It’s National Women’s Health Week!

RWV National Women's Health Month 2018 GraphicGuest post by Jessica Pierson, graduate student intern with Raising Women’s Voices-NY.

National Women’s Health Week kicked off on Mother’s Day and will continue through Saturday, May 19th. Raising Women’s Voices-NY is celebrating by hosting activities and providing resources to promote women’s health throughout the week.

On Tuesday, May 15th, Raising Women’s Voices is hosting a Twitter Chat from 2 to 3 p.m. to discuss women’s health using the hashtag, #HerHealth. Organizations from around the country will be sharing information on a range of women’s health topics, such as what to expect at a well-woman visit, black maternal health disparities, how to take advantage of cost-free preventive services, reproductive health care for trans folks and how to navigate the health care system.

National Women’s Health Week is a great time to remind women to schedule their annual well-woman visit, which is free with their health insurance. RWV has created a flyer outlining key women’s preventive services for health organizations to use in promoting National Women’s Health Week. Navigating the health system can be difficult and confusing. RWV’s flyer can help simplify women’s experiences with the health system by explaining that services such as birth control, STI/HIV testing, blood pressure tests, flu shots and help quitting smoking are all included in a free well-women’s visit! The flyer also explains how to schedule an appointment, what to expect at the appointment and how to get the most out of the visit. RWV suggests distributing these customizable flyers at bus stops, laundromats or other local spots in order to reach women in every corner of your community.

Looking to promote women’s health in your area? RWV suggests amplifying National Women’s Health week by hosting an open house or community care night, holding a panel discussion or press events.

The Affordable Care Act improved access to women’s health services, but still millions of women are uninsured. Although Open Enrollment for health insurance through NY State of Health doesn’t start again until November, women may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period of 60 days if they experience a qualifying life event. Examples include losing your job-based health insurance, getting married, having a baby, adopting a child or, in New York only, becoming pregnant. Medicaid, Essential Plan, and Child Health Plus enrollment continue year-round. If you think you might qualify for enrollment, contact the Community Health Advocates hotline at 888-614-5400.

It is imperative that we celebrate National Women’s Health Week by helping women get insured and utilize their insurance wisely to optimize their health and well-being, and catch health problems early. RWV hopes you will join us for our Twitter Chat on May 15 and help us promote women’s health all week long!

NYIC_Logo-RV_Mar13,2012Guest post by Claudia Calhoon, MPH, Director of Health Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition.

A new proposed rule from the Trump administration promises to undermine the health and well-being of lawfully residing immigrants and their U.S. citizen children by forcing them to choose between benefit programs and getting a green card.  The new rules would penalize lawfully residing immigrants who participate in programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps), the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children (WIC), health insurance, and the Earned Income Tax Credit by radically expanding the definition of who is considered to be dependent on the government or a “public charge”.  The rule would broaden the criteria by which someone is designated as a public charge, moving from describing public charge as being “primarily dependent” to being “likely at any time to use or receive one or more public benefits.”  The rule would increase the benefit categories that trigger public charge consideration to include non-cash benefits and programs.  (Currently just cash assistance and care in a long-term care facility that is paid for by Medicaid prompt public charge scrutiny.)

The rule would also give much greater discretion to immigration officers in assessing whether immigrants applying for a visa or a green card may be likely to use public benefits in the future. People who receive even periodic or one-time support with food, housing, or health insurance could lose their opportunity to become lawful permanent residents, based on one episode of unemployment.  Parents could also be penalized for having applied for benefits for their US citizen children. Given that lawfully residing immigrants are entitled to participate in these programs by law, punishing parents for using these benefits is especially perverse.  Advocates like the National Immigration Law Center believe that the administration is undertaking these changes in order to restrict and discourage family integration through administrative channels.

This rule represents a far-reaching and insidious effort to destabilize immigrant communities in the United States. Damage has already been done. News reports of the rule have already instilled hesitation among lawfully residing immigrant New Yorkers about using health insurance and WIC. If finalized as proposed, the rule could lead to large scale disenrollment from health insurance and other critical social programs, which can cause delays in seeking health care, and increases in economic instability. Delays in health care, food insecurity, and economic instability create long-term challenges for children and families over the course of their lifetimes.  Because New York State has committed to providing needed benefits that are not offered nationwide, New York families stand to lose more, and New York State policy makers will be faced with steeper and more profound public policy challenges than other states.

