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Protect Our Care Illinois Condemns the Trump Administration’s Latest Attempt to Undermine Health Care Access for 70 Million Americans

For four years, the Trump administration has worked to undermine the health and well being of millions of Americans via harmful attacks on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With less than 65 days left in office, the current administration has continued its unprecedented assault on health care by issuing an interim final rule that permits states to make Medicaid budget cuts without losing enhanced federal funding. In essence, this rule enables state legislatures and Medicaid agencies to reduce or eliminate optional benefits (such as oral health care, substance use treatment, etc.), increase cost-sharing and premiums, and reduce benefit packages.

At a time where states across the country are experiencing dangerous surges in COVID-19 cases, we need increased access to comprehensive coverage, not less. This is simply another attempt of the current federal Administration to kick the can down the road and skirt their responsibilities to serve the dire needs of the American public. Their apathetic attempt to “support” state budgets through slashing health care is not only misguided, but ineffectual. Less coverage drives higher costs in emergency room visits, and increases uncompensated care leaving hospitals and taxpayers holding the bill. 

While Protect Our Care Illinois does not anticipate Illinois partaking in this abhorrent rule, we wholeheartedly and unequivocally denounce this guidance, which has the potential to jeopardize the health care of more than 70 million Americans. We also call upon our state elected leaders, including Governor Pritzker, to firmly and quickly denounce this latest attempt to undermine access to health care in the midst of a global pandemic, and demand the federal administration provide additional supports to states including increasing Medicaid federal match funds (FMAP) to 14 percent.

Although the interim final rule is effective immediately, public comments are being accepted through January 4, 2021. Protect Our Care Illinois encourages all Medicaid stakeholders to submit formal comments urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to rescind this harmful guidance and ensure all Medicaid coverage remains stable for all enrollees.

Biden / Harris Administration Signals Hope for Expanded Health Care Access, ACA Still in Jeopardy

With the election results finally declared official, we move from the unknown and onto what’s next. However, this is a bittersweet moment as the past days, weeks, and months have shined a bright light on the true character of our nation — one steeped in injustice and inequity, where racism, xenophobia, sexism, classism, and homophobia remain as cornerstones across states, systems, and beliefs. Nevertheless, we pick up the mantle and continue the relentless pursuit of just and equitable access to health care for all. 

Protect Our Care Illinois looks forward to the implementation of the Biden/Harris administration’s plans to expand access to quality, affordable health care to all Americans regardless of their race, immigration status, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic level. We will fight to expand, preserve, and reestablish protections for LGBTQ+ communities, low-income populations, and immigrants who have been abused and ignored for the past four years.

However, in spite of the incoming administration’s demonstrated commitment to health care expansion, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still in jeopardy. In fact, the closeness of the election signals that not every American is driven by the values of racial equity, health equity, and justice for all.

While our nation has historically struggled to provide affordable and equitable health care, since it was signed into law in 2010, the ACA has been under attack. Protect Our Care Illinois will be focusing our efforts on the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS)’s November 10 oral arguments hearing in the Health Care Repeal lawsuit (California v. Texas), the culmination of a series of baseless attacks on people’s health care access that questions the constitutionality of the ACA. 

In the decade since its inception, the ACA has ensured access to health care for more than 22 million Americans, lowering the uninsured rate of both children and adults. Currently, almost one million Illinoisans receive coverage through the ACA (approximately 630,000 through the Medicaid expansion and nearly 300,000 through the Marketplace). Furthermore, the ACA has expanded access to preventive care and family planning services; established essential protections for Americans living with pre-existing conditions (including over 5.4 million in Illinois), and codified anti-discrimination laws protecting individuals’ rights to high quality accessible health care. 

Should the ACA be struck down, nearly 20 million Americans would be at risk of losing their health care coverage. The health care coverage losses would hit people of color especially hard, right as they are also having to face job losses due to the pandemic. The uninsured rate for Black people would dramatically increase and adults without a college degree could face major coverage losses, particularly those who are people of color.

To be clear, further expansion of health insurance is needed to achieve universal coverage. There were approximately 30 million people uninsured in 2019, and millions more lost their insurance coverage in the economic devastation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 900,000 Illinoisans were uninsured before COVID-19 and that number has climbed in the economic fallout. Denial of health coverage is an unacceptable, deadly health injustice. The incoming Biden Administration should work ambitiously with Congress to reach health insurance coverage for all such that health care is guaranteed as a human right.

