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Voices for Health Equity

Voices for Health Equity

Tomorrow kicks-off the fifth year of open enrollment for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In past years, the beginning of open enrollment coincided with a groundswell of digital, TV, radio, and in-person outreach. Instead, a few weeks ago the Trump administration announced a 90 percent cut in funds for open enrollment advertising and a 40 percent cut in grants for navigators who provide in-person enrollment assistance. We know that applying and selecting a health plan is a big decision for people. And this year—with all the attempts to repeal the ACA, cuts to subsidies paid to insurers, shorter enrollment period in many states, and the many insurers that have left ACA exchanges—the confusion is at an all-time high. CPEHN has created a fact sheet with some frequently asked questions that we've heard. Check it out here!

Yesterday, the GOP took the first step towards slashing health care from millions of people to fund a trillion dollar tax break for the wealthy. The House voted 216 to 212 to pass the Senate’s federal budget resolution with all 14 House Republicans from California supporting the plan despite a provision that will result in higher taxes on middle income earners in the state. That provision prompted 20 Republicans, primarily from New York and New Jersey to vote against their own party’s resolution. This latest vote clears the way for reconciliation, which replaces the Senate’s 60 vote threshold with a simple majority of 51 votes.

While yesterday's vote is disappointing, it is unfortunately not surprising.  Despite the harm it will cause to their own constituents, California’s Congressional GOP delegation has voted again and again for massive cuts to Medicaid and this vote is no different. The latest tax proposal is actually a double whammy for Californians who will see their taxes increase due to the elimination of the state and local tax deduction (SALT) at the same time while their health care is threatened. In 2015, more than 6 million California taxpayers claimed the SALT deduction, which was worth $112.5 billion.

Proposed GOP Cuts to our Care
The GOP’s health care attack list is long. Here are some of the ways the GOP budget will use health care to pay for a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich:

Medi-Cal, Medicare and Children’s Health Care Slashed

Over the past two days, California’s “Assembly Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage” heard testimony from key policy experts summarizing the state’s current health care delivery system and universal coverage systems around the world. Sarah de Guia, the California Pan Ethnic Health Network’s Executive Director issued this statement:

“California is closer to achieving universal coverage than ever before. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nearly 14 million Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal and able to access preventive services, primary care, mental health, substance use treatment, and oral health care. Another 1.3 million Californians receive health care coverage including financial assistance through Covered California, our state’s ACA marketplace. More than 5 million Californians who were previously uninsured now have access to care thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

While we have made progress, our work is not done. 3 million Californians, a majority of whom are people of color and low-income, still lack health care coverage. In addition, stark disparities in health outcomes remain. For example, Black and Latino communities are more likely to have diabetes and to report poor mental health than White communities.  CPEHN remains committed to achieving universal coverage and eliminating health disparities. We look forward to working with the Legislature to explore all options to achieve universal coverage and to make meaningful strides towards eliminating disparities in access to care and health outcomes in our state.”

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) is a statewide multicultural advocacy organization that works to improve the health of communities of color. Visit www.cpehn.org for more information. 

October 15th marked the last day for Governor Brown to sign or veto bills passed during this legislative session. Of the 977 bills sent to his desk, Brown signed 859 bills and vetoed 118. CPEHN is proud to have 3 of our 4 sponsored bills among the bills signed:

CPEHN staff were tremendously saddened yesterday to learn of Brandon Harrison’s death. Last year, Brandon served as one of our powerful speakers at the Youth Leaders Plenary during CPEHN’s biennial conference. Kimberly Chen, CPEHN’s Government Affairs Manager, had the unique privilege of facilitating that conversation. Kim writes:

Brandon Harrison was one of several promising youth leaders I got to interview at last year’s CPEHN conference in Los Angeles. Brandon talked about the important work he was doing collecting data about youth homicides in Stockton and his work challenging policymakers including the Chief of Probation to adopt more restorative justice policies. He captivated the stage with charm and candor.

From the way he took control of the microphone to his fresh suit complete with a purple bowtie, Brandon had a mission and purpose – to share his story—and made sure we heard him. He was reflective about the cards stacked against him, yet insightful about the role he hoped to play as a leader for his community.

On Thursday, October 5, House Republicans took their first major step toward bankrolling tax cuts for the wealthy through devastating cuts to Medicaid and Medicare. In passing its budget resolution, the House promises to inflict $1.5 trillion cuts to Medicaid and $497 million to Medicare.

