Take Action to Protect Women’s Health in CT

With health care under attack from Washington, DC, Connecticut leaders and lawmakers must push back against federal changes that would compromise Connecticut residents’ health.

One way Connecticut lawmakers can preserve the gains in women’s health under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to put similar protections into state law, so that no matter what happens in DC, women in Connecticut are protected.

Senate Bill 586 does exactly this.  It makes sure that:

  • Women in the state have access to effective contraception without co-payments.
  • Ensures that insurance plans in Connecticut cover:
    • Male and female sterilization
    • Reproductive health screenings and counseling, which includes:
      • Smoking cessation
      • Domestic violence screenings
      • Well woman visits
      • Breast cancer risk assessments
      • STD screening and counseling
      • Screenings for Hepatitis B
      • Screenings for osteoporosis
    • Screenings for pregnant women for
      • Gestational diabetes
      • Urinary tract infections
    • Breastfeeding support and supplies
  • More info on this bill on this fact sheet

Why is this important?

  • This is a women’s health issue. Birth control is part of basic preventive health care for women, and is used not only for family planning, but to treat other women’s health concerns, such as endometriosis and menstruation related issues.
  • This is a child’s health issue. Some of these benefits are critical for women to have healthy babies.  As a state, ensuring the health of our children is important to the future of Connecticut.
  • This is an affordability issue. Nationally, women saved more than $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs on birth control pills since the benefit was instituted under the ACA.

The Foundation testified in support of Senate Bill 586:

  • “Removing the financial barrier to no-cost prescription contraception has numerous benefits, including helping women access the contraception that works for them – and affordability is a critical part of accessing health care. This bill allows women and their partners to better plan having a family, at a time that is right for them, regardless of their financial situation.  This bill ensures that women can invest in their own educational and professional opportunities before tackling the responsibilities of parenthood – and so putting themselves in a better situation to raise healthy children.”
  • Read our complete testimony here.

Call your state legislators and tell them you support Senate Bill 586 and they should too!

To find your state Senator and Representative, go to Find Your Legislators.

If you do call your legislator, let us know!  Email us at info [at] universalhealthct [dot] org!

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Say “No” to Taking Health Care from Low Income Parents!

how-to-say-no

The state budget crisis has put HUSKY A parents’ health insurance coverage on the chopping block again.  HUSKY A is the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care coverage for low-income parents and their children.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because in 2015 over 10,000 HUSKY parents were cut, and we stopped even more cuts last year.

This will impact 9,500 parents with incomes between 138% to 155% of the federal poverty level.

  • That means that a family of three who makes over $2,350 a month will lose coverage.

For many of these families, buying private coverage Access Health CT (the state exchange) will be out of reach, even with subsidies.

Even worse, there are other proposed cuts to HUSKY programs.

At a time when HUSKY/Medicaid programs are under threat from Washington, DC, we can’t allow the state’s budget crisis to harm families even more.

Call your state legislators and tell them NO to HUSKY Cuts!

To find your state Senator and Representative, go to Find Your Legislators.

It is important that we all speak up and tell our policymakers that we won’t tolerate cuts to anyone’s health care, not from DC or Hartford.

Learn more about the issue with these two fact sheets.

Thank you for standing up to protect the care of all Connecticut residents.

 

 

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Will the Senate Save Us?  Don’t Count on It! 

life preserverBy Jill Zorn

The House passed the (Un) American Health Care Act (AHCA).  Now it’s up to the Senate to craft their version of the bill.  Can we count on senators to save us?

Is There Hope?

The Senate is not likely to produce a bill quite as terrible as the House bill.

Several influential Republican senators are already on the record objecting to the attacks on pre-existing conditions, the draconian Medicaid cuts and defunding of Planned Parenthood.  Concerns have also been expressed that the tax credits in the House bill do not sufficiently subsidize care for people who are older, have lower incomes, live in high health care cost areas, or are sick.

Other senators may not feel that AHCA, as awful as it is, went far enough in dismantling the Affordable Care Act. For example, some of them are unhappy that the bill funds ANY tax credits, as paltry as they are.

If you’re trying to read the tea leaves by learning more about the range of divergent opinions among senators, check out the Hill article on five senators to watch or the Vox article on ten senators to watch.