While more is needed to ensure all Americans have meaningful access to equitable health care, the ACA has made significant progress on reducing health care inequities. Protect Our Care Illinois refuses to allow ANY reversal of the progress made on health insurance coverage and will continue to demand health care for all. We invite you to join us in the fight to protect our care. To join Protect Our Care, contact info@protectourcareil.org.

Rushing Through SCOTUS Confirmation Risks the Health of Over 20 Million Americans

On November 10, 2020, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will hear oral arguments in the Health Care Repeal lawsuit (California v. Texas), a baseless attack on people’s health care access that questions the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was expected to use her vote in defense of the ACA. However, in light of her passing and the impending confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a well-known opponent of the ACA, Protect Our Care Illinois is gravely concerned for the future of the landmark legislation, which protects the health of millions of Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions. The stakes in Illinois could not be greater: patient protections, the Medicaid Expansion, subsidies that help working families, and federal funding are all on the line.

Before joining the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Coney Barrett:

  • Criticized SCOTUS’ 2012 ruling in favor of upholding the ACA’s individual mandate tax;
  • Condemned Chief Justice Roberts’s use of his vote to uphold the ACA; and 
  • Praised the late Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in King v. Burwell, a case in which SCOTUS deemed the ACA’s subsidies constitutional

In addition, Judge Coney Barrett is a staunch opponent of reproductive rights, does not believe in climate change and its impacts on health, and will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power

Protect Our Care Illinois stands in strong opposition to the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.  We demand that no Supreme Court Justice confirmation occur before inauguration. It’s up to the people to decide. 

Join our efforts to save the ACA! Below are some ways that you can engage in this fight to protect people’s health care!

  • Ensure you’re making your voice heard by voting in the 2020 election and consider the future of health and health care of all Americans.
  • We encourage everyone who has been impacted by the ACA to share their story via social media using #SaveOurHealthcare and #ProtectILCare
  • Thank our elected officials for their tireless defense of the ACA, including: Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (@KwameRaoul); Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin); and Senator Tammy Duckworth (@TammyforIL).

Join Protect Our Care Illinois’ ongoing efforts to defend the Affordable Care Act by contacting info@protectourcareil.org.

The Legacy of Justice Ginsburg and Why We Must Protect the ACA.

Protect Our Care Illinois joins the millions of health care advocates mourning the recent loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In addition to being a champion for women, LGBTQ+ communities, and immigrants, Justice Ginsburg was a monumental figure in the fight for equitable, affordable health care coverage for all. 

As we look back on the legacy of Justice Ginsburg, we also look to the future. The Supreme Court will review the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this November in the Health Care Repeal lawsuit (California v. Texas). Justice Ginsburg was anticipated to use her vote in defense of the ACA; now Protect Our Care Illinois joins health care justice advocates around the country to sound the alarm about what her vacancy means for the future of the ACA. In the midst of an increasingly severe public health crisis and the biggest economic downturn in recent history, the stakes could not be higher.

Since the passage of the ACA, over 20 million individuals, children, and families have gained access to comprehensive health care. In addition, the law has led to historic reductions in racial inequities in access to health care. Between 2013 and 2018, the uninsured gap between Black and white people closed by 4.1 percentage points and 9.4 percentage points between Latinx and white people. Both historical and contemporary U.S. policies, including welfare policy, disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, as well as immigrants. The lack of universal health insurance coverage is very much a part of the racism and xenophobia expressed through policy [1], [2].

The law also pioneered meaningful access to health coverage including ensuring coverage for 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions; the expansion of Medicaid eligibility for adults with low-incomes; required coverage of preventive services with no cost-sharing in private insurance, Medicare, and for those enrolled in the Medicaid expansion; and allowed young adults 26 and younger to remain covered by their parent’s health plan. The ACA also took radical steps to protect and expand the health rights of women, HIV/AIDS, and LQBTQ+ communities. Simply put, the law significantly moved the needle on accessible and equitable health care.

If the ACA is overturned over 800,000 Illinoisans could lose coverage, with over 600,000 adults losing coverage gained through Medicaid expansion, alone. Across the state, over 5.4 million people with pre-existing conditions could lose guaranteed coverage – including anyone who has tested positive and/or has been treated for COVID-19. Health plans could once again start imposing limits on lifetime coverage, routinely charging women and older adults more for care, and lift caps on out of pocket costs to consumers. 

