Monthly Archives

October 2018

Raleigh Local Leaders Gather to Say, “It’s Time to End the Republican War on Health Care”

Linda Coleman, Local Health Care Advocates Join Protect Our Care to Call for an End to GOP Attacks on North Carolinians’ Health Care

Linda Coleman speaks on the Halifax Mall in Raleigh.

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – This afternoon, Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour arrived in Raleigh to call attention to the ongoing Republican war on health care care. Headlined by Linda Coleman, Allison Dahle, Mack Paul, and health care advocate Laura Packard, the event highlighted the actions Republicans are taking to harm North Carolinians’ care and called on Rep. George Holding to work instead to protect our care.

“It’s a crisis. We’ve got to make sure we protect people with pre-existing conditions,” said Linda Coleman. “As soon as the the 2019 session begins, every Republican is going to vote to repeal whatever protections they have already gutted, and so what’s going to be left is nothing. We’ve got to fight to make sure people have the right to quality, affordable, accessible health care.”

Coleman’s thoughts were echoed by Mack Paul and Allison Dahle.

“400,000 adults, 150,000 children could be covered if we expanded Medicaid,” said Paul. “These are people who are not going to the doctor when they need to, end up in the emergency room, folks who would become bankrupt if they have a severe medical situation. We need to support that. It’s time we put people ahead of politics.”

“If we were to expand Medicaid, people could actually get their health care,” said Dahle, echoing Paul’s comments on the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who have been denied coverage due to Republicans’ actions. “I am ready to expand Medicaid so that we have more alternatives for more people to provide a better health and a better future for North Carolina.”

The importance of Coleman, Paul, and Dahle’s comments were made clear by cancer survivor Laura Packard.

“I’m alive because of the Affordable Care Act,” said Packard. “I’m a stage four cancer survivor and I’m on this tour to defend our attacks against the GOP. President Trump may have blocked me on Twitter, but he can’t stop me and the American people from fighting to protect our care.”

Coleman, Paul, Dahle, and Packard were joined by Dr. Eleanor Greene, former president of the North Carolina Medical Board, who spoke of the difficulty her patients faced before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law and the consequences repeal would bring, and Stacy Staggs, whose daughters were born prematurely and are covered by Medicaid, who spoke of the importance of maintaining this crucial program.

At today’s event, Raleigh residents, health care advocates, elected officials, and members of Protect Our Care detailed the numbers ways in which Republicans have attacked health care, and how these actions have cut coverage and increased costs for North Carolinians’. Because of the Republican repeal-and-sabotage agenda:

  • North Carolinians have seen years of premium increases.  It’s expected that 40 year old North Carolinians will face paying an extra $1,440 for marketplace coverage in 2019 because of Republican sabotage of the health care market.
  • In North Carolina, out of pocket costs for older people could have increased by as much as $21,018 by 2026 if the House-passed American Health Care Act had become law.
  • As many as 400,000 North Carolinians have been denied access to affordable health coverage through Republican state officials’ refusal to expand Medicaid.
  • Junk insurance plans that charge money for skimpy coverage could return to North Carolina and 402,000 North Carolinians could lack comprehensive coverage in 2019 because they will either become uninsured or will be enrolled in junk plans that don’t provide key health benefits.
  • More than 450,000 North Carolinians who have obtained health insurance through the ACA marketplace could lose their coverage if a judge sides with President Trump and the GOP in their lawsuit; and protections for 3.9 million North Carolinians  living with a pre-existing condition would be in jeopardy.
  • Hundreds of billions of dollars have been cut from Medicare.
  • Dozens of hospitals in rural areas have closed, including five in North Carolina, exacerbating the care and coverage gaps that exist for families in America’s rural communities.
  • Rep. George Holding voted for and passed a health care repeal bill that would cause 23 million people to lose coverage and gut protections for people with pre-existing condition; voted for a budget amendment that would cut Medicaid by $700 billion over ten years, $114 billion in a single year alone; voted for a tax scam that doubled as a sneaky repeal of the Affordable Care Act  by kicking 13 million people off of their insurance and raising premiums by double digits for millions more.

Tomorrow, “Care Force One” will head to Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, please visit protectourcarebustour.com.

Trump’s Speech: “A Desperate Attempt to Mask Republican Efforts to Gut Protections For Preexisting Conditions And Allow Insurance Companies to Deny Coverage for Prescription Drugs.”

Another PR Stunt that Will Do Little to Bring Down Costs for Americans

Remember: Health Repeal Bills and GOP’s ACA Lawsuit would Repeal Prescription Drug Coverage for Millions of Americans; Junk Plans Pushed by Trump Don’t Require Any Prescription Drug Coverage

 

Washington, D.C. – Ahead of President Trump’s latest effort to hide the truth of the Republican war on health care, Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, released the following statement:

 

“Donald Trump’s speech fails the one in four Americans struggling to afford the prescription drugs they need. Today’s speech flouts  Trump’s campaign promise to let Medicare negotiate drug pricing for drugs sold in pharmacies, and it does nothing to change the fact that Trump and Republicans called for, voted to, and are now suing to repeal the requirements in current law that prescription drugs are covered in insurance plans.

 

“Between their efforts to repeal prescription drug coverage in Congress and the courts and their work to push junk plans that don’t cover prescription drugs, Trump’s posturing on drug prices is as outrageous as Trump’s professed care and concern for people with pre-existing conditions. Making this announcement 13 days before an election where health care is the number one issue to voters just goes to show the desperation of a president who has led a GOP war on health care and who promised prescription drug price cuts, while drug costs go up for Americans at the same time drug company profits  skyrocket.”

