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November 2017

A Great Week For Health Care (And It’s Only Wednesday)

To: Interested Parties

From: Brad Woodhouse, Protect Our Care Campaign Director

Date: November 8, 2017

Re: A Great Week For Health Care (And It’s Only Wednesday) — Open Enrollment Surges, VA Voters Reject Repeal and Maine Votes for Medicaid Expansion

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When Donald Trump was elected president a year ago, he and Republicans in Congress believed they would move quickly to repeal our health care. They were wrong. And last night, voters sent a resounding message: stop trying to take away and sabotage our health care. From Virginia and Maine to state legislative races across the country, voters made clear they reject partisan repeal and are looking for bipartisan solutions that build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act and lower costs and expand access.

This has been a good week for health care — and it’s only Wednesday.

First, we’re seeing a surge in open enrollment as people find affordable plans. Open enrollment began on November 1 and ends on December 15. Despite the Trump administration’s efforts to sabotage open enrollment — from cutting outreach advertisements by 90 percent and scheduling maintenance for during traditionally high sign-up times — people across the country are signing up for coverage. In fact, more than 200,000 people picked a plan on the first day of open enrollment — November 1 — more than double the number of people who chose a plan on the first day of last year’s open enrollment. Traffic to has increased 33 percent from last year. And the reason is simple: they can find an affordable plan that works for them and their budget. 8 out 10 can find a plan for less than $75 and most can find a plan for less than $50 per month. While people who receive financial help should see lower costs across the board, this year, bronze plans are much cheaper. In fact, in 85% of American counties a 55 year old couple making $40k a year can find a bronze plan for $0 per month.

Second, voters across the country rejected health care repeal and sabotage and supported pro-health care candidates. From Virginia to New Jersey to Maine and all around the country, voters rejected candidates who backed the GOP’s agenda of health care repeal and sabotage and embraced candidates who supported quality, affordable coverage for everyone.

  • In the Virginia gubernatorial race, health care was the #1 issue to voters (39%) — more than double any other issue. Among those voters, Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie by 54 points (77% to 23%). A new PPP poll showed voters said Gillespie’s support for repealing the Affordable Care Act made it less likely to vote for him by a 24 point margin, and 47 percent of voters said Ralph Northam’s approach to health care made them more likely to vote for him.

  • In Virginia delegate races, candidate after candidate backed Medicaid expansion and came away with upset wins.
  • In the New Jersey gubernatorial race, among the 19% who ranked health care their top issue, voters preferred Phil Murphy over Kim Guadagno, who opposed the Affordable Care Act, by 74 points (86–12).
  • In New Hampshire, Manchester Mayor-Elect Joyce Craig broke with the incumbent mayor to endorse Medicaid expansion and won a decisive victory.
  • In Florida, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, an outspoken supporter of the Affordable Care Act, was re-elected in a hotly-contested race.
  • In Georgia, two new state House members who won major upset victories backed Medicaid expansion, while their Republican opponents refused to do so.

Third, the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion proposal won on the ballot. In the first popular vote of its kind, Mainers voted to expand Medicaid, a key component of the Affordable Care Act that would provide access to coverage to 80,000 Mainers and create 3,000 jobs, by nearly 20 points with 59% of the vote. There was widespread support for the measure in all parts of the state, including rural areas. Unfortunately, Governor Paul LePage said he would continue to sabotage health care and not implement the policy. We need to continue to hold him and others who sabotage our care accountable.

What Does This Mean?

There are a few key lessons we should take away from this week.

  • Despite President Trump’s sabotage efforts and proclamation that the ACA is dead, people want affordable coverage and trust the ACA to provide it. The surge in sign-ups during the first week of open enrollment show people want to have quality, affordable coverage, despite all the fights going on in Washington, DC.
  • People overwhelmingly reject health repeal and sabotage. Last night’s election results are consistent with polls throughout this year that reject President Trump’s and Republican efforts to repeal and sabotage health care and want to find bipartisan solutions to improve health care. Those who continue to support these repeal efforts will pay a political price.
  • Health care is a winning issue and support for repeal is a loser. Candidates who embraced expanding coverage and providing quality, affordable health care to everyone were rewarded last night. Health care is a voting issue.
  • Voters want a bipartisan approach to health care. Members of Congress should listen to the message voters sent last night and pass the bipartisan proposal sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) that would reject repeal, keep premiums low and stabilize the marketplace.

