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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.


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. has made it even easier with its new! 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 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.


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.

Don’t be fooled or deterred!

Day after day, there is horrifying news as the Trump administration careens from violating the human rights of immigrants and refugees to nominating for the Supreme Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, who is best known for using “religious freedom” as a fig leaf to attack reproductive health. Today, there are reports that the administration is preparing to issue an Executive Order that would grant individuals and corporations broad-based “religious freedom” rights, including for refusals to cover contraception and for discrimination against LGBTQ people.
The White House doesn’t want us to focus for too long on any one attack on our rights, or notice that despite all the talk of immediately repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it hasn’t happened yet. The White House has produced no replacement plan of its own and Congressional Republicans are fighting with each other, as their constituents raise alarm about losing their health insurance coverage. They’re even trying to fool us by saying they are just going to “fix” or “repair” the ACA, instead of repealing the law with no replacement.
But we’re not fooled or deterred! We’re resisting at every step – exposing the true impact of these attacks on real people, and demanding our elected representatives protect our care.
RWV regional coordinator Anduwyn Williams of WV Free (in white hat on a chilly day) joined a Save My Care rally on the steps of the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston. Since West Virginia would reportedly be the state second most affected by ACA repeal, West Virginians have a lot at stake in the fight to protect coverage gains made under the ACA. One West Virginian mother shared her family’s story, detailing the ways in which the ACA provided her young son with life changing treatments for autism. West Virginia’s U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito is one of the Republicans under pressure not to go along with repealing the ACA without a replacement that would cover as many people with the same quality health care at an affordable cost.
Rebranding ACA replacement as “repair”
The latest attempt to fool and distract us is emerging in Congress, where House and Senate Republicans are trying out some new, softer words to describe their intent to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Bloomberg News reports that some of these politicians are starting to talk about “repair” of the ACA or ‘fixing” the ACA.
Who can blame them for trying to call it something else? Last week, House and Senate Republicans met with the administration in Philadelphia hoping to emerge with a game plan for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Instead—according to audio of the private meeting leaked to the Washington Post—they revealed the deep schisms in their party.
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) cautioned his colleagues, “We’re telling those people that we’re not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them.” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) worried aloud: “We need to understand exactly: What does that [post-repeal] market look like? And I haven’t heard the answer yet. … We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created [after repeal]. That’s going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel.”
Their concerns about what the public thinks are justified. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Friday concluded that 84% of voters don’t want Congress to repeal the ACA “until there is a replacement plan in place,” compared to only 13% who want to see it repealed immediately. And a report released Monday by the Economic Policy Institute has found that repealing the ACA will cost 1.2 million jobs nationwide.
We’re taking the momentum and messages of the Women’s Marches – see RWV-NY intern Sarah Riordan (left) – to state Capitols and Congressional District offices across the country. And, we’re having an impact. We’re even getting under the skin of archconservatives like Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) who complained to an audience of conservative groups over the weekend that, “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go. They come up — ‘When is your next town hall?’ And believe me, it’s not to give positive input. … We’re getting hammered.”
What’s next?
Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee rammed through a vote to confirm another archconservative, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), as HHS secretary. Committee rules had required that at least one Democrat be present for a vote, and every single Democrat boycotted. But the committee went ahead and voted without the Democrats. So, a full Senate vote on his nomination is next.
The RWV regional coordinator for Georgia, the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta (shown at right in the Women’s March) knows full well that  Price has dedicated his congressional career to dismantling women’s health care. There also have been reports that Price may have lied to the committee about receiving a sweetheart deal to buy stock in a company affected by legislation he then championed.
The White House has said it won’t offer an ACA replacement plan until Price is confirmed, but we already know what we can expect, and our message hasn’t changed: No ACA repeal without a replacement that provides at least the same level of coverage and care, and no cuts to or restructuring of Medicaid. Repeal without a simultaneous replacement is just repeal.
How can you tell if a proposed “repair” or “fix” to the ACA is just another attempt to fool us? Check out this great checklist from our friends at Families USA on how to evaluate any ‘replacement’ plan. And keep the heat turned up on any member of Congress who wants to take our care!



