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RWVoices

Thursday
Mar092017

Now we know why they tried to hide ACA repeal bill!

 We got our first look this week at the GOP's top secret plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and now we know why they worked so hard to hide it! Under the repeal bill, millions of Americans will lose their health coverage and women will be blocked from using Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood, so that Republicans in Congress can cut taxes on wealthy investors, corporations and the CEOs of insurance companies.

On Wednesday morning, two House committees started debate on the bill just 40 hours after Democrats and the public were able to see it for the first time. With no official score from the Congressional Budget Office on exactly how many people could lose coverage and no expert testimony allowed on how the bill will affect millions of Americans, Republicans hope they can ram their bill through Congress without the public realizing its impact.
 
Meanwhile, public health experts from across the political spectrum have panned the bill. Even the conservative-leaning physicians group, the American Medical Association, has written in opposition, due to the “expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations.” The AMA has been joined by the AARP, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and dozens more.
 
While conservative opposition to the bill (for not being draconian enough!) has gotten most of the press coverage, we expect conservatives to cave to pressure from the White House—particularly if the bill moves further to the right. Instead, our focus lies with those moderate Republicans worried that their constituents will lose coverage because of this bill.
 
Here at RWV, we’ve updated our “What We Would Lose” fact sheet to explain how women and their families would be impacted. Here are some key things you should know about the bill.
 
The bill slashes financial aid to help us afford insurance

The ACA helps low- and moderate-income people buy coverage with financial aid that varies based on their age, income and how expensive insurance premiums are where they live. The repeal bill replaces this help with much skimpier support that doesn’t take the cost of insurance into consideration and provides the same amount of help to a person earning minimum wage and one earning six times more. This change especially hurts women, who earn less than men and are more likely to work in fields without employer-provided insurance.
 
For example, a 60-year-old woman making minimum wage receives (on average) almost $10,000 in subsidies (premium tax credits) from the ACA to help her buy good insurance—and more if she lives where premiums are high. Under the GOP repeal, she would get just $4,000—no matter where she lives or how expensive her insurance.
 
At the same time, insurance companies could charge her 67% more for the same plan she has now. That’s because the GOP bill also allows insurance companies to charge older people five times as much as they charge younger people, compared to three times as much under the ACA. That’s an effective increase of 67 percent. Women in their 50s and 60s who lose coverage through divorce or widowhood would be hard pressed to find affordable coverage.
 
Bill punishes uninsured people trying to regain coverage
 
The Republican repeal bill replaces the ACA’s individual mandate, and its tax penalty for not having insurance, with its own penalty for not being insured. It punishes anyone who loses coverage for 63 days or more—even if it’s the result of a lost job or a long sickness—and then tries to regain coverage by charging a 30 percent increase in premiums for the next year. So, a woman who loses her job during chemotherapy and can’t pay her premiums will have to pay a 30 percent higher premium to regain coverage simply because she couldn’t maintain “continuous coverage” while battling cancer. Moreover, as ultra-conservative Senator Rand Paul noted, the GOP bill “keeps the individual mandate but makes you pay the insurance companies instead of the government.”
 
By contrast, young healthy people will have not much incentive to buy health insurance, because there will no longer be a tax penalty for being uninsured, and the financial aid to help them buy insurance will be skimpier. As one pundit noted, “It’s like once you’ve decided to park illegally and know you’re going to get a ticket, you might as well stay awhile.” With healthy people staying uninsured, there will be a sicker pool of health insurance enrollees, leading to higher premiums for everyone.
 
Ends the Medicaid expansion and guts original Medicaid
 
Under the GOP bill, millions of low-income women could no longer look to Medicaid for help. The bill effectively ends the ACA’s Medicaid expansion for low-income adults by cutting its federal funding in half after 2019. It also radically changes original Medicaid, capping and ratcheting down federal support so that it provides less and less help each year. Since its creation in 1965, Medicaid has been a flexible program capable of responding to both economic recessions and public health crises. The GOP bill would tie states’ hands, forcing states to cut benefits or drop children, pregnant women, disabled people and seniors from coverage.
 