BACKGROUND:

 

 

  • After Trump Promised Prescription Drug Price Cuts, Costs Went Way Up. In May, President Trump promised that prescription drug price cuts would be coming in “two weeks.” Months later, the Financial Times reported that several drugmakers raised their prices significantly, including double-digit increases in many cases, and an analysis by the Associated Press found “there were 395 price increases and 24 decreases” in the wake of the announcement and “the two dozen cuts were up from the 15 decreases in those same two months last year.”

 

 

  • Drug Prices Continue To Soar Under Trump. From January 1 to July 31 of this year, the Associated Press found there were 96 price hikes for every price cut this year. A recent report by Senate Democrats finds that the prices of the 20 most-prescribed drugs under Medicare Part D have increased substantially over the past five years, rising 10 times faster than inflation. Another report from the Pharmacy Benefits Consultants finds that over the past 14 months, 20 prescription drugs saw list-price increases of more than 200 percent.

 

 

  • Trump’s Previous Announcement Was Described As A “Big Win” For Big Pharma. In May, President Trump gave a speech billed as a major policy initiative to lower prescription drug costs. The phony speech was described as everything from a “big win” for pharmaceutical companies to him “[backing] out of his own plan to make drugs cheaper.” Said one drug lobbyist: “A lot of this [stuff] is meaningless to satisfy Trump.”

 

 

 

  • Drug Companies Using Windfall From GOP Tax Scam To Pad Investors’ Pockets. In February, Axios reported that America’s largest pharmaceutical companies were using their windfall from the GOP tax scam to drive up their own stock prices to the tune of $50 billion, “a sum that towers over investments in employees or drug research and development.”

 

 

 

  • Trump Installed Big Pharma Executives In Key Administration Posts. President Trump installed a former Eli Lily executive, Alex Azar, as his secretary of Health and Human Services and his appointment of Scott Gottlieb at FDA was described as “music to pharma’s ears.” Other pharma lobbyists writing Trump’s health policy include senior adviser at FDA, Keagan Lenihan, who joined the administration after lobbying for the drug distribution giant McKesson, former Gilead lobbyist, Joe Grogan, who reviews health care regulations at the Office of Management and Budget, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Lance Leggitt, who has lobbied for a variety of drug-industry clients.

 

 

Trump Lied Today on Pre-Existing Conditions and You Can Bet He Will Lie Tomorrow — Just Like Republicans Have Been Lying on the Trail

As President Trump prepares to deliver a speech tomorrow at HHS, there can be no doubt he will repeat the lie that he and other Republicans are defenders of pre-existing conditions protections for the 130 million Americans that depend on them for their health and economic security.

“President Trump and Republicans are gaslighting America, all because their deeply unpopular war on health care is totally at odds with what voters want,” said Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care. “Another day, another pack of lies from the GOP.”

Here’s the truth about how Trump has taken a sledgehammer to health care and pre-existing conditions protections, as well as some of the top Republicans aiding and abetting the president in his ongoing war on health care.

ONE: A Republican lawsuit could wipe out protections for people with pre-existing conditions virtually overnight.

Key players: Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and Scott Walker’s Attorney General Brad Schimel.

TWO: Republicans have expanded junk plans that allow insurers to discriminate against pre-existing conditions and are expected to drive up the cost of care.

Key players: Current HHS Secretary and former drug executive Alex Azar, Montana Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale,

THREE: Republicans passed a repeal bill just last summer that would have let insurers go back to discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.

Key players: Just about every Republican member of Congress, including Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Jim Renacci (R-OH), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Brian Mast (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), Jason Lewis (R-MN), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Troy Balderson (R-OH), John Culberson (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Scott Taylor (R-VA), and David Brat (R-VA).

FOUR: Republicans still want to repeal health care.

Key players: Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Wisconsin state Senator Leah Vukmir, Pete Sessions (R-TX), Scott Perry (R-PA), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Dave Brat (R-VA).

FIVE: Republicans keep raiding Medicaid, by the hundreds of billions of dollars, in order to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy.

Key players: Trump’s economic chief Larry Kudlow, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and just about every Republican member of Congress that voted for tax breaks for the wealthiest.

SIX: Many Republicans are restricting access to Medicaid, preventing millions of Americans from receiving life-saving health care.

Key players: Trump’s CMS head Seema Verma, Trump’s Medicaid director Mary Mayhew, Florida Governor Rick Scott, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Maine Governor Paul LePage.

Care Force One Barnstorms Missouri

Protect Our Care Calls Out Josh Hawley’s Crusade Against Care Statewide

If the myriad mailers didn’t make it clear, the big blue bus parked near the Country Club Plaza should have: Health care is dominating [the election],” says Kansas City Star

Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour arrived in Missouri this week to sound the alarm about Republicans’ ongoing efforts to repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Events in Kansas City, Springfield and St.Louis were headlined by former secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius, Neera Tanden, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, state Representative Crystal Quade and attorneys Sharice Davids and Cort VanOstran. Residents and health care advocates joined them to detail the numerous ways in which Republicans have attacked health care, specifically calling on Attorney General Josh Hawley, Congressman Kevin Yoder, Congressman Billy Long and Congresswoman Ann Wagner to end their attacks on health care.

