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Wednesday
Jul192017

Support the 3 GOP women standing against ACA repeal! 

Support the three GOP women standing against ACA repeal!

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Thursday
Jul132017

Don’t be fooled! The new “improved” Senate bill is worse!

The Cruz amendment only makes this bill worse!

The Senate’s Republican leaders just released a new “improved” version of their Trumpcare bill, and it’s even worse than the previous version. This bill includes a controversial provision pushed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) that amounts to the latest bad idea from Republicans trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Cruz says he wants to give consumers "choice,” by allowing insurers to sell cheaper skimpy plans that do not cover essential services like maternity care, prescription drugs and cancer screenings, as long as they also sell comprehensive plans. But the choice Cruz is offering is between insurance you don't want (the skimpy plans) and insurance you won’t be able to afford (the comprehensive plans, which will cost much more than they do now).

The same bad features from the previous version of Trumpcare still in the bill – including deep cuts to the Medicaid program, a provision preventing women on Medicaid from using Planned Parenthood and a ban on using federal premium subsidies to buy health plans that cover abortion.   Overall, the new bill is likely to lead to millions of people losing coverage, and leave millions more stuck with insurance that doesn’t cover what they need.  We’ll know more about exactly how the bill will hurt women, LGBTQ people and our families early next week, when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases its analysis. But we know enough now to strongly oppose this bill.

We’ve stopped Trumpcare before and we must act again to show the Senate that they can’t get away with cutting health care for millions of people.  But we need to act quickly.  Senate leadership says that they’re going to vote on Trumpcare next week!

Our messages are simple: This bill can’t be fixed.  The bill cuts taxes for the rich and health care for the poor and middle class.  Don’t take health care away from people with pre-existing conditions.  Millions of people shouldn’t be pushed off or priced out of their coverage. 

Ready to get started?  The Senate switchboard number is 202-224-3121, or call toll free at 866-426-2631.  Want to find an event near you?   Try here and here.  Need a social media badge to show your opposition to the bill?  Check out RWV’s Facebook and Twitter channels and remember to use the hashtags #KillTheBill and #ProtectOurCare.

Want to know more about the latest Senate bill?

What else do we know about today’s version of the Senate bill?  It’s not all that different than the bill that passed the House in March, and the earlier version of the Senate bill.  It does away with the individual mandate, scales back eligibility for help paying premiums, pushes people who get premium assistance into plans that cover less, allows insurers to charge older folks five times as much as younger adults and ends the expansion of Medicaid.  People who are not able to maintain continuous coverage, possibly because they were laid off, or aged out of their parents’ plan, would be “locked out” for six months before they could buy their own insurance. 

The version of the bill introduced today does include a few provisions that are different than earlier versions of the bill.  But none of these changes make coverage better, and some even make things worse.  For example, because Medicaid cuts will devastate care for those struggling with addiction, an earlier version of the bill allocated $2 billion for states to address the national opioid crisis.  This version includes $45 billion, but addiction experts say that doesn’t even come close to meeting the need.  The Senate bill also allows people to use health savings accounts to pay for premiums, a benefit that mostly helps middle class and upper-income folks. 

The changes pushed by Ted Cruz, to allow insurers to sell stripped down plans, are very likely to make things worse for many of us, but especially women.  Here's why: The Cruz amendment would let insurance companies sell cheaper, skimpier health plans on healthcare.gov that do not follow ACA rules, as long as they also offer a plan that does follow them. Under the ACA, all health plans must cover essential health benefits like maternity care, mental health care and prescription drugs. 

Young, healthy people will be inclined to save money by buying stripped down health plans with very limited coverage or just by skipping health insurance altogether. Meanwhile, anyone who has health problems that need treatment, including many people ages 50 to 64, will enroll in the more comprehensive ACA-compliant plans. The result will be the creation of two separate health insurance “risk pools” – one with young healthy people and a second one with sicker and older people. The expense of covering medical care for this second group of people will quickly drive up the cost of premiums for the ACA compliant plans to the point where the coverage will be unaffordable. This is what’s known as a “death spiral” in the health insurance world, meaning that eventually the health plan dies from lack of people able to pay the price of coverage.

