Thank you, Speaker Nancy Pelosi

By healthcarenow Affordable Healthcare, Blog

After almost 20 years of leadership, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last month she would not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress, making way for a new generation of Democratic leaders and leaving a tremendous legacy that materially improved the lives of tens of millions of Americans.  During her tenure, Speaker Pelosi made history many times over as the first woman leader of the House, the longest-serving person in that role ever and the highest-ranking woman in government until the election of Vice President Kamala Harris, just two years ago. 

Since 2007, Speaker Pelosi led Democrats in the House of Representatives through some of the greatest challenges of our time including the election of President Trump, which put at risk everything from national security to domestic healthcare coverage. When Pelosi started in Congress in 1987, there were only 12 Democratic elected women in Congress. Since that time, the number has grown to more than 90 and the number of people of color representing districts has also ticked upward. As she said during her tenure, she saw Congress “grow more reflective of our great nation, our beautiful nation.”  Among new members of the next Democratic caucus, about 75 percent are women, people of color, and L.G.B.T.Q.  

Pelosi leaves a tremendous track record of accomplishments in her wake, particularly passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provides coverage to more than 40 million people, and eliminated gender discrimination in health coverage, The ACA brought the number of people without coverage to historic lows. The law stopped insurance companies from charging women more than men for the same insurance policy, made birth control and preventive care free,  and disproportionately helped Black and Brown Americans who have historically been the most likely to lack coverage while also the most likely to suffer from chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Pelosi has called the passage of health care reform her most significant accomplishment but it’s certainly not an isolated one. 

She was the leading force in uniting the Democratic caucus to pass many more policies over the last two decades that help Americans, including Dodd Frank financial reforms, COVID relief packages that saved millions of lives and, most recently, the historic Inflation Reduction Act that for the first time will lower drug prices through Medicare negotiations and will cap out of pocket costs on prescriptions for Medicare enrollees. 

Fundamental to Speaker Pelosi’s leadership is her love of democracy and her commitment to serving the people of the nation through public policy reforms and protecting democratic institutions. Although she will no longer manage the gavel, Pelosi will continue to serve as a Member of Congress representing her own district in CA and providing support to the new leaders. At 82, she will continue to work tirelessly to protect the many accomplishments she led and to continue paving the way for more improvements.

HCAN, along with many of our allies and partners, is proud to have worked in partnership with Speaker Pelosi to pass landmark health laws that have impacted so many lives. We could not have done it without her indefatigable energy, leadership and integrity. We will honor her legacy by continuing to protect and expand quality, affordable health care for everyone in our country. 

Voters Pick Abortion Rights Over Extremist Bans in Midterm Elections

By healthcarenow Blog, Reproductive Healthcare

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision, after 50 years of guaranteed abortion rights and access, was a wake-up call to many Americans. On the eve of the 2022 mid-term elections, abortion was illegal in a quarter of the country. The question was: what would voters do about it?

Millions of voters cast their ballots this year, making this one of the highest turnout midterm elections in history. And on election night, it became clear that the Supreme Court’s rollback of abortion rights was a big reason why. Voters repudiated prognostications about a “red wave,” scare tactics about crime and inflation, and anti-abortion extremists who threatened to further restrict or even ban abortion outright. Instead, voters have elected a Democratic majority to the US Senate, replaced three Republican governors with abortion-rights-supporting Democrats and rejected outright efforts to ban abortion via ballot referendum. 

In fact, in states where voters had direct opportunity to vote on the abortion issue, they overwhelmingly chose to protect abortion rights and access in law. In Kentucky, where anti-abortion extremists sought to ban abortion rights in the state constitution, voters said “no” the ban. Kentucky is the first southern state to reject an abortion ban. 

Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing reproductive freedom, thus preventing a ban from 1931 from taking effect. Kentucky voters narrowly rejected an amendment that would T\ Abortion rights ballot questions were approved in Vermont and California

A  ballot measure to require that infants born alive after attempted abortions be given medical care lost in Montana.  Also, in Montana incumbent, Justice Ingrid Gustafson defeated her challenger by 54% of the vote to 47% for, James Brown, a Republican endorsed by the state’s GOP governor and party leaders seeking to reverse a 1999 court ruling that the state constitution protects the right to an abortion.  