“Instead of protecting people with pre-existing conditions, politicians like Attorney General Josh Hawley and Congressman Kevin Yoder have joined the assault against them – forcing millions of families across Missouri and Kansas to live in fear of their coverage being taken away,” said Secretary Sebelius. “These Republicans have tried every trick in the book to let insurance companies go back to discriminating against people based on their medical histories. I’ve seen first-hand the lifesaving impact these protections have had, and today people across the heartland are standing up, speaking out and calling on Republicans to stop this harmful war on health care once and for all.”

“The war on health care has already taken a devastating toll on families and communities – driving up premiums, shuttering rural hospitals, and forcing people with pre-existing conditions to live in fear of once again being denied coverage,” said Neera Tanden. “Today we’re here to sound the alarm: the Trump administration and its GOP allies need to stop siding with insurance companies and start putting the people of Missouri first.”

In Kansas City, Paul Washington discussed his fears for his son, who was diagnosed with cancer, if protections for pre-existing conditions are removed. Beth Partin, a cancer survivor, shared how protections in the ACA allow her to afford regular screening and preventative care. Joe Tilleray, a college student from Overland Park, spoke about life with cystic fibrosis. Laura Roberson, whose son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, detailed the impact of the GOP’s sabotage efforts on her family.

In St. Louis, Elinor Simmons discussed being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and her concerns that the war on health care will put her coverage at risk. Teresa Johnson, the mother of a child with Down Syndrome and other serious health conditions, shared how Senator Claire McCaskill helped him get the care he needed at home. And Dr. Pam Gronemeyer, a pathologist, talked how health care is a human right.

In Springfield, Cheyenne Mauzy shared her fears for her son who was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder and the impact if protections for pre-existing conditions are removed. John Mihalevich provided his perspective as a retired doctor on the impact of the state legislature’s failure to expand Medicaid and the devastation that has caused in rural communities.

After Missouri, Care Force One travels to Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. You can view all the upcoming stops here.

If Republicans Are Serious About The Opioid Epidemic, They Need To End Their Assault On Health Care

To get serious about opioids, Republicans need to stop their assault on Medicaid, quit pushing the sale of junk plans and end their relentless war on our health care,” says Leslie Dach

Washington DC – This week, President Trump and Congressional Republicans continue their campaign of deception, attempting to cloak themselves as caring about health care when instead they have waged a war on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. While the Trump administration claims the legislation they are signing will address the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, their recent calls for cuts to Medicaid — which pays for one-fifth of all substance abuse treatments nationwide — and continual expansion and promotion of junk plans without substance use disorder coverage tells another story. Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement in response:

“Let’s be clear, President Trump and his Republicans are doing more to undermine efforts to address the opioid crisis than they doing to help those Americans who are suffering. In reality, Trump and his allies are undermining the fight against the opioid crisis by raiding Medicaid for hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and by making it easier for insurance companies to sell junk plans without mental health or substance use disorder treatment coverage. To get serious about opioids, Republicans need to stop their assault on Medicaid, quit pushing the sale of junk plans and end their relentless war on our health care.”  

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

MEDICAID GIVES STATES MORE RESOURCES TO ADDRESS THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC

Medicaid Is Part Of The Solution To Curbing Opioid Epidemic. “Medicaid is the most powerful vehicle available to states to fund coverage of prevention and treatment for their residents at risk for or actively battling opioid addiction….The greatest opportunity to address this crisis is in those states that have elected to expand Medicaid, given the greater reach of the program, additional tools available, and the increased availability of federal funds.” [State Health Reform Assistance Network, July 2016]

Thanks To Medicaid Expansion, The Uninsured Rate For Opioid-Related Hospitalizations Dropped In Expansion States. “In Medicaid expansion states, the uninsured rate for opioid-related hospitalizations plummeted by 79 percent, from 13.4 percent in 2013 (the year before expansion implementation) to 2.9 percent in 2015.  The decline in non-expansion states was a much more modest 5 percent, from 17.3 percent in 2013 to 16.4 percent in 2015.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/28/18]

Just This Week, An Associated Press Study Affirmed That “Medicaid Expansion States Had A Running Start On The Opioid Crisis.”In states that expanded Medicaid, the insurance program already covers addiction treatment for nearly everyone who is poor and needs it. Medicaid allows states to go beyond the basics with the grant money, while non-expansion states have to fill in for basic needs with fewer dollars, said Brendan Saloner, an addiction researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In effect, Medicaid expansion states had a running start on the opioid crisis, while states without the extra Medicaid funding hastened to catch up…States that did not expand Medicaid spent $2,645 per patient on opioid addiction treatment on average. Expansion states spent $1,581 per patient for treatment. States that did not expand Medicaid spent $1,170 per person served on recovery support services. Expansion states spent $446 per person served on recovery.” [Associated Press, 10/22/18]

(Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/28/18)

In States Without Medicaid Expansion, Grant Funds Are Spent At A Faster Rate.  An analysis of state use of opioid grant money found states that have expanded Medicaid spend the grant funds at a slower pace than non-expansion states, because Medicaid already covers addiction treatment for the low-income population, allowing the state to direct the grant money to invest in new infrastructure. Non-expansion states spent 71 percent of their grant money in the first year, compared to 59 percent spent by expansion states. [AP, 10/22/18]

