Thirteen Years After Being Signed Into Law, the ACA is Covering More People Than Ever But More Action is Needed to Finish the Job of Affordable Coverage for All

By healthcarenow Affordable Healthcare, Blog

On March 23, 2010, after years of advocacy from groups like HCAN that mobilized thousands of people to demand action, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. Marcelas Owens, an HCAN activist from Washington state who lost his 27-year old mother because of lack of insurance, stood next to President Obama as he made history with the largest healthcare reform since passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

Thanks to the ACA, over thirty million uninsured Americans were able to get coverage and millions more gained improved coverage thanks to consumer protections and new benefits – like no cost preventive care – that applied to all private coverage. Over 150 million people now benefit from protection against denials because of pre-existing conditions, an end to lifetime caps and limits on coverage, and elimination of gender discrimination that used to enable insurance corporations to charge women more than men for the exact same insurance policy. The ACA closed the Medicare Part D “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage, expanded funding for community and home based care for aging people and people with disabilities, and for the first time mandated coverage of essential health benefits in ACA plans like inpatient and outpatient hospital care, prescription drug coverage, pregnancy and childbirth, and mental health services, that were previously excluded from many plans. 

A record-breaking 16.3 million Americans signed up for insurance through the ACA in the most recent enrollment period. Thanks in large part to the ACA and to Medicaid expansion under the law as well as improvements made during the pandemic which made continuous enrollment easier and lowered costs, the United States currently has the lowest uninsured rate in history, with only 8% of Americans going without health insurance.

The lesson of healthcare reform is clear: unless we keep pushing for more affordable and accessible coverage, progress will erode. Despite the tremendous success of the ACA and Medicaid, some elected leaders are still trying to roll back the law, shrink coverage and leave millions on their own to fight the big insurance and prescription drug corporations. For over a decade, Republicans tried to repeal, weaken, preempt and overturn the Affordable Care Act, both in whole and in parts. There have been well over 60 repeal votes in Congress, countless attacks in state legislatures, and a half dozen Supreme Court lawsuits to dismantle the law.

The ACA has prevailed, but Republicans have not stopped trying to take away healthcare, whether it’s spending cuts to Medicaid, repealing the Inflation Reduction Act that lowers costs for ACA coverage through 2024 and undoes Medicare negotiation for lower drug prices, or extending the Trump tax cuts, which will force cuts in healthcare to finance more tax breaks for high-income people.

Fortunately, President Biden has proposed a different direction on healthcare. His budget plan, proposed on March 9th, would lower healthcare costs by making permanent the affordability improvements in the ACA; increase access to mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and home based care for the elderly and people with disabilities; and reduce drug prices for more people in Medicare and private insurance. President Biden is urging Congress to increase taxes on wealthy households making more than $400,000 annually and on rich corporations who got big tax breaks under the Trump tax law to support these investments and reduce the deficit.

Under this plan, people stuck in the 11 states that have refused to fully implement the Affordable Care Act by expanding Medicaid coverage could get that coverage from the federal ACA exchange, drug corporations that raise their prices faster than the rate of inflation–currently 6.0%–would have to pay a rebate back to consumers, and the $800 average annual savings that individuals get under the ACA would become permanent. The President’s plan also ensures that Medicare can continue to pay 100% of benefits through 2050 by taking on corporate price-gouging and increasing taxes on the wealthy.

The ACA has allowed millions of Americans to get affordable health coverage they can depend on. It has improved the quality of coverage and consumer protections for tens of millions more and reduced racial health disparities by providing Black and Brown Americans, who are least likely to have access to healthcare, affordable coverage options.

History shows that we can keep building on this progress to ensure that more and more people get access to affordable coverage and care, to rein in corporate price-gouging, and to address long-standing racial health disparities in coverage. As we reach new heights of progress, the time is now to finish the job on healthcare and finally guarantee that everyone can get the healthcare they need, no matter where they live, what they look like or how much money is in their wallets.

HCAN Partner Spotlight: Organizing For Abortion Access Through Art in Rhode Island

By healthcarenow Blog, Reproductive Healthcare

The Womxn Project, is a grassroots art and activism organization that was founded around a kitchen table in 2017 to fight for abortion rights and reproductive health care. It’s now a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to building a strong movement that harnesses the power of art, activism and advocacy to improve people’s lives. The organization’s mission is to dismantle oppression by raising the voices of impacted people in communities throughout Rhode Island in order to shape legislative policy and build the power to win lasting changes. The Womxn Project embodies the principles of reproductive justice, cultivating innovation, and advancing durable change through creative approaches. 