Protect Our Care Releases “Health Care Wins” Video After Support for Health Care Dominates Big…

Last night, in races across the country, health care proved to be among the most decisive issues. It won in Maine, where the Affordable Care Act was on the ballot for the first time and Medicaid expansion was decisively approved. It won in the Virginia gubernatorial race, where it was the number one issue on the minds of voters. It played an important role in the New Jersey gubernatorial race. It won in numerous Virginia House of Delegates races. And it won across the country, helping those who are pro-health care expansion win races in New Hampshire, Florida and Georgia.

As the political analysts and reporters on cable and local news noted, health care is a winning issue for Democrats. This Protect Our Care video shows just how important an issue it is.

Support For Health Care Dominates 2017 Elections

From the night’s most important race — Virginia voters overwhelmingly cited health care as the most important issue and picked Ralph Northam by 54 points — to the Affordable Care’s first time on a state ballot — Maine voters “easily approved” a referendum expanding Medicaid — health care was the dominant issue across the country in the 2017 elections.

In New Hampshire, Mayor-Elect Joyce Craig broke with the incumbent mayor to endorse Medicaid expansion and won a decisive victory; in Virginia delegate races, candidate after candidate backed Medicaid expansion and came away with upset wins; and in Florida, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, an outspoken supporter of the Affordable Care Act, was re-elected in a hotly-contested race. And as the AP reports, with Utah and Idaho looking to expand Medicaid too, last night could be just the start…

Washington Post: In Virginia, the network exit poll asked respondents which one of five issues mattered most in deciding their vote for governor: 39 percent said health care, far more than any other issue. And health-care focused voters favored Northam by a giant 77 percent to 23 percent margin in preliminary exit polls.

Axios: Exit polls in Virginia showed that health care was the №1 issue for a plurality of voters — and 78% of those voters broke for Democrat Ralph Northam. Virginia already had a Democratic governor. The party’s immense gains in the state legislature, where past efforts to expand Medicaid failed, are what move it closer to reality.

CNBC: The Virginia results increased the likelihood that the state will vote to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Republicans had blocked outgoing Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe from achieving that goal. At the same time, voters in Maine took Medicaid expansion into their own hands by approving it in a referendum that overpowered opposition from Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Entrenching the expansion in a 32nd state — where Sen. Susan Collins has already cast a key vote against Obamacare repeal — makes Trump’s hope for reviving that effort even more remote.

Washington Post: Less than two months after Republicans’ latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act imploded, a purple state just made a decidedly blue-state move to essentially expand Obamacare. On Tuesday, Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid with a ballot initiative. And it passed overwhelmingly: Maine voters agreed to grant health care to an estimated 70,000 low-income residents by a nearly 20-percentage point margin by the time the measure was called by election watchers. In other words, a sizable number of voters in Maine just voted to do the exact opposite of what the state’s Republican governor and Republicans in Washington have been trying to do.

Richmond Times-Dispatch: The potentially stunning reversal of power in the House could break a political logjam over expansion of Medicaid in Virginia under the Affordable Care Act, if the federal law survives further attacks by Trump and Republicans in Congress. “It means that we will move forward with Medicaid expansion and have health care for everyone who needs it,” declared [Delegate-elect Debra Rodman], who made the issue a centerpiece of her campaign… “I will fight every day to protect our public schools, expand access to affordable health care, and create an economy that works for everybody,” [Delegate-elect Schuler VanValkenburg] said in his victory statement.