Medicaid Expansion Has Improved Access To Substance Treatment Services. “Evidence also suggests that Medicaid expansion improved access to substance use treatment services more broadly. After expanding Medicaid, Kentucky experienced a 700 percent increase in Medicaid beneficiaries using substance use treatment services.  Use of treatment services rose nationally as well; one study found that expanding Medicaid reduced the unmet need for substance use treatment by 18.3 percent.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/28/18]

Medicaid Helps Make Buprenorphine And Naloxone, Drugs Used To Treat Opioid Use Disorder, Affordable. “These data are consistent with other evidence that Medicaid expansion is improving access to care for people with opioid use and other substance use disorders. Medicaid makes medications like buprenorphine and naloxone, which are prescribed to combat opioid use disorders, affordable for beneficiaries.“ [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/28/18]

JUNK PLANS HURT PEOPLE WITH OPIOID USE DISORDER

Short-Term Junk Plans Can Refuse To Cover Essential Health Benefits, Like Mental Health Treatment. “Typical short-term policies do not cover maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health care, preventive care, and other essential benefits, and may limit coverage in other ways.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

Short-Term Plans May Exclude Coverage For Pre-Existing Conditions. “Policyholders who get sick may be investigated by the insurer to determine whether the newly-diagnosed condition could be considered pre-existing and so excluded from coverage.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

  • As Many As 130 Million Nonelderly Americans Have A Pre-Existing Condition. [Center for American Progress, 4/5/17]
  • One in 4 Children Would Be Impacted If Insurance Companies Could Deny Coverage Or Charge More Because Of A Pre-existing Condition. [Center for American Progress, 4/5/17]

Junk Plans Mean Higher Premiums For People With Pre-Existing Conditions. “By promoting short-term policies, the administration is making a trade-off: lower premiums and less coverage for healthy people, and higher premiums for people with preexisting conditions who need more comprehensive coverage.” [Washington Post, 5/1/18]

Under Many Short-Term Junk Plans, Benefits Are Capped At $1 Million Or Less. Short-term plans can impose lifetime and annual limits –  “for example, many policies cap covered benefits at $1 million or less.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

REPUBLICANS PLEDGE TO SLASH HEALTH CARE TO PAY FOR THEIR TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY:

Last week, Mitch McConnell Blamed Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for the massive increase in the debt, calling for cuts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed “bipartisan reluctance” to reform federal entitlement programs for the rising federal deficit, which the Treasury Department said Monday reached $779 billion in 2018.  “There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs,” McConnell told Bloomberg News. “Hopefully at some point here, we’ll get serious about this.”

Last month, Larry Kudlow, Director of the National Economic Council, confirmed that he has his sights on cutting Medicare. Asked when programs like Social Security and Medicare will be looked at for reforms, Kudlow replied, “Everyone will look at that — probably next year.”

Paul Ryan on Medicare: “It’s the biggest entitlement we’ve got to reform.” Paul Ryan, December 6, 2017: “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit…Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements…In- think the president is understanding that choice and competition works everywhere in health care, especially in Medicare…This has been my big thing for many, many years. I think it’s the biggest entitlement we’ve got to reform.”

President Trump and Congressional Republicans are targeting Medicare and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest. Last December, President Trump signed a $1.5 trillion tax bill that disproportionately benefits the wealthy. How do Republicans plan on paying for it? Speaker Ryan’s answer is clear: “Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt.” In an attempt to pay for these tax cuts, in April, House Republicans passed a budget amendment that would slash Medicare funding by $537 billion over the next decade.

Congressional Republicans proposed these cuts after passing a budget resolution last year that cut Medicare by $473 billion. The 2018 budget resolution passed by Republicans in December 2017 cut Medicare by $473 billion.

Congressional Republicans Voted to Slash An Additional $1.3 Trillion From Medicaid and other Health Care Programs. The 2018 budget resolution passed by Republicans in December 2017 cut non-Medicare health programs, most notably Medicaid, by $1.3 trillion, a 20 percent cut over the course of 10 years, increasing to a 29.3 percent cut by 2027.

ROUNDUP: Experts Slam Trump’s Backdoor Repeal through 1332 Waivers

Experts condemned the Trump Administration’s new federal policy to water down the guardrails ensuring health insurance plans sold in states that are seeking approvals of “1332 waivers” provide the full range of benefits and the cost-sharing protections in the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a look:

Larry Levitt, Senior Vice President Of Kaiser Family Foundation: Trump 1332 Waiver Guidance Gives States Much The Same Flexibility As Repeal Would. “Republicans couldn’t repeal and replace the ACA last year, but this guidance gives states the flexibility to shift the law in much the same way…It’s hard to overstate how much flexibility states will have under the Trump administration’s new guidance for ACA waivers,” he said. “This will likely widen the gap between red states and blue states for access, affordability, regulation, and protections for pre-existing conditions.” [Business Insider, 10/22/18]

HuffPost: 1332 Waiver Rule Change “Almost Certainly Means That, Overall, People With Serious Medical Problems Are Likely To Have A Harder Time Finding Coverage.” “But Monday’s rule change almost certainly means that, overall, people with serious medical problems are likely to have a harder time finding coverage ― and, ultimately, paying their medical bills. Under guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services that takes effect immediately but likely won’t affect insurance markets for another year, state governments will have new leeway to request waivers from some of the federal health care law’s core requirements…But this latest regulatory change is a reminder that the GOP has never given up on its goal of wiping ‘Obamacare’ off the books, and that people with serious medical problems are likely to suffer as a result.” [HuffPost, 10/22/18]