Recently, co-founders Jordan Hevenor and Jocelyn Foye shared their experiences building power through art at the Arts & Education for Social Justice Symposium 2023. The presentation titled:  Artivism and Politics: How a State was Moved highlighted how The Womxn Project used a community build art project – a quilt – to mobilize a state and protect the right to abortion, an issue not typically associated with art. 

The Womxn Project’s Community Petition Quilt launched in the summer of 2017. Over 2,000 Rhode Islanders signed a quilt square over two years and dozens of volunteers from around the state came together in sewing bees to create and piece together the quilt panels.  The quilt was regularly displayed in the Capitol to represent the thousands of Rhode Islanders who support more robust abortion rights in the state, which although controlled by Democrats had an anti-abortion Senate President and anti-abortion Speaker of the House.

The Womxn Project’s quilt was a key symbol of the investment and commitment that built a network and a base of activists in that state. Today, those activists continue to work on expanding access to reproductive health care by including abortion access for Medicaid recipients and state workers in Rhode Island.  

Rhode Island, the most Catholic state in the Union, is moving in the right direction on abortion care while over a dozen other states are going the opposite way.  But lessons learned from normalizing abortion and leveraging creative tactics like art in Rhode Island, can apply anywhere to help community activists build power and transform communities. 

Medicare Advantage Plans are Scamming Patients and Taxpayers While Racking Up Huge Profits for Insurers

By Amanda Swanson Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Protecting the Pillars

Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance plans in Medicare that have become increasingly popular for enrollees, largely due to aggressive marketing. Currently, about half the Medicare population–30 million people–are covered by private Medicare Advantage plans, most associated with  the nation’s biggest insurance companies like Humana, Aetna and UnitedHealthCare.

Most people who sign up for Medicare Advantage are seeking specific benefits not currently offered in traditional Medicare, including dental, vision and hearing coverage.  Although Medicare Advantage plans often claim to provide superior coverage for patients, research shows there is no substantive difference in patients’ savings, access to treatments and health outcomes across both Advantage plans and traditional Medicare. Yet Medicare Advantage costs taxpayers more than traditional Medicare. 

There have been numerous reports about these companies overcharging for coverage and trying to cover up their profiteering by refusing to disclose information about payments. Studies and audits have identified billions of dollars of excess payments to health plans that weren’t supported by patients’ medical records. Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a rule that will collect over $4 billion in overcharges to Medicare from Medicare Advantage plans. 

Although we’re paying more for Advantage than regular Medicare, there’s growing evidence that tens of thousands of people in Medicare Advantage are actually getting less coverage because of denials, caps, and limits that are arbitrarily imposed by the private insurance corporations. 

Federal investigators from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that found “widespread and persistent problems related to inappropriate denials of services and payment,” resulting in millions of people going without treatments or paying out of pocket because their Advantage plans denied the service. These findings are supported in previous reports and by doctors and hospitals that have long been raising the issue of denials and delays by Medicare Advantage private plans. 

Even  as we learn more about the ways that Medicare Advantage plans are scamming both patients and the government, many lawmakers are reluctant to speak out against the programs. In fact, on the same day that CMS announced its new rule to claw back overpayments in MA programs, a bipartisan letter circulated in the Senate praising Medicare Advantage and the “high-quality care” it provides to seniors and people with disabilities.

This is an unexpected reaction given that Republicans in Congress have renewed attacks on traditional Medicare, that there’s growing and widespread concern about waste, abuse and solvency in the program, and that insurers are making bigger profit margins from Medicare Advantage than other products they sell.  

KFF’s new analysis of health insurers’ 2021 financial data shows that insurers continue to report much higher gross margins per enrollee in the Medicare Advantage market than in other health insurance markets. Thanks to the lack of oversight and taxpayer subsidized advertising, Medicare Advantage plans have become a lucrative business for the nation’s biggest insurers. UnitedHealth Group posted profits of $14.4 billion, up 20% over the prior year, propelling largely by increased enrollment in private Medicare plans. UnitedHealth increased its Medicare Advantage enrollment by 9%, from 6.5 million members to 7.1 million last year. It plans to add almost a million new members this year. 

