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RWVoices

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.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Take action to stop the Senate’s secret Trumpcare bill!

Senate Republicans are committed to voting NEXT WEEK on their still-secret version of Trumpcare, which would remake our health care system and strip coverage from millions. They plan to do this with no hearings, no expert testimony, no amendments in committee and a mere 20 hours of debate on the Senate floor. That’s in contrast to the 25 straight days of floor debate on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

They want to repeal the ACA, which was the biggest leap forward for women’s health and LGBTQ health in a generation. But it would do more than repeal the ACA. It would attack Medicaid coverage for children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans and more.

It would attack Planned Parenthood’s ability to serve low-income women and anyone with public health insurance. 

That’s why we must act now!

Raising Women’s Voices is joining a national Day of Action tomorrow (Wednesday, June 21). In Washington, there will be a rally at the Capitol at 11 a.m. Across the nation, there will be Pink Out the Night rallies to save Planned Parenthood. In New York City, there will be a 24-hour Vigil to Save U.S. Healthcare, taking place near the Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle.  Join one of these events, or find one near you here.

Most importantly, call your senators! You can reach your Senator through the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121. You can use this free call-in number to call Republican Senators: 866-426-2631.

Tell Senate Democrats that you support their efforts to shut down the Senate until Republicans commit to an open, transparent process.

Tell Senate Republicans to vote no on any bill negotiated in secret and hidden from the American public before being rushed to a vote. Not since World War I has the Senate rushed such far-reaching legislation through in such a partisan, closed-door process. Republicans are hiding this bill because they know how bad it is and they’re scared of the public finding out before they vote. 

Tell them to vote no on any bill that would take insurance away from millions of people who have it now. What little we know about the Senate version of Trumpcare is that it will be the House-passed version with window dressing. Despite promises from nearly every Republican Senator that the Senate would start over, the number two Republican in the Senate, John Cornyn (R-TX), has told his members that the bill will be “80 percent of what the House did.”  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that the House version of Trumpcare would cause 23 million people to lose insurance. Millions more will face higher premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs, and thousands of women and LGBTQ people who depend on Planned Parenthood will lose access to health care services like cancer screenings and STD testing, if they have public insurance coverage.

Tell them to vote no on any bill that guts Medicaid to pay for tax cuts for the ultra-rich. Both the House and Senate versions of Trumpcare end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. But they also go much further, making deep, deep cuts to Medicaid in order to pay for a massive tax cut for the ultra-wealthy. In fact, the Senate version actually makes a much deeper cut to original Medicaid than the House bill did. While some Republicans have simply looked their constituents in the eyes and lied about that fact, the numbers don’t lie. Trumpcare cuts $880 billion from Medicaid to give the top 400 wealthiest households in America an average tax cut of $7 million apiece.
 
Call your friends and family members and tell them to call their Senators too!  This tactic is especially useful if you have friends and family members whose Senators are in the Republican majority that is pushing the disastrous Trumpcare bill.
 
Help share the message on social media. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. Share our messages with friends and family.
 
Make it clear to Senate Republicans that we won’t forget if they vote to take away our care!

 

 

Thursday
Jun152017

End Senate secrecy: Show us your Trumpcare bill now!

While the national press has been focused on Donald Trump's possible collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice, as well as the deplorable shooting of a House Republican, Senate Republicans have been negotiating in total secrecy their plan to cut health insurance for the poor and middle class in order to pay for massive tax cuts for the ultra-rich

Senate leadership’s goal is to send a full draft of their Trumpcare bill to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) by the end of this week, in order to force a vote on passage before Senators head home for the July 4 recess. They intend to release both the bill text and its CBO score to the public on Monday, June 26, and take a vote 48 hours later -- with no hearings, no votes in committee, no expert testimony, no public discussion drafts, and a bare 20 hours of debate on the Senate floor.

By contrast, the Affordable Care Act went through a full committee process, included dozens of Republican amendments, and was debated on the Senate floor for a record-breaking “25 straight days, including weekends,” as John McCain himself noted in 2013.

When asked if they would release a draft to the public, a top GOP aide scoffed, “we aren’t stupid.” Republicans even briefly tried to block the longstanding practice of reporters filming interviews with senators in Capitol building hallways.
 
As Vox’s Dylan Scott noted: “Legislation overhauling one-sixth of the economy, in other words, could be rushed to the Senate floor with minimal public scrutiny. A plan that less than 20 percent of the public supports, that could determine whether millions of Americans will have health coverage, could pass without any experts testifying publicly in front of the Senate.”
 

