Monthly Archives

April 2019

Thom Tillis’ Bill On Pre-Existing Conditions Nothing More Than “Political CYA” For Vulnerable Republicans

Washington DC – This week, Senator Thom Tillis along with other Senate Republicans introduced legislation that amounts to nothing more than political cover for their repeated attempts to strip health care away from millions of Americans.

It is clear that this legislation is the GOP’s phony attempt at claiming support for protections for pre-existing conditions, as an LA Times editorial today put it bluntly, “The bill pretends to be about safeguarding Americans with preexisting health conditions. But it’s really about protecting Senate Republicans from the stink caused by the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act…”

For years, Republicans like Tillis have promised to rip apart the nation’s health care laws, and this past year have seized on the opportunity to back Trump’s lawsuit that would strip health care away from millions of Americans and end those same protections for pre-existing conditions they claim to support.

On a press call this Thursday, Protect Our Care’s executive director Brad Woodhouse made clear the bill “is simply a piece of political CYA for Republican senators who are up,” in 2020:

“Republicans claim this is a piece of legislation to protect people with pre-existing conditions, but it does nothing of the kind. The bill’s sponsors like Senator Tills have repeatedly claimed that repealing the ACA are among their top priorities in the Senate and all support Trump’s Texas lawsuit that would not only rip up the nation’s health care laws, but strip away the same protections for people with pre-existing conditions that they claim to support. It’s clear that this legislation is nothing more than a piece of political CYA for endangered Republicans like Thom Tillis who are up for reelection in 2020.”

Senate Republicans Are Selling A Scam On Pre-Existing Conditions

Senate Republicans have spent ten years trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. They support President Trump’s lawsuit to use the courts to gut these protections. They voted time and time again for repealing health care on the floor of the US Senate.

Now that voters have rejected these efforts, Senate Republicans have resorted to trying to deceive the American public by hiding behind a new bill they wrongly claim will protect people with pre-existing conditions. The only problem? Their bill is a scam. And we already have a comprehensive pre-existing conditions protection bill, it’s called the Affordable Care Act.

Their bill fails to protect people with pre-existing conditions and gives power back to insurance companies to charge women and older adults more and sell people plans that do not include coverage for prescription drugs, hospitalization, and maternity care. The bill claims to guarantee that people with pre-existing conditions would get the care they need and not be charged more. That is false.

Here is the Senate Republican vision for the 137 million Americans with a pre-existing condition:

Insurance companies would once again be able to refuse to cover essential health benefits like hospitalization and prescription drugs. If essential benefits such as hospitalization, mental health services, maternity care, and coverage for prescription drugs are not covered, consumers with pre-existing conditions are not adequately protected. Without this protection, someone with cancer may be sold a plan but denied prescription drug coverage. Before the ACA, these kinds of restrictions were common: 75 percent of non-group plans did not cover maternity care, 45 percent did not cover substance abuse disorder services, and 38 percent did not cover mental health services. Six percent did not even cover generic drugs.

Insurance companies would once again be allowed to charge people more because of their gender or age. The ‘Protect Act’ would let insurance companies charge women more than men and would let insurance companies charge older adults even more for care. Before the Affordable Care Act’s protections, women were often charged up to 50 percent morethan men for the same coverage, and insurance companies were able to charge older adults even more for care. An AARP analysis estimated that without the ACA’s protections, a 60-year-old in the individual market would be charged an ‘age tax’ of $4,124 more per year.

People with pre-existing conditions would once again face the prospect of bankruptcy and insurance companies would have the power to restrict the amount of care someone can receive per year. By eliminating the current protection against lifetime and annual limits, Republicans would let insurance companies cap the amount of care a patient may get. When annual and lifetime limits are imposed, people may be denied life-saving care simply because they have reached their limit.

Lower Costs, Better Care: House Dems Unveil Sweeping Health Bill

After winning the Midterm elections by vowing to fight for Americans’ health care, Democrats in the House of Representatives are making good on their promises by introducing sweeping legislation to achieve lower costs and better care. While House Democrats take concrete steps to make our health care system work better for the American people, the Trump administration and its Republican allies are doing just the opposite: proposing to cut Medicare and Medicaid by $2 trillion, gutting protections for preexisting conditions, and throwing the full weight of the Justice Department behind overthrowing the Affordable Care Act in the Texas lawsuit.