Axios: The Waiver Announced Yesterday “Could Add Up To One Of Its Most Substantive Blows Yet Against The Affordable Care Act.” “As in-the-weeds as a revised waiver process sounds, the practical effects of what the Trump administration announced yesterday could add up to one of its most substantive blows yet against the Affordable Care Act…Under the Obama administration, states seeking a waiver from the ACA’s rules had to show that their alternatives would cover just as many people as the ACA, with insurance that’s just as robust, for the same cost. That’s why only 8 waivers have ever been granted. But under the Trump administration’s approach, if the same number of people have access to ACA-level coverage, that’ll count — even if few of them actually choose it.” [Axios, 10/23/18]

Sabrina Corlette, Research Professor At Georgetown University: New Guidance Essentially Means That It’s Okay If Certain Subpopulations Are Harmed So Long As Things Work Out In Aggregate. “‘The guidance under Obama… meant that a state’s plan couldn’t result in fewer people enrolled in affordable, comprehensive coverage,’ Corlette explained. ‘This new guidance is saying that so long as people in the state have ‘access’ to [comprehensive] coverage, it doesn’t matter what they actually do… If un-insurance spikes or there’s a big movement to [less comprehensive plans] a state won’t get dinged for that.’ Corlette noted that the Obama administration insisted that state waivers not hurt certain vulnerable populations, including those with severe medical needs. ‘This is saying that so long as things work out in the aggregate, then it’s OK if certain subpopulations are harmed,’ she said.” [HuffPost, 10/22/18]

Waiver Could Allow States To Let Residents Use Subsidies Intended For Comprehensive Coverage To Cover Junk Plans. “Perhaps the biggest change states could enact would involve who would receive Obamacare’s federal premium subsidies, which have been critical to sustaining enrollment in recent years. Currently, subsidies can only be used to buy policies on the exchanges and can only go to those who earn less than 400% of the poverty level (just over $48,500 for a single person or $100,000 for a family of four). States could file waivers asking to provide subsidies to those buying short-term health plans, for instance, Verma said on a call with reporters. The Trump administration is pushing these policies, which have terms of less than a year, as a more affordable alternative to Obamacare. These plans typically have lower premiums so they could be more attractive to younger and healthier people who may not need all of the benefits required under Obamacare.” [CNN, 10/22/18]

New York Times: Timing Of The Announcement Was “Puzzling” Coming Just Before An Election In Which Protection Of People With Pre-existing Conditions Has Been Top Tier Issue. “Coming two weeks before Election Day, the new policy appeared to be a political gift to Democrats, who are making health care a potent campaign theme…The timing of the announcement, just before an election in which the protection of people with pre-existing conditions has been a top-tier issue, was puzzling.” [New York Times, 10/22/18]

Trump Administration Opening Door For States To Gut Protections For People With Pre-existing Conditions. “But the latest administration proposal to weaken insurance standards comes as President Trump and Republican congressional candidates are intensifying their bid to convince voters that the GOP backs patient protections in the 2010 law, often called Obamacare…The new proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department would not explicitly scrap the law’s protections, which bar health plans from denying coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions. But the administration plan would dramatically reshape rules established by the 2010 law that were designed to prevent states from weakening these protections.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/22/18]

“October Surprise”: Trump Goes Straight After Pre-existing Conditions Protections in Latest Front of GOP War on Health Care

“Trump’s ‘October Surprise’ is to prove once and for all that Republicans don’t care about protecting people with pre-existing conditions or making health care more affordable,” says Brad Woodhouse

Washington, DC – One year ago — after the American people rose up to defeat health care repeal — the Trump Administration issued an executive order outlining three ways that it would circumvent the will of the public and roll back health care protections in the Affordable Care Act. Today, the Trump administration has checked all three things off its list: this summer, it eased restrictions on junk plans (association health plans, or AHPs, and short-term health plans, or STLDIs); yesterday it made it easier for states to allow insurance companies to sell junk plans, and today it announced it has expanded health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), over the overwhelming opposition of health care experts and advocates. In response, Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“It’s the trifecta of health care sabotage: not satisfied with just undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions or pushing junk plans for individuals, now the Trump Administration is working to undermine comprehensive employer coverage, as well. Trump’s ‘October Surprise’ is to prove once and for all that Republicans don’t care about protecting people with pre-existing conditions or making health care more affordable. If we know one thing to be true, it’s that the GOP’s ongoing war on America’s health care isn’t slowing down — in fact, it’s on overdrive as long as they have power.”

EXPANSION OF HRAs WILL FURTHER ERODE AMERICANS’ ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE

Standalone HRAs By Definition Contain An Annual Limit and Are Not Required to Cover Certain Preventive Services. “The ACA requires group health plans to meet certain standards that HRAs can’t meet, specifically the ban on annual and lifetime limits and the requirement to cover certain preventive services at no cost to plan enrollees. (HRAs by definition contain an annual limit on the amount of the employer’s contribution, and they are just accounts that do not cover any benefits.)” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11/29/17]

Increasing Access To Standalone HRAs Could Incentivize Businesses To Offer Limited Coverage HRAs Instead Of Full Health Coverage. “If the Administration attempts to broaden the availability of such “standalone” HRAs, that would likely prompt fewer businesses to offer health coverage to their employees.  Workers who now have good coverage and substantial contributions from an employer could see those benefits dropped and replaced with an HRA that leaves them paying higher premiums for less comprehensive coverage than what they have today.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11/29/17]