Don’t let them hide this bill until the last minute!

 
Everyone, including Republican voters, should be angry about this secrecy. But, as of Monday, Senate staff reported that Senate call volumes had returned to their pre-Trump levels. Our silence is giving Republicans a lot of freedom to press forward and they seem to be getting close to the 50 votes they need.
 
Republican "centrists" like Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), for example, have hinted that they'll vote for the bill even with its deep cuts to original Medicaid so long as the elimination of the Medicaid expansion takes seven years instead of three. (Why seven? If the elimination starts after 2020, as rumored, and takes seven years, a portion of the coverage losses could fall outside of CBO's 10-year scoring window, making the impact of the bill seem less damaging than it is.) Meanwhile, conservatives are hinting that they could support the bill if they're promised additional whacks at health care through the budget process.
 
So now is the time to call, call, call!!!! While activity paused on Wednesday in response to the tragic shooting, Senate Republicans didn’t stop their work and neither can we. Who should you call and what should you say?

  • If you have Republican senators, call and tell them not to support a bill negotiated in secret that will strip insurance away from millions of Americans. Here’s what to say:  “It’s outrageous/appalling/disgraceful that the Senate is keeping its health care bill a secret. I urge you to vote no on any bill negotiated in secret that will strip insurance away from millions of Americans.”
  • If you have Democratic Senators, call and thank them for their unified opposition to the bill, and urge them to take whatever steps they can to slow down the Senate’s business. Here’s what to say: “Thank you for your opposition to any bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and take health insurance away from millions of people.  I urge you to take whatever procedural steps you can to slow down the rush to a Senate vote on this outrageous/appalling/ disgraceful bill. Please demand an end to the secrecy and a full debate on any repeal bill.”
  • If you have friends and family members in states with some of the key Republican Senators shown in the list below, call them and get them to call their Senators. In general, we don’t think it is effective for you to call a Senator who represents a different state.

RWV’s Maryland regional coordinator, Consumer Health First, recently had this important advice for anyone living in a “blue” progressive state like theirs: “We are very lucky in Maryland to have staunch supporters of the ACA like Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin. They are going all out to defeat the bill, but they need help. First, thank them for their work and send them your stories. However, not everyone is so lucky. Contact those friends and family and share this information with them.” Consumer Health First also gets a shout-out today for their guest commentary published in Maryland Matters!
 
Here are the names and phone numbers of key Senators. When two Senators are listed in a state, the top one is the priority for calls, but it couldn’t hurt to call both!
 
Alaska

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski - (202) 224-6665
  • Sen. Dan Sullivan - (202) 224-3004

Arizona

  • Sen. Jeff Flake  - (202) 224-4521
  • Sen. John McCain – (202) 224-22235

Arkansas

  • Sen. Tom Cotton - (202) 224-2353
  • Sen. John Boozman – (202) 224-4843

Colorado

  • Sen. Cory Gardner - (202) 224-5941

Nevada

  • Sen. Dean Heller - (202) 224-6244

Louisiana

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy - (202) 224-5824
  • Sen. John Kennedy – (202-224-4623

Maine

  • Sen. Susan Collins - (202) 224-2523

Nebraska

  • Sen. Ben Sasse - (202) 224-4224
  • Deb Fischer – (202) 224-6551

Ohio

  • Sen. Rob Portman - (202) 224-3353

Pennsylvania

  • Sen. Pat Toomey - (202) 224-4254

South Carolina

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham - (202) 224-5972
  • Sen. Tim Scott – (202) 224-6121

Tennessee

  • Sen. Bob Corker - (202) 224-3344
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander - (202) 224-4944

West Virginia

  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito - (202) 224-6472

 

Thursday
Jun082017

Watch out for the Senate’s Trumpcare bill!

Senate leaders trying to rush through a Trumpcare bill

If you’ve been following recent headlines about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the status of Trumpcare in the Senate, you’re bound to feel some whiplash. This week, we’ll walk through what has happened so far and what could happen next. But the most important takeaway: the next three weeks are critical to stopping Trumpcare in its tracks!
 
Here's what we know…
 
After several weeks of speculation, the House-passed Trumpcare bill finally passed its last major procedural hurdle this week, clearing its path to come to the Senate floor. This means that nothing in the bill will require it to be sent back to the House for another vote before the Senate can take it up. But it does not mean that every provision in the House-passed bill is eligible for inclusion in the Senate bill under the narrow rules that govern “reconciliation.” (Reconciliation is the parliamentary tool that lets Senate Republicans bypass a Democratic filibuster and pass a bill with just 50 senators.) There are still open questions about whether the House’s attack on essential health benefits, protections for pre-existing conditions, Planned Parenthood, abortion coverage and more would qualify.
 