Exit polls tell an even bigger story: 

  • Abortion was the single-most important issue for a quarter of all voters, and for a third of women under age 50.  
  • Exit polls by NBC News placed the importance of abortion even higher, with 32% of voters naming inflation as their top voting issue and 27% naming abortion.
  • In states where abortion rights are at risk, candidates for governor who ran in support of protecting abortion won including in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. But some exit polls, like the CNN ones referenced above, suggest that support for abortion doesn’t always materialize as support for Democrats, About a quarter of people who signaled support for abortion rights voted for Republicans. Go figure. 
  • Abortion was also an issue in contested Supreme Court elections in at least six states, where challenges to abortion laws or constitutional interpretations could decide whether the procedure remains legal. One state saw party control of its high court flip: North Carolina, where a Republican challenger defeated a Democratic incumbent to give the GOP a 4-3 majority. In Ohio, Republicans kept their majority on the high court and some speculate that the abortion question will appear on a ballot measure soon. 
  • In Kentucky, Justice Michelle Keller defeated challenger Joe Fischer, a Republican state legislator who sponsored Kentucky’s abortion trigger law.

In state after state, voters sent a clear message:  access to abortion, like any other health care procedure, should not depend on where you live or how much money you make, nor should it depend on the personal beliefs or judgments of any elected official. In fact, the job of lawmakers at every level is to guarantee that everyone facing the decision about whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy has the right to make that personal decision in consultation with their family and their doctor and without undue interference from politicians. No matter who controls Congress next year, federal lawmakers must take action to restore legal access to abortion in law so that everyone, no matter what state they live in, has control over their personal destiny and the size of their family. In states, advocates and voters must keep up the fight to restore abortion rights and access and to expand our freedom to control our own futures. 

Diabetic Americans Can’t Afford Repealing Measures That Lower Drug Prices

By Denise Marrero Blog, Lower Drug Prices

The extremely high price of insulin that millions of diabetics like me depend on to stay alive has been getting a lot of attention recently–and with good reason. Although it only costs about $10 to produce a vial of this 100 year old medicine, drug manufacturers have raised the price of insulin relentlessly over the past decade, putting this life-saving drug out of reach for many.  It’s absolutely inhumane.

There’s finally some relief in sight, at least for older people in our country, thanks to a new law passed by Congress this August. The Inflation Reduction Act that lowers drug prices for people in Medicare and establishes for the first time a $35 cap on the monthly cost of insulin for seniors and people with disabilities. 

This is progress that we can build on. Some Congressional lawmakers are already pressing for a broader insulin cap which Republicans blocked this August.  That’s because diabetes is a rising public health epidemic that impacts over a 100 million people. Medicare Part D enrollees alone spent $1 billion out of pocket on insulin in 2020, more than four times the amount spent in 2007. But older people aren’t the only ones struggling: millions of people under 65 who have private insurance also routinely face ration insulin so they can pay for other basic needs like food and gas–especially as inflation continues to climb.

But rather than working across the aisle to address the problem, Senator Rubio and other Senate Republicans are trying to roll back the new law by repealing lower drug prices and the insulin cap.  Doing so will give control over drug prices in Medicare right back to the same drug corporations who made record profits by price-gouging patients. 

I’m a third-generation insulin dependent diabetic. Anyone who has diabetes knows–it’s not curable. I’m going to need insulin to manage my condition for the rest of my life and so is my dad, who lives in Texas and actually benefits directly from the new law. If Senator Rubio and his colleagues succeed in repealing the new law, there’s no hope that insulin will ever get more affordable for either of us.

Drug companies charge more for insulin in the United States than in other comparable countries. From 2014 to 2019, insulin manufacturers increased the price of an average of 54%, forcing many diabetics to ration insulin, skip doses or go into debt to get enough to stay alive.  There are even people who have died because they could not afford insulin. 