HRAs Could Raise Premiums in the Individual Market By Drawing Healthy People Out Of Individual Market. “Depending on the specific proposals, and what employers do in response, HRAs could negatively affect the individual market by moving more high-cost people into that risk pool, raising overall premiums, and leaving other individual-market consumers and the federal government (through the premium tax credit) paying more.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 11/29/17]

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, America’s Health Insurance plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, Epilepsy Foundation, Families USA, March of Dimes, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society Are Opposed to Expanding HRAs: “Expanding and extending short-term, limited-duration health plans, increasing enrollment in Association Health Plans (AHPs), and relaxing rules for employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) all increase adverse selection in insurance markets that serve millions of individuals and employers. We are concerned that this could create or expand alternative, parallel markets for health coverage, which would lead to higher premiums for consumers, particularly those with pre-existing conditions. Further, these actions destabilize the health insurance markets that guarantee access to comprehensive health coverage regardless of health status.” [Letter to State Departments of Insurance, 12/14/17]

1332 WAIVERS WITHOUT APPROPRIATE GUARDRAILS MAKES IT EASIER FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES TO SELL JUNK PLANS

  • Protections for people with pre-existing conditions would be essentially meaningless. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said allowing states to waive essential health benefits “could render those protections meaningless” for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • It would be harder for people with pre-existing conditions to get affordable coverage. As Consumers Union stated, allowing states to waive essential health benefits would be “putting meaningful coverage out of reach for many Americans, especially those with chronic and pre-existing conditions.”
  • You could pay more for the same coverage. 1332 waivers allow states to adjust the amount of premium tax credits and cost-sharing consumers receive to help lower their costs. Without the guardrail to ensure coverage is just as affordable, many consumers could end up paying more for the same care.
  • Insurers would not have to cover essential benefits, like maternity care. Right now, every insurance plan must cover the 10 essential health benefits. Because states could opt out of covering these basic benefits, insurers would likely only offer policies that covered much less than they do now. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the benefits most likely to no longer be covered would be maternity care, mental health or substance abuse coverage. According to the Brookings Institution, the result would be “that no one in a state’s individual market that waived EHBs would have access to comprehensive coverage. Insurers would likely sell separate policies for benefits not covered in their core plan offerings, but these supplemental policies would be subject to tremendous adverse selection, leading to very high premiums and enrollment almost exclusively by those with pre-existing conditions.” For example, a woman who purchases a separate insurance rider for maternity care would have to pay $17,320 more, according to the Center for American Progress. For states that no longer required substance use disorders or mental health to be covered, coverage for drug dependence treatment could cost an extra $20,450.
  • Insurers could reimpose lifetime and annual limits. Allowing states to opt out of the essential health benefits coverage means that insurance companies could once again put lifetime and annual limits on the amount of care you receive. Moreover, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, this would even impact people with coverage from their employer: “The ACA’s prohibition on annual and lifetime limits is tied to the definition of Essential Health Benefits. Thus, repeal of Essential Health Benefit standards could make this protection meaningless, putting almost all Americans with private health insurance coverage — not just those with individual or small-group market coverage — at risk.” The Center for American Progress estimates that 20 million people with health coverage through their employer would face lifetime limits on coverage, and 27 million would face annual limits.

JUNK PLANS HURT PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS PROTECTIONS

Short-Term Junk Plans Can Refuse To Cover Essential Health Benefits. “Typical short-term policies do not cover maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health care, preventive care, and other essential benefits, and may limit coverage in other ways.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

Short-Term Plans May Exclude Coverage For Pre-Existing Conditions. “Policyholders who get sick may be investigated by the insurer to determine whether the newly-diagnosed condition could be considered pre-existing and so excluded from coverage.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

  • As Many As 130 Million Nonelderly Americans Have A Pre-Existing Condition. [Center for American Progress, 4/5/17]
  • One in 4 Children Would Be Impacted If Insurance Companies Could Deny Coverage Or Charge More Because Of A Pre-existing Condition. [Center for American Progress, 4/5/17]

Junk Plans Mean Higher Premiums For People With Pre-Existing Conditions. “By promoting short-term policies, the administration is making a trade-off: lower premiums and less coverage for healthy people, and higher premiums for people with preexisting conditions who need more comprehensive coverage.” [Washington Post, 5/1/18]

Under Many Short-Term Junk Plans, Benefits Are Capped At $1 Million Or Less. Short-term plans can impose lifetime and annual limits –  “for example, many policies cap covered benefits at $1 million or less.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 2/9/18]

Trump Administration Deals Devastating Blow to Pre-existing Conditions Coverage & Other Health Insurance Protections

This is yet another blatant example of their repeal and sabotage agenda, and proof of their ongoing war on America’s health care,” says Leslie Dach

 

Washington, DC – In response to a new federal policy issued today that waters down the guardrails that ensure health insurance plans sold in states that are seeking approvals of “1332 waivers” provide the full range of benefits and the cost-sharing protections in the Affordable Care Act, Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, issued the following statement:

“The hypocrisy of Republicans rolling back protections for pre-existing conditions at a time when their candidates are campaigning as defenders of health care is outrageous. This is yet another blatant example of their repeal and sabotage agenda, and proof of their ongoing war on America’s health care.”