So, one effect of the Cruz amendment would be to harm people with pre-existing conditions, making it difficult for them to find any affordable plan that covers the care they need. Some lower income people with pre-existing conditions (those who earn less than $42,000 a year) would be eligible for some financial assistance in paying premiums, under the Senate bill. But, the subsidies are tied to plans with $6,000 deductibles, so a low to moderate-income individual would be responsible for the first $6,000 in medical costs. Meanwhile, an estimated 1.5 million people with pre-existing conditions who earn more than $42,500 would get no financial help in paying the skyrocketing premiums for the comprehensive ACA-compliant plans. Even the insurance companies think the Cruz amendment is a bad idea! AHIP, an insurance industry trade group, says it would "de-stabilize the individual market and increase costs for those with pre-existing conditions."

But even the cheaper, skimpy coverage Cruz is promoting isn’t a solution – it’s part of the problem we tried to fix with the ACA.  Before 2010, insurers were allowed to sell skimpy plans on the individual market.  Only 12% of plans covered maternity care.  Skimpy plans had unrealistically low limits on annual coverage, leading many people who faced big bills with no way to pay.  Personal bankruptcy has dropped by 50% since the ACA went into effect and skimpy plans were banned.  Too many women and their families experienced the false promises of skimpy health insurance.  RWV knows how important it is to have comprehensive coverage with strong consumer protections.  We’ll be showing up to #ProtectOurCare starting right now.  Join us!

Can we stop this bill? Yes!

As members of Congress returned to D.C. this week following the Fourth of July Congressional recess, it has become clear that our hard work is paying off! West Virginia’s moderate Republican Senator, Shelley Moore Capito, said in a recent interview that she would cast the deciding vote against Trumpcare, if it came down to it. “I only see it through the lens of a vulnerable population who needs help, who I care about very deeply,” Capito said. “So that gives me strength. If I have to be that one person, I will be it.”

West Virginia FREE (WV FREE), RWV’s Charleston based regional coordinator, was busy over the Fourth of July recess, working hard to keep up the pressure on Senator Capito. WV FREE took advantage of the time Capito was at home in West Virginia, working with their coalition partners to rally for Capito’s support at a local Fourth of July parade. They also worked with their allies to put up lawn signs in Senator Capito's neighborhood that read “Protect Our Care, Save Our Jobs, #SaveMeCapito.”

WV FREE conducted a phone canvass to highlight the devastating impact Trumpcare would have on 180,000 West Virginians, and to encourage Capito to take a strong stance against it. Canvassers made phone calls to West Virginians in areas with the highest Medicaid enrollment rates, and offered to patch them through to Senator Capito’s office.

Another GOP Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, tweeted this afternoon that she still is a “no” vote on the Senate bill, even with the revisions unveiled today. RWV regional coordinator Maine Consumers for Health Care has been pressing her hard.

In a sign of just how tough it is going to be for ACA opponents to gather 50 votes for a bill to repeal and replace the ACA, two Republicans broke away from their party’s leadership and introduced their own plan, just moments before Majority Leader Mitch McConnell started briefing Senators on the details of his plan.  In an interview on CNN, Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that they have devised an as yet-unnamed plan that would retain most of the taxes included in the ACA, and send the money to the states in block grants.  States would be free to provide coverage as they see fit, with limited oversight from the federal government.  Although the Senators implied that their plan would continue the financial assistance for consumers that has made coverage gains possible under the ACA, they also acknowledged that this funding could be cut, perhaps within months, if the Republicans pass legislation cutting taxes.

The release of an alternative ACA repeal bill was unexpected, to say the least!  We don’t know whether or when the Cassidy/Graham repeal bill might be considered by the Senate.  But the willingness of two Senators to propose their own alternative bill means that getting to 50 votes for any repeal bill will be even more complicated.  Let’s keep the pressure on!

 

Friday
Jun302017

Let’s declare our freedom from Trumpcare!

This Fourth of July, we celebrate the freedom to live healthy lives

Last week, Senate Republicans were forced to pull their version of Trumpcare after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced it would cause 22 million people to lose their health insurance over the next 10 years, and it became clear that they didn’t have the votes yet. But they didn’t stop scheming. And even as national headlines once again turned away from health care to focus on the latest distraction from Donald Trump, it’s clear that this bill is far from dead.

