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Voices for Health Equity

Voices for Health Equity

Assembly Bill 391 (Chiu), successfully passed out of the Assembly Health committee with bipartisan support (11-0). The bill is co-sponsored by CPEHN and the Regional Asthma Management & Prevention and Children Now, and it will allow California to better deliver care for Medi-Cal beneficiaries with asthma by adopting policies to expand access to cost-effective preventative care and provide healthcare workforce opportunities for communities of color.

Asthma is a significant public health problem and driver of health care costs. Over 5 million Californians have been diagnosed with asthma[i] -- about 1 in 7 state residents. Asthma is of particular concern for low-income Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal. Low-income populations, like the nearly two million Medi-Cal beneficiaries who have been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives,[ii] have higher asthma severity, poorer asthma control, and higher rates of asthma emergency department visits and hospitalizations. [iii] In 2010, Medi-Cal beneficiaries represented 50% of asthma hospitalizations and 42% of asthma emergency department visits, even though they represented only 30% of Californians. [iv]

The latest issue of our Health Equity Forum newsletter came out today and it includes several great articles and dozens of resources!

CPEHN’s Executive Director, Sarah de Guia, opens the newsletter affirms CPEHN's commitment to defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and lifting up the voices of people of color! 

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network continues to move the needle on health justice by integrating health equity into statewide policies including mental health. Assembly Bill 470 (Arambula), sponsored by CPEHN, passed out of the Assembly Health committee with bipartisan support. The bill aims to reduce mental health disparities by establishing robust tracking and evaluation measures to ensure Medi-Cal beneficiaries are receiving timely access to quality mental health services that meet their cultural and language needs as required by law.

During the committee hearing Assemblyman Arambula shared a striking statistic: Approximately 92% of adults in California who do not speak English as their primary language report unmet needs for mental health services, with about 70% receiving no treatment at all.

Finding a provider who will treat them can be extremely challenging for smaller, rural communities for which English is not their native language. As Genevieve Flores-Haro, Associate Director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project indicated that though they have a good partnership with their county mental health department, and "regularly refer community members to county mental health services," "families claim there is a time gap from the moment they are referred, deemed eligible (3 weeks), and until they ultimately receive service (3 months). Timely access is crucial for seasonal farmworkers who are constantly migrating and are unable to attain mental health care due to the lengthy process.”

The failure of the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) is a victory we can all be proud of.  Our calls, letters, town halls and vigils made a difference! The Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains the law of the land, and the GOP’s morally bankrupt AHCA went down in flames. The Republicans could not build a consensus to pass a plan that would cause higher premiums and deductibles, 24 million people losing coverage, the dismantling of Medicaid, and billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. Millions of us-- from all walks of life, have spoken out against this plan and CPEHN vows to continue to make our voices heard.

There are already other wins. Two states—North Carolina and Kansas will be expanding Medicaid to cover more people now that ACA will not be repealed.

But as Democratic Chair Perez said on NPR, “No one is spiking the football, yet.”  We know the attacks from the Administration are not over, with HHS Director Tom Price continuing to undermine the ACA administratively and Republicans still talking about defunding Planned Parenthood and Medicaid “reform.” The President also tweeted Saturday that he was ready to let the ACA explode.

URGENT ACTIONS NEEDED EVERY DAY THIS WEEK

Your actions are making a difference! Last week the GOP went from insisting Republicans in the House would fall in line behind the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the GOP’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to admitting the bill will need to change to pass. Despite talk of making small tweaks to the bill, (which would include work requirements for Medicaid recipients) and the president saying he is 100% behind it, passage is still in doubt.

"My whip count indicates that there are 40 no's," enough to defeat the bill, said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), who leads the hardline House Freedom Caucus. Across the Capitol, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada), facing re-election next year, became the fourth Republican senator to announce his opposition. That left Senate GOP leaders at least two votes shy of what they need, even though they control the chamber 52-48.

Why the sudden case of nerves by GOP leaders after seven years of promising to repeal the ACA?

The energy was ecstatic on Sunday, March 12th, at the Ed Roberts Campus where over 300 people gathered to #Fight4OurHealth and defend the tremendous health care gains California has made covering over 5 million people.

We remember what it was like before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), close to seven years ago:

  • Young adults were kicked off coverage when they were around 23 years old.
  • If you were young and healthy and could afford coverage on the private market, access to the services you needed were not a guarantee if you had a certain condition or an expensive illness that meant you could hit a lifetime cap on coverage.
  • As a woman you had to pay higher premiums because maternity coverage was not considered an essential benefit.
  • If you had breast cancer, or allergies, or diabetes, you had a pre-existing condition and were either considered uninsurable or had to pay much, much more.

The ACA changed those things. Today we have more secure coverage because we are guaranteed a minimum level of benefits, meaning you get what you pay for no matter what happens, and prevention screenings are free. Low income families and individuals have options for coverage, where there were none before through the expansion of Medi-Cal. We strengthened private health care coverage so there are no longer lifetime caps for coverage yet your out of pocket costs are limited. At the town hall on Sunday, we heard courageous stories from Bay Area residents about their journey for health care coverage and what it has meant to their livelihood.

URGENT ACTION NEEDED DAILY FOR THE NEXT MONTH

Last week Republican leaders released the American Health Care Act (AHCA), their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The plan was crafted secretly, with no debate or Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Score, so right now there is no official word on what it would cost and how many people would have access to insurance. Two key House committees, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce released drafts of their respective reconciliation language and immediately started marking-up the bills, giving Democrats little time to analyze and respond to the GOP Plan. On Thursday, March 9 at 4:30am, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the tax penalty repeal provision of the ACA after an 18-hour session, while Energy and Commerce passed the policy provisions later that same day.

On Monday, House Republicans introduced legislation to gut mental health care for millions of Americans.

For individuals enrolled in Medi-Cal, the legislation will enact a per-capita cap, or a limit on federal spending for each Medicaid enrollee. For enrollees with significant health costs, including prescription drugs, on-going treatments, and hospitalizations, this will mean that costs above the cap must be covered by the state or by the enrollee. California stands to lose at least $20 billion, or one fifth of our Medi-Cal program, which will force the state to make dramatic cuts to eligibility and benefits.

The legislation also dismantles the Medi-Cal Expansion. Thirty percent of those newly eligible for coverage are living with mental illness and/or substance use disorders, the majority previously uninsured. While people who are currently enrolled in Medi-Cal will be able to remain covered, new enrollment will be frozen in 2020. Additionally, anyone with a coverage gap of more than one month will lose his/her coverage.

Additionally, beginning in 2020, the Essential Health Benefits requirement in Medicaid would be eliminated, including mental health and substance use treatment. California will have the option of whether or not to require Medi-Cal Managed Care plans to provide these benefits in light of decreased federal funding for the program.

For individuals enrolled through Covered California, income-based tax subsidies will be eliminated and replaced with an unspecified and discretionary fund for states. Additionally, for commercially insured individuals, the prohibition on discriminating on the basis of pre-existing conditions, including mental health conditions, will be eliminated. Individuals who have not maintained continuous coverage will be required to pay a 30% penalty beginning in 2019.

URGENT ACTION NEEDED DAILY OVER THE NEXT THREE WEEKS

Secret GOP Repeal Plan Expected to Drop Monday Night

Leaders came back to Washington after a raucous recess and wasted little time creating a new proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in secret. Even under lock and key, details leaked to Politico. The new plan looks a lot like the original leaked plan, and it will be devastating for communities of color in California. The plan would:

This past week thousands of constituents showed up at California town hallsvigils, and search parties for Republican representatives back in district but missing in action on health care. Democratic leaders were also drawing crowds. More than 2500 people gathered in Santa Rosa Saturday to hear Congressman Mike Thompson and other lawmakers discuss the effects of repealing the ACA. The press is paying attention to the public outcry, and polling shows that support for the ACA is at an all-time high. The pressure on D.C. lawmakers to come up with a replacement plan for the ACA isn’t just coming from voters. Governors, including John Kasich (R-Ohio), gathered this week, calling for a plan that will protect the millions of dollars in Medicaid expansion their states receive. But a leaked GOP ACA replacement plan did little to assuage their fears. Among other things, the plan would undermine the two main ways Californians get coverage, through Medi-Cal and on the job benefits.

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