It’s clear that the Senate also faces the same challenge that stopped the House from passing the first version of the AHCA in March.  If you try to keep moderates on board by making fewer drastic cuts to current health care coverage, conservatives may not support the bill.  But if you make the bill as cruel as possible to satisfy conservatives, moderates may not vote for it.

The Ugly Truth  

While the Senate version of the AHCA may not be as bad as the House bill, let’s face it – that is a very low bar.  Even a somewhat watered down version of the bill is still going to do a lot of damage.

It will still be a bill that cuts health care funding in order to give a huge tax break to the wealthy.  Structural changes to Medicaid, such as block grants or per capita caps, are still very much on the table in the Senate and pose a huge risk.  They will change the Medicaid program forever and leave states more on their own to care for low income families, elderly residents in nursing homes and disabled populations. In the end, millions of people are likely to lose their insurance coverage.

Here is the chilling fact:  our fate is in the hands of Mitch McConnell and 12 other male senators.  Hailing mainly from red states in the south and the west, this group, with no gender or racial diversity, does not inspire confidence that they have our best interests in mind.  They are already busy drafting the new version of the AHCA, with the aim of passing by July 4.

The Senate moderates who are most on the record against some of the worst AHCA provisions are conspicuously absent from this working group. This may be an indication of how little political clout they have, and how much it is assumed that, in the end, they will buckle under to pressure from Senate leadership. The moderates in the House turned out to be a “cheap date,” as Michael Miller of Community Catalyst recently pointed out.  It’s not clear that Senate moderates will prove any different.

The Senate only needs 51 votes (50 senators, plus Vice President Pence) to pass the AHCA through the budget reconciliation process, which avoids  the 60 votes usually needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows how to count votes and he knows how to keep his caucus together despite their differences, and get bills passed.  He is on the record promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  Like his House counterparts, he won’t be above telling lies to sell the bill to the public.

On Monday, McConnell was cautious but clear about his intentions:  “This process will not be quick or simple or easy, but it must be done.”

Take Action 

We can’t sit back and hope that the Senate will save us.  We must fight as hard as we can to stop them from passing the AHCA.  And we also must start forging a new way forward.

Now is the time to contact Senators Blumenthal and Murphy.  Let them know we have their back.  Share your health care story.  Ask them to do what they can to stop AHCA in its tracks.  Ask them to fight any bill that increases the number of uninsured, undermines consumer protections and cuts or makes fundamental changes to the Medicaid program.

Senator Richard Blumenthal
CT Offices: (860) 258-6940 (Hartford) & (203) 330-0598 (Bridgeport)
DC Office: (202) 224-2823
Website (for email): blumenthal.senate.gov

Senator Chris Murphy
CT Office: (860) 549-8463 (Hartford)
DC Office: (202) 224-4041
Website (for email): murphy.senate.gov

If you’re interested in defending health care and in being part of the solution, sign up for Protect Our Care CT.  Join with other individuals and groups in Connecticut to fight back AND move forward toward a positive vision of health care for all.

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Today’s Vote to Dismantle the ACA and Replace It with Hollow Promises Fails Millions of People

Today’s vote in the House of Representatives to dismantle the Affordable Care Act sets the stage for massive disruption for hundreds of thousands of Connecticut families.

The bill they passed, the American Health Care Act:

  • abandons Americans with pre-existing conditions,
  • slashes Medicaid,
  • attacks women’s access to reproductive health care,
  • and raises health care costs for all families.

All this to give over $600 billion in tax breaks to the very wealthy and big insurance and drug companies.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

We will continue to fight for all Connecticut residents to have access to quality, affordable health care.

We want to thank our state’s five U.S. House members – Representatives Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney, Jim Himes, John Larson, and Elizabeth Esty – for standing up against this horrendous bill.

For more on this vote, read news here.

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Take Action Today! #CHW

call2action

You can take action today to help bring health care closer to the people it serves!

See below for an action alert from Health Equity Solutions concerning a bill in the state legislature about community health workers.

Community health workers (CHWs) are health care professionals who work with patients outside the doctor’s office. CHWs fill a wide range of roles, with one unified mission – to ensure that people have the supports they need to lead healthier lives. CHWs educate diabetes patients on diets that can help them stay healthy, ensure that people take their medications, coordinate care for those with chronic or complex conditions, are part of the communities they serve, speak to people in their own language, understand the culture of their patients, and so much more.

Learn more about community health workers:

Thank you for taking action today!