It is important to note that many individuals and families are not subject to public charge, and that this cannot be changed through the regulatory process.  These include refugees, asylees, survivors of crime and other immigrants and green cards holders with humanitarian protections who are seeking citizenship. When speaking to families, it is also important to note that the rules have not changed yet.  The proposed rule indicates that use of benefits before the rule is approved will NOT be considered, so there is no advantage to terminating benefits at this time for individuals currently receiving public assistance.

What can be done to stop this? Several Health Care for All New York members, including the New York Immigration Coalition, are helping foster efforts to impact the rulemaking process and educate communities.  On Thursday, March 29, the U.S. Citizen and Immigrations Services (USCIS) sent the draft rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  Advocates believe that it is similar to the version that was leaked most recently and anticipate that the rule will be posted for public comment in the Federal Register shortly, with a comment period of either 30 or 60 days. When the rule is posted, public comment from a wide variety of stakeholders and constituencies will be essential to slowing the rule and mitigating the damage it poses to immigrant communities.  If you would like to contribute a public comment, please email Max Hadler at mhadler@nyic.org to be added to the NYIC’s Health Collaborative listserv, where the NYIC we will share updates on the rule’s progress.  Along with many partners, the NYIC is working on community education materials and trainings for service providers and will share more information about those resources as they are ready. You can also join the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign led by the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) to keep up to speed on efforts to fight the rule at the federal level.

PreschoolersGuest post by Ben Anderson, Director of Health Policy at Children’s Defense Fund-NY. Here we are 39 days and counting since the September 30th deadline for Congress to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and yet families of the 350,000 New York children who depend on CHIP for coverage are still waiting for Congress to act. Sadly, once again children are being held hostage to political debates.

Created specifically for children, CHIP’s benefits and provider networks are designed to ensure children in working families who are not eligible for Medicaid have access to child-appropriate services, providers, specialists, and facilities. Despite bipartisan support for a strong, five-year extension of CHIP in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, debate continues about how to pay for CHIP and the extension of other important health programs.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Championing Healthy Kids Act, a bill that includes the same strong, bipartisan five-year extension of CHIP that the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Finance Committees approved and that most child health advocates strongly support. However, the bill passed by the House pays for the extension of CHIP and other critical health programs for vulnerable populations with offsets that would cause undue harm to children and families. These provisions passed over the objections of many in the House and are jeopardizing the bill’s passage in the Senate.

The sad irony is that Congress is bickering over how to fund CHIP and other programs in the bill, when the total cost for these programs is merely 1% of the amount Congress will add to the deficit to provide tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals in America. The senselessness must end. We’re so close to the finish line. There is bipartisan support for CHIP. Senate and House members, Republicans and Democrats alike, agree on what we need to do for children’s health. Congress needs to finish its homework and reach a bipartisan consensus on funding CHIP.

numbersYesterday, the House of Representatives adopted a budget resolution that paves the way for the federal government to approve up to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations with only Republican votes.

What’s a budget resolution?

A budget resolution is a piece of legislation that outlines the congressional budget. It establishes how much the federal government is allowed to spend and in which categories (for example, transportation) and how much they can increase the federal debt or deficit. The resolution can also include budget reconciliation instructions, which allow the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass budget-related measures with fewer votes and without filibusters from opponents.

The budget resolution just passed includes reconciliation instructions, which means that Republicans, who have majorities in both houses, could pass major tax legislation without the support of their democratic colleagues. Democrats who disagree with the tax legislation would also be very limited in their ability to delay or stop the vote.

How is this related to health care?

Any tax cuts will eventually have to be paid for. The budget resolution that ultimately passed did not specify which programs would be cut in order to pay for the tax legislation, but an earlier version of the budget resolution introduced in the House gives us a pretty good idea of what the cuts might look like. This earlier version of the resolution called for $5.8 trillion over 10 years in cuts to programs that help low- and moderate-income families. This included a devastating $1.8 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other health care programs, which would hurt millions of children, families, and seniors.

What does this mean for consumers right now?

Nothing yet. The budget resolution is a set of guidelines. It will not be submitted to the President, and it does not have the force of law. However, Congress is planning on releasing formal tax legislation as early as next week, which if passed by both houses, would affect consumers beginning in 2018.

Check back with HCFANY in the coming weeks for updates on the budget and other federal health care policy issues.