Last year, Congress took on prescription drug corporations’ price gouging in Medicare by passing the Inflation Reduction Act that will require negotiated prices in Medicare for the first time and that penalizes drug corporations for raising their rates faster than inflation. The recent Medicare Advantage scandals show that much more action is needed to curb profiteering in Medicare and ensure the long-term health of the program. 

In addition to increased oversight and accountability, lawmakers need to curtail the incentives for Medicare Advantage to game the system by leveling  the playing field between the private plans and traditional Medicare and by stopping spurious Medicare Advantage advertising that promises enrollees better coverage while delivering denials and delays.

As the population continues to age, more and more people will need Medicare coverage. They deserve to have access to quality care that they can count on. The best way to protect and improve Medicare is to stop the rampant price-gouging by private insurance corporations that puts profit ahead of patient care. 

Eli Lilly Lowers Insulin Prices in Response to Growing Pressure from Patients and President Biden

By jfoster Blog, Lower Drug Prices

The largest domestic manufacturer of insulin, Indiana-based Eli Lilly, announced a 70% price reduction on its widely distributed insulin products that millions of Americans depend on to manage diabetes. The long-overdue action came after President Biden announced his intention the week before to expand a new $35/month insulin cap for people in Medicare to cover everyone in America. 

Patients have railed against high insulin prices for years, forcing legislative action in over 20 states and building momentum for national reform that has resulted in 4 million Americans in Medicare getting more affordable insulin under the Inflation Reduction Act which passed at the end of last year. 

Earlier in 2022,  patient advocates from TI International once again took to the streets outside Lilly’s headquarters to demand action and advocates from Lower Drug Prices Now, an HCAN partner, spent years highlighting prescription drug price gouging. 

In August, 2022, Congress delivered on their promise to lower prices by passing the Inflation Reduction Act  to lower out of pocket prices on insulin and other medicines for people in Medicare, enabling Medicare to negotiate prices on the most expensive drugs for the first time and penalizing companies that raise prices faster than the rate of inflation. Republicans blocked efforts to extend these reforms to   over 150 million with private insurance. 

Now, less than one year into the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug reforms,  Republicans are clamoring to repeal the new law–including the $35/month insulin cap. President Biden, meanwhile, continues to urge expansion of lower prices, urging Congress to pass a national $35 insulin cap in his State of the Union address. 

For years, drug corporations that sell insulin like Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi price-gouged patients, raising prices hundreds of dollars and putting the life-saving medicine out of reach for many. Drug corporations tripled prices on insulin over a decade. Some Americans, particularly uninsured people, paid as much as $1000 a month for insulin because of the rising cost. 

The researchers who discovered insulin in 1921 sold their patent to the University of Toronto but refused to collect a profit because they viewed the medicine as a public good that should be available to all. For decades, the price of insulin remained as affordable as any household item. 

But that all changed in more recent years, when drug corporations started to patent the medicine and raise prices to increase profits. Now the products cost hundreds of dollars a month and those price-increases have hurt patients, even costing some their lives

Humalog, Lilly’s most prescribed insulin, currently has a list price of $530 for a five-pack of injection pens and $274 for a vial. Lilly will drop the price down to about $160 starting in the fourth quarter of 2023. Lilly’s most affordable insulin, the Lispro injection, will cost $25 per vial starting May 1, compared to $82.41 right now. Lilly’s price drops will amount to a $35/month cap for some patients, depending on which insulin they use. 

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair of the HELP committee, sent letters to the other two insulin manufacturers, calling on them to do the same. Sanders also announced he’ll be introducing a bill to limit the price of insulin to $20/vial. 

Lilly’s action to lower prices is welcome, but make no mistake, this corporation is not motivated by repentance for years of price-gouging that denied patients access to medicine they need. Eli Lilly sees the writing on the wall: the public and their elected representatives want lower drug prices now and if corporations refuse to lower those prices, Congress will do it–just as they are doing in Medicare. 

Insulin is a good start, but lower prices on prescriptions that millions of people need can’t be achieved drug by drug or company by company. We need Congressional action that will end drug corporations’ monopoly power to set high launch prices, to raise prices anytime they want and to raise their prices faster than the rate of inflation. 

Every Member of Congress should get on the right side of this debate by standing against corporate price gouging and standing up instead for affordable, accessible medicines for everyone who needs them.

