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RWVoices

Wednesday
Nov012017

Spread the word: Open enrollment starts today! 

We only have six weeks to enroll in most states. Don’t wait!
 
Today’s the day! It’s the start of the fifth Open Enrollment (OE5) period for healthcare.gov and the state marketplaces. We’ve often felt like we were on a scary roller coaster ride this year, but we made it to OE5 with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) still the law. Now we need your help to get the word out!
 
In partnership with Community Catalyst, Raising Women’s Voices has been working to create an outreach and enrollment campaign designed to reach groups of people with the highest remaining uninsured rates: African-Americans, Latinx people, LGBTQ people and immigrants. Now, scores of colorful social media “badges” like the ones shown above are ready to go. They will be shared online by our RWV regional coordinators around the country, and by national partner groups such as Out2Enroll and Unidos US. Many are available in both English and Spanish.

Can you help spread the word? You can find all of these badges, as well as suggested posting text and other great resources (like flyers and fact sheets), on a google drivecreated by Community Catalyst. You can also share these badges by going to our Raising Women’s Voices Facebook page or following us on Twitter.  
 
We previously shared with you our campaign materials for the period leading up to today. The new social media badges and flyers we are releasing today are focused on three important topics:
  1. Awareness and urgency about OE 5. Most important, we want people to know that healthcare.gov and the state marketplaces are truly open for business. Additionally, with a brief 6-week enrollment window in most states, it is critical that people who want to enroll or re-enroll do not procrastinate. Our communications hammer home urgency with the message “It’s time.”
  2. Emotionally compelling reasons to get health insurance. For example, we encourage people to protect their own health so they can be there for the people who depend on them, like spouses, children and elderly parents.  Our badges and flyers also stress the importance of protecting your family from unexpected medical bills and debt that can devastate family finances for years.
  3. Tips about how to choose the right health plan. We’ve created “Insider Tips” to help people find the best health plan for them. Some of the most important tips: Make sure your trusted doctors take the plan you choose! And, see if the prescriptions your family takes will be covered by the plan.
Our new animated video is ready, too! After interviewing RWV regional coordinators about their needs, RWV Outreach and Enrollment Project staffers Amy Zarin and Sarah Wulf-Riordan identified a “how-to enroll” video as a priority. Fortunately, Zarin (who has experience in advertising and marketing) connected with NeverTheLess, a group of women in advertising who donate their skills to progressive causes. Zarin and Wulf-Riordan donated their time to work with a creative team from NeverTheLess consisting of Copywriter Lauren Cooper, Art Director Erika Kohnen and Motion Designer Sarah Cortese. The end result is a one-minute video entitled “The 4 Steps to Affordable Health Insurance.”
 

As a former Marketplace Assister, Wulf-Riordan understands the steps consumers must take to complete a Marketplace application and find the best health plan available. “This year’s shorter enrollment period and cuts to outreach and enrollment funding mean we need to step up and help people learn about and enroll in health insurance,” she said. “We wanted to create something that can help motivate and prepare people to enroll in coverage by December 15.”
 
We invite you to view the animated video on RWV’s YouTube channel here, and share it through your social media. Be sure to turn the volume up when you watch it: the original score was donated by music house Heavy Duty Projects.
 
We’re doing on-the-ground outreach, too!
 
Social media campaigns can reach thousands of people quickly, but sometimes the personal, one-to-one touch is what is needed to really encourage someone to apply for coverage. That’s why you will see RWV staffers and our regional coordinators around the country doing tabling, canvassing and handing out flyers at events during OE5.
 
Over the weekend, RWV was there at the big Women’s Convention in Detroit!  Staffing our table were RWV national coordinating team members Rebecca Berry (at left in photo), a Law Students for Reproductive Justice Fellow at the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Kalena Murphy (at right), RWV Regional Field Manager, who works for the National Women’s Health Network.
 
Together, they handed out 1,000 of our English-language OE5 flyers and 1,000 of the Spanish-language flyers. The also collected contact information from more than 200 women attending the Convention who were interested in receiving our materials and potentially helping spread the word in their home states. “Women were so excited to hear about RWV and how they can be involved in the effort,” Murphy explained.  She said they heard a lot of comments like "Thank you for fighting for us," and "I have ACA and wouldn't know where I would be without it," and "My daughters love their marketplace plans."

Can you help us spread the word in your community? Let us know by emailing info@RaisingWomensVoices.net
 


 

Tuesday
Oct172017

Help us get the word out about open enrollment!