USA Today: Chris Hurst, 30, supported stricter gun safety measures, but centered his campaign around other issues including an expansion of Medicaid and increased funding for schools. Hurst was one of several upset winners in state House elections Tuesday that could tip the majority to Democrats when the final recounts are completed. “We can seize on this opportunity to expand Medicaid in the Commonwealth so that everybody who is working but living in poverty can have access to health insurance,” Hurst told a crowd of ecstatic supporters in Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech.

The Intercept: In a wide-ranging interview, [Delegate Bob Marshall] doubled down on hardline right-wing positions on issues like Medicaid expansion and transgender rights… When asked about blocking a Medicaid expansion that could benefit 400,000 people, he was defensive, suggesting that it’s simply too expensive. “Tell me which school program or transportation program you want to cut? You tell me, then I’ll tell you whether I agree with you or not,” he said, suggesting that expanding Medicaid would mean cutting other things. When asked why the state can’t just fund both things, given that the federal government is taking the lion’s share of Medicaid funding, he simply responded that it’s the same tax dollars. We followed up by asking about people who don’t receive care because they can’t afford it. “Excuse me, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Anybody can get emergency care at any hospital which services Medicaid, that’s a federal law,” he responded. We followed up once more, pointing out that people are going bankrupt from health care bills and that you can’t treat a long-term chronic condition through emergency room visits. “You are of an era that the only answers are coupled to federal money,” he said, pointing at us. But it appears that his era just ended.”

Politico: In his victory speech to supporters at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, Murphy tied his win to a backlash against the Trump administration. “We will stand firm for New Jersey’s values and push back against the mean winds blowing at us from Washington D.C.,” Murphy said, decrying “mean-spirited actions to gut our health care.”

New Hampshire Public Radio: The two candidates more or less saw eye to eye on the issue — that is, except when it came to re-upping Medicaid expansion. When asked by host Laura Knoy whether she’d advocate for keeping the state’s Medicaid Expansion program going, Craig replied, “absolutely,” saying it was crucial to addressing the drug epidemic. Gatsas on the other hand — said he wanted to wait to see what state lawmakers would do.

WMUR: Manchester voters have decided that the city will have its first-ever woman mayor in January, when Mayor-elect Joyce Craig takes the oath of office. The former alderman and school board member ousted four-term Mayor Ted Gatsas on Tuesday, winning nine of the city’s 12 wards.

Florida Politics: “Make no mistake, there is a fight in Washington D.C. about the future of health care,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. The mayor, facing a reelection election tomorrow that is too close to call, used the opportunity to tout his Healthy St. Pete initiative, which has been led by Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.

WTSP: Rick Kriseman defeated Rick Baker with 51 percent of the vote to earn a second term as mayor.

AP: The referendum represents the first time since the law took effect that the question of expansion had been put in front of U.S. voters… This may not be the last state vote. Backers of Medicaid expansion in Idaho and Utah have started similar efforts to get the question on the 2018 ballots in their own states.

Protect Our Care Statement On Maine Voters Passing Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid Expansion in Maine Shows Support for Affordable Access to Health Care, Rejection of Trump, LePage Efforts to Sabotage ACA

Washington, D.C. — In the first popular vote in any state to expand Medicaid, the voters of Maine overwhelmingly supported expansion of Medicaid tonight — a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite Republican Governor Paul LePage’s objections and vetoes, and the Republican Congress’s attempts to repeal and sabotage the ACA, voters spoke loud and clear — approving the measure by a vote of 59% to 40% and ensuring 80,000 Mainers get access to affordable health coverage.

“Tonight was the first voter referendum on a part of the Affordable Care Act — and voters voted in favor it, overwhelmingly,” said Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse. “Not only would extending Medicaid provide coverage for 80,000 more Mainers, it would create 3,000 jobs in the health care industry across the state. Republicans from President Trump to Governor LePage to Congressman Poliquin have repeatedly tried to take health care away from people and increase costs with a scheme of repeal and sabotage. Tonight, the voters of Maine fought back. This measure’s results are a clear signal that voters oppose health care repeal and want to keep and strengthen the Affordable Care Act. If that message doesn’t get through, expect voters to continue to express themselves just as they did tonight.”