Blocks women from using Medicaid at Planned Parenthood
 
Under the current and long-standing law, women and their families are free to use their public health insurance at any qualified health provider who accepts it. What do we mean by public health insurance? Examples are Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for low-income families, Medicare for seniors and TRICARE for military families. Millions of women have used this coverage to obtain contraceptive services and counseling, STI testing and treatment, and breast and cervical cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood. Under current law, no federal funds may be used for abortion services, with rare exception.
 
Under the Republican repeal bill, however, women would no longer be able to use this insurance at the highly qualified provider of their choice if that provider is Planned Parenthood, which would be barred from receiving federal funds. Planned Parenthood is often the only provider in rural and other underserved areas, as Vice President Mike Pence knows. He presided over a needle-borne HIV outbreak in Indiana when a similar state measure forced five Planned Parenthood clinics to close and no other provider could fill the gap.
 
Raises Out-of-Pocket Costs for Working
Families to Give Tax Breaks to Wealthy
 
Instead of providing financial help for comprehensive coverage, the Republican plan depends on low- and middle-income families paying more out-of-pocket costs (like deductibles and co-pays) with money they set aside in Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Money invested in an HSA remains tax-free so long as it’s spent on a qualified medical expense, but many families do not owe income taxes and would receive no benefit. Many others have no extra funds to save. In practice, HSAs often serve as a tax shelter for the very wealthy.
 
It’s not surprising, then, that the other critical piece of the Republican repeal bill is an average tax cut of $7 million for the 400 richest families in America. The bill strips low- and moderate-income families of their health insurance in order to give away $275 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But the wealthiest households aren’t the only big winners. The bill also cuts taxes on insurance and pharmaceutical companies and re-opens loopholes in the tax code closed by the ACA to prevent tax fraud.
Thursday
Mar022017

What’s the GOP replacement health plan? It’s top secret!

 
On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan promised on national television that House Republicans weren’t “hatching some bill in a backroom and plopping it on the American people’s front door.” But one day later, multiple news outlets reported that a secret draft of the Affordable Care Act repeal/replace bill championed by GOP leadership would be available only to Republicans who visit a designated reading room in the basement of the Capitol complex. As Bloomberg reported, “The document is being treated a bit like a top-secret surveillance intercept… Nobody will be given copies to take with them.”
This same approach will extend into next week when committee action begins in the House. Even though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)—Congress’s official scorekeeper—will still be reviewing the bill, members of two committees are expected to vote on it without knowing how much it would cost or how many Americans would lose their insurance under it.

One of those committees – the House Energy and Commerce Committee – is headed by Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Hood River, Oregon.  The RWV regional coordinator in that state, Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health Care, has launched a postcard campaign to urge Walden to Protect Our Care. Postcards mailed or delivered to his district offices will include the personal stories of women, LGBTQ people, and families who have benefited from the ACA, and who have a lot to lose if the ACA is repealed without a viable replacement plan. The postcards will carry this message:

I believe that health care is a human right and taking away coverage from millions of Americans is wrong. I am writing to say stop actions to repeal the ACA, increase costs to consumers, and take away Medicaid dollars. As the Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, you play a central role in ensuring Americans have access to affordable health insurance. We want you to protect our care and keep insurance affordable and accessible for women, low-income families, and LGBTQ communities.
 
Secrecy isn’t the only problem
 
Donald Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress has left Republicans squabbling over what he meant. And Republicans are arguing among themselves over the key issues. One issue is the ACA’s financial help for low-income households who purchase insurance on the marketplace. The ACA’s subsidies are tied to an enrollee’s income and the cost of health insurance. Older people can’t be charged more than three times as much as younger people. Details of potential GOP proposals that have been reported so far indicate they would offer refundable tax credits that would be much less generous and pegged aid only to age.
 