Keeping up momentum from the marches!

Raising Women’s Voices regional coordinators across the country were marching and speaking out against repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and for women’s health last weekend. What’s next for Congress, Trump and us? We’re working to keep the momentum going, and use it to strongly oppose any repeal of the ACA without a replacement plan that covers at least the same number of people with the same quality health insurance at an affordable price. Below, we provide a summary of what’s going on in Congress this week, and what you can do. But first, here’s a roundup of our women’s march activities.

Dizzy Warren of Enroll Michigan (the RWV coordinator in that state, pictured at right) spoke at the march in Lansing about the positive impact the ACA has had on people in Michigan. “I have seen the impact of the ACA on the people who walk through our doors…and the doors of our partner organizations throughout the state,” she told the crowd. She described the devastating consequences ACA repeal would have on Michigan women, LGBTQ people and families.
WV FREE participated in both the DC march and their local march in Charleston, WV. Nearly 3,000 showed up for the march in Charleston, where their Director for Reproductive Health Access, Anduwyn Williams, led the Charleston crowd in a mindfulness exercise. WV Free also did tabling at the march, and over the last two weeks, has patched through more than 130 calls to U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, opposing ACA repeal without a solid replacement.  Capito is now one of the co-sponsors of the Cassidy-Collins bill that is being promoted as a Republican moderate alternative to repealing the ACA without a replacement. Below, you can read our full assessment of this proposal, which we think is unworkable in actual practice, and unlikely to move forward in the Senate.
The National Women’s Health Network team represented RWV in the Washington, D.C., march. NWHN’s Sarah Christopherson spotted Virginia Governor Terry McAufliffe (pictured together at right) and took advantage of the opportunity to talk to him about his support for Medicaid expansion. The Governor responded enthusiastically to Sarah’s advocacy, and told us “I’m really committed to expanding Medicaid in Virginia.  Virginia has lost nearly $8 billion by not expanding!” Sarah, Cindy Pearson and the rest of the NWHN team spent the rest of the day demonstrating their support for the ACA. 
Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), RWV’s Colorado regional coordinator, participated in the Women’s March on Denver. COLOR's Executive Director, Cristina Aguilar, was a featured speaker, telling the crowd” "We are marching so that we can control our birthing options, choose our sexual partners, determine and express our own gender and create the relationships and families that we choose and the healthy, empowered sex lives that we want.”