People who are uninsured, like the hundreds of thousands in the Medicaid coverage gap here in Florida,  are at higher risk for going without treatment and without medicine. Uninsured people are more likely to pay full list price for insulin. That can be as much as $1000 a month out of pocket. Latinos, a big part of the population in Florida, are both more likely to be without coverage and to be diagnosed with diabetes than whites.  

Over the years there have been countless hearings, investigations and excuses about why insulin is so expensive.  But the mystery is easy to solve: drug corporations have monopoly control over prices. As long as drug corporations are allowed to charge whatever they want and raise prices whenever they want, they will do it on everything from insulin to asthma inhalers and cancer drugs.

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, instead of having unilateral control to set prices, drug corporations will have to negotiate for lower prices on some most expensive brand name drugs in Medicare. We know this approach will lower prices because this kind of drug negotiation already exists in the Department of Veterans and in Medicaid. Medicare pays more than twice as much as Veterans Affairs for prescription drugs, saving both taxpayers and patients billions of dollars

Negotiated prices for prescription drugs in Medicare isn’t a partisan issue: it’s common sense policy that has been supported by the majority of voters for years. 

Diabetes doesn’t discriminate.  Anyone may need affordable medicines to get better themselves or treat a family member. Instead of keeping Pharma in control of our drug prices, our elected leaders should be working to make sure that no matter where someone lives, how much money they have or what political candidate they vote for, they can access affordable life-saving medicines when they need them.

Denise Marrero

Denise Marrero lives in Hillsboro County, Florida.

Health Care for America Now and ‘Tax the Ultra-Rich Now’ Campaign Makes an Impact

By healthcarenow Blog, Tax Fairness

In July Health Care for America Now (HCAN) joined leading national tax fairness advocates in launching the Tax the Ultra-Rich Now (TURN) campaign, a national campaign to raise awareness about the ways that concentrated wealth among a growing number of billionaires perpetuates inequality and skews democracy. TURN partners aimed to educate voters in key states about how the growing wealth of the billionaire class impacts economic opportunity for the rest of us and drowns out the voices of average voters with their outsized campaign contributions and political agendas. 

The TURN campaign expanded public support for taxing the ultra-rich by collaborating with grassroots organizations in Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the months leading up to the  midterm elections.  Partners canvassed voters, wrote op-eds, lobbied their Members of Congress to support the tax enforcement on wealthy tax cheats in the Inflation Reduction Act and released videos highlighting how billionaires are influencing elections by leveraging billions of dollars they have hoarded to give their preferred candidates an advantage. 

In Nevada, HCAN partner Battle Born Progress (BBP) launched a video targeting n Adam Laxalt with hashtag, #Don’tBuyMyNevada.  The BBP video highlights donations to Adam Laxalt’s campaign to defeat incumbent Senator Cortez-Mastos and his connection to a range of causes that most Nevadans do not support. According to Annette Magnus, Executive Director of BBP, “Instead of protecting Nevadans and representing our values, Adam Laxalt is beholden to ultra-rich billionaires who have an agenda that keeps them getting richer at the expense of working families. It’s clear that some candidates, like Adam Laxalt, are willing to sell our state to the highest bidder. It’s time to stop the ultra rich from meddling in our elections and let the people decide what is best for Nevada.”

In North Carolina, Billionaire Ted Budd is running for election to the US Senate against Cheri Beasely.  Action NC launched a video with the hashtag #ThisBuddsNotforYou. Action NC launched their video on September 21 in conjunction with the release of a new Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) report highlighting Club for Growth’s (CGA) contributions to Budd and using billionaire funds to influence elections and his own. CGA spent over $14 million, nearly 30% of its spending on the midterms through July, to make Rep. Ted Budd this year’s Republican Senate candidate in North Carolina. CAG spent more than two-and-half times the $5.5 million Budd spent on his own behalf.

