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.
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 halls, vigils, 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.
Last week the Administration began to chip away at the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sending mixed messages to the nervous marketplace it is trying to calm. While doubts have grown that a GOP consensus exists to repeal the ACA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a rule for 2018 which would make it harder for individuals to obtain and maintain coverage through federal and state exchanges. At the same time, the IRS announced it will not automatically reject tax returns that fail to disclose whether the individual obtained health coverage during the past year, undermining the individual mandate which is necessary to keep Californians with pre-existing conditions covered.
The GOP released its proposal for replacing the ACA, a 19 page white paper that will result in the loss of health care coverage for millions of people. The white paper includes no legislative language. Republicans plan to turn the proposal into legislation when they return from the February recess.
CPEHN believes that any replacement for the ACA must:
CPEHN is concerned that the Republican proposal for replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will lead to less care at higher cost for communities who least can afford it. After six years of attempting to repeal the ACA without a viable replacement plan, Congressional Republican leadership released another white paper on Thursday, February 16, outlining their ideas. Republicans insist their ideas will be “better” but they are only moving us in the wrong direction.
The campaign to protect our health care is gaining momentum. More GOP lawmakers are facing local anger and concern at town hall meetings over plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement plan. Despite initial efforts to move quickly, there does not appear to be consensus in the GOP on a path forward. Nearly a half-dozen plans have been introduced or are coming — none with the broad support needed to get through Congress and win over the public. This makes it far more difficult to repeal a law the GOP has spent six years trying to kill.
Within the first few weeks of the new administration, there has been tremendous threats to our quality of life. We have seen a surge in actions against our healthcare, our education system and immigrants to name a few. We are afraid for our communities when it comes to whether or not they will have access to healthcare coverage and if their families will be able to stay together. We are challenged in new ways and we know this is just the beginning of a long battle ahead. CPEHN is committed to ensuring health justice and equity for communities of color and we refuse to give up.
We are thankful to our partners and other advocates who have been on the frontlines and have pushed back against the proposed changes by the new administration. The response to preserve the gains we’ve made has been incredible and shows our solidarity is strong. We are also grateful to our donors who support our efforts during this critical time. Specifically, we would like to thank California Health Care Foundation and Blue Shield of California for their generous grants. We are proud to be one of nine organizations to receive Act Now funding to continue to defend our healthcare. We look forward to our partnership with them.
Thank you to our members for staying engaged in the fight to defend our healthcare. Your efforts are paying off! The first two weeks of the new Trump Administration brought a brief reprieve from ACA repeal efforts as a leaked recording from a closed-door Republican retreat exposed divisions within the party over how to move forward. As Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif), California’s lone Republican lawmaker who voted against the repeal noted: “We’d better be sure that we’re prepared to live with the market we’ve created. That’s going to be called Trumpcare. Republicans will own that lock, stock and barrel, and we’ll be judged in the election less than two years away.”
The reprieve came at a high cost though as the nation was surprised and stunned by a pair of Executive Orders issued by President Trump to further militarize our southern border and scapegoat immigrant communities, particularly those from Muslim countries. These orders could have a chilling affect on immigrant communities who rely on critical health care services. CPEHN joined many other voices across the country in rejecting these punitive and divisive orders.