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.
Thank You and Goodbye to the Fiscal Cliff
Over the past several months we repeatedly asked you to call your representatives and senators to fix the “fiscal cliff”, otherwise known as Congress’ failure to extend funding for the nation’s community health centers back in September.
Thanks to your advocacy, Congress extended the health center funding on February 9 as part of a short-term extension of the federal budget. The fix includes: two-year extension of health center funding, at just over $7 billion, along with an extension of funding for the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program.
The stopgap spending bill will last through March 23, giving appropriators four weeks to finalize a fiscal 2018 omnibus spending package. The deal sets the stage to boost federal spending for both defense and nondefense programs by $300 billion over the next two years and will suspend the debt ceiling for one year. The deal also includes a number of other priorities for both parties, including nearly $90 billion for disaster relief, $6 billion to address the opioid crisis, and a full ten-year extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (initially extended for six years last month).
Thank you for your efforts to keep health centers operating and providing full scope care, treatment and services to low-income individuals across the nation.
Insurance Commissioner Investigates Insurance Denials for PrEP Use
The California Department of Insurance recently opened an investigation into reports of gay men being denied insurance policies covering life, disability, or long-term care because they were using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). When taken as prescribed, PrEP provides nearly 100 percent protection from acquiring HIV.
According to Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, such denials could amount to illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation and the companies doing so could be penalized. The investigation comes on the heels of news reports that multiple insurers nationwide have denied policies because individuals were taking PrEP. APLA Health had previously met with officials from the Department of Insurance to report this discriminatory practice.
Although companies do not typically publicize their underwriting standards, some gay men in California have been issued denials because they reported “less safe sex practices” after beginning PrEP. Denials such as this appear to single out gay men for discriminatory treatment, as other individuals are not denied coverage for similar reasons. These denials also put the public health at risk by encouraging individuals to stop using PrEP if they need life, disability or long-term-care insurance.
The California Department of Insurance has provided contact information if you or someone you know has been denied coverage because of PrEP. You can call the toll-free Consumer Hotline at 800-927-HELP (4357) or file a Request for Assistance online at www.insurance.ca.gov.
2nd Annual Homeless Initiative Conference Highlights Measure H Progress
On February 8, Los Angeles County held its 2nd Annual Homeless Initiative conference titled “Partnership and Innovation.” The conference included several presentations highlighting progress made on the 21 Measure H funded initiatives. There are now 51 homeless initiative strategies (21 attached to funding) that are divided into six categories:
|4)||providing case management and services,|
|5)||creating a coordinated system, and|
|6)||increasing affordable and homeless housing.|
The majority of the 51 strategies have been fully implemented, with a portion partially implemented or targeted to be implemented by summer 2018. At the conference, various representatives from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and other County departments discussed challenges and successes in implementing Measure H. Noting that the homelessness crisis has worsened in the past year, Supervisors Solis, Kuehl, Ridley-Thomas, and Barger spoke at the conference, reaffirming their commitment to Measure H, saying that 2017 was about goals and wishes and this year is about implementation. The Director of the Homeless Initiative, Phil Ansell, stated that the County has made significant technical progress in laying the foundations for strong Measure H implementation that truly combats the homelessness crisis.
Through Measure H strategies last year, 3,300 individuals and families were placed into permanent supportive housing and the County increased the number of outreach teams, connecting 2,700 individuals to services. The County also increased the number of emergency beds available and assisted 4,000 disabled individuals in getting benefits. You can review more data on how each of the strategies has helped people find housing and services this year here, read the most recent report on Measure H implementation here, and sign up for updates at homeless.lacounty.gov.
DACA Program Still Up In the Air
Congressional Democrats had attempted to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) as part of the continuing resolution passed on February 9 (see above), but the final bill did not extend legal status for Dreamers who were brought to this country as children by their parents. Earlier this month four Senate attempts at more comprehensive immigration legislation failed, in part over the President’s insistence on funding for a border wall.
President Trump has placed a March 5 deadline on the DACA program, stating that Congress must act before then. The president could extend protection for Dreamers, Congress could pass a bill providing Dreamers with a pathway to full citizenship, or, worst case scenario, the administration could ramp up deportation for Dreamers, the majority of whom live in California.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide important updates as they become available. You can find ways to help protect and defend Dreamers here.
Stay in the loop!
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.