IN THE LOOP
The news you need to know this week
Welcome to the latest edition of our update on the news you need to know and how it affects you and the communities we serve. Every couple of weeks we send out an e-mail featuring important updates, and you can sign up below! As always, thank you for your support of APLA Health, and please share this with others who may be interested.
The Republican health care bill isn’t dead yet... so keep calling!
Senate Republicans were hoping to vote on their disastrous health care bill before the end of the month, but the bill is so bad they haven’t been able to come up with the votes, and now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced he will extend the current Senate session two weeks into the August recess. That gives us two more weeks to try to put this bill in the ground once and for all. Just in case you’ve forgotten, the Republican bill would provide enormous tax cuts for the wealthy, cause 22 million people to lose health coverage, and increase costs for worse insurance options.
While the sausage making continues, California’s Democratic Senate offices were very clear when they met with Government Affairs staff at the end of June: Keep calling but don’t call us, call the Republicans, they said. To make that easier for you, APLA Health is providing a link at the end of this article for Trumpcare Toolkit with a list of Republicans to call and the Senate’s toll free number.
Last week Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced an amendment to the bill—the Better Care Reconciliation Act—that would allow insurers to sell cheap high-deductible health plans with fewer benefits, as long as they also offered at least one plan that includes all of the Obamacare essential health benefits (maternity care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, etc). The amendment is designed to attract nervous Republican senators who want to see premiums decrease but don’t want to eliminate all protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Insurance experts say the proposal would split the market: high-deductible plans would be cheaper than what’s on the market now and would appeal to healthy folks, while comprehensive plans would cost a fortune and people who really need the coverage—like people with pre-existing conditions—would be forced to pay. This would essentially create a ‘death spiral’ in the market for comprehensive coverage because only sick people would remain and premiums would increase to astronomical levels.
The Republicans need to do more than just trash the Affordable Care Act. If they are serious about health care reform, they need to come up with a measure that expands coverage for all Americans. Last week California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Democrats are ‘very close’ to defeating the Republican health care bill. So let’s do exactly just what our California Senators are asking: call Republican Senators and tell them to kill the bill!
You can see the names and phone numbers of key Republican Senators at trumpcaretoolkit.org. And you can contact any Senator by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 866-220-0044.
Single-payer health care is dead... for now.
Dreams of California having a single-payer health care system were put on hold last month when Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon decided to stop the bill from advancing out of the Assembly Rules Committee. Although the bill is not completely dead, it cannot be revived until next year.
A few months ago we told you about the bill, the Healthy California Act, which would create a single health care system for all California residents, including undocumented individuals. The program would provide medical, dental, vision, mental health, and nursing home care free of charge and eliminate the separation of the health insurance market into different types of coverage (Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance). The bill passed the California Senate on June 1st following intense debate and despite many unanswered questions about how the program would work.
Experts estimate the program would cost roughly $400 billion a year—double California’s current budget—and significant tax increases would be needed to finance the program. In a statement, Speaker Rendon called the bill “woefully incomplete” and expressed concern that it did not address serious issues such as financing, delivery of care, and cost controls. He asked the Senate to continue their discussions and debate and send the Assembly more workable legislation next year. Strong supporters of the bill, like the California Nurses Association, condemned the Speaker’s decision, calling it “a cowardly act.”
While the bill is dead for now, you should expect to see the discussions over single-payer continue in California and across the country over the coming months. This is just the beginning of a very long battle.
This Thursday, you’re invited to discuss L.A.’s strategy to end the HIV epidemic!
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Division of HIV & STD Programs (DHSP) announced a new initiative to tackle the HIV epidemic at the November 2016 HIV Commission meeting, called the Los Angeles County HIV/AIDS Strategy. DHSP unveiled four goals that will shape the overall strategy: 1) decrease the number of new infections from 1,850 in 2015 to 500 in 2021, 2) ensure that 90% of all people living with HIV in LA County are diagnosed, 3) increase the proportion of diagnosed people living with HIV who are virally suppressed to 90%, and 4) reduce the number of HIV/AIDS related deaths to no more than 100 per year. The director of DHSP, Mario Perez, stated that the strategy would draw from President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the California Office of AIDS’ Getting to Zero plan.
This Thursday, July 13, DHSP is holding a community event at the monthly HIV Commission meeting called Planning for the Los Angeles County HIV/AIDS Strategy for 2020 and Beyond, at which they will discuss progress on development of the strategy and solicit feedback from the community. The meeting is open to the public and will be held at St. Anne’s Conference Center from 10 a.m.–noon. Community participation is strongly encouraged—if you are interested in attending you can RSVP at lacountyhivstrategy.eventbrite.com.
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We will send you regular updates on issues and policies affecting the LGBT and/or HIV communities and urge you to call or e-mail your representatives about key political activity at the local, state, and federal levels.