IN THE LOOP
The news you need to know about 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 (you can sign up below!). We know there’s a lot to keep track of out there, and that’s why we’ve made this short and sweet, but also informative. As always, thank you for your support of APLA Health and please share this with others who may be interested.
A congressional vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was abruptly canceled in late March when Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans failed to agree on a replacement measure, then called the American Health Care Act.
Well, repeal and replace isn’t over. This week, the president promised to revisit the effort and Vice President Mike Pence met with the same fractious Republicans to come up with a new plan. No details have been released, but the measure that died would have left some 24 million Americans uninsured by 2026, delivered nearly $300 billion in tax relief to the rich, and cannibalized the Medicaid program which provides health care to millions for low-income people across the country. All this according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
There’s no indication the new legislation will be any different. We might expect to see the same devastating cuts to Medicaid, Planned Parenthood defunded, the elimination of Essential Health Benefits, a rollback of protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and more. Most of these moves would be disastrous for people living with and at risk for HIV. The problem for Republicans is that the ACA and Medicaid expansion have largely worked, providing new health coverage to more than 20 million Americans and establishing a new bar for health care access in America. The Republicans must meet this standard and then some, if they are going to deliver on the president’s promise to offer “something much less expensive and much better” than the ACA.
If you want to make your voice heard, call your representative (English: 866-426-2631; Spanish: 877-736-7831) and tell them to reject the latest efforts to repeal the ACA and destroy Medicaid. Also, visit resistancerecess.org to find out if your representative is holding any events about ACA repeal during the congressional recess next week.
Get Screened! STD Rates Hit a 20-Year High
April is National STD Awareness Month and it’s the perfect time to highlight California’s efforts to combat a growing STD epidemic. According to the California Department of Public Health, the number of STDs in the state is rising at a faster pace than the rest of the country and has now reached a 20-year high. Public health officials believe these changes are due to a number of factors, including barriers to testing and treatment, improved public health reporting, and changes in sexual behavior such as decreased condom use. The groups most impacted by STDs in California are young people, African Americans, and gay and bisexual men.
To help reduce the rate of STDs in California, last year the governor’s budget included $5 million for expansion of STD prevention, testing, and treatment programs. This, however, was only a one-time allocation, and we are currently supporting a state budget proposal to provide $5 million ongoing for these services. Additionally, California recently passed one of the most comprehensive sex education laws in the country—the California Healthy Youth Act—which ensures that young people receive adequate education about how to protect themselves and their partners.
We encourage everyone who’s sexually active to get tested every 3-6 months for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. You should also talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against meningitis, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. A recent report from the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers found that despite a yearlong meningitis outbreak in Southern California primarily among men who have sex with men, less than 27% of gay and bisexual men in Los Angeles County have been vaccinated for meningitis.
A Single-Payer Health Care System in California?
With the fate of the ACA unknown, the possibility of establishing a single-payer health care system in California is gaining traction as Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduce Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act. The bill would create a health care system that provides medical, dental, vision, mental health, and nursing home care for all California residents, including undocumented individuals. If passed, the state would negotiate prices for prescriptions and health care services, and residents would be able to choose their doctors. The bill would also eliminate co-pays and deductibles, addressing rising out-of-pocket costs for consumers.
Successful implementation of a single-payer health care system could greatly benefit people living with HIV in California, reducing the cost of prescriptions and making it easier to visit the doctor and maintain consistent care. There are still many unknowns, however, and several legislators have expressed doubts about funding such a system, including Gov. Jerry Brown. Since the bill would increase taxes and require all Californians to participate, it is unclear how much support it would receive in the Legislature and from the general public. Similar attempts have failed in the past. We’ll keep you updated.
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.