  

  
Despite all the attempts by Congress and Donald Trump to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the ACA remains the law of the land. The fifth ACA Open Enrollment period (OE5) will begin on November 1. But, sadly, many people are confused or think the ACA has been repealed.  After all, the Trump Administration cut the advertising budget for OE5 by a whopping 90% and has slashed funding for navigators who can help people enroll.
 
Raising Women’s Voices is working with Community Catalyst and other national non-profits to fight back and make sure people know OE5 is happening. Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and, in most states, goes only until Dec. 15 this year. We need your help to get the word out!
 
This week, we are launching a campaign to let people know that they can still enroll this fall, or renew their coverage. We have prepared social media badges for use on Facebook and Twitter (like the one shown above) and flyers that can be printed out and distributed at outreach events. You can find all of our materials (and more created by Health Literacy Media) in a google drive established by Community Catalyst (click the button below):
 

We have four key messages for people who need health insurance:

1. Yes! You can sign up for health insurance this year.  But the open enrollment period is shorter than in previous years in most states, so don’t wait to sign up. We are encouraging uninsured people to go on the healthcare.gov website right now to learn how to apply and be ready when Open Enrollment starts on Nov. 1. 
  
 
 2. Most people who apply for coverage through the marketplace will still get financial help.  Yes, some of the premiums for health plans are going to be higher this year, in part because of the Trump sabotage efforts. However, the amount of federal premium tax credit subsidies available through ACA marketplaces will rise along with the price of the plans. So, people who receive subsidies to help cover insurance costs may not have to pay more for premiums.


3. You may qualify for free or low-cost health insurance.  Trump and Republicans in Congress failed to eliminate Medicaid expansion or traditional Medicaid coverage in their repeal and replace bills over the summer. So people who are worried they cannot afford health insurance may still qualify for Medicaid in their state.
 
4. Free local enrollment help is still available. While some federally-funded navigators have had their budgets slashed or eliminated, others have received enough funding to offer help. Moreover, certified application counselors (such as staff at hospitals and community health centers) have not relied on federal funding and so will continue to help people enroll. We are encouraging groups to list local enrollment assistors when posting this and similar badges on Facebook.
 
Because of our experience working with diverse women, LGBTQ people and families who are disproportionately affected by health care inequities, Raising Women’s Voices was asked by Community Catalyst to create materials for five specific audiences: African-Americans, LGBTQ people and our families, the Latinx community, immigrants and low-income people. We produced all of the badges for the Latinx community in both English and Spanish, with the aid of the Caracol Translation Cooperative. Health Literacy Media created similar materials for general audiences, young adults and Asian-Americans. The printable flyers are available in PowerPoint with space for local groups to add their contact information and logos. Funding for this work has been generously provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, through Community Catalyst. 
 
Six RWV Regional Coordinators in targeted outreach effort!
 
Raising Women’s Voices could not have created meaningful outreach and education materials for this initiative without the active participation of these six regional coordinators:
  • The Afiya Center, Dallas, TX
  • Feminist Women’s Health Center, Atlanta, GA
  • Lesbian Health Initiative/Montrose Center, Houston, TX
  • New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, NM
  • Trans Queer Pueblo, Phoenix, AZ
  • Women with a Vision, New Orleans, LA
These regional coordinators were invited to participate in the OE5 Outreach and Education project because the states in which they are based have higher rates of un-insurance and lower rates of Medicaid enrollment. They serve on an advisory committee to Raising Women’s Voices, giving advice on our messaging. They are also committed to distributing the materials we created in the coming weeks through their social media platforms, at community events, and at gatherings they organize.

Take action! Help spread the word!
 
You can help!
Click the button above to choose the messages you want to share on your social media. Print out flyers and fact sheets and share them within your community. We need strong mobilization in every state this fall to overcome Trump’s sabotage of the ACA.

 

Thursday
Oct122017

More ACA Sabotage From Trump

Executive order is latest attempt to undermine the ACA
 
Donald Trump issued an executive order today attacking some of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) key consumer protections for people buying health insurance on the small business and individual markets. While the executive order itself doesn’t do much, it directs federal agencies to implement disruptive changes to the ACA designed to push younger, healthier people into unregulated “junk” insurance. The order is part of a much bigger push by Trump to sow chaos in ACA markets and build momentum for full repeal.


This is just the latest step in a long line of steps to sabotage the ACA and drive up the costs of insurance for women, families, and anyone with a pre-existing condition. The Protect Our Care coalition, of which Raising Women’s Voices is a member, released this video earlier today explaining how Trump is actively working to sabotage our health care and fulfill his promise to let the ACA “be a disaster.”
 
Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is cutting nationwide advertising for the 2018 open enrollment period by 90 percent. In addition, HHS announced it was cutting the amount spent on in-person outreach through the federal navigator program by 41 percent—and abruptly stopped funding navigators altogether for 30 days—saving some of the deepest cuts for the most successful navigators.
 
For example, one of our RWV regional coordinators, Enroll Michigan, was deeply cut despite praise from federal officials for “years of outstanding work as a navigator grantee and leader of your community.” Executive Director Dizzy L. Warren (pictured at left) was quoted in the New York Timeshighlighting the scope of the problem: “Our funds were drastically reduced, but the government did not reduce our responsibilities.” And “we have not received an explanation of why our funds were cut,” she said.
 
RWV Regional coordinator Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the largest navigator group in Iowa, was also quoted in the Times after after their grant was cut by 85 percent: “The government claims this funding is tied to performance measures,” said President Suzanna de Baca. “But we met or exceeded nearly all our goals, so a cut of more than 80 percent appears to be completely arbitrary.”
 
Trump order allows “junk” insurance 

What is “junk” insurance and why is it bad for us? Under current law, short-term health insurance plans intended to cover very short gaps in coverage don’t have to comply with the ACA’s consumer protections. But, they are limited to three months and they don’t satisfy the ACA’s individual mandate to have health insurance coverage.  By contrast, Trump’s order directs the federal government to re-write the rules to allow year-long “junk” insurance policies to satisfy the mandate.
 
Much like proposals pushed bycongressional conservatives this summer, these plans would not be required to cover essential health benefits like maternity or mental health care. They could discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, charge limitless out-of-pocket expenses and reinstate annual and lifetime coverage caps. The ”junk” plans would not be required to spend a minimum percentage of our premiums on actually providing health care, instead of CEO salaries or advertising.
 
With lower monthly premiums, “junk” plans would appeal to younger, healthier people who don’t expect to get sick, have an accident, or need much insurance throughout the year. Referencing an earlier, similar proposal, insurance companies warned, “This would allow the new plans to ‘cherry pick’ only healthy people from the existing market, making coverage unaffordable for the millions of people who need or want comprehensive coverage, including, for example, coverage for prescription drugs and mental health services. … In fact, it creates two systems of insurance for healthy and sick people.
 
What else would the Trump order do to disrupt the ACA marketplaces?

In a second part of the executive order, Trump directs federal agencies to dramatically expand association health plans with similarly disruptive results. Pre-ACA, national trade associations like the Farm Bureau or the US Chamber of Commerce could pick a state with the worst coverage and use those rules to offer insurance nationwide. So, for example,they could offer coverage that complies with Mississippi’s consumer protections to small businesses in Massachusettsregardless of Massachusetts state law. Under current rules, small businesses can still band together to form association health plans for their members, but they have operate within states (not across state lines). Mostly importantly, they have to abide by ACA coverage requirements for small businesses. For example, they have to cover essential health benefits like maternity care.  
 
Under the changes Trump is proposing, association health plans would be exempt from a host of ACA consumer protections and would once again be able to operate under the rules of any state they choose – most likely one with the least coverage protections. The small businesses with the youngest, healthiest people would face strong incentives to exit the ACA’s small business marketplaces and buy a cheaper, skimpier association plan, raising prices for all of the small businesses that remained. 
 

One under-discussed impact of the pre-ACA small business insurance market was how it depressed employment opportunities for women. A small business looking at a highly qualified female candidate and a less qualified male candidate would face a strong financial incentive to pick the male candidate simply because it would mean lower insurance premiums. In industries dominated by women—like home health care—small businesses simply provided no insurance at all. There is every reason to think that the Trump proposal would reinstate barriers to hiring women, particularly older women or those with pre-existing conditions.
 
But even for women who end up being covered by an association plan, there’s no guarantee that they’ll actually be covered as promised. As the Washington Post notes, “25 years ago, federal watchdogs concluded that [similar] plans ripped off hundreds of thousands of Americans by refusing to pay their medical claims while violating state insurance laws and even criminal statutes.”
 
If fully implemented the way the Trump order envisions, these two changes (individually and combined) could destabilize ACA marketplaces by setting up a “death spiral” in comprehensive coverage. Some younger and healthier people would opt for cheaper, junk plans (or have their employer choose it for them) making the market for comprehensive coverage slightly older and sicker. That would drive up premiums which would price out the next tier of healthy people, including those who wanted comprehensive coverage but could no longer afford it. And that, in turn, would leave ACA markets as a de facto high risk pool with only the very sickest still trying to afford comprehensive coverage.

 

Friday
Oct062017

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

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

 

Wednesday
Sep272017

You stopped Trumpcare! Again!

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

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

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

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