The strong show of support for Medicaid expansion in Maine is also in stark contrast to new controversial sabotage announced by the Trump Administration today, which places new hurdles to Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of Americans, including dropping a requirement that such changes “increase and strengthen” health coverage. In its announcement, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma said the goal of Medicaid covering more people is a “hollow victory of numbers.” Tonight, the people of Maine vehemently disagreed.

Protect Our Care Blasts the Trump Administration’s Medicaid Changes as Offensive, Harmful and…

CMS’s New Criteria for State Changes to Medicaid will Deny Coverage to Hundreds of Thousands of Americans

Washington, D.C. — The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today new criteria for considering requests from states to make changes to their Medicaid programs, dropping the previous requirement that such changes must “increase and strengthen” health coverage for low-income Americans and instead encouraging proposals that place new hurdles to coverage like drug tests and work requirements. CMS Administrator Seema Verma, whose agency’s mission is to help Americans access health coverage through Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and the Health Insurance Marketplace, said in a statement that the goal of covering more people is a “hollow victory of numbers.” This, despite the fact that on its own website homepage CMS promotes that it’s efforts cover 100 million Americans.

Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse blasted the changes and Verma’s offensive comparison of people gaining access to health care with “hollow” “numbers.”

“The Trump Administration has once again shown that it will stop at nothing in its zeal to sabotage American health care even if it means harming hundreds of thousands of people and resorting to offensive, right-wing stereotypes about low-income Americans in the process,” said Woodhouse. “CMS is supposed to help people get health coverage, but today it offensively called coverage goals a ‘hollow victory of numbers,’ an Orwellian statement from the agency charged with administering Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and the Health Insurance Marketplace. These changes are shameful, harmful and wreak of the kind of right-wing rhetoric and policy choices that for decades have demeaned and stereotyped people who need health care but can’t afford it. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose coverage as a result of these changes — not because they don’t need, deserve or qualify, but because Donald Trump and Republicans want a talking point for their right-wing base. They should be ashamed.”

These changes are the opposite of the message Americans sent to Congress in defeating one effort after another to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was to improve and expand coverage rather than repeal it. Republican efforts to slash Medicaid and end Medicaid expansion were especially unpopular as countless Americans shared stories of how important access to Medicaid was to them and their families.

Statement Responding to Reports that President Trump Will Try to Unilaterally Repeal Health Care…

​In response to the news that President Donald Trump plans to sabotage the core building blocks of the Affordable Care Act through an executive order to repeal the individual mandate and has delayed signing the order in an attempt to get a repeal of the individual mandate into the GOP tax bill, Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement:

“This is absurd,” said Woodhouse. “President Trump continues to play politics with people’s health care and sabotage the Affordable Care Act to pay for tax cuts for the super rich. The American people have made clear time and again that they do not support repeal, and repealing the mandate, whether by executive order or legislation, would unravel the Affordable Care Act and sow chaos in the health insurance market. This latest health care sabotage would raise premiums 20 percent and kick 15 million people off of their health insurance to pay for millionaires and billionaires to get a massive tax cut. It’s immoral and wrong to sacrifice the health care of millions of people so Trump’s children won’t have to pay taxes on what they inherit and so hedge fund managers and Wall Street financiers can continue to pay less tax on their earnings than their secretaries.

“Taking away health care for millions of people to give massive tax cuts to the wealthy few has sunk previous repeal attempts, as well as the approval rating of the President and congressional Republicans. Adding health care repeal to the tax bill should doom this legislation, as well. It’s time to move on from repeal.”