As we’ve noted, this approach would cut desperately-needed help to a 40-year-old waitress in order to give it to a 60-year-old millionaire who might not even notice. The GOP plan also would drastically gut both the Medicaid expansion and original Medicaid, putting the coverage of 70 million people at risk.  RWV’s social media campaign has been helping women speak out about what would happen #IfILoseCoverage.

But even these flawed ACA replacement plans are too generous for ultra-conservatives in the House, who have called the leadership proposal “Obamacare-Lite” and a “new entitlement.” They are pushing for tax deductions (instead of refundable credits) that would do nothing at all for most low-income households who make too little to owe income taxes.
 
Meanwhile, centrist Republicans worry (correctly!) that leadership’s plan would hurt their core voters. Rural areas tend to have fewer health care providers and their residents tend to be older and sicker, making them more expensive to insure. The ACA compensates for this by pegging its financial aid to the price of plans in a given marketplace. But under the GOP plan, a family in rural Wyoming (which is one of the most expensive insurance markets in the country) will get the same help as a family in Minneapolis-St Paul, where insurance costs are much lower.

So what does that mean for advocates? If we keep the pressure on ACA repeal/replace plans could collapse and die in the House before ever getting to the Senate.

Call 866-426-2631 NOW and ask to be connected to your member of Congress. Ask your member of Congress: "What's the big secret? Show us your plan that allows 30 million Americans to keep their coverage, protects Medicaid and makes monthly premiums, co-pays and prescription medicines affordable for all."

What are we doing to keep the pressure on?


A number of RWV regional coordinators participated in town halls and other local events during last week’s Congressional recess to get out the message that we need Congress to Protect Our Care. RWV’s regional coordinator in Georgia, the Feminist Women's Health Center, was busy over the recess. Staff, board members, and 20 volunteers participated in a rally to welcome the Save My Care bus tour to Atlanta on Feb. 20. On Feb. 25, FWHC staff and volunteers march with a banner in the Atlanta March for Healthcare. The march was organized by the group behind the Atlanta Women's March, now known as the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice. The march went past the location where the Democratic National Committee was meeting, in order to urge party leadership and lawmakers to protect the Affordable Care Act. FWHC staffer Kwajelyn Jackson (shown at left) was one of the speakers.

Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE), our regional coordinator working in Connecticut and Rhode Island, participated in a series of town hall events organized by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat. Attendees urged him to protect the health care of millions of Americans. Last Saturday, Gretchen Raffa, Director of Public Policy, Advocacy & Strategic Engagement for PPSNE spoke at a rally with Connecticut U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, both vocal defenders of the ACA and of Planned Parenthood funding, which is threatened. Raffa is at left in the photo, standing next to Senator DeLauro (center) and an ob-gyn, Dr. Nancy Stanwood.

Consumer Health First (CHF), our Maryland regional coordinator, was busy over the Congressional recess, attending town halls in Harford County and Queen Anne’s County. CHF Executive Director, Jeananne Sciabarra
presented at the Harford Town Hall, where she spoke about the benefits of the ACA and the impact ACA repeal would have on Maryland residents. The room held 140 people, with overflow outside the room.

Last Sunday, Consumer Health First partnered with Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore to celebrate Black History Month and talk about health equity and the Affordable Care Act. Their guest speaker was Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner.
Friday
Feb242017

Congress squirms, as grassroots opposition to ACA repeal grows!

Across the country this week, members of Congress have been besieged by constituents alarmed that proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may take away their health coverage and access to affordable health care.  Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators and supporters have been active in many of the rallies and town hall meetings take place.
 
New Jersey Citizen Action was the most active RWV regional coordinator in this week’s protests, organizing and participating in events in four Congressional districts. Health Program Director Maura Collinsgru reports that “Wednesday will be a night to remember for New Jersey Congressmen!”