This bill is only the start for the Democrats’ agenda which will ultimately include further efforts to rein in prescription drug costs and end surprise hospital bills. Here’s how the proposed legislation will work for Americans:

Lower Health Care Costs. The House bill would reduce health care premiums and deductibles, expand eligibility for financial assistance that helps consumers afford coverage, and expand access to affordable health care by guaranteeing affordable care options.

  • Coverage for less than ten percent of your income. Under the bill, nearly all Americans would be guaranteed an option to purchase health care for less than 10 percent of their income.
  • Financial assistance for more people. Premium tax credits would be made available to more middle class Americans, including those with incomes above 400 percent of the federal poverty line or roughly $100,400 for a family of four.
  • Lowering premiums. By creating a national reinsurance program the House legislation would help further reduce premiums.

Better Care For More People. The bill would restrict insurance companies’ ability to sell plans that gut circumvent important consumer protections. By helping to lower costs, the House bill would also expand access to comprehensive, affordable care for even more people.

  • Lowering premiums, deductibles, or both for more than 13 million people currently insured and providing lower cost options for 12 million uninsured people. In all, the bill’s extended tax credits, reinsurance programs and premium assistance would cut premiums for all ACA-compliant plans sold on the individual market, reducing premiums or deductibles for 13 million with individual market coverage and creating lower cost options for 12 million uninsured people eligible for coverage through the marketplace.
  • Protecting people with pre-existing conditions. The legislation would stop the Trump administration’s plans to allow insurance companies to sell junk plans that deny people with pre-existing conditions coverage or charge them more.
  • Guaranteeing that insurance companies cover basic health services. The bill would also prevent the Trump administration from weakening requirements that all insurance cover essential health benefits, such as prescription drug coverage, hospital care, and maternity coverage.
  • Taking power away from insurance companies and gives it back to patients. While the Trump administration gives insurance companies the power to flood the market with junk plans and rewards them with massive tax breaks, this bill reinstates important protections for American consumers, giving power back to patients.

End Sabotage. Since taking office, the Trump administration has worked relentlessly to sabotage Americans’ health care, expanding access to junk plans that allow insurance companies to deny coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions and slashing funding to help people sign up for comprehensive, affordable care.

  • Restoring funding for education. The House bill would restore marketing funding for heatlh care sold through the marketplace, which the Trump administration has cut by 90 percent since taking office.

Restoring funding for groups that help people sign up for coverage. Funding for health navigator groups that help people sign up for comprehensive care, which has been cut by 77 percent since the President Trump took office, would also be restored.

Bill Introduced By Thom Tillis, Senate Republicans A Desperate Attempt To Rewrite GOP’s History On Pre-Existing Conditions

Washington, DC – Legislation introduced by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Senate Republicans today is nothing more than an effort by the GOP to desperately disown their war on America’s health care and their repeated attempts to strip protections from millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. Protect Our Care executive director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement in response:

“The American people aren’t idiots, and they know the Republican Party has spent ten years trying to rip up the health care laws and deny protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Republicans got clobbered in the midterms because of their constant attacks on people with pre-existing conditions, and the bill introduced by Senator Tillis today is just another desperate attempt by Senate Republicans to cover up their ongoing war on America’s health care. Let’s not forget, these are the same people who support Trump’s Texas lawsuit to rip apart our health care laws, slashing coverage for millions of Americans and gutting all protections for pre-existing conditions. Here’s an idea: if you want to save protections for people with pre-existing conditions, don’t support the Trump lawsuit to rip them apart.”

Idaho Places Burdensome Work Requirements On Voter-Approved Medicaid Expansion

Washington, DC – Today, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a bill placing onerous work requirements on the Medicaid program that Idahoans voted to expand in November–just weeks after a federal judge struck down similar laws in other Republican-led states. In response, Protect Our Care executive director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“Governor Little is defying the will of the people by imposing restrictive Medicaid work requirements after Idahoans overwhelmingly voted in favor of Medicaid expansion last November. Idaho Republicans are following the Trump administration’s lead imposing these dangerous requirements meant to kick people off the rolls. It’s clear that such requirements are not only harmful, but also illegal, given similar work requirements were struck down just weeks ago.”