Biden’s SOTU Includes All We Need to Finish the Job on Affordable Coverage and Lower Health Costs

By Amanda Swanson Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Lower Drug Prices, Tax Fairness

In his second State of the Union Address, President Biden outlined the accomplishments of the last two years and called on Congress to “finish the job,” demonstrating his continued commitment to increasing access to affordable health care, stopping corporate profiteering and making our tax system more fair.  

President Biden highlighted the many healthcare successes of the last year, including lower drug prices in Medicare, capping out of pocket costs in Medicare for the first time, and lowering the cost of premiums for millions of people who get coverage through the Affordable Care Act. He also reminded Americans that drug corporations in Medicare can no longer raise prices faster than inflation, which they have done for over a decade, without facing penalties.

Republicans have already filed legislation to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, the law that makes these health care improvements. President Biden affirmed that he would veto any repeal bill or any effort to raise prices on prescriptions that comes across his desk in the next two years. This is an important commitment since the drug corporations have no plans to give up on inflated profits: they are already planning lawsuits to delay and derail the new law. 

The President is right that we still need to finish the job. A universal insulin cap that would cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for everyone will help people like Denise Marrero, a third-generation diabetic. While her father’s insulin costs have been capped through Medicare, she and others in her family are still paying sky-high prices for their medication because the reforms apply only to Medicare enrollees. 

The reforms contained in the Inflation Reduction Act must be expanded to include people with private insurance and uninsured people, including both the price reforms that stop drug corporations from overcharging–like the inflationary caps and negotiated prices–and cost reforms like insulin and other out-of-pockets caps that limit what people can be asked to pay for medicine. 

The real issue here is whether Congress will take bipartisan action to limit the monopoly power that drug corporations have over prices. That monopoly control enables Big Pharma to charge patients anything they want, to launch new drugs at unattainable prices, and to raise prices anytime they feel like it. Already in 2023, drug corporations have raised the price of over 1000 drugs. Without further action from Congress, drug corporations will continue to overcharge and boost their profits while millions of people go into debt and suffer ill health because they can’t afford the medicine they need. 

The President also pointed out in his address that there are millions of Americans that currently have no access to insurance because of states’ refusal to expand Medicaid. For these people, broader Congressional action is needed to ensure they have access to affordable care. This is especially true given that millions more could be facing the same situation later this year when the Public Health Emergency expires, stripping coverage from millions who gained it during the pandemic and swelling the ranks of newly uninsured. 

While the President rightly confronted the GOP about their threats to Medicare and Social Security, if history is any teacher, Medicaid is the program that faces the most substantial threat from Republicans’ assault on spending. Medicaid is a critical resource for patients of all ages—it is the main funding source for long-term care for seniors, for behavior and mental health services, for low-income people’s insurance, and for children. In most states, half of all births are paid for by Medicaid and large numbers of children get healthcare through Medicaid and its counterpart, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 

The President already proposed a solution to any potential cuts in his State of the Union: taxing billionaires and the ultra wealthy. The President suggested that a major part of the nation’s unfinished business is to pass a Billionaires Minimum Income Tax (BMIT) and close loopholes that encourage corporations to spend money on stock buybacks that boost returns for their shareholders instead of contributing more in taxes to the economy. The nation’s 720 billionaires currently pay lower tax rates than most middle class workers like firefighters and teachers because of our two-tiered tax system that treats wealth generated from stocks and financial assets differently than income derived from work. President Biden has continually called to level the playing field by taxing work like wealth through measures like the BMIT that make the tax system more fair and generate billions in new revenue to support the economy. 

Requiring the ultra rich to pay what they owe is the key to finishing the job of ensuring that everyone in America has access to quality, affordable health coverage– including affordable prescriptions–that we can count on when we need it. 

HCAN applauds the President’s comments and will work with our national network of allies and partners to finish the important work of guaranteeing healthcare for all.

Let’s Celebrate Black History Month and Keep Working Towards Equity

By Amanda Swanson Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Protecting the Pillars, Reproductive Healthcare

February is Black History Month and though progress on achieving meaningful racial equity is slow, there is still a lot to celebrate even as we chart a course toward more improvements.