HES logo.png

Dear Health Equity Supporters,

We just received news that SB 126, An Act Concerning Community Health Workers (CHWs), could see action in the Senate as early as Wednesday May 3rd!

SB 126, if amended and passed, creates a statutory definition of community health workers and requires the Director of the State Innovation Model (SIM), in collaboration with the Department of Public Health, to examine the feasibility of certification in Connecticut. These are important steps toward full recognition of community health workers in our state and there is no new cost to the state!

We need your help:

Call your CT State Senator and Representative today in support of Community Health Workers! 

Quick Message Script to Your Legislators: Pass Senate Bill 126

Hi, my name is [insert name] and I am calling to ask you to support Senate Bill 126. SB 126 is an important step in advancing health equity by defining community health workers and examining how certification of CHWs would work in CT. The bill does not require any new spending in our state.

Not sure who to call or who your state Senator and Representative are? Use this Find Your Legislator tool to look up their name and then use the numbers below to make the call.

Senate Democrats: 860-240-8600 

Senate Republicans: 860-240-8800 

House Democrats: 860-240-8500 

House Republicans: 860-240-8700

Call Your State Senator and Representative, ask them to support Senate Bill 126!

Send HES any feedback you hear from your legislators by emailing us at info@hesct.org

Sincerely,

Tekisha Dwan Everette, PhD

Executive Director 

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Change Happens at the Speed of Trust

By Jill Zorn

Map of Connecticut

In the midst of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal fight, which still rages on as I write this, I attended the Connecticut Health Council program on April 12, Change in DC-What it Means for Connecticut’s Health Sector.

Given the diverse roster of speakers at the program, there was remarkable agreement about the problems we face and the goals we seek to achieve.  But as the program also made clear, reaching those goals is going to be extremely challenging and require a tremendous amount of collaboration and trust.

Speakers included US Senator Chris Murphy, Congressman John Larson and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty who gave an update on the latest bad news from Washington.  Attendees also heard from Kevin Counihan, who shared his perspective about the health care landscape from his recent position as CEO of healthcare.gov.

Today’s blog focuses on two panel discussions at the conference, a panel of state government officials and a second one of payers and providers.  Both panels talked about how their organizations are navigating today’s turbulent health care environment, highlighting their efforts to reduce costs and improve value.

Areas of agreement

All speakers took as a given that our health care system is too expensive and that our outcomes aren’t what we would like them to be.

Several panelists mentioned that shifting costs onto patients, in the form of higher and higher co-pays and deductibles, is not an effective way to reduce costs.  Too many patients simply cannot afford these expenses and end up avoiding needed care.

Each panel discussed that socioeconomic factors have a huge impact on health.  There was general agreement that we need to address them as well as provide better care coordination and system navigation if we are going to succeed in improving population health in our state.

All agreed that the tremendous uncertainty, emanating from Hartford due to Connecticut’s budget challenges and from ongoing efforts in Washington to make major cuts and regulatory changes to health care programs, makes it even more challenging to meet the goals of better care, better health and lower costs.

Areas of tension

One noticeable area of disagreement was the extent to which some speakers chose to emphasize personal responsibility as a major frame for addressing health problems.  Other panelists pushed back, pointing out that blaming sick people for their poor health is not a constructive approach.  Reducing chronic illness requires a broad, multi-sector strategy that improves the delivery system, changes payment incentives, but also focuses on social and economic determinants.

The overriding tension in the air is the fact that, as the moderator pointed out, costs must be taken out of the system; not just shifted among the key stakeholders of payers, providers and, of course, patients.

Although there were many areas of agreement, a certain lack of trust was also in the air.  This was most evident in how the private sector views the public sector.  But tension also was evident between payers and providers.  Their worlds are starting to have more overlap, as payers purchase provider groups and providers increasingly take on new payment models where medical expenses must be more carefully controlled.

Collaboration and trust

Themes that emerged throughout the day included the need for public-private partnership, collaboration and trust.

The word trust has come up a lot lately.  When the Health Care Cabinet studied other states that have been successful in implementing innovative health policies, the ability to build trust among stakeholders and been the public and private sector was identified as a common success factor.  The Connecticut Health Policy Project published a new policy brief: Mistrust in Connecticut health policy-making – Thought leaders, public weigh in on the problem and potential solutions.

I’m also reminded of a panelist’s statement during a discussion about state government leadership in health care reform during our 2015 Reform to Transform (R2T) summit.  John Colmers, a Vice President at Johns Hopkins University and Chair of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission said, “Change happens at the speed of trust.”