Details have begun leaking out about the kinds of side deals that we knew were coming. For example, Republican leadership announced plans to include $45 billion in funding for the opioid crisis in order to woo Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Rob Portman (R-OH). Without integrated care through Medicaid, that money is like “spitting in the ocean,” in the words of Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich. People with substance use disorders often have other underlying medical issues that either led to or resulted from their addiction, such as mental health needs, chronic pain, dental problems, HIV, and more. Under the bill’s deep coverage losses, “the best we can hope for,” according to expert Andrew Kessler, “is for millions of consumers with co-occurring disorders to keep coming back through a revolving door.”

But will opioid funding be the fig leaf that Senators Capito, Portman, and others use to justify a yes vote? What about kickbacks for Alaska and North Dakota? That will depend on us.

So what can we do to fight back? With members of Congress back home in their districts and states to participate in Fourth of July parades and civic events, this week is the perfect time to remind them that we won’t stand by while they take away our care!

Your senators may or may not have a town hall scheduled for this week (you can find out HERE), but they aren’t going to miss the parades and barbecues! Hold up a sign or a banner highlighting the freedoms we have gained through the Affordable Care Act—and what we stand to lose if Trumpcare passes.

You can also share our “Four Freedoms Badges” on social media this July 4. Click HERE for all five!

Other suggestions from our allies at MoveOn.org and Community Catalyst include: "Health care is our right," "Health care for all is patriotic," "Taking away our health care is unpatriotic," "Medicaid Means Independence," or "No cuts, no caps." As MoveOn notes, these signs will get captured in local news coverage, and you can share photos of them on social media with the hashtag #ProtectOurCare and #ProtectMedicaid.

Look up your senators’ in-state offices and schedule a visit, or simply drop by and ask to speak to someone. Share your story. If you can’t make it to their office, go up to your senators and House representatives at civic events and community barbecues. Let them know what the ACA and Medicaid mean to you. Make clear that this bill is unfixable and that you expect them to find bipartisan solutions for health care.

You can find health care events happening near you here, as well as other local resistance actions here. Connect with a local Indivisible group or join a MoveOn community cookout. This is a great way to meet fellow neighbors and activists, celebrate our hard work and strategize for the weeks ahead.

And finally, urge your friends and family across America to call their senators. They can use 866-426-2631(English) or 877-736-7831 (Spanish) to be directed to their senators.

If you’re planning on spending Fourth of July with family and friends, check out our new fact sheet with talking points to help you discuss Trumpcare, including the bill’s:

  • impact on the projected 22 million people who would lose coverage under this bill,
  • deep cuts to Medicaid and what that would mean for both poor and middle class families,
  • elimination of protections for people with pre-existing conditions,  
  • attack on Planned Parenthood, and even on abortion coverage in private insurance,
  • sharp increases in out-of-pocket expenses for most Americans, and
  • cruel penalties for anyone who loses coverage through no fault of her own.

And find out how many people in your state would lose coverage under the Senate Trumpcare bill.

But don’t forget to talk to your friends and family about the core of this bill, which goes far beyond “repealing Obamacare” and cuts deeply into long-standing health care: This bill is just tax cuts for the wealthy and health cuts for the poor and middle class. There are bipartisan solutions to lower costs and improve coverage, but this bill will take us backward. So, keep up the calls to senators, stay safe and have a blast this Fourth of July!

Wednesday
Jun282017

Keep the pressure on Senators! It’s working!

Our advocacy is working, but we can’t let up!

What a week this has been so far! On Monday afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a devastating “score” of the Senate Trumpcare bill. After the House passed its own Trumpcare package in May, Senate Republicans had promised to “start from scratch.” Instead, CBO concluded, the Senate bill would cause 22 million people to lose their health insurance over the next 10 years—all to pay for a trillion dollar tax cut for the ultra-wealthy and major corporations.