 

Only U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance organized his own town hall meeting after Citizen Action held weekly vigils outside his office demanding he meet with constituents. “More than 900 people packed the room at Raritan College, with hundreds more listening in a spillover room and protesting outside,” Collinsgru reported. Lance was pressed by constituents angry about the prospect of repeal of the ACA, instead of just repairing the health care law. According to coverage in the Washington Post, Lance said, “I do not favor repeal without there being a replacement in place.” Lance is a Republican who sits on the important House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would have a hand in devising any ACA repeal and replacement legislation.
 
Town hall meetings for constituents of Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen and Chris Smith (with empty chairs for the Congress members) were organized by local groups (including Citizen Action) after the Representatives refused to schedule their own. Participants videotaped questions to be submitted to Rep. Frelinghuysen. Rounding out the night was a meeting for constituents of Rep. Tom MacArthur, who refused to attend and, at the last minute, scheduled a competing tele
-town hall. Nonetheless, more than 500 of his constituents went to the in-person town hall and sent a message that they did not want him to vote to repeal the ACA.

Raising Women’s Voices-NY Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Cindi Azuogu (shown at left) participated in a town hall meeting held in Harlem on Saturday by her congressman, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, who pledged his commitment to resisting any plans to repeal the ACA. “The turnout was enormous, with lines stretching around the block,” Azuogu said.  
 
On Tuesday, she joined a “Save Our Health Care” rally outside the Brooklyn office of Rep. Daniel Donovan, urging him to hold an in-person town hall meeting for his constituents in Brooklyn and Staten Island. He is notorious for only having
 tele-town halls. Donovan has supported ACA repeal in the past and has yet to address how the ACA could be replaced in a way that would not harm the people who live in his district.

One of Donovan’s constituents who participated in the rally was Jo Colagiacomi of Staten Island (pictured at right). She shared her worries about what would happen if she loses her health insurance coverage: “I would fear for my health. I need to be here to raise my beautiful children!”  We featured her story in this week’s postings of the RWV social media campaign #IfILoseCoverage.
 
Want to join a town hall meeting or rally near you in the future? Check out the Town Hall 2018 Project’s website that is tracking all scheduled meetings across the country.

 
“Not everybody is going to have health care”

 
While most members of Congress were back at home this week listening to or hiding from their constituents, a handful of members and their staffs were hard at work filling in the details on a plan that would take health insurance away from millions of Americans. Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had promised that the rough draft proposal circulated by the House GOP would become legislative text over the recess and would be ready for committee review this coming week. Instead, the committee “markups” to amend the bill reportedly have been delayed. The (unsubstantiated but plausible) rumor in Washington is that the bill came back from vetting by the Congressional Budget Office with “a terrible score,” indicating that it would both increase the deficit and cover far fewer people than current law.
 
On January 14, Donald Trump promised, "We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” But we know that was never the plan of the Congressional majority. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) told reporters this week that under the GOP plan, “Not everybody is going to have health care.” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) was even
more blunt: “If the numbers [of insured Americans] drop, I would say that’s a good thing because we’ve restored personal liberty in this country.”
 
While the bill hasn’t been released outside of Republican leadership, we know what to expect:

  1. Skimpy tax credits for purchasing insurance that are tied to age, but not income, and provide much less support than the income-related subsidies people have been receiving under the ACA.
  2. Skimpy insurance coverage that will increase how much people pay out of pocket and allow insurers to cater to only the healthiest people.
  3.  Skimpy consumer protections ensuring the return of insurance company discrimination based on our gender, pre-existing conditions and more.