The Afiya Center had an especially busy weekend, participating in not only the Women’s March on Dallas, but also in a Roe v. Wade anniversary event called Our Bodies, Our Lives, as well as in a press conference and a rally and phone bank. Marsha Jones of the Afiya Center is shown in march photo at left (she’s at center, wearing a white t-shirt). Laura Jimenez, the Executive Director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ), spoke at the march in Los Angeles.  NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts marched in Boston.
Raising Women’s Voices-NY was marching in New York City, where a crowd estimated at 400,000 people turned out, overwhelming organizers and bringing mid-town to a standstill. Carrying the RWV banner were Amy Zarin, lead author of our health insurance literacy staffer (right in photo) and her friend, Samantha Garbus, left, with help from Jessica Quistorff, center, a former intern.
RWV-NY Outreach and engagement coordinator Cindi Azuogu, shown at left, used her sign to send a message about how the ACA has given women contraceptive coverage without co-pays. That message turned out to be timely in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Saturday the filing of a proposed regulation that would enshrine birth control coverage without co-pays in New York policy. RWV Co-founder Lois Uttley was quoted in the Governor’s press release: “Today’s action by the Cuomo administration will ensure that New York women can get the contraceptive coverage they need, no matter what happens at the federal level.” A second proposed rule announced Saturday would require coverage of medically-necessary abortions without co-pays or deductibles.
Hannah Rosenau, Program Director for the Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health (OFRH) sounded a similar theme about enacting protection at the state level when she spoke at a post-march benefit dance party in Portland: “We’re Oregon and we’re not only to going not accept cuts (at the federal level)…we’re going to move some proactive legislation to ensure all Oregonians will still have their birth control at no cost, can afford abortion care and won’t face discrimination when accessing reproductive health care!”
RWV Co-founder Byllye Avery (shown at right in photo) spoke at the march and rally in her hometown ofProvincetown, MA, telling the crowd: “We are fighting for our health care and our rights. Everything we consider a ‘right’ they consider a ‘wrong.” Ngina Lythcott (left in photo) said, “Remember that health care is a human right.  It is important for each of us, especially within our own demographic groups, to engage in conversations about progressive ideas (story telling is most effective) with people across class-lines.”
Northwest Health Law Advocates (NoHLA) participated in two women’s marches. NoHLA's Executive Director, Janet Varon, and others marched in Seattle, WA, while NoHLA Staff Attorney Huma Zarif participated in the march in nearby Portland, OR.
RWV regional coordinator Cherisse Scott of SisterReach kept the momentum going on Monday when she spoke out at a press conference in Memphis, TN. “Right now,” she said, “we are dealing with a new administration that is more concerned with dismantling its predecessor's legacy than ensuring health care for every American." She and other activists called on local and state officials to support programs that help marginalized communities fight HIV and AIDS, gain access to birth control and abortions, seek accountability for police and earn livable wages.
On Tuesday, RWV Regional Field Manager Cecilia Saenz Becerra (shown in the center) spoke at a press conference and panel discussion in Atlanta entitled “Our Health, Our Rights” that was sponsored by a newly-formed GA Health Alliance for Refugee & Immigrant Communities coalition. She spoke about the benefits the ACA has had for women and immigrants, and what a repeal would mean, including the end of hopes for Medicaid expansion in Georgia. The event was covered by Spanish language media, including Mundo Hispanico and El Nuevo Georgia.

What’s next for Congress, Trump and us?

Republican members of Congress are retreating to Philadelphia this week for a pep talk with their new President, hoping to narrow the gulf between the ideological and pragmatic wings of the party. They will be met with more of the kind of protests they’ve been experiencing across the country, including a rally opposing the defunding of Planned Parenthood and another one Thursday morning, when the Save My Care bus tour stops in town.
As one of his first actions in office, Donald Trump signed a far-ranging Executive Order last Friday that could exacerbate the existing tensions within the Republican party. The new order directs the federal agencies responsible for implementing the ACA to waive wherever possible “any provision or requirement of the Act” that would impose any kind of “cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden” on anyone—from individuals and doctors to insurers and states.
Although provisions like the individual mandate would remain in the law, the administration could stop enforcing the law or grant such sweeping exemptions as to make it meaningless. De facto elimination of the mandate, as Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway has said Trump may do, could prompt both a quick exodus of insurance companies out of ACA markets and a hike in premiums, as the CBO noted last week. Meanwhile, conservatives opposed to the ACA’s consumer protections are hopeful that the order is a signal to insurance companies that they can drop key health benefits, ranging from maternity care to mental health care, without repercussions.

Pragmatic Republicans have already expressed nervousness that the administration is poised to sow chaos in skittish health insurance markets. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) cautioned, “I think that the executive order is very confusing, and that we really don’t know yet what the impact will be. We want to ensure that individuals relying on the current system do not experience a needless and avoidable gap in coverage.”
Collins joined several colleagues in introducing ACA replacement legislation this week that would require states wanting to keep the ACA to “re-implement” it, but with less money from the federal government to help low-income households get coverage. The bill has a number of practical failings that make it unworkable, but that’s almost beside the point. More importantly, the bill doesn’t go far enough in dismantling the ACA for hardline conservatives in the House and goes too far to appease the eight Democrats needed to pass replacement through the Senate.
That’s why advocates must continue to make clear that simply putting out a plan is not enough to let Senators off the hook to then vote for repeal. SEIU is continuing to offer a toll-free hotline (866-426-2631) for people to call their members of Congress. Their recommended message is this: No ACA repeal without a replacement that provides at least the same level of coverage and care, and no cuts to or restructuring of Medicaid. Repeal without a simultaneous replacement is just repeal.

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