CBO’s bleak analysis combined with another equally important development: a re-engaged and fired up constituency. Politico reported that the offices of Republican senators are being flooded with calls from constituents concerned about the GOP plan. And it’s clear that these calls are making a difference! The Senate switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

On Monday night, moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins (ME) came out against the Senate bill, tweeting “I want to work with my GOP and Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA. CBO analysis shows Senate bill won’t do it. I will vote no on mtp [motion to proceed, which allows debate on the bill to start].”Collins’ statement comes after months of advocacy on the part of our Portland-based RWV regional coordinator, Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC), which has been working tirelessly to urge her to oppose Trumpcare.

Senator Collins’ stance played a big role in this week’s other shocking development. On Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) surprised even his own leadership team by announcing that the Senate would no longer vote on Trumpcare this week as planned. After that announcement, three more Republican Senators (Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rob Portman of Ohio and Jerry Moran of Kansas) announced they oppose the bill in its current form.  Read more below about how our West Virginia regional coordinator, WV FREE, has been working to influence Capito.

Today, there will be a social media “storm” at 1 p.m. Eastern using the hashtag #SaveMedicaid, followed by an “arms around the Senate” demonstration at 5 p.m. on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C. Events at New York City’s Foley Square and across the nation will urge wavering Republican Senators not to accept secret deals from McConnell to support the bill.

Just how bad is the Senate’s Trumpcare bill?

Just how many people is 22 million – the number who would lose their health insurance under the Senate’s Trumpcare bill? It’s the equivalent of taking insurance away from everyone in Nevada, Kansas, New Mexico, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming combined. The CBO found that 4 million people who currently get their insurance through their job would lose coverage in 2018 alone, and 1 out of 6 people who currently have coverage through Medicaid would lose it by 2026. Because Senate Republicans designed the worst of their cuts to Medicaid to hide outside of the CBO’s 10-year “scoring window,” we don’t know how many of the most vulnerable pregnant women, children, senior, or people with disabilities would lose coverage after 2026. We only know that “enrollment in Medicaid would continue to fall.”

But that’s not all. CBO also found that millions of Americans who don’t lose coverage altogether would still face significantly higher premiums and higher deductibles, and get stingier financial help to purchase insurance that covers far less. For example, a 40-year-old woman living below the poverty line who lost her Medicaid coverage under Trumpcare would be eligible for financial assistance to purchase private insurance, but “the deductible would be more than half [her] annual income,” according to CBO [emphasis ours].

If you're kicking 22 million people off their insurance, that's not a “health care” bill. To learn more about just how bad the Senate Trumpcare bill would be for women’s health, download and share our newest fact sheet HERE.

We can’t let up now!

While the delay in a Senate vote is a major victory and a sign of just how powerful public pressure can be, we can’t let up now! In his announcement, McConnell made clear that he will use the next few weeks to twist arms and cut side deals. For example, he’s widely expected to increase the amount of money that the bill puts toward the opioid epidemic in order to win the votes of Senators Capito of West Virginia and Portman of Ohio—even though additional opioid money won’t make a dent in the bill’s horrific coverage losses that will devastate those two states, and many other states. In the words of John Kasich, Ohio’s Republican governor, “a few billion dollars on opioids” is like “spitting in the ocean” compared to the Medicaid cuts. McConnell might also woo conservative Senators who are opposed to the bill by allowing them to increase the amount of money that the wealthy can sock away in Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

All of these tweaks are designed to let individual senators claim that they have each “fixed” the bill. After all, this was House Republicans’ path to a narrow victory this spring when “moderates” like Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) overcame their “concerns” with the bill after securing a paltry $8 billion in additional funds for states.

Therefore our message must be loud and clear: this bill is unfixable. A few tweaks here or additional dollars there won’t change bill's morally bankrupt framework of tax cuts for the rich and health cuts for the poor and middle class.

RWV regional coordinators across the country are fighting back against Trumpcare by working on the ground to urge their Senators to oppose a bill that would be devastating for their constituents.  Join them, or participate in a resistance event near you. You can find events here. Want to know how many people in your state would lose coverage under the Senate Trumpcare bill? Check out the Center for American Progress’ list here.