We know the bill would cut health care to low- and middle-income families in order to give the top 400 richest households a tax cut totaling $2.8 billion in one year alone. One of the unheralded victories in the ACA is its remarkably progressive funding structure, which increased taxes and fees on wealthy investors, drug- and device-makers and insurance companies in order to pay for an expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for low- and middle-income households to purchase insurance. The bill would repeal all of this funding. Instead, it would:

  1. Replace the ACA’s more generous subsidies that help low- and middle-income Americans purchase insurance on the individual market with those skimpy tax credits we mentioned above.
  2. Cut both the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid and traditional Medicaid deeply. Under the GOP plan, states would be given additional “flexibility” to restructure Medicaid, but with billions less in federal funding. These cuts would force states to shoulder the blame for the long waitlists, rationed care or reduced doctor payments that would result.
  3. Tax part of the health insurance benefit that employers can currently provide to employees tax-free. The ACA’s “Cadillac tax” had a similar goal—it would have taxed the most generous employer-sponsored plans, although it has been repeatedly delayed—but would have affected far fewer people.

What’s a shorter way of saying all that? The House Speaker’s plan would cut funding to states, cut health care for low-income Americans and raise taxes on middle-income Americans in order to give the wealthiest 1% of Americans a massive tax cut.
 
No wonder so many members of Congress hid from their constituents this week!

 
Taking action on the state level

 
On Tuesday, SisterReach, the RWV regional coordinator based in Memphis, went to the Tennessee State Capitol for a “Black Folks Day at the Hill.” During their visit, they met with key legislators, including State Representative G.A. Hardaway Sr (pictured with them at right), to talk about reproductive justice and health care, among other issues.   
 
This Sunday, our Maryland regional coordinator, Consumer Health First, is partnering with Southern Baptist Church to sponsor Health Care: The Continued Path to Freedom and Justice. This discussion will explore health disparities among African Americans, and the impact ACA repeal would have on the health equity gains that have been made as a result of the ACA. For more details, please see the event flyer.

Friday
Feb172017

The time is now to save our health care!

We don’t have to tell you how much is at stake if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed. You know people like Ashley, a young adult from West Virginia who was diagnosed with Lupus just when the ACA went into effect. Ashley benefited from being covered under her mother’s health plan until age 26 and then got coverage through her state’s Medicaid expansion. If the ACA is repealed, she says, “It’s basically signing my death certificate.”


The people who don’t seem to realize this are the members of Congress who’ve been working to take away our health coverage by repealing the ACA. That’s why we must speak out when they come home for a week of recess starting Saturday.

This week, Republican leaders in the House rolled out their blueprint for replacing the ACA based on Speaker Paul Ryan’s ironically-named “Better Way” plan from last year. And just like last year, the new proposal lacks critical details, includes no legislative text, stays silent on how Republicans intend to pay for their plan and offers no estimates on how many people will be covered.

But what the GOP proposal does say will alarm voters who’ve been expecting a “terrific” and “wonderful” plan that “covers everyone.” Ryan’s team circulated talking points to help rank-and-file Republicans explain the plan to their constituents back in their home district during the Congressional recess that starts tomorrow, Saturday. We can’t wait to hear what these members of Congress have to say.

While the ACA gives low- and middle-income families help in purchasing private insurance—with more help given to those who need it most—the GOP plan includes a tax credit that varies with age, but not income. We’re eager to hear Congressmen explain why a 70-year-old billionaire should get more help from the government to purchase health insurance than a 40-year-old waitress.  

While the ACA expanded Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans, the GOP plan slashes that funding almost in half, which would force states to kick these newly-insured working poor off of their health insurance. Then the GOP plan goes even further, gutting the federal investment in original Medicaid, which would force states to ration care for children, pregnant women, disabled individuals, and seniors needing long-term care. We’re ready to hear how Republicans from the 31 states that have expanded Medicaid will explain slashing one of the most popular parts of the ACA.

While the ACA provided strong protections against discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, limited out-of-pocket expenses and eliminated annual and lifetime caps on coverage, the GOP plan scraps these strong consumer protections. In the case of pre-existing conditions, the GOP plan only protects those who maintain “continuous coverage.” We’re keen to hear Congress members explain why a woman who loses her job during chemotherapy and can’t pay her premiums should be denied health insurance indefinitely because she couldn’t maintain continuous coverage while battling cancer. 

