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Smallest state takes on big healthcare hurdles

By May 19, 2023No Comments

Bad news about health care, especially abortion, abounds these days. Just this week, abortion bans passed in two more states – North Carolina and Montana – leaving thousands of people with fewer options when it comes to family planning. But bad healthcare news isn’t limited to abortion, there’s much more happening.

Millions of people are slated to lose Medicaid coverage over the coming months because of the expiration of the Public Health Emergency on May 11th, which triggered a re-authorization frenzy among states that are eager to shrink their Medicaid rolls from historic highs even though it means many more people won’t have access to the basic preventive care that would enable them to prevent pregnancy, have healthier pregnancies, and be better equipped to care for themselves and their children.

While many states and Congress may be headed in the wrong direction on health coverage, reproductive health services like abortion and economic policies that benefit real people, Rhode Island lawmakers are clearly taking a different direction. In the statehouse, they are boldly insisting on increasing access to safe abortion for everyone who needs it. And, in Congress, they are opposing Republican proposals to cut critical services and give more tax breaks to the rich.

Rhode Island’s elected leaders at every level are fighting to lower costs, increase access, and make the system more fair for all.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the states’ U.S. Senators, put the super wealthy and large corporations in the spotlight for the billions in tax breaks they have received over the last decade at a hearing that described how these tax giveaways contribute to the national debt. Republicans in Congress are now using the skyrocketing debt as their chief excuse to demand cuts to Medicaid, education, public safety and many other programs even as they lobby for even more tax breaks. According to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), extending the Trump tax cuts, which primarily benefit the ultra-rich and foreign investors, would add $3.5 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years.

In Rhode Island’s State House, local lawmakers led a successful push to finally make access to abortion more fair and equitable for everyone who needs it. This week, the Senate Judiciary committee passed the Equity in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) which would allow Medicaid enrollees and Rhode Island state employees to have the same coverage for abortion care as people with private plans. Access to abortion is a key linchpin of economic security and positive health outcomes. Research shows that when people are denied or impeded from getting the services they need, they and their families suffer the health and economic consequences for many years.

HCANEF’s state partner The Womxn Project, played a central role in passing this legislation which they have worked on since 2019 finally winning over the Senate President after initial opposition, saying: “I view this legislation as a simple insurance equity measure.” The Womxn Project and their allies succeeded after they successfully helped leaders in the state understand that abortion care is health care and must not be siloed away.

Governor Daniel McKee, who signed the bill immediately, has also come to understand abortion as healthcare and to recognize that access to a full range of healthcare services is critical for everyone in his state. Equitable coverage for abortion services is an even more tremendous victory given than Rhode Island is the most Catholic state in the country.

Rhode Island’s state motto is Hope, and state lawmakers take it seriously, advancing policy at every level that supports a more equitable, just, and fair economy with meaningful access to the healthcare and public services that give everyone the freedom to lead their own lives and that reject antiquated trickle-down policies to keep the rich richer while everyone else struggles with access to the basics. This week’s lawmaker-led victories are evidence that bolsters our hope that things can indeed get better for real people when lawmakers put their constituents ahead of their politics.