While more is needed to reach equitable health care for all, the ACA made significant progress on reducing health care disparities. Protect Our Care Illinois refuses to allow the reversal of this progress. As health justice advocates we will continue to educate and activate our communities in opposition to the Health Care Repeal Lawsuit. 

Join our efforts to save the ACA! Below are some ways that you can engage in this fight to protect people’s health care!

  • We encourage everyone who has been impacted by the ACA to share their story via social media using #SaveOurHealthcare and #ProtectILCare
  • Thank our elected officials for their tireless defense of the ACA, including: Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul (@KwameRaoul); Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin); and Senator Tammy Duckworth (@TammyforIL).
  • Join Protect Our Care Illinois’ ongoing efforts to defend the Affordable Care Act by contacting info@protectourcareil.org.

[1]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4306458/

[2]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3863357/

Action Alert: Demand Congress Supports Medicaid

In Illinois, over 204,000 essential and front-line workers are enrolled in Medicaid. Medicaid is a lifeline for millions of people, especially as COVID-19 case counts spike and unemployment continues to plague our communities – especially our BIPOC communities as they face astoundingly higher death and infection rates and job losses than white people.

CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY at (202) 224-3121 to demand Congress supports Medicaid by:

  • Increasing federal Medicaid funding by 14 percent, including funding for Medicaid expansion populations; 
  • Continuing the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) to prevent people from getting kicked off of Medicaid during the public health emergency; and 
  • Opposing any efforts by the Administration to undermine Medicaid, especially the implementation of the harmful Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR).

As the Senate continues to negotiate the latest COVID-19 relief package, Illinois’ ability to ensure access to health coverage for low income individuals, children, and families hangs in the balance. 

Congress MUST increase federal funding for Medicaid to protect families’ health and financial well being, while continuing the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to protect those enrolled in Medicaid from losing their coverage during a public health crisis. 

Protect Our Care Illinois Condemns the Trump Administration and its Allies in State Government Still Pursuing Their Health Care Repeal Lawsuit in the Midst of a Pandemic

Today, the House of Representatives will vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Advancement Act. Also referred to as the ACA 2.0, the bill aims to strengthen the current law through provisions such as making coverage more affordable; investing in consumer outreach, education and enrollment; creating incentives to expand Medicaid for the 14 states who have yet to do so; expanding Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months; negotiating lower prescription drug prices and restoring Medicaid coverage for select migrant individuals lawfully residing in the United States.

This bill serves as a promising starting point to shore up the ACA and meaningfully strengthen and increase access to comprehensive affordable health care during a global health crisis. It also is a stark reminder that the current administration is actively trying to do the exact opposite by consistently undermining existing protections and advances in ensuring Americans have health care. 

ACA 2.0 was introduced at nearly the same time opponents of the ACA filed briefings with the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in their ongoing attempt to repeal the law and strip care from over 23 million individuals and families, which is even more dangerous now that we are in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis. It also comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) releasing their final rule amending the civil rights provision of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557), effectively rolling back federal protection from discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, individuals living with HIV, non-English speakers, and women. 

Protect Our Care Illinois remains disappointed, sickened, and repulsed by this administration’s incessant attempts to decimate the health of our communities, particularly Black and Brown communities. This is even more concerning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown communities. Instead of pursuing a lawsuit designed to take health care away from people who need it, the Administration should be, at the very least, opening ACA Marketplaces so people can enroll in coverage today.

We will continue to defend the ACA and commit to work that increases truly equitable access to care and comprehensive services for every single Illinoisan.

Statement: racial justice is health justice

This past weekend, the long-standing reality of deep oppression and injustice for Black communities has become front and center on the national stage. Protect Our Care Illinois stands with Black communities across the state, and lifts their efforts to demand justice so they are afforded the basic rights of existing without fear and obtaining equitable access to high quality services that ensure basic needs are met – including health care, nutrition, and housing. 

It is impossible to parse out structural racism and systemic injustice from health outcomes for Black communities. In Illinois, Black individuals account for 43% of COVID-19 related deaths while making up only 15% of the state’s population.  Also, the same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against Black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among Black Americans with COVID-19.

We also must acknowledge the white supremacy in our culture, and the exhaustion and despair that our Black colleagues who are doing this work alongside of us feel. This weekend, like much of history, we have seen continued complacency focused on detracting from the realities of brutality against Black and Brown communities by way of shifting the narrative to cover property over people, doubling down on subversive messages like all lives matter, and designating labels like “thugs” to incite racist perceptions that diminish the extraordinary pain and suffering plaguing our Black neighbors working to lift their voices so that maybe this once, they will actually be listened to. 