In the case of out-of-pocket expenses and caps on coverage, the GOP plan simply eliminates these “burdensome regulations” altogether. We want to hear why insurance companies should be allowed to cut off coverage for a premature infant in the NICU who exceeds his lifetime coverage limit in a month.

“They want to drag us back to the days when people died because they couldn’t afford medical care,” said U.S. Rep. Robin Kelley, D-Illinois, Chair of the Health Brain Trust of the Congressional Black Caucus. She spoke Thursday at the Families USA health reform conference in Washington.


What can you do stop them from taking away our health care?


Starting this Saturday, your members of Congress will be home in their districts for a week-long recess. This is your chance to speak out!

We’ve come up with some ways for you to get involved, both on-line and on the ground. Saturday has been declared a National Day of Action in defense of the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare. Raising Women’s Voices has chosen that day to launch a new round of our successful social media campaign, #IfILoseCoverage.

We will provide social media “badges” for you to share, like this one telling the story of Kelsie from Hauser, Oregon. As a 21-year-old with a low income, she depends on no-cost birth control to help her avoid having another baby too soon. She and her son rely on Medicaid for their health care, and she worries they could lose their coverage. You can find these badges on our Facebook page each day.

On Feb. 23, we will use Throwback Thursday on social media to send tweets like this:

  • #WorstTBTEver to the bad old days when women skimped on care because we could not afford it. #ProtectOurCare
  • Remember when women were charged more than men for the same health coverage before the #ACA became law? #WorstTBTEver

Tell your story about how ACA repeal would affect you or people you know. Go to our If I Lose Coverage page to download a template of the sign that you can print and use. Then take a photo like this one, and post it during the February recess. Tweet it at your member of Congress!
 
Even better, speak out at a Congressional town hall meeting!

Find out whether there are any town halls with Members of Congress scheduled near you. The Town Hall 2018 Project has a new website that is tracking all the scheduled meetings. Moveon.org has made it even easier with its new ResistanceRecess.com! You’ll be able to:

  • RSVP for a public event with a member of Congress near you. Allies are tracking all town halls and other public appearances by Senators and Representatives.
  • Sign up for a training on “bird-dogging” members of Congress who are trying to avoid protestors and making the most of the public events run by experienced MoveOn.org organizers.
  • Download materials that will offer helpful suggestions on how to make these events into political turning-point moments—from telling your personal story to your member of Congress to broadcasting your interactions with lawmakers via Facebook Live.
  • Create an event targeting any member of Congress. If your lawmaker hasn’t scheduled a public event, you can create something yourself, like a vigil outside their office. Register an event of your own and recruit participants for it through the website.

RWV Regional Coordinator New Jersey Citizen Action has been holding weekly vigils outside the district offices of Republican members of Congress. Protesters have delivered letters to Congressmen requesting meetings, town halls and a public statement of support for the coverage expansions and key protections of the ACA. 

The pressure seems to be having some impact, according to Citizen Action’s Maura Collinsgru. Congressman Leonard Lance, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that will draft the repeal language, scheduled a town hall after these protestors marched outside his district office in Flemington. The vigils have also generated a lot of media interest. Repeal of the ACA would mean the loss of coverage for nearly 800,000 New Jerseyans covered by the Medicaid expansion and Marketplace plans.