In Pennsylvania, PA’s biggest billionaire, Wall Street investor Jeffrey Yass (net worth, $12 billion) of Pennsylvania, donated $5.5 million to candidates in this election cycle. Yass bankrolls candidates who support his conservative, anti-public school agenda, while paying lower tax rates than middle class workers like nurses and firefighters. The Pennsylvania Budget Center released two videos,  “Meet Billionaire Jeffrey Yass” and “Jeffrey Yass, Stop Buying My Senator,” using  hashtag, #TaxthatYass statewide to expose his efforts. 

In Wisconsin, Citizen Action of Wisconsin launched a video highlighting a “Senator for Sale,” hashtag,  #SenatorforSale.  In 2016 billionaires Richard Uihlein and Diane Hendricks spent $20 million to get Republican Senator Johnson elected, and their investment paid off big time. In 2017, they received a combined $80 million in tax breaks from just one little tax cut Johnson carved out for wealthy business owners in the Trump-GOP tax cut law. . That tax cut personally benefited Johnson and he doubled his own wealth during his time as a U.S. Senator. 

Florida’s 15 week abortion ban is an unconscionable assault on the women of Florida

By Juanita Barton Blog, Reproductive Healthcare

Florida’s 15 week abortion ban is an unconscionable assault on the women of Florida, especially following the overturn of Roe v. Wade that already strips millions of people of the freedom to make basic decisions that should be theirs alone.

I’m a pro-life Black woman, a mother, a grandmother and an elder in my community. When people struggling with personal decisions ask me for advice, I try to put myself in their shoes rather than dictating that they make the same decision I did.

A friend once asked me my opinion about her daughter having an abortion. She was pregnant with twins. One fetus was not developing and endangering the other by siphoning nutrients from the healthier fetus. The mother’s health was not at risk, she had good access to prenatal care and a supportive family, but she was uncertain about the health of the twins given the situation. I advised her to continue the pregnancy if there was no immediate danger to the mother.  Ultimately, the pregnant daughter gave birth to both babies but only one survived.  That woman could have spared herself the death of her baby by making a different decision, but today she might not have had that option. 

Extremist judges on the U.S. Supreme Court took away women’s freedom to decide for themselves whether or not they will have children by overturning Roe v. Wade, which provided this Constitutional protection to make private health care decisions for nearly 50 years. In states that don’t have their own laws protecting abortion access and rights, women can no longer decide to end a pregnancy even if they think–for whatever reason–that abortion is the right option for them. And, in Florida, abortion after 15 weeks–when it’s often too early to even know anything is wrong–is banned by the state. The ban is being challenged in court. 

Given my religious views, I never considered abortion personally. But my religion doesn’t dictate that everyone else has to agree. My faith is rooted in compassion and tolerance, not judgment and condemnation. God’s grace enables me to respect the reality that each person must make moral decisions for themselves and reconcile with their own conscience, just as I did. Secular laws should do the same. 

If my friend’s daughter needed an abortion to protect her life or that of a fetus, I would trust her judgment better than someone outside the situation who will not bear the consequences of that decision.  Individuals are better equipped to make decisions about their own bodies and lives than anyone on the Supreme Court or anyone in elected office. 

Black women descended from African slaves and brought to these shores involuntarily didn’t have the same “rights” and “choices” about reproductive healthcare as their white counterparts. Historically, Black women’s bodies were treated as commodities to be traded, bought, sold and used for work, childbirth and experimentation, largely to enrich whites. The impact of this legacy has persisted for generations, despite progress. The nation has had many opportunities to work toward eradicating these disparities, but too many elected leaders and now, their appointed Supreme Court judges, are taking us backward instead of forward.

Black women and girls still face more barriers to healthcare, including abortion, than white women. Even when Black women have coverage, their health outcomes are more negative than whites. The maternal mortality rate for Black women is 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020, nearly three times higher than the rate for white women, and the infant mortality rate for black families is 10.6 per 1,000 births, nearly double the overall rate for the U.S.  

Black people are less likely to have access to affordable healthcare. In Florida, 425,000 people are in the Medicaid coverage gap because state Republicans refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Half are women and a disproportionate number, over a quarter, are Black. That means that many Black women don’t even have basic preventive care that could provide birth control, regular reproductive exams and other care that women of reproductive age need. 

