RWV has a special mission of engaging women who are not often invited into health policy discussions: women of color, low-income women, immigrant women, young women, women with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ community. We place a priority on asking women to share their experiences navigating the health care system. Because women are often arrangers of health care for families and communities, we believe women are grassroots experts in what is wrong with the current health system and what it will take to fix it. To further that mission, staff from two of RWV’s three co-founding organizations attended the NASHP conference, speaking up for women. Pictured from left to right are Christy Gamble of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Cecilia Sáenz Becerra and Sarah Christopherson of the National Women’s Health Network.
This fall, RWV and our regional coordinators are gearing up to bring the voices of women to the policy debates surrounding health system transformation -- the emerging area of ACA work that aims to achieve truly “patient-centered care” and to deliver “the right care, at the right time in the right place.” A number of our regional coordinators are starting by conducting listening sessions with the women, LGBTQ people and families who make up their constituencies to hear firsthand what is needed. For example, grassroots constituents might suggest having doctors’ offices stay open later, making sure patients are not given the same test over and over, or having more community health workers and promontoras.
While we didn’t have the results from those listening sessions in hand for this year’s NASHP conference, we found it was often important just to start asking the right questions. Too often, the disparate impact of policy decisions on women, and particularly women of color, didn’t enter the conversation until RWV and our allies raised it. RWV Regional coordinator La'Tasha D. Mayes, Founder & Executive Director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, pictured at left, joined RWV Regional Field Manager Cecilia Sáenz Becerra of the National Women’s Health Network in raising these concerns.
For example, in our research earlier this year, we’d found that because women live in poverty, fall into the Medicaid gap, and lack reliable access to transportation at disproportionately high rates, they are particularly vulnerable to the decisions of policymakers during the Medicaid expansion waiver process. So we pressed public health officials from Indiana and Iowa to defend their decision to deny non-emergency medical transportation to the Medicaid expansion population and questioned whether their evaluations were accurately representing women’s experiences.
Drawing on our background fighting sterilization abuse and reproductive coercion directed toward women of color, low-income women, and immigrant women, we and our allies pushed back when panelists sought to override women’s reproductive autonomy in deciding for themselves which contraceptive was best.
And when several speakers noted the challenges faced by individuals accessing health insurance for the first time, RWV was there to talk about our fabulous health literacy guides—in English and Spanish!
This coming week, RWV’s three co-founders – Byllye Avery of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, Lois Uttley of MergerWatch and Cindy Pearson of the National Women’s Health Network -- will be at the American Public Health Association conference in Denver. If you are going to be there, stop by our booth (# 1407) in the exhibit hall when it opens Sunday afternoon, October 30, or on Monday (all day), Tuesday (all day) or Wednesday (until noon). All three co-founders will be there on Sunday afternoon to greet visitors, offer free copies of our health insurance literacy fact sheets and Personal Health Journals and discuss what the Affordable Care Act means for women, LGBTQ people and our families.
On Monday, Oct. 31, you can hear from the three co-founders and from RWV’s Denver-based regional coordinator, Cynthia Negron from the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) during a panel presentation sponsored by APHA’s Women’s Caucus. It’s session #3181, taking place from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Hyatt Regency Denver Hotel, Centennial Ballroom B. Here’s what they will be discussing:
- Improving the Affordable Care Act for women and LGBT people in 2017 and beyond (Uttley).
- Medicaid expansion, waivers and women: Community organizing and advocacy makes a difference (Pearson).
- What’s at stake for Latina health in 2017 and beyond? (Negron).
- From the margins to inclusion:Working with trans and queer immigrant-led activists on the ACA (Avery).
The fourth open enrollment period for coverage through the ACA marketplaces starts next Tuesday. We’re getting ready, and will have a full report next week. Stay tuned!