We join the Opportunity Agenda for #JusticeOutLoud and call for leadership and justice from district attorneys, police chiefs, and all people with power or position to say enough is enough. It is time to address once and for all the white supremacist violence proliferating in America.We cannot be quiet or passive in this moment of anger and disbelief –  remaining silent is an act of compliance in the face of grave injustice.

While we continue to navigate both the pandemic and demands for justice, we must declare beyond the shadow of a doubt,  that racial justice is health justice. We cannot call for one without demanding the other. Protect Our Care Illinois wholeheartedly and unequivocally stands with our Black neighbors and communities in pursuit of a just and equitable society. In our fight for equitable access to health care for all Illinoisans, we implore our local and state leaders to acknowledge that police brutality is a public health crisis. Our leaders must take immediate and decisive action for just reform so that our Black and Brown neighbors are afforded not only the basic right to live without fear of brutality, but so our state systems are equipped with the voices, knowledge, and tools to aggressively weed out injustice and inequity.

Protect Our Care Illinois sends letter to federal CMS demanding care

In the ongoing effort to demand equitable access to high quality health care for all Illinoisans, Protect Our Care Illinois has drafted a letter calling on federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to adopt additional policies to expand access to affordable health care during the COVID-19 crisis.

The letter below, signed by over 30 advocates, has been sent to CMS, the IL Congressional Delegation, the Governor’s office, and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).

Letter to CMS:

“On March 1, 2020, President Donald Trump declared the health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a national emergency with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic ten days later. As of the date of this letter, there are more than 243,000 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases nationwide with over 7,700 cases here in the state of Illinois that has taken the lives of 157 Illinoisans. Unfortunately, federal health officials note that the number of infections and deaths associated with COVID-19 will grow exponentially in the coming days and weeks. The gravity of this global health emergency presents an array of significant challenges that is imperative we address.

As a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to health equity, Protect Our Care Illinois is very concerned about how individuals and communities across the state will access the medical care necessary to combat COVID-19. We are additionally alarmed by the millions of Americans that will lose their health insurance due to COVID-19 related employment layoffs, closures, and terminations. We strongly believe that, during these tumultuous times, we should be ensuring that all Americans are able to get the critical medical care that they need and deserve.

Considering these challenges, Protect Our Care Illinois believes that the following policy priorities should be adopted immediately:

  • Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) should alleviate existing barriers to individuals applying for Medicaid that may not have been addressed in the previous Section 1115/1135 waivers, including addressing lack of access to the online application for individuals without access to a computer during the federal emergency. Specifically, we ask that CMS allow Illinois to enable individuals to “sign” a Medicaid application via an assistor (e.g., an individual at a community-based organization that provides application assistance, whether or not they are a certified application counselor) without being physically present with that assistor during the federal emergency;
  • Ensure all COVID-19 treatment is covered with no out of pocket costs to the consumer. Although testing is currently covered, additional costs remain, such as those related to copays, hospitalization, and physical therapy related to COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment;
  • We strongly urge the Administration to reconsider their position and follow the example of nearly every state with a state-based marketplace, and enact a special enrollment period for 90 days with the possibility for an extension as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This must happen to allow uninsured and underinsured residents to enroll in health coverage through the federal health insurance exchange;

In addition, we request that any new coverage obtained on the federal Marketplace through a special enrollment period be in place as soon as possible.

  • Adjust financial assistance for current Marketplace enrollees. Cost of coverage remains a barrier for many people, and even those who have coverage will be reluctant to seek testing and care, if they face a prohibitive cost-sharing burden. The federal government should temporarily boost advanced premium tax credits (APTC) for all eligible to no less than the lowest cost Bronze plan for the remainder of the calendar year.

Although not an exhaustive list, we believe that these policy recommendations will go a long way to guarantee that the most vulnerable in our communities do not fall through the cracks during this global pandemic. We look forward to working with the President’s administration, CMS officials, and elected officials on Capitol Hill and in Springfield to address the challenges posed by COVID-19. As a coalition we remain steadfast in our commitment that all Illinoisans should have access to quality affordable health care.”

Statement: Protect Our Care Illinois disappointed by committee vote on HB3493

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Springfield, IL (March 4, 2020) – Today the Protect Our Care Illinois (POCIL) Coalition released the following statement: 

We are disappointed by the outcome of today’s committee vote on HB3493, a bill to empower consumers by creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, an independent state board to review increasing drug prices and put a check on the unbridled power of big Pharma.

