world consequences of these actions. The true impact of repealing the ACA and gutting the social safety net has long been ignored by media outlets that knew Republicans couldn’t enact their proposals. Now they can. Join us in raising women’s voices to speak loud and clearly in opposition.
“If you are hearing from consumers who are worried about what will happen to their coverage in the future, encourage them to contact their elected officials—both at the state and national level—to share what affordable health care means to them and their families. And people should also continue to sign up for health coverage through HealthCare.gov to get affordable health care. The ACA is still the law of the land.”
And we are going to fight to keep it!