Response to Paul Ryan’s Announcement That Health Care Repeal May Be Part of GOP Tax Plan

On Fox News Sunday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans are considering health care repeal as part of their tax plan currently being debated in Congress. Just yesterday, in the New York Times, GOP Senator Susan Collins warned Republicans not to try to repeal health care as part of the tax debate. Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement in response:

“Really?” said Woodhouse. “The American people have repeatedly rejected the idea of repealing health care, and they hate it even more if it’s just used to pay for more tax breaks for billionaires and big corporations. Even GOP Senators oppose using the tax plan as a backdoor way to repeal health care, but that’s not stopping some Republicans — including apparently Speaker Ryan — from suggesting it so they can keep President Trump happy. Doing this would increase the number of uninsured by 15 million and raise premiums twenty percent to give a high-income tax cut to the wealthy. It’s time to move on.”

GOP Tax Bill Will Raise Costs for Middle-Class Families And Could Result In 15 Million Fewer People…

Having repeatedly failed to repeal health care, President Trump and Republicans in Congress want to use their tax cut bill to try again. Republicans proposed paying for their huge tax cut for the rich in part by eliminating a tax deduction for people with high medical costs. In addition, there are talks of repealing the individual responsibility provision in the Affordable Care Act as another way to pay for these tax cuts. Repealing these two provisions would adversely impact people who need health care the most and raise costs on everyone. Here is the impact of the GOP’s latest effort to repeal health care:

  • 15 million more uninsured. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the individual responsibility provision would result in 15 million more people uninsured.
  • 20 percent higher premiums. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated repealing the individual responsibility provision would raise premiums 20 percent next year.
  • Higher costs for seniors in long-term care. The House GOP bill eliminates a tax deduction for people with costly health care bills, including long-term care.
  • Higher costs for people with pre-existing conditions. Repealing the individual responsibility provision would lead to the so-called “death spiral” in the individual market. In other words, younger and healthier people would not sign up for coverage, making coverage more expensive for older and sicker people.

Protect Our Care Statement on GOP Once Again Targeting Health Care to Pay for Tax Breaks for the…

In response to the House GOP releasing its tax plan today that would eliminate a tax deduction for people with high medical costs, Protect Our Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“This would be a joke if the consequences weren’t so serious,” Woodhouse said. “The GOP just can’t help themselves. No matter the policy proposal under consideration, Republican leaders are determined to raise health care costs for middle-class families who need it most — in this case people with high medical costs or those paying for long-term care — so they can give more tax cuts to the rich. The American people want us to lower their health care costs. This tax plan would raise them for the sole purpose of funding more tax breaks for the well-to-do. If the GOP thinks passing tax breaks for the rich is hard now, try raising people’s health care costs to pay for them — we’ll be sure to make it even harder.”

Trump Administration Failing at Open Enrollment Outreach

Protect Our Care Blasts Trump for Bare Bones Outreach Efforts as Open Enrollment, Which Runs From Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, Begins

Washington, D.C. — As open enrollment for coverage through began yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration is continuing its campaign of sabotage, having sent 20 million fewer outreach notices than in previous years. This follows the administration’s slashing of the outreach budget by 90 percent.

“Donald Trump is hell-bent on sabotaging American health care no matter how many people it harms,” said Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse. “Open enrollment is the best opportunity for people without health insurance to get the coverage they need. It’s critical that consumers know what’s available to them, how low costs can be and that it’s time to sign up. But the Trump administration is too busy trying to undermine the law, and this half-baked attempt at open enrollment is sabotage.”

The administration’s bare-bones emails explain the absolute minimum to consumers: open enrollment start and end dates, a warning that the enrollment period is shorter this year and a statement that people “can confirm, change or update” a plan. The emails do not include information on the affordability of many plans on the marketplace or about the availability of cost-sharing reductions, not the fact that marketplace plans for less than $75 per month are available to 8 in 10 people.

Furthermore, the administration is not sending emails to millions of consumers who were previously insured through the marketplace or had explored the website.

“The American people already blame President Trump and congressional Republicans for the uncertainty around health care, and Americans oppose their efforts at repeal and sabotage,” continued Woodhouse. “Open enrollment is a critical component of ensuring the health care law succeeds. If this administration insists on sabotaging open enrollment and undermining the health care of the American people, you can bet President Trump and Republicans in Congress will be held accountable.”