Some of the events our regional coordinators are sponsoring in the weeks ahead include these:

  • Consumer Health First, our regional coordinator in Maryland, has two ACA Town Hall events planned over February recess. Among the speakers at the February 21 Town Hall Educational Forum will be Consumer Health First’s Executive Director, Jeananne Sciabarra. They will explain how the ACA has improved coverage, provide details of proposed plans to replace the ACA and explain the implications of repeal/replace for addiction treatment and mental health care. They have extended a special invitation to Congressman Andy Harris to address the forum.
  • Consumer Health First is also partnering with Dr. Donte Hickman of Southern Baptist Church to hold a discussion during Sunday noon worship about health equity and the effort to preserve the Affordable Care Act for all. Health Care: The Continued Path to Freedom and Justice will explore how the Affordable Care Act has impacted health disparities within the African American community.
  • SisterReach, the Memphis-based Tennessee regional coordinator for RWV, is joining with Black Lives Matter Memphis and state coalition partners for a “Black Folks Day on the Hill” at the Tennessee State Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Among the topics they will discuss with state lawmakers are reproductive justice and health care. Participation is free and there are transportation options for supporters from all major cities in Tennessee. If you would like to participate, you must rsvp.

Meanwhile, RWV regional coordinators continue to show up to greet the Save Our Care bus when it comes to their states. Joan Lamunyon Sanford of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice was there when the bus stopped in Albuquerque on Wednesday. She’s in the center of the photo, in a blue shirt holding a sign that says “Obamacare Saves Lives.”

Want to join a rally when the Save Our Care bus gets to your city? The bus will be in Atlanta on Feb. 20, Nashville on Feb. 22 and Tallahassee, FL. on Feb. 23. Check out upcoming dates and ways to get involved on their website.

Wednesday
Feb082017

We can’t let up!

 
There are signs that the complexity and political consequences of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are finally dawning on Donald Trump. After promising on the campaign trail to repeal the ACA immediately, he casually noted in a television interview over the weekend that it might take until later this year, or 2018, to come up with a “wonderful” replacement plan.  His words shone another bright spotlight on the inability of the GOP to come up with a replacement plan that doesn’t strip insurance coverage from millions of Americans.

But this isn’t the time to wait and see what happens! We can’t let up. Rep. Tom Price is expected to be confirmed as Health and Human Services Secretary this week and congressional leaders are still aiming for a vote to repeal (or “repair”) the ACA in March—whether or not there is a replacement plan ready.

Tuesday is Valentine’s Day. It’s a great day to let members of Congress know you want them to be a “sweetheart” and #ProtectOurCare. Look out for social media badges, like the one shown that was developed in partnership with our friends at Community Catalyst, and get ready to share them widely on Valentine’s Day.

You can download a Valentine’s postcard from our website, print it, add your message and deliver to your local member of Congress. Also that day, SEIU is sponsoring a national call-in day for people to ask their members of Congress to “have a heart” and save the ACA. The call-in number is 866-426-2631.

There are plenty of opportunities for you to take action all over the country during the next few weeks. Below we explain what’s being planned for the congressional recess Feb. 18 to 26, when members of Congress will be back in their districts holding town hall meetings. But first, let’s give you the big picture of what is happening this week.


#PriceisWrong, but he will probably be confirmed later this week

With Tom Price expected to win narrow confirmation this week over the objection of Senate Democrats, we are gearing up for the shift from an HHS leadership  intent on making the ACA work for women to one seeking to dismantle women’s health care from the inside. By design, the ACA gives a lot of discretion to the executive branch for implementation, setting broad policy goals but leaving many of the details up to the administration.  

For example, birth control coverage without copays or deductible payments is made possible by the ACA, but it isn't actually in the law itself. The law simply requires an agency within HHS to develop a list of preventive services to be covered.

But even areas specifically enumerated in the law could come under attack during this administration. For example, while the law lists the 10 essential health benefits that insurance plans in the individual and small employer markets must cover—e.g. cover maternity and newborn care, mental health, prescriptions, and more—HHS has broad powers to define what that coverage actually looks like in practice. Similarly, the law blocks insurance companies from discriminating against anyone on the basis of a pre-existing condition but HHS shapes how broadly or narrowly that protection is defined.

During Price’s confirmation hearings, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) pressed him on whether he would “commit to maintaining the protections that ensure that victims of domestic violence will not be discriminated against when purchasing health insurance.” Tellingly, Price dodged the question.

