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POC-IL Statement: Nearly 12 Million People Enrolled in Health Coverage Through the Marketplace, Underscoring the Continued Importance of the ACA for Working Families

Despite relentless repeal efforts, over 11.8 million people signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Insurance Marketplaces for plan year 2018. This figure represents only a slight (3.7%) decline in enrollment compared to last year, which is simply remarkable considering the headwinds and obstacles faced during this year’s open enrollment. In fact, a report out Wednesday shows that states running their own marketplaces posted significant enrollment increases and demonstrates what is possible with leadership that is supportive of the law.

Open enrollment began after the Trump administration sharply cut federal enrollment outreach efforts, reduced the time frame to enroll, raised premiums by ending cost-sharing subsidy payments, and and even posted advertisements critical of the law on official government websites. “Despite higher prices, less time, and less help, enrollment is stable,” said Graciela Guzman, Coalition Manager of Protect Our Care Illinois. “We could not be happier for the millions of families who can rest easy knowing they will not face financial ruin in the event of a serious illness or injury thanks to this coverage.”

Protect Our Care Illinois and its member organizations applaud these robust enrollment figures and the thousands of families who signed up here in Illinois as well. This year, 334,979 Illinois residents enrolled through the end of open enrollment on Dec. 15, down only 6% compared to 2017. “We were worried it would be significantly lower – we had everything against us,” Guzman went on to say. “But a surge in demand for help from enrollment assisters and navigators showed that people really want this coverage. The numbers show it, and it makes sense. This is good coverage that most people can afford.”

These strong enrollment numbers remind us how highly families value the private health insurance and consumer protections offered through marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. Despite counterproductive actions by the Trump Administration, families from across the nation signed up for coverage at an unprecedented pace. We urge President Trump and his Congress to honor the will of the American people and abandon their efforts to undermine the ACA health coverage relied on by working families. Instead, lawmakers at the federal and state levels should focus on improving the health of our communities by helping more families afford their health insurance and ensuring that the coverage they receive is comprehensive and high quality.

POC-IL Sign-On Letter: Gov Rauner, Oppose Medicaid Work Requirements!

Protect Our Care Illinois has proudly joined 100 of our partner organizations in signing on to a letter calling on Governor Bruce Rauner to join us in opposing any work requirements for Medicaid.

Work requirements unnecessarily create barriers to health care, strip people of these health benefits, and cost the State of Illinois billions of Federal dollars with no benefit for our state.

Read our sign-on letter here.

Act NOW to Support Community Health Centers!

Despite widespread bipartisan agreement on the need to pass long-term funding for Community Health Centers, this funding was not included in the Continuing Resolution introduced in the House. Instead, Congress’ short-term funding proposal pits crucial health programs against each other. It includes a six-year funding extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), while neglecting to fund Community Health Centers (also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs) and a number of other important health programs whose funding has lapsed.

Community Health Center’s (CHC’s) now face a 70% reduction in funds without Congress action. Such a dramatic loss of funds would be catastrophic for the one million Illinoisans and 27 million people nationwide who depend on CHCs for their care. Underserved communities would be hardest hit. One out of every three people living in poverty and one out of four rural Americans depend on CHCs for health care services. Indeed, these clinics are not only a source of care but also provide good jobs to these communities. In addition, CHC’s provide care and services for many children enrolled in CHIP, so funding CHIP without funding CHC’s creates an unnecessary barrier to access for children across our state.

Congress’ inability to respond to the health center funding cliff leaves health centers and their patients facing considerable damage with each passing day. Already, health centers are instituting hiring freezes and deferring plans to invest in their communities. If Congress does not fund CHCs by the end of the month, layoffs and site closures are sure to follow. An estimated 50,000 jobs and care for nine millions patients are in jeopardy.

Health centers simply cannot wait another month for a resolution of this crisis. We urge the House and Senate to continue to work towards a final package that includes long-term funding for Community Health Centers, CHIP and other critical health care extenders by January 19th.

POC-IL statement: We Call on Governor Rauner to Denounce Medicaid Work Requirements which are Cruel and Backwards Policy – Meant to Punish Low Income People

Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that they will allow states to apply for waivers to allow work requirements for “able bodied” Medicaid recipients. This is a radical shift in CMS policy that creates a hostile environment to government assistance with health coverage. Such a move creates numerous barriers to accessing care, penalizes individuals who have lost employment or have difficulty securing consistent employment by denying them health coverage, and undermines the purpose of Medicaid all together: assisting low-income people to obtain medical services.

Requiring work for Medicaid eligibility further alienates people just trying to make ends meet by punishing them through removing access to health care. Common sense tells us that in order to work and thrive, you must be healthy; taking away access to medications and medical care will only make folks sicker and less able to work in the future. Moreover, nearly 8 in 10 non-disabled adults with Medicaid coverage live in working families, and most are working themselves. The vast majority of those who are not working have health conditions, often caring for children or other family members who are ill or have a disability, or are in school.