Attorney General Barr Defends Trump’s Lawsuit, Gives Full-Throated Support For Taking Away Health Care From Millions Of Americans

Washington, DC — Today, Attorney General William Barr testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science where he was grilled by Democrats on his defense of the Trump health care lawsuit, and failed to answer as to why the administration is trying to rip away health care from millions of Americans. Barr’s testimony follows a letter sent by House Democrats this morning demanding answers from the Barr about Trump’s refusal to enforce the nation’s health care laws while simultaneously trying to destroy them in the courts.

Following Barr’s defense of the disastrous Trump lawsuit today during his testimony and failure to provide sufficient answers about the administration’s ongoing sabotage of Americans’ health care, Protect Our Care executive director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“Attorney General Barr made crystal clear today that the disastrous Trump lawsuit remains a top priority for the administration, and that Trump’s war on America’s health care is far from over. At the hearing today, Democrats seized on the opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the man responsible for enforcing the nation’s health care laws while doing everything he can to rip them apart. It’s clear that Trump and his cabinet have made health care sabotage their utmost priority, and today’s testimony from the attorney general only confirms Trump’s desire to go to any lengths necessary take health care away from millions of Americans.”

Chairman Scott Takes Bold Action To Reverse Trump’s Health Care Sabotage, Stop The Spread Of Junk Insurance Plans

Washington, DC — Following the House Committee on Education and Labor markup of HR 1010, a bill to reverse the Trump administration’s expansion of short-term, junk health care plans, Protect Our Care executive director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“Chairman Bobby Scott took much needed action today to block the spread of Trump’s disastrous short-term junk insurance plans that openly discriminate against millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. If Republicans truly cared about protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, they would have voted with their Democratic colleagues in support of this bill instead of blindly following Trump in his ongoing war on America’s health care.”

Background:

Junk Plans Hurt People with Pre-existing Conditions

Junk Plans Are Allowed To Discriminate Against People With 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]

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]

Under Many 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]

For more information, see Protect Our Care’s fact sheet on short-term junk plans.

Medicaid Expansion: Improves Health, Saves Lives And Gives Millions Access To Affordable Health Care

This April, Protect Our Care is Celebrating Medicaid Awareness Month, A Nationwide Push To Highlight the Importance of Medicaid for Millions of Americans, and What’s At Stake in the Texas Lawsuit and Trump’s Renewed Calls for Repeal

Washington, DC — April is Medicaid Awareness month, and this week we’re highlighting the success of Medicaid expansion and the positive impact that increasing access to Medicaid has had for millions of Americans across the country.

Years after the Affordable Care Act opened the doors for states to expand Medicaid, the results are piling in: Medicaid expansion works. It leads to healthier people, communities, and economies. Despite the increasing disparities between states that chose to expand Medicaid and those that did not, the Trump administration and its Republican allies remain intent on decimating Medicaid expansion, and jeopardizing the health of 12.7 million Americans who depend on Medicaid expansion for coverage.

Background:

Here’s a look at how Medicaid expansion is working:

Medicaid Expansion Saves Lives By Helping People Access Treatment, Preventive Care

Research Presented At American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions Finds Medicaid Expansion Tied To Fewer Heart-Related Deaths. “Between 2010 and 2016, counties in states where Medicaid expanded had 4 fewer deaths per 100,000 residents each year from cardiovascular causes after expansion, compared with counties in non-expansion states, according to the research…’The overall results of this study are that after expansion of Medicaid in 2014, the areas in the country that did expand had a significantly lower mortality rate compared to if they had followed the same trajectory as the areas in the country that didn’t expand,’ said Dr. Sameed Khatana, a fellow in cardiovascular disease at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who was first author of the new research.” [CNN 4/5/19]

Study Published In Health Affairs Finds Low-Income People More Able To Afford Diabetes Medications And Manage Disease In Expansion States. “Low-income people with diabetes are better able to afford their medications and manage their disease in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a new study suggests. The Health Affairs study, released Monday afternoon, found a roughly 40 percent increase in the number of prescriptions filled for diabetes drugs in Medicaid programs of the 30 states (including Washington, D.C.) that expanded eligibility in 2014 and 2015, compared with prior years.By contrast, states that didn’t embrace the Medicaid expansion saw no notable increase.” [Kaiser Health News, 8/6/18]