As one conservative gleefully boasted this week in anticipation of Price’s confirmation, “Live by the administrative state, die by the administrative state.” But the Trump Administration may find that cuts both ways. Many of the provisions targeted by conservatives, like contraception coverage and protections for pre-existing conditions, are also the most popular. During the Obama Administration, Republicans could win simply by degrading the health law at every turn. But Trump voters expecting something “wonderful” now are likely to find instead they are paying more for worse coverage.

Meanwhile, there are dubious ACA “replacement” ideas

Meanwhile, several news outlets have reported that congressional Republicans are starting to come together around “replacement” proposals that would shift more and more costs onto consumers while leaving them with skimpier coverage, and would leave millions of Americans without coverage at all.

For example, instead of the ACA’s guaranteed protection from discrimination based on pre-existing condition, Republicans would roll back the clock to the pre-ACA status quo. Their two biggest ideas—shunting the sickest people into high risk pools and requiring everyone else to maintain “continuous coverage”—were both features of the pre-ACA days when 47 million people had no health insurance and millions more couldn’t buy a plan that covered their condition.
 
Similarly, GOP proposals marry high deductible health plans with tax-free “health savings accounts” (HSAs). Republicans’ stated goal is to encourage consumers to save and pay for more of their care themselves in the hope that paying out of pocket will encourage them to comparison shop for the best deals on care. Not surprisingly, the evidence suggests that high deductible plans don’t work that way and can drive people to forgo needed care. But claims of increasing “personal responsibility” may hide what’s really driving this proposal. While an HSA’s tax benefits may do little to help low-income households, they can serve as a massive tax shelter for high-income ones.

Our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have a helpful primer outlining all of the top GOP proposals, how they differ from the ACA’s protections, and what they could mean to you.

RWV regional coordinator Kathy Waligora of Everthrive Illinois went on Chicago television station WCIU’s “You and Me” morning show to sound the alarm. “We want to make clear that repealing the Affordable Care Act, especially without an immediate replacement is dangerous,” said Waligora (shown at right in the photo). “It will cost people’s lives, it will cost the state and taxpayers money, and it will really disrupt the system that so many of us really rely on, which is the health care system.”
 
So, what can you do?

If you live in New Jersey, you can join our RWV regional coordinator, Citizen Action, in one of a series of candlelight Vigils to Save Our Health Care they are holding outside Congressional District offices. Some of these vigils are taking place tonight, Feb. 8, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Check out their website to find out more.

You can show up for a rally when the Save My Care bus stops in your town. This week, the bus is traveling through Nevada, with stops planned in Las Vegas (Thursday), Carson City and Reno (both on Friday) and Fallon (Saturday). Next week, it will be in Arizona and New Mexico. You can check out this website to find out when the bus will be near you.

Last week, the bus stopped in Chicago, where Everthrive Illinois’ Kathy Waligora (second from right) was on hand, offering support as William McNary, Co-Director of Citizen Action Illinois, kicked off the event.

It’s also time to plan ahead for Feb. 18 to 25, when members of Congress will be home in their districts for a President’s Day recess. Here are some action opportunities:
  • Show up for your Congress member’s town hall meeting. See this list to find out if your Congress member has an event scheduled for that week.
  • Social media: Over recess week, RWV plans to launch another round of our #If I Lose Coverage social media campaign, which will feature new badges and stories. Stay on the lookout for more information on our Facebook page.
  • Letters to the editor and op-eds in local newspapers are a great way to share your story with a wide audience.
  • Letter writing parties: Send letters and postcards to district offices asking policymakers to protect our care. (Send mail to district and state offices, not to DC offices, where security measures cause additional time delays.) The most effective letters are hand delivered to district offices in-person.
  • And always and in everything you do, share your story of why the ACA has helped you, your family, friends and neighbors. Speak out about what would happen if you, or someone you love, loses coverage.