In West Virginia, our Charleston-based regional coordinator, WV FREE, has been working to send Senator Capito the message that Trumpcare would rip coverage away from West Virginia women, LGBTQ people and families. In addition to driving constituent calls and letters to Capito’s office, WV FREE has been working with other state advocates to organize public events targeting Capito. This past weekend, WV FREE welcomed Senator Bernie Sanders to Charleston, where he spoke at the Protect Our Health Care Rally. Sanders, speaking to a crowd of close to 2,000, called on his fellow Senator to vote against the Senate’s Trumpcare bill. On Monday, West Virginian advocates built on the momentum from the weekend rally, staging a sit-in at Capito’s Charleston office, while a rally in support of the sit-in went on outside. Another protest outside of Capito’s office is scheduled for today.

RWV regional coordinator Montana Women Vote has been working to target their state’s two Senators, focusing particularly on their Republican Senator Steve Daines. Montana has a lot on the line in the fight against Trumpcare, as they’ve seen their uninsured rate drop from 20% to 7% with Medicaid expansion. Under the GOP plan, at least 79,000 Montana residents would lose health coverage. Montana Women Vote Program Director Micah Nielsen spoke at a rally outside of Senator Daines' Missoula office, where she encouraged people to get involved in the campaign. “Health care is a human right,” Micah told the audience. “Every single day, from now until we kill this bill, call both of our senators.”

In an effort to push Senator Daines and Democratic Senator Jon Tester to stand against the Senate Trumpcare bill, Montana Women Vote hosted eight volunteer-led phone banks in Great Falls, Helena and Missoula to encourage constituents to call the two Senators. They are continuing these phone banks all this week. In collaboration with their partners, Montana Women Vote organized a gravestone installation and office walk-in to Senator Daines' Bozeman office. They lined the walk-ways with tombstones, which had epitaphs such as “RIP Medicaid” and “RIP Trans Coverage.” More than 60 people showed up during a work day to participate and raise their voices.

Another long-time target, Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan, joined other moderate Republicans in expressing concerns about the Senate bill.  Our coordinator in Maryland, Consumer Health First, spearheaded advocacy efforts to encourage Hogan to publically come out against Trumpcare, sending him a letter signed by 35 other Maryland-based organizations.

 

Thursday
Jun222017

RWV condemns Senate Trumpcare bill

– STATEMENT –


Raising Women’s Voices Condemns Senate Trumpcare Bill: 
Even “Meaner” than House Version

Last week Donald Trump privately admitted to Republicans that the House-passed bill to gut Medicaid and repeal key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is “mean.” Today Senate Republicans released their Trumpcare bill to the public for the first time—just days before they plan to rush through a final vote—and it is even “meaner.” 

With today’s bill, Senate Republicans have made clear that tax cuts for their donors are more important than health care for their constituents. Despite numerous promises that they would start over, the House and Senate bills are nearly identical in substance. The bill would:

  • Slash health care for poor and middle-class Americans in order to finance a huge tax cut for corporations and the ultra-wealthy.
  • Eliminate Medicaid’s guarantee of coverage for the first time in history, threatening 75 million pregnant women, children, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and more.
  • End the Medicaid expansion, eliminating coverage for 14 million Americans, many of whom got health insurance for the first time as a result of the ACA’s expansion.
  • Strip private health insurance from millions of Americans, including many who currently get coverage through their job.
  • Raise premiums and out-of-pocket costs for millions of others.
  • Allow states to let insurance companies drop coverage of essential health benefits such as maternity care, hospitalizations, prescription drugs, and mental health services—thereby gutting protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Allow states to let insurance companies reinstate limits on annual and lifetime coverage, which could affect employees of large corporations no matter where they live.
  • Bar women and men with Medicaid or other types of public insurance from using their coverage for health services at Planned Parenthood, forcing clinics to close.
  • Attack private health insurance coverage of abortion.
  • And more.

The bill is set for a vote on the Senate floor next week having received no hearings, no expert testimony, no amendments in committee, and a level of closed-door partisanship unseen in the Senate since World War I.

We call on our senators to reject this blatant assault on the health care that our families need! Raising Women’s Voices and our regional coordinators and supporters across the country will hold accountable any senator who votes for this terrible bill.