Drexel University Study: Medicaid Expansion Under The ACA Increased Low-Income Patient Access To Kidney Transplants. “After states expanded Medicaid to cover more low-income individuals under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there was a significant boost in the number of chronic kidney disease patients with Medicaid coverage who were placed on the kidney transplant waiting list, according to a new study led by Drexel University researchers” [Drexel University, 6/21/18]

University of Michigan Study Finds Medicaid Expansion Improves Access To Family Planning. “Among 1,166 reproductive-age women who enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan, Michigan’s expansion of the Medicaid program for low-income adults, 1 in 3 said the expanded coverage improved access to birth control and family planning services…’Our findings suggest that the expansion provided an important service for populations with a high unmet need for family planning care,’ says lead author Michelle Moniz, M.D., M.Sc., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Michigan Medicine. ‘Insurance coverage also means that women have access to more options if they do not want to become pregnant at the current time.’…Each dollar spent on contraception is estimated to save the health care system more than $7 in return, according to a recent study from the Guttmacher Institute. About 40 to 50 percent of the 4 million live births in the U.S. every year are paid for by Medicaid.” [University of Michigan, 8/31/18JAMA Publication]

Medicaid Expansion Improves Financial Security

The Chance Of Accruing Medical Debt Is 20 Percent lower In States That Have Expanded Medicaid. “A survey comparing expansion and non-expansion states finds that the chance of accruing medical debt is 20 percent lower in expansion states. It also finds that Medicaid coverage, by reducing enrollees’ unpaid medical bills, improves their credit, leading to lower-interest mortgage, auto, and credit card loans that save them an estimated $280 per year in interest.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10/2/18]

National Bureau Of Economic Research Analysis Finds Medicaid Expansion Led To Nearly $6 Billion Decline In Unpaid Medical Bills And To Higher Credit Scores. “ In the context of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, we estimate that insurance provision led to a $5.89 billion decline in unpaid medical bills sent to collections, to higher credit scores, and to bet38 ter credit terms valued at $670 million annually.” [National Bureau Of Economic Research, 7/31/18]

An Ohio Report On The Impact Of Its Medicaid Expansion Found Vast Majorities Of Medicaid Enrollees Said Medicaid Expansion Helped Them Hold Down Jobs, Look For Work. “Over 83 percent of employed Ohioans who were continuously enrolled in Medicaid said the program helped enable them to hold down jobs; in many cases, Medicaid allowed them to obtain treatment for health conditions that would have otherwise made working difficult. Among unemployed but continuously enrolled beneficiaries, 60 percent said the program made it easier for them to look for work.” [Pacific Standard, 8/21/18]

University Of Kansas Research Finds Medicaid Boosts Employment For People With Disabilities. “People with disabilities are much more likely to be employed in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act, new research from the University of Kansas has found. Similarly, the number of those who report not working because of a disability has greatly declined in expansion states. Neither trend happened in states that chose not to expand Medicaid.” [Healthcare Finance News, 7/23/18]

Medicaid Expansion Is An Important Tool In Addiction Recovery

Health Affairs Study Finds Medicaid Expansion Aids Addiction Recovery. “The number of people diagnosed each month with opioid use disorder nearly tripled from 2014 to 2016, the authors found. And as more people were diagnosed, more people got treatment. About one-third of people diagnosed with opioid use disorder in 2014 were prescribed buprenorphine — the leading medication-assisted therapy for opioid dependence. By 2016, that was up to 75%.” [Axios, 4/2/19]

Urban Institute Report Finds Medicaid Expansion Increases Access To Treatment For Opioid Use Disorder. “Between 2013—before the major coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act were implemented—and 2017, Medicaid spending on prescriptions for the Rapid Growth in Medicaid Spending and Prescriptions to Treat Opioid Use Disorder and Opioid Overdose from 2010 to 2017 treatment of OUD and overdose nearly tripled or more in states that expanded Medicaid by 2017, while spending in non-expansion states nearly doubled. Between 2013 and 2017, Medicaid-covered buprenorphine prescriptions nearly tripled from 1.79 million to 5.18 million, naltrexone prescriptions more than quadrupled from 99,000 to 444,000, and naloxone prescriptions rose nearly 25- fold from 5,000 to 125,000. Increases in all three prescriptions were far greater in states that had expanded their Medicaid programs before July 2016 than states that did not expand…Between 2013 and 2017, increases in per capita prescriptions were far greater in Medicaid expansion states than in non-expansion states. In addition, the highest levels of treatment prescriptions were in expansion states: more than 100 buprenorphine prescriptions per 1,000 Medicaid enrollees in 2017 compared with just over 30 prescriptions per 1,000 enrollees in non-expansion states.” [Urban Institute, February 2019]