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:

Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt Calls The Rule Out Today An “End Run” Around the ACA. Here is what 1332 waivers without appropriate guardrail protections could mean for consumers:

  • Protections for people with pre-existing conditions would be essentially meaningless. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said allowing states to waive essential health benefits “could render those protections meaningless” for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • It would be harder for people with pre-existing conditions to get affordable coverage. As Consumers Union stated, allowing states to waive essential health benefits would be “putting meaningful coverage out of reach for many Americans, especially those with chronic and pre-existing conditions.”
  • You could pay more for the same coverage. 1332 waivers allow states to adjust the amount of premium tax credits and cost-sharing consumers receive to help lower their costs. Without the guardrail to ensure coverage is just as affordable, many consumers could end up paying more for the same care.
  • Insurers would not have to cover essential benefits, like maternity care. Right now, every insurance plan must cover the 10 essential health benefits. Because states could opt out of covering these basic benefits, insurers would likely only offer policies that covered much less than they do now. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the benefits most likely to no longer be covered would be maternity care, mental health or substance abuse coverage. According to the Brookings Institution, the result would be “that no one in a state’s individual market that waived EHBs would have access to comprehensive coverage. Insurers would likely sell separate policies for benefits not covered in their core plan offerings, but these supplemental policies would be subject to tremendous adverse selection, leading to very high premiums and enrollment almost exclusively by those with pre-existing conditions.” For example, a woman who purchases a separate insurance rider for maternity care would have to pay $17,320 more, according to the Center for American Progress. For states that no longer required substance use disorders or mental health to be covered, coverage for drug dependence treatment could cost an extra $20,450.
  • Insurers could reimpose lifetime and annual limits. Allowing states to opt out of the essential health benefits coverage means that insurance companies could once again put lifetime and annual limits on the amount of care you receive. Moreover, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, this would even impact people with coverage from their employer: “The ACA’s prohibition on annual and lifetime limits is tied to the definition of Essential Health Benefits. Thus, repeal of Essential Health Benefit standards could make this protection meaningless, putting almost all Americans with private health insurance coverage — not just those with individual or small-group market coverage — at risk.” The Center for American Progress estimates that 20 million people with health coverage through their employer would face lifetime limits on coverage, and 27 million would face annual limits.

Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Rep. Jim Cooper, Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden, Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse Headline Week Five of Protect Our Care’s Nationwide Bus Tour

Protect Our Care Continues 11,505 Mile Bus Tour With Stops in Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia

Washington, D.C. – This week, Protect Our Care continues its nationwide bus tour, a 49-stop, 24-state bus tour highlighting the Republican war on health care and its impact on Americans from coast to coast. In its fifth week, Care Force One is traveling to Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia.

The tour will continue to show that the Republican war on health care is very much alive, with GOP officials using legislation, regulations, and the courts to continue their attacks on protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, for women and older Americans, and on Medicaid and Medicare.

The week kicks off in Kansas City:

What: Protect Our Care Rally – Kansas City:

Who: Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Sharice Davids

Laura Packard, cancer survivor

Missourians with pre-existing conditions and concerns over GOP actions

Where: Mill Creek Park

West 47th St. & Broadway St.

Kansas City, MO 64111

When: Monday, October 22

9:30 AM

Livestream: The event will be streamed on the Protect Our Care Facebook page

The Care Force One bus will then travel to St. Louis:

What: Protect Our Care Rally – St. Louis

Who: Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden

Dr. Pamela Gronemeyer

Laura Packard, cancer survivor

Missourians with pre-existing conditions and concerns over GOP actions

Where: Kiener Plaza
601 Market Street
St. Louis, MO 63101

When: Tuesday, October 23

9:00 AM

Livestream: The event will be streamed on the Protect Our Care Facebook page

Later in the week, Care Force One will travel to Nashville, Tennessee:

What: Protect Our Care Rally – Nashville

Who: Rep. Jim Cooper

State Sen. Jeff Yarbro

Kelly Gregory, Air Force veteran and terminal cancer patient

Rev. John Hill

Dr. Tom Phelps

Laura Packard, cancer survivor

Where: Centennial Park
2500 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37203

When: Wednesday, October 24

10:00 AM

Livestream: The event will be streamed on the Protect Our Care Facebook page

And as the week comes to a close, Care Force One will be in Atlanta, Georgia

What: Protect Our Care Rally – Atlanta

Who: Former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards

Laura Packard, cancer survivor

Georgians with pre-existing conditions and concerns over GOP actions

Where: Exact location forthcoming.

When: Friday, October 26

9:30 AM

Livestream: The event will be streamed on the Protect Our Care Facebook page

Check out protectourcarebustour.com for the latest information on the tour. The remaining schedule of Care Force One appearances is below:

Kansas City, MO on Monday, October 22, 2018

Springfield, MO on Monday, October 22, 2018

St. Louis, MO on Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Memphis, TN on Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Nashville, TN on Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Richmond, VA on Thursday, October 25, 2018

Raleigh, NC on Thursday, October 25, 2018

Atlanta, GA on Friday, October 26, 2018

Sarasota, FL on Monday, October 29, 2018

Orlando, FL on Monday, October 28, 2018

Miami, FL on Wednesday, October 31, 2018

St. Lucie, FL on Thursday, November 1, 2018

West Palm, FL on Friday, November 2, 2018

###

Texans to GOP: Protecting Our Pre-existing Conditions is “Gravely Important”

With Health Care and Pre-existing Conditions Protections Called “Top Issues” by Texas Voters, Trump Joins GOP Candidates in Shamefully Trying to Hide their Repeal-and-Sabotage Record from View During Debates, Rallies

Houston, TX – Tonight President Donald Trump, the Repealer-in-Chief turned self-professed pre-existing conditions defender, stumps for Texas politicians who once bragged about working to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its protections for pre-existing conditions but are now trying to erase their repeal-and-sabotage record from memory, while health care champion Lizzie Fletcher and pro-repeal Republican John Culberson hold their first public debate. In response, Texans are telling their stories about how important maintaining protections for pre-existing conditions are to them. Ahead of the Fletcher-Culberson debate tonight, patients, providers and health care advocates in the Protect Our Care-Texas coalition will be speaking out against the Republican war on health care.   

