Guest blog by Geralynn McGee and Ann Pratt, co-chairs of the Medicaid Strategy Group |
In the fall of 2017, the state legislature voted to decrease income eligibility for parents and caregivers in the Medicaid (HUSKY A) program, as well as elderly and disabled people in the Medicare Savings Program, in order to balance the state budget. Advocates and activists mounted a campaign to keep the cuts from going into effect and restore health care coverage to those at risk of losing it. Here is a reflection on the victory from two leaders in the fight:
Thanks to a hard-fought victory in the final hours of the 2018 legislative session, over 115,000 low-income, working parents, elderly and persons with disabilities will continue to have access to Medicaid coverage.
How did this happen and what lessons can we draw upon for the challenges ahead?
Medicaid advocates began preparation for the legislative session in late 2017. Although our strategy would develop over time, we were all clear on the common goal: full restoration of the cuts to Medicaid made in the October 2017 budget. We knew this was ambitious…or was it?
Even as we planned, there was a public outcry over the Medicaid Savings Plan (MSP) reductions from across the state. The legislature couldn’t ignore the pressure and decided to delay the reduction in a special session, giving us the boost we needed to make this delay permanent and restore the Medicaid cuts.
Given the multi-million-dollar deficit facing the state – we knew we would have to raise the funding issue, especially for the HUSKY A program for low-income adults and caregivers, which had not initially caught the legislature’s attention.
We set the goal — we fought relentlessly — and WE WON!!
Here’s a short reflection on our journey:
We linked the programs in our messaging: We linked the fight to secure a permanent fix to MSP with the need to restore HUSKY A. We channeled the force of the 113,000 MSP recipients, urging them to include HUSKY A parents in their calls and advocacy with their legislators. We made sure actions, alerts and communications linked these two programs together – as one unified call for quality, affordable health care.
We drew upon core values of equity and fairness: When it became clear that the current $200 million deficit was less of an issue – that, in fact, there was a $1.2 billion surplus in the state coffers – we intensified our efforts to expose this immoral, unjust and fundamentally unfair reality through securing op-eds, letters to the editors & calls from the field highlighting the core narrative: While CT has a billion surplus, state law makers were set to deny 115,000 low-income, working parents, elderly and disabled, access to healthcare.
Maximizing a strategy: We held press conferences, used media, including social media, and advocacy. We secured legislators’ support, including champions from the Black and Puerto Rican caucus and long-time Medicaid advocates, and urged them to pull their levers of power.
What are the lessons learned?
- There are various roles for advocates and everyone is needed at the table.
- You never know when your advocacy is going to spark the fire that’s needed for the campaign.
- Since success often hinges on the luck of timing, it’s important to maintain a steady drumbeat of advocacy activity. We were fortunate to utilize a town-by-town break down of impacts of the cuts, calls to action, and media to re-energize our efforts at various points.
- We also tried do everything possible to encourage, support, and make sure that people who are most impacted are at the center of the fight. We would not have achieved this level of success without the people’s stories.
What of the battle ahead?
There are two definitions of the word “aspirational.” One is the most expected: “a hope or ambition of achieving something.” The second definition is: “the action or process of drawing breath.”
This crucial victory for thousands of CT residents has given us an opportunity to “draw a breath” in our on-going fight for a robust safety net.
We hope that all of those who participated in this very important victory draw strength and resilience from this achievement. It will fuel us as we move into the battles ahead.