Even with Medicaid, many women can’t access abortion. While Medicaid pays for birth control, family, prenatal and maternity care, it doesn’t pay for abortion services. The nearly 1.4 million women covered by Medicaid in Florida must pay out of pocket to receive abortion care. 

The role of elected leaders is to ensure that public policy provides a meaningful opportunity for everyone to decide for themselves whether to have a family or not to have one, not to dictate what those decisions will be and deny individuals control over their own destinies. Congress must act to ensure everyone has the freedom and the means to decide what’s right for them no matter what they look like or where they live.

Juanita Barton

Jaunita is a member of the Florida Black Women’s Roundtable, an HCAN partner in Florida. She serves as the Co-Chairperson of the Brevard County Black Women’s Roundtable, a component of the Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation. The Florida Coalition envisions a nation in which all people, from youth to seniors, have the tools to participate fully in the democratic process at the local, state, national and global level. She is also a member of the National Congress of Black Women Space Coast Chapter and active with the League of Women Voters.

It’s Time To End Gridlock and Provide Everyone Affordable Health Coverage

By Health Care for America Now (HCAN) Blog

Last week, Republicans who control the Wisconsin legislature killed the latest attempt to expand Medicaid in the state. In blocking Medicaid, the state gave up $1.6 billion in federal funding and denied coverage to 90,900 Wisconsinites.  

Wisconsin is not the only state where Republicans are denying uninsured people health coverage.The Missouri’s governor and legislature have refused to implement the 2020 ballot measure to expand Medicaid that was approved by more than 53% of Missouri voters and supposed to take effect on July 1st.Earlier this year, Republicans leading the Kansas legislature defeated efforts by Governor Laura Kelly to expand Medicaid in that state.

In addition to Missouri and Oklahoma, where voters have approved ballot measures that have yet to be implemented, twelve states continue to block efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to the residents of their states that are eligible under federal law.  In South Dakota, where health advocates have already gathered over 10,000 signatures to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot after years of gridlock, state lawmakers led by Republican Governor Kristi Noem have gone so far as to try and change the Constitution to prevent 42,000 South Dakotans from getting health coverage. 

Medicaid expansion has reduced the number of uninsured by millions

Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, 44 million people in the United States were uninsured. The ACA brought the number of uninsured people to historical lows, by making coverage more affordable for people buying policies in the ACA marketplaces and by increasing funding and expanding eligibility for Medicaid coverage in states.  In the law’s first decade, 20 million people gained health care coverage, most through Medicaid which provided insurance for more than 12 million more people thanks to the ACA. 

Millions more are eligible for Medicaid coverage, but Republicans are blocking access

But the ACA has yet to be fully implemented in every state. So far, thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid coverage. In the remaining twelve states, state legislatures controlled by Republicans are blocking coverage for four million nonelderly adults without insurance who  would be able to get Medicaid if they lived in a different state. 

Medicaid access improves health outcomes and increases economic security. Since the ACA was enacted,Medicaid has saved at least 19,000 lives. If all states had expanded Medicaid, the number of lives saved just among older adults in 2017 would have rivaled the number of lives seatbelts saved.  Medicaid enables people to get regular preventive care, to get treatment for chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure and Medicaid is the leading payer of mental health and addiction treatment services. 

There are also significant financial benefits from Medicaid expansion. Fewer low-income adults in Medicaid expansion states struggle with medical debt and low-income renters in those states are less likely to face eviction. Medicaid expansion is associated with less debt, better credit, and increased savings.  People who gain coverage from ACA expansion have reported that it’s easier for them to find and keep jobs.

It’s time to close the coverage gap once and for all. 

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan increased incentives for states to expand Medicaid and provide enhanced services. .States would collectively receive almost $10 billion MORE than it would cost to expand Medicaid over the first two years alone–but even that has not been enough to overcome partisan politics. Republican lawmakers continue to put their political agenda ahead of healthcare for millions. 

President Biden and the 117th Congress must take stepped up action to ensure that everyone who is eligible for coverage, no matter where they live, how much money they have or which political party they voted for, can get access to affordable health coverage they need to recover from COVID, get basic services and take care of their families. 