In the last year, we’ve seen an increasing number of Black leaders in both parties in elected office as well as high leadership roles. In 2022, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first African American woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. In Congress, Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies is the first Black lawmaker to lead a major party. And he’s not alone – according to recent informationabout 13% of lawmakers in the current House are Black, which is roughly on par with the overall share of Black Americans.”  

Thanks to the Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress who passed historic bills like the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act, we have seen the most equitable economic recovery on record following the COVID pandemic, the worst public health crisis in recent timesThese policies have led to the creation of nearly 10 million jobs and made long overdue investments in Black communities, in improving access to health care and in improving the social determinants of health that influence health outcomes. Black workers saw some of the largest wage increases in 2022, nearly 2% higher than the national average for low-wage workers and President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan will finally start to narrow the racial wealth gap that continues to persist after decades.

These achievements bring us all forward as a nation and that’s why we must make sure these policies stay intact, that progress is not rolled back, and that leaders who profess commitment to racial equity follow through on continued progress. But it won’t be easy when it comes to some issues that disproportionately impact Black people. 

Attacks on abortion rights and access, for example, disproportionately impact Black women, who are more likely to seek abortion than their White counterparts and more likely to lack coverage to cover birth control, abortion, maternity care, and pediatric needs. Denying people access to abortion or forcing them to delay access has devastating health and economic consequences for the whole family.  Mothers in states with abortion bans are nearly 3 times more likely to die, and Black women are 2.6 times more likely than their White counterparts. 

Millions of people over the last decade have been able to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which will turn 13 years old in March of 2023. Black and Brown Americans have been the biggest beneficiaries of the law, particularly the Medicaid expansion provisions. Today, just 8.0% of the U.S. population is uninsured, the lowest national rate in history. For Black Americans, the rate of uninsured individuals declined with the ACA from 20.0% to 11.0%.  But in some states with high populations of Black residents like Texas and Florida, progress has stalled on healthcare access for Black uninsured people. In the 11 states that continue to refuse to implement Medicaid expansion, “uninsured Black adults are more likely than their White counterparts to fall into the gap, with a 15.0% uninsured rate in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid and an 8.0% uninsured rate for states that have expanded Medicaid.”  

No matter where you live or what you look like, everyone in the United States should have guaranteed access to affordable coverage they can depend on–we can’t stop until the ACA is fully implemented and everyone gets access to health care. 

That fight is more important now than ever as the President has announced the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) order that has enabled more people to access Medicaid than ever before. The PHE is scheduled to end May 11, 2023 and it is estimated 8.0 million people will lose Medicaid coverage in the following 14 months, including 2.2 million Black Americans.  

Now is the time to reinvigorate our commitment to racial equity in our economy, in our civic society, and in key systems–healthcare, education, voting rights, and many others that will fall under attack under new GOP leadership in Congress. After all, Black history isn’t something we consider just one month out of the year. Rather, Black history is what we consider all the time as we push for policy change that dismantles the negative legacies of our past so that we can all work toward a better future.

On Roe v. Wade’s 50th Anniversary, Millions of Patients are Unable To Access Abortion

By healthcarenow Blog, Reproductive Healthcare

2023 marks the first year in half a century that women in the United States do not have the Constitutional right to access abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark January 22, 1973 ruling on Roe v. Wade made abortion legal under the Fourteenth Amendment as a privacy protection and created a new opportunity for millions of women to finally have a say in their own futures and families. Last year, after decades of trying, anti-abortion extremists were finally able to overturn that right, turning back the clock by making abortion a crime in many jurisdictions and denying people basic decision-making power over their lives and health.  

Today, abortion is unavailable in 14 states, and courts have temporarily blocked enforcement of bans in eight other states. States where abortion is available have seen an influx of patients from states with severe restrictions, which has created lengthy waiting times for all people seeking the procedure. Delays in abortion access have negative impacts for patients including increasing risk, escalating costs, and limiting options for care. 

But anti-abortion extremists aren’t going to stop with delaying access and limiting options. Despite the fact that two thirds of Americans support the right to legal, safe abortion, anti-abortion crusaders are determined to eradicate all access to the procedure and to create criminal penalties for people who seek or get an abortion, as well as for the medical providers who administer it. 