Many individuals with chronic health conditions gained Medicaid coverage through the Medicaid expansion and may not be exempt from the work requirement because they don’t meet the strict federal disability criteria despite conditions that prevent them from working. They face significant challenges and requirements that can lead to the loss of health care — with potentially serious health consequences; it has been proven that work requirements are not the way to address these challenges or bolster future employment.

There is no evidence that a work requirement increases long-term employment, reduces poverty, or promotes positive health outcomes. These policies just create red tape and one more hoop to jump through before individuals can see a doctor and receive care, harming their health and well-being. Not only that, our state government is already stretched thin and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (i.e., our Medicaid agency) works hard to keep up with new technologies and systems that are constantly changing. But adding more bureaucracy is misguided and will only lead to more budget and backlog problems than we have now.

Protect Our Care Illinois calls on Governor Rauner to denounce this short-sighted and backwards policy and reassure low income people in Illinois that the state will not implement these cruel work requirements – but will instead continue to help meet the health needs of all Illinoisans so individuals can truly thrive without punitive strings attached.

The GOP New Year’s Gift to Constituents: A Tax Bill that Guts Healthcare to Finance Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Last night, House and Senate Republicans rushed through passage of a tax bill that’s a gift to the wealthy at the expense of working and middle-class Americans. It’s an unpopular gift that our families will pay for, for generations to come. The tax bill increases the deficit by over a trillion dollars and guts the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act by repealing the individual mandate, leaving 13 million more without health insurance, hiking premiums for millions more, and causing massive disruption in the healthcare marketplace. The damage doesn’t stop there. This bill places more than 55 million people who depend on Medicare for their health care at risk of losing access to critical health services through a potential trigger of an automatic $25 billion cut to Medicare.

This isn’t the victory we hoped for, but we left it all on the field. Protect Our Care Illinois partners around the state were tireless – you held statewide actions to protest this reckless bill and made thousands of phone calls to urge opposition by members of Congress. You dragged this fight out to the end and made it as painful as possible for them to betray their constituents. You should be proud of everything you did to fight for justice over the last few weeks, but know this fight is FAR from over. We know that healthcare will continue to be at risk in 2018.

Speaker Ryan and other Republican congressional leaders have now publicly stated they plan to pay for the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts by going after Medicaid, Medicare and other critical social safety net programs that hardworking Americans count on. Such reckless cuts would put children, older adults, people with disabilities and working families across the country at risk of losing care they need, and further erode our nation’s historic commitment to the basic health and well-being of all Americans.

We call on ALL Members of Congress to pledge that they will not seek to cut Medicaid, Medicare, or other safety net programs to offset these irresponsible tax giveaways. Should they decide to follow through on their pledge to gut the health and support programs that our communities depend on, Protect Our Care Illinois and our allies across the state will rise up to challenge and defend healthcare at every turn.

Take Action! Demand Congress to extend CHIP funding

The clock has long run out on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Since funding expired on September 30th, Congress has yet to move forward on extending the funding for this critical program that supports the health care and coverage for 9 million children, with over a quarter of a million CHIP recipients residing in Illinois.

As we head into the holidays, Congress (including all seven Illinois House Republicans) has found time to slash taxes for the ultra-wealthy and corporations and cut health insurance for 13 million Americans, but continues to stall funding CHIP as well as other crucial health programs like Community Health Centers (CHCs), and the home visiting program, MIECHV, which keeps newborns and new families healthy. These indispensable programs allow children and their families to access the services they need. Yet, nothing has been done in Congress, making it clearer than ever that many of our elected officials have not prioritized the health and wellbeing of Illinois children.

Today, the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families released new analysis  which found that if Congress does not act soon to fund CHIP almost 2 million children could lose coverage in January. An additional 1 million children would also be at risk of losing coverage by the end of February. Several states have already sent letters to families and announced plans for ending kids’ coverage if funding is not renewed this month. Illinois will be close behind in 2018.

It is unconscionable for Congress to break for the holidays without funding the essential health programs CHIP, Community Health Centers, and home visiting through MIECHV. Call your member of Congress today (202) 224-3121 and demand that they put children’s health first and #FundCHIPNow!

POC-IL Statement: Senate Tax Scam Vote

Dear Partners,

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the Senate voted to pass an incredibly reckless tax bill that strips health care from millions to fund tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Rather than developing a bipartisan plan that supports middle class families, small businesses and communities, Senate Republicans chose a rushed effort to benefit billionaires leaving 13 million Americans uninsured, driving up health care premiums and allowing for $5.8 trillion in future cuts to Medicaid, SNAP, Head Start and many other crucial services that benefit families in order to pay for the $1.5 trillion tax cut. This strikes a particularly cruel blow to the millions of children, older adults, people with disabilities and working families across the country who count on these vital programs to get the critical health care and long-term and nursing home care they need.