Georgia Senators Warnock and Ossoff are urging the Administration to intervene with a federal fix to the coverage gap in the upcoming Build Back Better plan saying in a letter, “The federal government, which already funded coverage for these individuals through the Affordable Care Act, has a responsibility to step in and help these citizens who have been left behind by their state leadership.”

As the nation recovers from the worst public health crisis in generations and seeks to address gaps exposed by the crisis, there has never been a better time to ensure that the future of healthcare fully addresses the needs of every American and equips us all for a healthier and more secure future. 

The Looming Supreme Court Decision on Abortion

By Health Care for America Now (HCAN) Blog

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that, next term, it would hear a challenge to a 2018 Mississippi abortion law, which conservative legal scholars have said provides an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that ensures civil rights for pregnant people. The Mississippi law mirrors a Louisiana statute that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision just a few years ago. But the Supreme Court has changed. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away and was succeeed by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who President Trump appointed to court largely because of her anti-abortion ideology. Barrett’s confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice skewed the balance of the Supreme Court, creating a 6-3 conservative majority that could very well endanger Roe v. Wade despite decades of past precedence that protects legal abortion for everyone. 

Access to safe, affordable abortion is a health and economic issue that affections millions of people. One in four women in America today have had an abortion by age 45. Nearly wo-thirds of the women who have abortions have already had at least one birth and 75% are low-income or poor. Research shows that forcing people to delay abortion, denying them abortion and forcing them to expand their families before they are ready has negative long-term consequences for the pregnant person and for their families. 

How could abortion access change if Roe v. Wade is overturned or restricted?

If Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortion would likely become illegal in at least 22 states right away making it a crime. The closest abortion provider to more than 40% of women in the United States would close. The average distance individuals seeking abortions would have to travel could increase by more than 200 miles creating a huge burden for low income women who are seeking this service and effectively denying abortion access to anyone who doesn’t have the money, time and opportunity to exercise this option. 

Even if the court decides not to overturn Roe v. Wade directly, however, the restrictions they might allow could dramatically restrict access to abortion. When Texas instituted onerous restrictions in 2013, the number of legal abortions fell by more than half in 20% of Texas counties. The restrictions were particularly damaging to abortion access for Hispanics and low-income patients in the state. 

While Roe v. Wade is primarily known as the case that established abortion rights as implicit in the 14th Amendment’s privacy protections, but it also protects the civil rights of pregnant people more broadly by clarifying that fetuses do not have separate rights under the law that supercede those of the pregnant person. Abortion opponents have long sought to overturn the law and create legal fetal personhood, which could have tremendous consequences and result in criminal punishment for pregnant people and not just for abortion. Any behavior that is deemed a danger to the fetus could become a crime–from miscarriage to addiction to even failure to wear a seatbelt.  Without Roe v. Wade, courts could also restrict a pregnant person’s right to “due process of law, informed consent, bodily integrity, liberty and life.” 

Do Americans Support Turning Abortion Into a Crime?

Americans have a complicated view of abortion, but they overwhelmingly oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. At the same time, a significant number also support increased restrictions on abortion and some even support more extreme views. Over half of Republicans support prosecuting doctors or providers who provide abortions.  Nearly half of Republicans also support legal punishment for people who have abortions even thought incarcerating women for abortion takes them away from their other children and breaks up families. 

As we wait for the SCOTUS decision, it’s important to consider what women will lose if Roe v. Wade is overturned and how people will be able to exercise fundamental decision-making power over whether or when to start a family because of these changes. Abortion is basic healthcare. Like other healthcare services, taking it away from people can only have negative consequences for themselves and their families. 

The ARP includes robust opportunities to expand Medicaid in states that need it most – like North Carolina. Giving millions to states to expand Medicaid with enhanced funding to weather the ongoing covid impact.