With the House-passed bill now officially heading to the Senate, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) is pushing for a floor vote this June before his members head home to meet their constituents over the Fourth of July recess. Like their counterparts in the House, Senate Republicans plan to hold no hearings, hear from no expert witnesses, invite no public comment, and include no Democrats in their negotiations. Instead, they are working out a deal to take health insurance away from millions of Americans in top-secret, Republican-only closed door sessions.
 
The moment a deal has been reached that can win 50 Republican votes, McConnell is expected to hold a vote on his own substitute Senate bill. But don’t let the word “substitute” fool you. Despite the nearly universal condemnation of the House-passed bill from Senate centrists, the Senate deal is expected to include “80 percent of what the House did,” according to the John Cornyn (R-TX), the Republican whip.
 
News reports suggests that the McConnell language could be headed to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as early as this Friday. With the Senate bill closely mirroring language from the House already scored by the CBO, it’s possible that CBO could produce a new score soon after. That’s important because, unlike the House, the Senate must have a CBO score before voting on the bill under the rules of reconciliation.
 
The timing of a Senate vote in June would be an unfortunate blow to the celebration of LGBTQ Pride month, since 1.8 million LGBT people have gained health coverage due to the ACA.


So what can we expect in a Senate bill?

The bill is likely to keep:

  • deep tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy averaging $7 million apiece for the 400 richest households,
  • the elimination of the Medicaid expansion,
  • deep cuts to original Medicaid and unprecedented caps on the number of people it can serve,
  • skimpy House-passed tax credits for purchasing private insurance to replace the Affordable Care Act’s more generous support,
  • higher premiums for older Americans and higher out-of-pocket expenses for everyone,
  • an attack on Planned Parenthood’s ability to serve patients with public health insurance such as Medicaid

 

In fact, the biggest differences between the two bills could be over timing, not substance. For example, the Senate bill could keep the House's biggest Medicaid changes but delay them from taking effect until after the 2020 election. 
 

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are using the turmoil that their party and their president have created in health insurance markets nationwide as their rationale for rushing through a bill that only 17% of Americans like. This week insurer Anthem announced it would be leaving the ACA marketplace in Ohio, citing the uncertainty created by repeated threats from the Trump administration to stop the payments (known as cost-sharing reduction payments) that keep out-of-pocket costs low for low-income households. As the Washington Post noted, the Republican strategy is “as brazen as anything in modern politics — undermining the current operation of the ACA, and arguing that the law, thus undermined, is falling apart.”
 
What happens next?
 
Several news reports have suggested that McConnell might try to force a vote on Trumpcare—even if he doesn’t have the votes locked up for passage—in order to let his caucus “move on” from health care to corporate tax cuts. But the House’s experience in March after Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to pull his first Trumpcare bill is instructive. The GOP base—or rather, the parallel party infrastructure of right-wing think tanks, donors, and media outlets that leads the party—rose up in outrage that Republicans were giving up on their 7-year promise to “repeal Obamacare.” If McConnell wants to be free of the health care albatross, he knows he needs to rush something through. Anything. At any cost.
 
At the same time, press reports have suggested that if the Senate passes a bill this June, Congress will have the full month of July before its month-long August recess to negotiate the differences between the two chambers. But if a vote is held in the Senate and if the bill passes, the House will be under enormous pressure to simply accept the Senate package. Any package exiting the Senate is likely to look better than the House version—if only because it's hard to do worse than 23 million people losing coverage. But the longer the Senate bill is exposed to the sunlight of public scrutiny, the worse it will look. House leadership will have every incentive to move fast. The House could schedule a vote within a day or two of Senate passage, even if leadership has to keep House members in town over the holiday to get it done.
 
Which brings us back to what we said in the beginning: The next three weeks are absolutely key. 
 
Republican senators who will be most critical to this fight are Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Dean Heller (NV), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Jeff Flake (AZ), Bill Cassidy (LA), Rob Portman (OH). But even if your senator isn't on that list, don't let that stop you. Even conservatives like Steve Daines (R-MT) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) have suggested they’re a tad uncomfortable with taking health insurance away from millions of their constituents. We will win or lose this fight based on just how uncomfortable we can make them!


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