Despite recent, empty promises and meaningless, “nonbinding” PR stunts to position themselves as protectors of people with pre-existing conditions, Ted Cruz, Pete Sessions and John Culberson and other Texas Republicans have worked for years to dismantle protections for pre-existing conditions. Recent polling by PPP for Protect Our Care shows nearly two-thirds of Texas voters statewide and in key House battlegrounds want to see protections for pre-existing conditions maintained in the law and nearly six in 10 are concerned about the consequences of GOP repeal efforts.

Here’s one Texan’s story about why Texas Republicans’ repeal-and-sabotage crusade is so personal:

“I’ve been living with my transplanted kidney for six years now. Thanks to the protections of pre-existing conditions rules in the Affordable Care Act, I am able to get insurance that allows me to get checkups that I need to make sure my kidney is doing well,” said Marc Pouhé, a Texan living with IgA nephropathy. “I’m able to get the medication that I need, daily, to keep me from rejecting the kidney — medication that would be thousands of dollars without the insurance that I have. So it’s gravely important that these protections stay in place.”

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

Ted Cruz’s Years-Long Campaign to Gut Pre-existing Conditions Protections for 11.5 Million Texans:

Cruz’s First Piece Of Legislation Was To “Fully Repeal Obamacare.” [Cruz.Senate.Gov, accessed 9/21/18]

2013: Cruz Led The Republican Government Shut Down Over ACA Implementation. [Vox, 1/22/18]

2015:  Cruz Voted To Repeal Most Of The ACA. [HR 3762, Roll Call Vote #114, 12/3/15]

2017:  Cruz Voted For The Senate “Repeal And Delay” Plan. [HR 1628, Roll Call Vote #169, 7/26/17]

2017: Cruz Voted For The Better Care Reconciliation Act.  

2017:  Cruz Voted For “Skinny Repeal” Of The ACA.  [HR 1628, Roll Call Vote #179, 7/28/17]

2018:  Ted Cruz: “We Need To Finish The Job” On Obamacare.  “Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Wednesday said Republicans needed to ‘finish the job” on repealing and replacing Obamacare in 2018, and he is pushing his colleagues to use one last reconciliation bill before the midterms to deliver on their long-running promise.” [Washington Examiner, 1/24/18]

Ted Cruz Said It Was “Reasonable” for GOP to Argue ACA’s Preexisting Conditions Rules Are Now Unconstitutional.  “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), as vociferous an Obamacare critic as you’ll find, sounds on board with the latest legal challenge to the health care law that could lead to protections for people with preexisting conditions being found unconstitutional. Cruz told Vox that he thought the Justice Department’s position in the lawsuit, that the law’s rules on preexisting conditions should be invalidated along with the individual mandate, was ‘reasonable’ and defended the foundation of the case being brought by his home state of Texas in a brief interview at the Capitol.” [Vox, 6/15/18]

John Culberson’s Years-Long Campaign to Gut Pre-existing Conditions Protections for 11.5 Million Texans:

2011:  Culberson Voted For A Total Repeal Of The ACA. [HR 2, Roll Call Vote #14, 1/19/11]

2011:  Culberson Voted To Repeal And Defund The ACA.[HCR 34, Roll Call Vote #277, 4/15/11]

2013:  Culberson Voted For A Total Repeal Of The ACA. [HR 45, Roll Call Vote #154, 5/16/13]

2015:  Culberson Voted For A Total Repeal Of The ACA. Culberson voted for HR 596, an act “to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.”  The bill also ordered House committees to develop a replacement that would “provide people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable health coverage,” but provided no specifics. [HR 596, Roll Call Vote #58, 2/3/15]

2017: Culberson Voted For AHCA, which would have gutted pre-existing conditions protections. [HR 1628, Roll Call Vote #256, 5/4/17]

Pete Sessions’s Years-Long Campaign to Gut Pre-existing Conditions Protections for 11.5 Million Texans:

Sessions has bragged that he has “voted more than 60 times to repeal, dismantle, and defund ObamaCare.” This includes:

2011: Sessions Voted For A Total Repeal Of The ACA. [HR 2, Roll Call Vote #14, 1/19/11]

2011:  Sessions Voted To Repeal And Defund The ACA. [HCR 34, Roll Call Vote #277, 4/15/11]

2013:  Sessions Voted For A Total Repeal Of The ACA. [HR 45, Roll Call Vote #154, 5/16/13]

2015:  Sessions Voted For A Total Repeal Of The ACA.  Sessions voted for HR 596, an act “to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.”  The bill also ordered House committees to develop a replacement that would “provide people with pre-existing conditions access to affordable health coverage,” but provided no specifics. [HR 596, Roll Call Vote #58, 2/3/15]

2017: Sessions Voted For AHCA, which would have gutted pre-existing conditions protections. [HR 1628, Roll Call Vote #256, 5/4/17]