Nor is the rollback of abortion rights and access exclusive to states. In Congress, the new GOP majority in the House of Representatives passed two anti-abortion measures.  The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act reaffirmed the existing rights that infants already have but added new punishments, including fines and prison time, for any health providers that don’t comply. The new penalties include fines or imprisonment of up to five years for healthcare providers who don’t comply. The second measure, a House Resolution titled Expressing the sense of Congress condemning the recent attacks on pro-life facilities, groups, and churches, was largely a symbolic vote to appease the anti-abortion extremists who claim they are being persecuted by the state while, in fact, persecuting others. 

Thankfully, these measures are unlikely to become law while Democrats control the Senate and while President Biden, who has vowed to uphold abortion rights and access, continues to be in office. 

Meanwhile, anti-abortion advocates will continue to attack abortion using every means possible. In addition to shutting down clinics, making abortion a crime, forcing pregnant people to travel long distances, and increasing risks for patients, the anti-abortion extremists are now taking aim at the most accessible and safe mechanism for abortion: medication abortion. Medication or chemical abortion is widespread, now accounting for over half of all abortions in the U.S. The procedure is extremely safe for people in the first trimester of pregnancy and does not require administration in a clinic. A physician may prescribe medication abortion so a patient can end a pregnancy in the privacy of their own home and provide telehealth support in the event of any questions. Complications for medication abortion are incredibly rare. 

Since the FDA finalized a rule allowing mifepristone to be dispensed by retail pharmacies, CVS and Walgreens have signaled that they are applying for certification to dispense it. But doing so may prove complicated in states with abortion restrictions or where abortion is currently illegal. To complicate things further, anti-abortion extremists are organizing pickets outside CVS and Walgreens opposing access to these medicines as well as filing lawsuits to block the pharmacies. These are the same tactics they have used for decades to harass and intimidate people seeking abortion care at clinics and to ultimately overturn abortion rights in the courts. Their intention is nothing less than ending access to medication abortion which, in much of our country, is the only avenue people have to safe access. 

Healthcare advocates and abortion rights supporters must step up now, more than ever, to protect and restore abortion rights and access to the millions of people who need it, particularly future generations of potential parents who deserve the right to decide for themselves if and when to start a family. 

President Biden’s Top 10 Healthcare Victories of 2022

By Amanda Swanson Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Lower Drug Prices, Protecting the Pillars, Tax Fairness

In 2022, President Biden and Congressional Democrats delivered on their promises by continuing to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare, and by making historic improvements to Medicare prescription drug coverage that will both lower prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs for millions of American families.

A key reason why is that Democrats passed the landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022 after months of negotiations — without a single Republican vote. The new law will be implemented in phases and makes long-overdue improvements to Medicare, one of the nation’s largest healthcare programs as well as the largest purchaser of prescription drugs.

The Inflation Reduction Act is the most consequential piece of healthcare legislation since the Affordable Care Act and builds on key health care policies passed in previous years to make record improvements to healthcare coverage and affordability in the U.S.

Check out fact sheets about how your state will benefit from the IRA and, below, learn more about the top 10 healthcare accomplishments of the year:

10. Lower Healthcare Premiums
A record number of people have signed up for Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage in 2022, largely thanks to improvements in affordability that have been extended by the Inflation Reduction Act. The IRA lowers healthcare premiums by an average of $800 per year for 13 million patients and expands coverage to 3 million more people who previously could not access it.

9. Fixing the Family Glitch
For a decade, more than five million people were caught in the “family glitch,” leaving them ineligible for tax credits to buy family health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act and forcing them to pay more for expensive employer-provided healthcare or go without insurance entirely. This year, the Biden Administration fixed the family glitch, expanding access to affordable care to millions of families.

8. Expanded Postpartum Coverage for New Moms
One in four births in the U.S. are covered by Medicaid, but, until recently, postpartum coverage for new mothers ended just 60 days after birth, despite the fact that health needs for new mothers extend far beyond that point. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funded states to expand postpartum coverage from 60 days to a full year. As of December 2022, 27 states have expanded coverage to a full year; another seven states are planning to expand.

7. Medicaid Expansion in South Dakota
Since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, a dozen states have refused to implement the Medicaid expansion provision that would provide millions of low-income families with desperately needed coverage. This year, voters in South Dakota decided to override partisan politics in their legislature and expand Medicaid coverage for tens of thousands of their neighbors via referendum, ending a 12-year stalemate.