Middle class families who are dealing with serious health conditions would be particularly at risk of losing coverage or finding affordable coverage.The bill would also trigger an automatic $25 billion cut to Medicare, putting millions of seniors at risk of losing coverage for critical health services.Their priorities are CLEAR and they are far from the values of hard working American families.

Now the tax billheads back to the House so they can vote on the bill’s next steps. House members can turn this around and stand up against a bill that raises taxes on low and middle-income individuals and families while also ripping access to health care from them. The most recent report estimates the bill will blow up the deficit by $1 trillion even after accounting for economic growth. This bill is a disaster and continuing to support itis completely irresponsible. Too many families are working too hard to be kicked to the curb by Congress just so the wealthy and corporations can benefit from huge tax cuts. We must hold our House representatives accountable to the individuals and families who will lose BIG if this bill passes.

In Solidarity,

Protect Our Care IL

Congressional Tax Scam for the Rich Now Takes Aim at the Affordable Care Act

Protect Our Care Illinois urges our Congressional members to reject the proposed House and Senate Tax Reform bills. The House is expected to vote on its version of the bill on Thursday – we need you to call your Member of Congress today! Call your Member of Congress through our partner, Americans for Tax Fairness’ hotline at 877-795-7862 and urge that they oppose these bills!

Just like the failed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Republican tax proposals would hurt people living in poverty and middle income working families to pay for massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. To make this situation even worse, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced yesterday that the Senate version of the bill will now include language to repeal the Affordable Care Act individual mandate. As the nonpartisan CBO reported last week, repealing the individual mandate would increase premiums, spike the number of uninsured by 13 million and ultimately decimate the private insurance market.

Who are some of the biggest losers under the tax bills? People with high medical expenses (e.g., seniors, people with disabilities, people with catastrophic illnesses), individuals with outstanding student loans, and the bottom 35% of taxpayers. In all, the tax bill would harm 36 million families and increase the deficit by 1.5 trillion dollars.

The biggest winners? Wealthy individuals and corporations. All we need to do is listen to the White House Economic Adviser, Gary Cohn, who said that “the most excited group out there about the tax plan are big CEOs.” He’s right. The House and Senate tax bills are part of a two-step fiscal agenda. Under both plans, Congress would first cut taxes for the rich and corporations, to then justify deep cuts in critical programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, Food Assistance and Education next year and for years to come. Make no mistake—the Republican tax proposals are a thinly veiled attempt at Robin-Hood-in-Reverse.

The House may vote on the tax bill as soon as today!! Please call your Representative TODAY (877-795-7862) and urge them to vote NO on this unfair tax deal!

Tell your Representative you strongly oppose the House and Senate tax bills and any tax proposals that blow up the deficit, gives massive tax cuts to the wealthy, or repeals parts of the ACA.

Watch the webinar: The fight’s not over! Protecting our health care now and into future

Download the Slides!

This webinar focuses on the latest developments from Washington, D.C. and Illinois in health care policy and how together we can fight back against the Trump administration’s ACA sabotage efforts.

Watch the webinar to hear experts share insights on Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), efforts to stabilize the Affordable Care Act, everything to know about cost-sharing reductions, and essential tips on how advocates can support open enrollment efforts.

Speakers include:

– Alaina Kennedy, Manager of Health Equity, AIDS Foundation of Chicago
– Daniel Rabbitt, Project Manager of Health Policy, Heartland Alliance
– Graciela Guzman, Enrollment CoordinatorPatient Innovation Center
– Katie Jones, Volunteer, Peoria Healthcare Coalition

Click here to download the slides!

Watch the webinar!

POC-IL Statement: Bipartisan Alexander-Murray Plan improves and protects the American health care system

Protect Our Care Illinois (POC-IL) lauds Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) for working together to craft a bipartisan health care bill.  Their approach, unlike Republican led bills, while not perfect, takes steps toward stabilizing American’s access to health insurance by providing two years of funding for the Marketplace cost-sharing reductions; and supporting critical outreach and education activities.

This deal was the result of months of bipartisan discussions between Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions committee including open hearings, where stakeholders, including governors, state insurance directors and advocates testified to the importance of stabilizing the Marketplace and ensuring plan affordability. This is the open fair process that the American people want Congress to engage in in order to find solutions to support and bolster the health care system.

POC-IL, like the vast majority of Americans, believes this is the way forward, where elected officials cross the aisle and work together to improve the ACA, not repeal it. Senators Alexander and Murray are demonstrating bipartisanship in action — the best path toward improving the American health care system.