Recent polling data conducted in Illinois shows over half of Illinoisans reported experiencing a health care affordability burden and one in four ration or skip prescription medications due to high costs. Over eight in ten adults in Illinois said that they want the government to take decisive action, including establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board.

The people of Illinois have made it clear that they need common sense solutions that release them from the nocuous compromise between affording prescription drugs or other basic needs. Today the inaction of members of the General Assembly spoke volumes by denying the people of Illinois access to affordable prescription drugs. It’s simple: prescription drugs don’t work if you can’t afford them! 

Protect Our Care Illinois will continue to elevate the stories of hard working Illinoisans who cannot afford their life saving medications. We are dedicated to working alongside the champions of this issue to ensure all Illinoisans have access to the medications they need to live full and healthy lives.

Press release: new survey shows Illinoisans experiencing health care affordability crisis

SPRINGFIELD– A majority of Illinoisans have difficulty affording health care and prescription drugs according to a new Consumer Healthcare Experience State Survey (CHESS) commissioned in January 2020 by Protect Our Care Illinois and Altarum’s Healthcare Value Hub, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The survey found that over half (56 percent) of Illinois adults experienced healthcare affordability burdens in the past year and four out of five (81 percent) are worried about affording healthcare in the future. For most respondents, addressing the high cost of healthcare is their top priority for policymakers and, across party lines, they express strong support for government-led solutions.

The survey results were announced today in Springfield by Lynn Quincy, Director of the Healthcare Value Hub. She was joined by State Rep. Will Guzzardi, Senator Andy Manar and advocates from Protect Our Care Illinois. The legislators also unveiled new legislation to tackle some of the issues raised in the poll, including a new state board that would review data on drug prices and set new payment limits for state-regulated plans.

“This new consumer health survey confirms what we have known for a while: people in Illinois are being crushed by the cost of health care and prescription drugs and they are looking to state government to address this huge issue. We have to do something now to provide relief to Illinois families,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago who chairs the House Prescription Drug Affordability and Accessibility Committee. “When it comes to tackling drug costs, 86 percent of survey respondents endorsed the creation of Prescription Drug Affordability Board to examine the evidence and establish acceptable costs for drugs– and I’m committed to bringing that type of oversight to Illinois.”

“These findings signal the degree to which the prescription drug industry is failing to serve the health of patients, while those responsible face zero consequence,” said Senator Andy Manar, D-48. “It puts the onus on every legislator to be a part of a solution that delivers serious transparency and accountability to an industry besieged by profiteering and exploitation of working families.”

CHESS is designed to elicit respondents’ unbiased views on a wide range of health system issues, including confidence using the health system, financial burden and views on fixes that might be needed. The survey used a web panel from Dynata, January 9 – January 17, 2020, resulting in a demographically balanced sample of approximately 1,047 adults 18 and older who live in Illinois. More information about methodology can be found in the report.

“Our current prescription drug pricing system is broken and, as it operates today, cannot deliver medications that all Illinoisans can afford. Prescription drugs don’t work if you can’t afford them,” said Logan Charlesworth, Protect Our Care Illinois coalition manager. “We need to allow Illinoisans to focus on getting healthy rather than allowing them to dangle on the precipice of health and financial ruin because they cannot afford their medications.”

Additional key findings include:

  • Nearly half (49 percent) of adults who needed health care in the prior 12-months encountered one or more cost-related barriers to getting the care they needed.
  • Over half (54 percent) of all survey respondents reported being either “worried” or “very worried” about affording the cost of prescription drugs. More than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) cited cost concerns as the driving factor for not filling a prescription or cutting pills in half.
  • Of the adults sampled in the survey, those who live in Greater Illinois (outside of Cook and the Collar Counties) experienced the highest healthcare affordability burden (59 percent) compared to the rest of the state.
  • Over one-third (35 percent) of Cook County adults got the care they needed but struggled to pay the resulting medical bill and 12 percent were unable to pay for necessities like food, heat, or housing.

Protect Our Care Illinois calls on the Governor and legislator leaders in the General Assembly to make health care affordability a priority during this legislative session.

To read the reports, visit:

Learn more about the Prescription Drug Affordability Board here.

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About Protect Our Care Illinois

Protect Our Care Illinois is a statewide coalition of health care advocates, providers, consumers, and workers, joining together to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), prevent disastrous changes to Medicaid, and protect and expand access to quality affordable health care.