6. All Vaccines Are Now Free for Medicare Enrollees
Many vaccines are covered under no-cost preventive care Medicare provisions, but some, like the shingles vaccine, have long been excluded from that coverage. Not anymore: starting January 1st, 2023 Medicare enrollees will receive all vaccines at no out-of-pocket cost.

5. New $35/Month Cap on Insulin Cost for Medicare Enrollees
In Medicare, out-of-pocket spending by people with Medicare Part D for insulin quadrupled between 2007 to 2020, forcing many patients to ration insulin, skip doses or go without. The Inflation Reduction Act caps the monthly cost of insulin for the first time so that 3 million Medicare enrollees can afford this life-saving medicine.

4. First Ever Cap on Out of Pocket Costs in Medicare Part D
Part D is Medicare’s prescription drug coverage program. Until now, patients in Part D paid an unlimited amount for out of pocket medicines, historically pushing many people into the “donut hole,” and now into catastrophic coverage. The IRA caps out of pocket costs in Part at $2000 annually for the first time, helping millions of people who currently pay more.

3. Stopping Drug Corporations from Raising Prices Faster Than Inflation
For years, drug corporations have had monopoly power to set and raise drug prices as much as they want, leading to price-gouging and forcing millions of patients to go into debt, ration medicine, or forgo prescriptions altogether because they can’t afford the escalating prices. Drug corporations has increased the price of over half the prices in Medicare at rates higher than inflation in recent years, but the Inflation Reduction Act will bring that price-gouging to an end. Starting January 1, 2023, Big Pharma will pay a penalty for raising prescription drug prices faster than inflation for patients on Medicare.

2. Medicare Negotiations for Lower Drug Prices
For far too long, Big Pharma has been able to charge Medicare exorbitant prices on prescription drugs while Medicare has been prohibited from negotiating for lower prices that would make medicines more affordable. The IRA finally enables Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices–just like the Department of Veterans Affairs does–in order to save taxpayers money and ensure seniors and people with disabilities can afford the medicines they need.

1. Lowest Uninsured Rate in U.S. History
Thanks to President Biden and Democrats in Congress, the number of uninsured Americans has fallen to around 9%, the lowest in the history of the country and a substantial improvement over past years when millions more people could not access quality, affordable coverage they could count on.

Virginia Organizing Fighting for Reproductive Health, Rights & Justice in Wake of SCOTUS Repeal of Abortion Rights

By Virginia Organizing Blog, Reproductive Healthcare

Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs’ decision, Virginia Organizing, an HCANEF partner in Virginia, has been bringing people together to protect abortion access in the Commonwealth.  

Immediately following the June 24th decision, the State Governing Board of Virginia Organizing released a statement that emphasized their support of reproductive justice, lifted up our long-term work to dismantle racism, and cautioned against efforts to criminalize pregnancy. The statement ends by saying:

Virginia Organizing has been working for many years to dismantle systemic racism and end mass incarceration. We are well aware of the Commonwealth’s long history of oppression over the bodies of Black and other marginalized women. We don’t want to see Virginia interfere—yet again—in a woman’s freedom to make decisions about her own body, especially since these invasive laws are likely to be used to intimidate, criminalize, and threaten the lives of people of color. The Commonwealth must respect the rights and dignity of all Virginians.”

Shortly after, the Virginian-Pilot interviewed board member Barbara Jefferson Harris for their piece titled “For Black women in Hampton Roads, barriers to reproductive healthcare are nothing new.” Leaders in Suffolk also published a letter in the Suffolk News-Herald expressing their concern about losing abortion rights.

Over the summer, the Danville Chapter partnered with grassroots leaders to support a panel discussion about reproductive justice and abortion access in the weeks after the decision was released. New people got involved in organizing for the first time, voicing their concerns and hopes for Virginia’s path forward. The Suffolk Chapter also held a cookout on Women’s Equality Day where members spoke with a legislative aide from U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria’s office to urge her continued support of abortion rights.

In September, Virginia Organizing offered its first Reproductive Justice Workshop during their annual statewide meeting, the Grassroots Gathering. Organizers discussed the history of reproductive justice, how it looks in Virginia, and what to expect in the upcoming General Assembly session and beyond.

After the workshop, the Waynesboro Chapter organized a community cookout with the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund so that they could raise awareness about their services. The cookout engaged community members in Waynesboro and created a safe and brave space for neighbors to discuss civic engagement and reproductive justice in the city. There was free food, live music, community resources, games and raffle prizes. Volunteers were available to encourage community members to restore their civil rights, register to vote, update voter registration, find polling locations for voters, and share information about the 2022 local ballot.

