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.

08/10/17

Covered California Rates Will Increase in 2018. Here’s What You Need to Know.

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Last week Covered California announced that premiums for 2018 will increase by an average of 12.5 percent, although consumers can reduce that amount if they shop around. Premium increases are driven in part by uncertainty from the Trump administration around “cost-sharing subsidies” that help lower the cost of health insurance for low-income individuals. Although the federal government has funded these cost-sharing subsidies for the last four years, President Trump has not committed to funding them in the future. As a result, Covered California has decided impose an additional 12.4 percent average surcharge on silver-level plans if the Trump administration will not commit to funding these payments through 2018. Members of Congress, including top Republicans, are pleading with President Trump to make these payments and avoid unnecessary premium increases next year. It’s important to remember that if you make less than about $50,000 a year, you are eligible for a tax credit to help pay for health insurance. And if your premiums go up, your tax credit will increase as well.

All of Covered California’s participating health plans will be returning next year, but Anthem Blue Cross has decided to withdraw from most parts of the state and only remain in three regions. Still, Covered California announced that roughly 82 percent of consumers will be able to choose from three or more plans and there will be no “bare” counties where consumers have no plan options.

Open enrollment for Covered California begins November 1st. If you are currently enrolled, you will be able to shop around and switch to a cheaper plan. You can also sign up for the first time if you don’t have health coverage. Please contact one of our Enrollment Specialists for assistance:

Alba Escobar at the Gleicher/Chen Health Center in Baldwin Hills
323.329.9926 or aescobar@apla.org

Kristina Davies at the Long Beach Health Center
562.247.7747 or kdavies@apla.org

If you are living with HIV, you can access benefits help at
The David Geffen Center in Mid-City
213.201.1615 or benefits@apla.org

New Report Examines Impact of California’s Affordable Housing Crisis on People Living with HIV

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APLA Health and the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center are pleased to release a new report, The Affordable Housing Crisis: Impact on People Living with HIV in California. Access to stable affordable housing is a critical component of treatment and care for people living with HIV (PLWH), as well as a successful method of preventing new infections. Federally-funded housing programs provide housing subsidies and supportive services; however, available funding does not meet the housing needs of most low-income PLWH in California, 12% of whom are homeless or unstably housed. This report discusses how California’s affordable housing crisis affects health outcomes for PLWH and offers a set of policy recommendations to increase collaboration across the housing and health care sectors in order to combat the housing crisis and move California closer to ending the HIV epidemic.

You can read the full report or brief at chprc.org/publications, or access the brief at aplahealth.org/advocacy/what-we-do. If you have any questions or would like to request a printed copy, please contact Katja Nelson, Local Affairs Specialist at APLA Health, at knelson@apla.org.

Republican Budgets Reduce the Deficit... by Targeting Disability Programs!

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The Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans have released their 2018 budget proposals. Both include huge increases for defense spending, tax cuts for the rich, and steep cuts to domestic programs, including the nation’s fragile safety net programs. The budget process will resume when congress reconvenes in September. Over the next couple of months, In the Loop will focus on specific items in the proposals that impact the populations APLA Health serves.

This week we look at proposals for cutting both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). During the presidential campaign, then candidate Trump promised voters he would reduce federal spending but would spare both Social Security and Medicare. The President’s proposed budget breaks that promise.

One of Trump’s proposed cost cutting measures for SSDI would limit payment of retroactive disability benefits, currently at 12 months, to bring them in line with Social Security retirement, which offers a maximum of six months of retroactive pay. The problem is that disability applications can take more than a year to process (especially if a claim goes into the appeals process), while Social Security retirement payment is on demand. There is no reason the six month rule should apply to prolonged disability applications.

Both budget proposals also target SSI. SSI provides disability payments for individuals who did not work a requisite number of years to qualify for SSDI—for instance children with disabilities who never worked or adults with slim work histories. Both budgets propose to reduce SSI spending by cutting the amount a family can claim if more than one child in the family is disabled. The first disabled child will receive the full SSI payment—around $700 per month—while the second child will receive less. The budget proposals contend there are economies of scale that justify the reduced payment.

Social Security is the only source of income for many Americans when disability strikes. We should all support robust disability payment programs that minimize fraud and abuse, but these cost cutting measures go beyond what is reasonable and will have a devastating impact on millions of Americans who rely on these programs to survive.

If you’re meeting your congress member or senator during the congressional recess this month, ask them if they are aware of these budget proposals, and tell them to support these vital disability programs.

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