By Naomi Randolph, Action NC Blog

The pandemic has hit North Carolina hard, including people I love. I have watched friends, family and neighbors struggle and I know I’m not the only one. More than 11,000 North Carolinians have died from COVID and that doesn’t take into account those of us experiencing the effects of the economic crisis the mishandling of the pandemic has caused.

The impact in the Black community in North Carolina has been especially devastating. We are more likely to work in frontline jobs that don’t allow us to work from home, which has put us more at risk. We have contracted COVID-19 at a higher rate and our loved ones have died at a higher rate. We have also been more likely to lose our jobs, our small businesses, and to remain among the long-term unemployed.

The pandemic has only exacerbated the racial inequality that has long plagued our state. Black North Carolinians are much more likely to be uninsured and would disproportionately benefit from expanding Medicaid, if and when the state legislature finally agrees to do so. Maternal mortality among Black moms in North Carolina is also devastatingly high. All of these factors will have a generational impact on our lives.

North Carolina’s overall rate of maternal mortality is slightly lower than the national average, at 27.6 per 100,000 births. But, the rate is much higher for Black women in North Carolina – 56.8 deaths per 100,000 births. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).

Black women are also twice as likely to lose an infant to premature death. Infant mortality for black babies, defined as when a child dies before reaching her first birthday, is about two-and-a-half to three times the rate for white women. For every woman who dies, the National Institutes of Health say 70% more experience “near misses” that lead to significant short-or long-term consequences to a woman’s health.”

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) directly addresses many of our challenges. The law will make healthcare more affordable for millions of people. It creates significant incentives for states to expand Medicaid to cover uninsured people. More than 404,000 North Carolinians could finally get coverage, including many who have been most impacted by COVID. ARP also provides North Carolina the option to extend coverage for new mothers for a full year from the current 60 day limit. More time to recover and regular care after birth give mothers and their babies a better chance for a healthy future.

All of these policies are steps in the right direction when it comes to guaranteeing more people healthcare coverage and addressing racial disparities that result in higher maternal and infant mortality for Black people. But President Biden and Congress can do a lot more.

They can make permanent the features of the ARP that make healthcare more affordable and accessible in the next package as well as make major new investments in childcare, family leave, jobs and other key economic stimulus policies that also factor into racial equity and health. To make it possible, President Biden must keep his promise to finally make the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes so that we can make these long-term investments to build back better for everyone, no matter what they look like or where they live.


It’s the 11th Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, But We’re Not Done Yet

By Health Care for America Now (HCAN) Blog

As the United States edges toward 30 million reported cases of COVID-19 this week, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrates its 11th year. On March 23rd, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the landmark legislation into law as the most sweeping reform in healthcare since the 1965 enactment of Medicare and Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act brought the number of uninsured people to historic lows by extending insurance to over 20 million more people, created new rules that for the first time protected over 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions from being overcharged or denied coverage and improved the quality of coverage by implementing no cost preventive services and requiring coverage of essential health benefits like mental health services and maternity care in every policy. 

The importance of the ACA has become even more apparent during the pandemic and the economic crash that it caused. In recessions before the ACA was enacted eleven years ago, workers that lost their jobs and employer-provided health insurance had limited options. In 2020, millions of people that would have otherwise been forced to be uninsured signed up for coverage via the ACA marketplace or Medicaid, options that didn’t exist or were much more limited before the Affordable Care Act. 

But we’re not done yet. There’s much more to do to guarantee that everyone in America, no matter where they live, what they look like, what their health conditions are or how much money they have will get equitable access to quality affordable health care. In his campaign for President, Biden outlined some of his goals for strengthening and improving the ACA including increasing affordability and access. In his American Rescue Plan (ARP) relief bill that passed in early March, Biden is already putting the plan into action. 

The ARP makes healthcare on the ACA marketplace more affordable for people of all incomes, extends coverage to the unemployed at no cost and includes big incentives to expand Medicaid in the dozen states where the law hasn’t been implemented. The ARP also provides states more funding and flexibility to use Medicaid for extended postpartum coverage for new moms, for COVID testing, vaccines and treatment for the uninsured and for expansion of home and community-based health care. 