The Suffolk Chapter, after its successful cookout in August, held a barbershop talk series with Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in October, pictured below. At the event, chapter leader Vonita Williams shared a powerful personal story about her own abortion experience.

In December, the Norfolk, Newport News, and Portsmouth Chapters held a virtual workshop on reproductive justice for the Hampton Roads area. Virginia Organizing leaders facilitated the workshop, gave a history of reproductive justice, told personal stories, and discussed the work they planned to do during the General Assembly session to block legislation that would impose new restrictions on abortion rights. They also led a general discussion of how the issue impacts the community and what they can do about it.

Virginia Organizing—alongside so many partners, allies, and community members—has a long history of advocating for policies that help working families and marginalized people in Virginia. Over the years, they have helped win expanded health coverage under the ACA and Medicaid, hundreds of millions of dollars for affordable housing, restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people, and much more. The organization’s work to restore reproductive rights and improve access for people who need abortion is very much in this tradition. Virginia Organizing is committed to working toward making their state one that respects and embodies the value of reproductive justice.

Virginia Organizing

Virginia Organizing is a non-partisan statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. Virginia Organizing encourages the participation of those who traditionally had little or no voice in our society. By building relationships with individuals and groups throughout the state, Virginia Organizing strives to get them to work together, democratically and non-violently, for change.

Congratulations Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

By Amanda Swanson Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Lower Drug Prices, Protecting the Pillars

When long-time Speaker and health care champion Nancy Pelosi recently announced the end of her tenure, a new Democratic leader was already poised to step up in the House of Representatives.

Today, House Democrats voted unanimously to elect a new leader, who will be designated as the Minority Leader when the 118th Congress convenes in the new year. On January 3rd, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) will officially take the title, becoming the first Black person in that role in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Jeffries will be joined by two other new leaders, who will take the no. 2 and no. 3 leadership positions in the House as long-time Pelosi allies step down along with her to make way for the next generation. Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-MA) will become the minority whip and Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar (D-CA) will be the Caucus Chair.

Jeffries has represented New York’s 8th district, including parts of Brooklyn and Queens, since 2012. Though he represents a new generation of Congressional leaders, he is certainly not new to leadership and has spent years preparing for his new role.

Since 2019, he’s been Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, served on the the House Judiciary and the House Budget committees, and been a cosponsor of key legislation that will impact millions of lives, including the landmark First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform signed by President Trump in 2018 to reduce the prison population, decrease recidivism and lower crime through investment in education and economic opportunity.

When Jeffries officially takes the gavel on January 3rd, he will officially become the first black American to lead a majority party in Congress, breaking a new ceiling and following in the footsteps of Speaker Pelosi, who also made history by becoming the first woman to be Speaker of the House.

Jeffries is 30 years younger than Pelosi, and has already identified unifying the Democratic caucus as a key priority: “It’s going to be important to bring everyone together to continue to be unified, because we’ve got a common objective, which is to defend the priorities of President Biden … and take back the House.” Jeffries is a well known coalition builder, with both the skills to bring together opposition wings in his own party as well as to foster increased opportunity for bipartisan action with Republicans on some issues.

As we enter a divided Congress, potential bipartisan policy is top of mind for many leaders seeking to deliver policies that materially improve lives even as the shadow of 2024 elections will dominate the atmosphere in Congress.

Rep. Jeffries has said that he seeks to make “progress for all Americans across the country,” and committed “to find ways to work with Republicans whenever possible to get things done for the American people.” It may not be easy given Republicans’ plans over the coming year to use their majority status for endless investigations, delays, and stalling as well as to make cuts to key programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and to repeal new laws that lower drug prices for seniors and enforce tax collection on wealthy tax cheats.

Jeffries is a long-time supporter of the Affordable Care Act and prescription drug reforms like Medicare negotiations. He has called healthcare access a right and noted that he supports a variety of policy options, including Medicare for All, as pathways to achieve universal access for every person in the United States.

HCAN welcomes Jeffries as a new, history-making leader and is eager to work with his team in the 118th Congress to continue to protect and expand quality, affordable health care, stop prescription drug corporations from price-gouging patients and protect key programs like the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid.