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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.

12/19/18

Despite Court Ruling, Affordable Care Act is Still the Law of the Land

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Covered California open enrollment continues through January 15th

Last Friday, a federal judge in Texas struck down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) declaring that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and the rest of the law cannot stand without it. The decision came out of a lawsuit filed by Republican governors and attorneys general from across the country. The ruling has received significant media attention and caused some pre-holiday distress for millions of Americans who rely on the ACA for affordable health care.

But don’t panic just yet. The ACA is still the law of the land and the ruling will have no immediate impact. No one in California should let the court decision discourage them from enrolling in health coverage or be worried about using the health plan they have.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is already leading a coalition of 17 states to challenge the ruling, which will likely reach the Supreme Court. House Democrats, set to retake control in January, are also promising to intervene in the case. Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats would “move swiftly” after they take power to “formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”

Covered California—the state’s health insurance marketplace—extended the deadline for consumers to sign up for coverage that starts on New Year’s Day. Although Saturday marked the original deadline, consumers now have until Friday, December 21st to enroll in a health plan that will start on January 1st. And you can sign up all the way through January 15th to have your coverage begin on February 1st.

You can learn more about your health coverage options by visiting www.CoveredCA.com. If you have questions or need help enrolling, please contact one of APLA Health’s enrollment specialists for assistance:

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

Jennifer Miranda at the Gleicher/Chen Health Center in Baldwin Hills
323.329.9912 or jmiranda@apla.org

Davon Crenshaw at the Long Beach Health Center
562.247.7752 or dcrenshaw@apla.org

If you are living with HIV, you can access benefits help at The David Geffen Center in Koreatown
213.201.1615

Help is available in English and Spanish.

Blue Tsunami Shakes Up Congress and California Legislature

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Now that all the votes from the 2018 midterm elections have been counted, we have a clear picture of what Congress and the California Legislature will look like next year. And the results will have a BIG impact on key issues like health care, drug pricing, and affordable housing. We’re here to break down the results and give you a preview of what to expect in 2019.

Power dynamics in Congress have shifted substantially with Democrats retaking control of the House of Representatives. Democrats picked up a net gain of 40 seats in the House, and 7 of those wins came from hotly contested congressional districts in California. This is the largest Democratic House gain since 1974. On the Senate side, Republicans picked up several seats and are set to hold a 53-47 majority in January, compared to their current 51-49 edge.

With Democrats taking control of the House, any Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will likely be dead on arrival. And following the Texas District Court decision to strike down the ACA, the debate over health care will likely remain center stage. Democrats have already promised to intervene in the case and may also try to reverse some of the actions Republicans took to dismantle the ACA. It remains to be seen whether they can reach bipartisan agreement with their Republican colleagues in the Senate. Both parties have expressed strong interest in reducing the price of prescription drugs, so we should expect to see some kind of limited action that arena.

In California, Democrat Gavin Newsom easily defeated Republican John Cox to become the state’s next governor. Newsom will be joined in Sacramento by the largest group of Democratic lawmakers in the state’s modern history. Sixty of the state’s 80 Assembly members are now Democrats—the party’s largest caucus in the chamber since 1883. Democrats hold nearly the same portion in the upper chamber, with 29 Democratic lawmakers in the 40-member Senate. It’s also important to mention that a record number of Californians turned out to vote. The 64.5% turnout rate was the state’s highest turnout of registered voters in a gubernatorial election since 1982.

While the state Legislature has only been in session for a couple of weeks, lawmakers have already introduced more than 100 bills that include tens of billions of dollars in new spending. The proposals range from allowing undocumented immigrants to enroll in Medi-Cal, with an estimated cost of $3 billion per year, to increased funding for affordable housing and transit-oriented development. Governor-elect Newsom made health care and housing top priorities during his campaign, but he is already tamping down expectations. “All of this will be whittled down and we all will live within our means,” he said earlier this month. “We’re not going to deviate from being fiscally prudent.”