The House passed the budget resolution on a 219-206 vote.

While 19 Republicans joined Democrats to oppose the resolution, all California Republicans voted in favor of the proposal, which would lead to deep deficits in Medi-Cal, jeopardizing care for millions of beneficiaries.

The proposed cuts pave the way for the Republican tax reform plan that aims tax breaks largely at the wealthy. Middle and upper income families would see only modest gains while low income families will see safety net programs in health care and food assistance torn apart.

Take Action:

In July, Covered California announced proposed 2018 rates for the individual market.  The proposed rates included a statewide average rate change of 12.5 percent, as well as the potential for a separate surcharge related to the lack of federal funding for cost-sharing reductions (CSRs).  The surcharge averages an additional 12.4 percent on Silver products, with a range of 8 to 27 percent across carriers. 

As noted in previous emails, Covered California delayed the announcement of final rates pending ongoing federal policy discussions and the potential for Congressional action to fund CSRs.  However, today Covered California announced final rates for the 2018 plan year, and in the absence of a federal commitment to continue funding CSRs, Covered California plans will include the CSR surcharge on Silver-tier products for the upcoming year.  Attached is a press release with more information about today’s announcement.

With this announcement are some important items to note:

Lacking the votes for repeal, McConnell announces transition to tax reform

Lacking the votes for repeal, Senate Republicans announced yesterday that they will NOT be voting on the Graham-Cassidy bill, which would have taken away health care from millions of Americans, including 6.7 million Californians. This bill was the latest and cruelest attempt to date to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It would have explicitly and intentionally inflicted massive cuts to California, which embraced the ACA and enrolled millions, and diverted funds to those states that did not.

We want to thank you, our partners and tireless advocates in California and across the country who again defended health care for millions. And we thank our California Senators for never wavering in their opposition to these latest harmful repeal efforts.

But, let’s be perfectly clear. The fight is not over! We must remain vigilant. As we’ve seen time and again, Republican repeal efforts never seem to stay dead for long. September 30 is the deadline for Congress to use the current budget reconciliation process, which allows the Senate to pass a bill on a majority vote rather than 60 votes.

What’s next?

Even after this deadline and as Congress moves on to tax reform, the threat is not over. We renew our calls to California’s Congressional leaders to protect Medicaid and Medicare from devastating cuts as part of tax reform and federal budget proposals. As this latest repeal attempt has failed, we echo calls for a return to bi-partisan efforts to strengthen and fix the ACA by shoring up the insurance marketplace. We need stability and certainty, not unpredictability and sabotage.

Upcoming Activities:

We at CPEHN, condemn the violence that was committed last weekend by white supremacists and neo-Nazis. This year has been deeply troubling as white supremacy and hate-based violence has been on the rise. We mourned in February when Srinivas Kuchibhotla was murdered in Olathe after racist epithets were hurled at him and we were shocked once again when Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche were killed in Portland after intervening when anti-Muslim remarks were being yelled at two Muslim women. As a nation, we continue to feel the wounds of overt and institutional racism and its impacts on the health of our communities.

Over 25 years ago, CPEHN’s founders came together to create a unified voice for communities of color amid challenging times and potential opportunities. While we as a state and nation have made important strides towards improving systems and dedicating resources to heal our communities, it’s events like those in Charlottesville, Olathe, and Portland that again and again reminded us of the forces that seek to create barriers and harm communities of color, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and other marginalized communities. In these times, we need strong leadership to stand up and speak out against white supremacy and hate. And we have experienced that time and again. Even though the President of the United States demonstrates a stunning endorsement of racism through a lack of condemnation of these events, ordinary people across the country have taken a stand and continue to show us hope. The people in Charlottesville who had the courage to peacefully demonstrate against white nationalism in the face of violence provide us with great inspiration, and we particularly honor Heather Heyer for her bravery.
 

Covered California is set to announce its 2018 plan rates on Tuesday, August 1st. These rates will determine what health plans charge consumers for monthly premiums on the exchange. Covered California delayed announcing the premiums because of federal uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although Republican efforts to repeal the ACA failed last week, President Trump continues to rattle insurance markets by threatening to eliminate federal payments to insurers for cost-sharing reduction subsidies (CSRs). The subsidies are the subject of a lawsuit House v. Price, filed by House Republicans in 2014 which challenged the President’s authority to pay for the CSRs – even though they are an explicit part of the law. The case is now before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has put the case on hold. Currently the federal government has only committed to funding CSRs through the month of May 2017.

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