In these times of intense uncertainty and severe funding threats, trust is not easy to come by.  So it was good to be in a room of diverse stakeholders and see how much fundamental agreement we  have on goals.  Now we just need to work together and, keeping the best interests of patients and consumers in mind, find agreement on how to reach those goals.

Notes and Resources

Founded by the MetroHartford Alliance, the Connecticut Health Council is an “association of health sector leaders” dedicated to “promoting Connecticut as a center of health excellence and the health sector as a primary driver of economic and employment growth in our State.”  The Council aims to “foster collaboration, education, entrepreneurship and networking among leaders of for-profit and non-profit health sector entities.”

For videos of the first two panels of the conference, go here.

To read the Health Care Cabinet’s Recommended Health Care Cost Containment Strategies Report go here and scroll down to the January 10, 2017 meeting where a copy of the report is posted.

For more on the Reform to Transform (R2T) summit, Sparking Bold Action, go here.

For the R2T summit video of the panel, “When Government Leads,” go here.

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One More Time: Stop the (Un)American Health Care Act

By Jill Zorn

call2actionThe latest news flash on health care from Capitol Hill in Washington:

It is now up to “moderate” Republicans to stop the (Un)American Health Care Act.

Thanks to negotiations with the far-right Freedom Caucus, a horrible bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has become truly appalling.  What’s new?  Although President Trump “promised” during his campaign to leave pre-existing conditions alone.  The latest version of the bill would allow states to gut these protections.

Here’s a summary from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

4.27 blog

Predictions are all over the map about whether some states would decide to do this, but just having it out there as a possibility is extremely chilling.

The latest version of the bill means:

  • a return to the pre-ACA bad old days of high risk pools that don’t cover everyone who needs them, of punishing people for having the “audacity” of having a pre-existing condition.
  • a state could rip up the essential health benefits and allow insurance policies that basically cover nothing.
  • a return to charging women of child bearing age more for health insurance than men, if they want health insurance that covers maternity care.

In other words, this bill is more cruel than ever.

It is so bad that the United Nations sent a five page letter to the Trump administration saying that taking health insurance away from millions of Americans could be a violation of international law.

Here’s another measure of how awful this bill is: 

The original version EXEMPTED Congress members and their staffs from the bill!  While they may be scurrying to amend that provision, the fact that it was ever there is all you need to know that this is a toxic piece of legislation.

Even if they “fix” this hypocritical provision, do they have the votes to pass this abominable bill?  Again, predictions vary.  Some articles say that “moderate” Republicans are moving toward supporting the bill, others say they remain skeptical.

When a vote will occur is also contested.  Originally there were predictions of a vote on Friday or over the weekend.  Now there are reports that the vote may not happen until next week.

And it’s even possible that once again, AHCA will never actually come to a vote in the House, if the whip count shows that at least 23 Republicans are on the record that they will vote no.

But there is no question that Republicans are working hard to pass this bill.

YOU CAN TAKE ACTION TODAY

With so much on the line, it’s time for people in Connecticut to Take Action.  Here’s what you can do:

Call your member of Congress

Connecticut’s members of Congress are on record against proposals that gut the Affordable Care Act – but they want to hear from you.

Calls from their constituents give them back up when they oppose this in Congress.

  • Thank them for protecting our health care, and tell them to keep at it and do everything they can to stop ACHA!
  • Tell them your health care story, and what these changes would mean for you.

How to reach your member of Congress:

(Don’t know who they are? Look it up here!)

Rosa DeLauro: DC Office – (202) 225-3661 | New Haven Office – (203) 562-3718

Elizabeth Esty: DC Office – (202) 225-4476 | New Britain Office – (860) 223-8412

Jim Himes: DC Office – (202) 225-5541 | Bridgeport Office – (203) 333-6600

Joe Courtney: DC Office – (202) 225-2076 | Norwich Office – (860) 886-0139

John Larson: DC Office – (202) 225-2265 | Hartford Office – (860) 278-8888

Contact friends and family in target districts:

Follow this link to see an updated list from The Hill of where key Republicans stand.

Members of Congress on the Undecided/Unclear list need to hear from people in their districts who oppose this bill.

If you have family or friends who live in these states, please contact them today and ask them to call their member of Congress to tell them to vote against this latest attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act.

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