Stay tuned for more developments when the Legislature reconvenes in January. There’s no doubt it will be an interesting year.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Approve $5 Million for STD Testing and Treatment

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Responding to advocacy and calls for immediate action from a cross-section of HIV and sexual health advocates, including APLA Health, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last month approved a $5 million, two-year funding increase to combat the STD epidemic now raging in Los Angeles County.

The advocates coordinated their efforts by first presenting at a meeting of the County Supervisors’ health deputies. According to one health deputy, it was the first time a community group presentation had been placed on their agenda. The advocates were responding to alarming data:

•  From 2011-2015, Los Angeles County has seen a 96% increase in primary and secondary syphilis, a 74% increase in gonorrhea, and a 13% increase in chlamydia, according to the 2015 countywide HIV/STD Surveillance Report.
•  There has also been a 35% increase in congenital syphilis cases, which rose from 17 cases in 2011 to 23 cases in 2015.
•  STDs hit a record high in the United States for the fourth year in a row in 2017, with approximately 2.3 million cases combined. This represents an increase of more than 200,000 compared to 2016 and more than a 30% increase over the last five years.
•  STDs disproportionately impact gay and bisexual men, transgender individuals, and women of color.

 
Funding for STDs is sadly lacking at all levels of government. Los Angeles County has not approved any meaningful increase to the STD response in a decade. In the last 10 years, California has approved only two one-time funding increases totaling $7 million. And federal funding for STD prevention, programming, and treatment decreased by $21 million from 2003-2016. When adjusted for inflation, this represents a reduction of 40%.

Advocates commenting on the Board of Supervisors’ motion all expressed gratitude for the County response. But they also made it clear that this one time funding can only be seen as a down payment on a problem that isn’t going away any time soon.

LA County HIV/AIDS Strategy: Year One Review

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For World AIDS Day 2018, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Division of HIV and STD Programs (DHSP), in collaboration with the LA County Commission on HIV, presented updates on the County’s efforts to end the HIV epidemic.

The Los Angeles County HIV/AIDS Strategy (LACHAS) was released last December and includes three main goals:

1)  Reduce annual HIV transmissions to no more than 500 per year,
2)  Increase the proportion of people living with HIV who are diagnosed to at least 90%, and
3)  Increase the proportion of diagnosed people living with HIV who are virally suppressed to 90%.

 
During the past year, the HIV Commission has spearheaded implementation of the strategy. They convened more than a dozen community call-to-action meetings to present the strategy to local stakeholders, gather feedback and support for the strategy’s goals and objectives, and worked to update and align HIV/AIDS service standards of care with the strategy goals. The Commission also helped advance key policy and resource allocation recommendations for HIV services at the Board of Supervisors, including participating in the community effort that secured a $5 million allocation for STD testing and treatment. APLA Health’s Government Affairs department has participated in these meetings and community efforts, and also sits on the Commission’s LACHAS Policy Committee where community members work to implement the goals of the strategy.

During the World AIDS Day event, DHSP offered several updated statistics, though 2017 data is still forthcoming. DHSP Director Mario Perez noted there were 60,946 people living with HIV at the end of 2016, with 1,949 new diagnoses in 2016. Of the total number of people living with HIV, 48,974 were diagnosed, while 8,654 were unaware of their status, and approximately 1,500 cases pending investigation. Among diagnosed individuals, 60% were virally suppressed.

Mr. Perez also highlighted new data on PrEP use—in a significant increase from last year, there are now 18,000 HIV-negative people estimated to be on PrEP in Los Angeles County, moving closer to the goal of 70,000 people on PrEP countywide.

APLA Health hopes to see increased progress during the second year of implementation and will continue to work with the Department of Public Health and HIV Commission to meet the goals of the strategy and end the HIV epidemic in Los Angeles County.

Share Your Story

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APLA Health provides services to more than 15,000 people, and we want to know their stories. Have you been receiving services from APLA Health? Are you a new patient or client? Have you or a loved one been affected by HIV? Has a staff member gone above and beyond what you were expecting? We want to know the full story. What are we are doing well? How we can serve you better?

Tell us your story!

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