Research Published In JAMA Confirms That Medicaid Expansion Increased Access To Opioid Treatment. “Medicaid expansion significantly increased buprenorphine with naloxone prescriptions per 100 000 county residents in expansion counties, suggesting that expansion improved access to opioid use disorder treatment. Expansion did not significantly increase the overall rate per 100 000 county residents of OPR prescriptions, but increased the population with OPRs paid for by Medicaid. This finding therefore suggests the growing importance of Medicaid in pain management and addiction prevention.” [JAMA, Saloner et. al, 8/17/18]

Medicaid Awareness Month Kicks Off With Events Nationwide; Advocates Sound The Alarm On Trump Lawsuit

This week, Protect Our Care and partners nationwide kicked off Medicaid Awareness Month by holding press events and rallies with elected officials and health care advocates to showcase the life-saving impact of Medicaid for millions of Americans. Leaders and advocates in Arizona, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Ohio spoke about the importance of Medicaid for seniors, people with disabilities, children and families, and in combating the opioid epidemic. Event participants also highlighted what’s at stake in the ongoing Trump lawsuit, which would rip apart our existing health care, kick millions off their coverage, and do irreparable harm to Medicaid in the process. Next week, leaders and advocates in Georgia, Colorado, and Alaska will also speak on these important issues.

Events From April 2-5:

Arizona

Protest Outside Sen. McSally’s Phoenix Office

Speakers: Indivisible AZ

Protect Our Care AZ

Press Conference at the Arizona State Capitol

Speakers:  State Rep. Charlene Fernandez

State Rep. Kelli Butler

Will Humble, Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association

Iowa

Press Conference Outside Sen. Ernst & Sen. Grassley’s Offices

Speakers: Progress Iowa

Indivisible Iowa

Protect Our Care Iowa

Maine

Press Conference at Maine State House

Speakers: State Sen. Linda Sandborn

Maine Women’s Lobby

Mainers for Accountable Leadership

New Hampshire

Press Conference Outside State House

Speakers: State Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes

Zandra Rice Hawkins, Granite State Progress

Protect Our Care NH & members of the NH Health Care Coalition

North Carolina

Trump Lawsuit + Medicaid Press Call

Speakers: Stacy Staggs, Little Lobbyists

Bob Etheridge, Former Congressman and Chair of Rural Forward

Brad Woodhouse, Executive Director of Protect Our Care

Ohio

Trump Lawsuit + Medicaid Press Call

Speakers: State Sen. Tina Maharath

State Rep. Erica Crawley

Kendall Mays, veteran and health care advocate

Brenda Searcy, Medicaid expansion advocate

Protect Our Care Praises House Democrats For Moving Forward An Agenda To Lower Health Care Costs, Improve Care And Confront President Trump’s Sabotage

Washington, DC – Late last night, the House Energy and Commerce Committee under the leadership of Chairman Frank Pallone (NJ-6) and Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (CA-18), held a marathon session to pass a dozen health care bills out of committee to lower premiums and the high cost of prescription drugs and improve access to care.

The legislation also takes direct aim at President Trump’s sabotage of health care, including his attacks on people with pre-existing conditions and his deliberate effort to sabotage open enrollment. Much of the lower cost, better care package of bills passed last night mirrors the 2019 health care agenda Protect Our Care released earlier this year, which the organization has been advocating for on Capitol Hill and in key states and congressional districts across the country.

Protect Our Care chair Leslie Dach released the following statement in response:

“Elections matter. In November, voters showed the door to scores of Republicans who stood with President Trump’s agenda of ripping health care away from millions and handed the reins of the House to Democrats who ran on lowering costs, improving care and ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions continue to have access to affordable care.

“Yesterday, Democrats delivered by passing a lower cost, better care set of bills that can now move to the House floor. These bills improve health care for millions of Americans by lowering costs, bringing down the price of prescription drugs, and reversing Republican sabotage of our health care laws. These bills are in stark contrast to President Trump’s decision to double down on support for the complete dismantling of our health care system and cutting trillions from Medicare and Medicaid.”