The ARP enjoys high public support across both parties, but every Republican in the House and Senate voted against passing it despite the critical healthcare, direct payments to families, small business aid and direct payments to families in the bill. Many of these same Republicans also voted to repeal the ACA over the past four years.  At the same time, they supported Trump’s tax law, which gave $1.9 trillion in tax breaks mainly to the wealthy and corporations, while cutting ACA and Medicaid. 

Helping the rich get richer cannot be a legislative priority if our country is to recover from COVID and build back a better economy in which everyone has the opportunity and freedom to prosper and take care of their families. During the first 10 months of COVID, the 660 billionaires in the United States increased their wealth by $1.1 trillion dollars. That’s nearly a 40% increase in less than a year, while most people have been struggling to afford health care, prescriptions, childcare, rent and food. 

To make the improvements to healthcare affordability in the ARP permanent and ensure more people have health care coverage they can count on, President Biden and Congress must require wealthy households and corporations to finally pay their fair share of taxes so we can invest in quality, affordable health care for everyone. President Biden can deliver on his promise to “build back better” by putting #healthcareoverwealthcare in the coming stimulus package, building on the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid and holding drug and insurance corporations accountable for their price-gouging. That will give us even more to celebrate next year.

Rural families are in need of a rescue too

By Mayor Daniel Corona Blog

By Mayor Daniel Corona
West Wendover, NV

For the better part of a year, since the pandemic began, it’s been the responsibility of state and local leaders to take action on protecting their constituents. Whether it’s issuing public health directives in accordance with CDC recommendations or establishing programs and task forces to address economic security for families and businesses alike, it’s been our priority to make sure Nevadans are safe and healthy. In West Wendover, for example, we immediately paused shutoffs for nonpayment of City-run utility bills, and worked to ensure that our local food pantry and senior center had enough funds to keep those who are the most vulnerable in our community fed. But these initiatives don’t come without a cost. Congress must pass President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan to ease the financial strain of COVID-19 on states and local municipalities and on the pocketbooks of Nevada families.

As we steadily and safely reopen our state’s businesses and public amenities with the need to protect public health, we must also remember that it’s our workers on the frontline who are in the most need of additional help. These don’t just include health care providers and medical staff, but educators, janitors, and all matter of public servants as well. These folks have gone 10 months since the CARES Act Relief Fund passed in Congress, which included resources to aid frontline workers. Now that those resources are drying up, these workers risk losing their jobs and their livelihoods without further aid. In West Wendover, the entity that oversees parks & recreation is almost entirely funded through room tax revenue. This pandemic has pushed them to their limits and without assistance to help recuperate their losses in revenues, many programs that the youth in our community rely upon will potentially have to be cut or scaled back. 

Further, our state, counties, cities, and school districts are in dire straits as well. The chaotic nature of the previous administration’s initial response to COVID-19 left state and local officials with the daunting task of coordinating finite resources as best we could as the crisis unfolded in real time. This has led to damaging cuts to public services and public sector workers, leading to a backlog of public projects unfinished, furloughs and layoffs, and local municipalities being less helpful to the people they serve. West Wendover, thankfully, fared well without any layoffs or furloughs, but other jurisdictions around the state may have had a much different experience. We have had to delay a planned recreation center since it is funded primarily by room tax revenues which have taken a major hit. est Wendover thankfully fared well but that you can’t speak for other municipalities in the state. 

Under our new leadership at the federal level, it must be an immediate priority for Congress to pass the President’s COVID-19 relief package. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and others have argued persuasively that insufficient support for state and local services after the 2007 Great Recession slowed the recovery to full employment. We cannot repeat this same mistake. 

The American Rescue Plan would help rural communities like West Wendover support its frontline workers, its small businesses, and our public services to help us all get through this crisis and recover together. Even further, it will help us have the resources needed to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine and get our city back on track. As a community that relies heavily on tourism, it is imperative that the resources for widespread vaccination become available without delay so that we can fully open and get our community members back to work safely! I hope you will join me in urging Congress to immediately pass the American Rescue Plan for the well-being of our home here in West Wendover, and for Nevadans across the state.