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!). As always, thank you for your support of APLA Health, and please share this with others who may be interested.
You May Not Know What’s in the Senate’s Health Care Bill Until You Lose Your Insurance!
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is fast tracking the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and hopes to pass the measure soon. “Fast track” means the bill will bypass normal Senate procedures and could pass with a simple majority vote. No hearings, no committee reports, no town halls, no public input. A Congressional Budget Office report is mandatory, but it will likely predict the same catastrophic loss of health coverage we saw in the House’s version of the bill.
We need to tell McConnell and every other senator “No!” Every American needs affordable health care coverage, not just the rich and not just the employed. The AHCA could rip health insurance out from under an estimated 23 million Americans. Premiums and out-of-pocket costs could skyrocket and subsidies could fall for those most in need. The measure could gut Medicaid, reduce coverage for kids and people with pre-existing conditions, defund Planned Parenthood, restrict women’s access to family planning and remove other important health benefits. The House bill used Medicaid and other cuts to give the super-rich the biggest tax cut—to the tune of $836 billion—they never needed in the first place. There were rumors the Senate measure would cut even more.
Call your senator today, especially if you or someone you know lives in a state with a Republican senator in office. Demand better. You deserve it. Tell them we need thoughtful, well-crafted health policy, not some sneak attack of a bill that will undo everything the Affordable Care Act achieved, including reducing America’s uninsured rate to its lowest levels in history.
We need to flood Republican Senate offices with calls. See how you can do that at the end of In the Loop.
Homelessness in L.A. County Soars 23% in One Year; 58,000 Now Live on the Streets, Many With HIV
In a blow to Los Angeles County’s efforts to combat homelessness, the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found that the County’s homeless population increased by 23% over the last year. There are now 57,794 homeless people in Los Angeles, 1,160 of whom identify as living with HIV (though the actual number of people living with HIV who are homeless is higher).The count revealed that homelessness is increasing especially among young people, ages 18-24, and that the number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time is also on the rise, with people of color disproportionately impacted.
Access to stable housing is one of the most important ways for people living with HIV to achieve optimal health outcomes and is crucial for preventing new infections. Now more than ever, Los Angeles’ efforts to combat homelessness through two recent ballot measures, Measure H and Proposition HHH, are critical for people living with HIV and other vulnerable populations, especially in light of the Trump Administration’s proposed $7.4 billion cut to several important housing programs. Acknowledging this crisis, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors just approved $335 million in funds generated by Measure H for strategies to prevent and combat homelessness including rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, emergency shelters, and homelessness prevention for individuals, families, and youth. They’ll tackle Proposition HHH next, which will provide up to $1.2 billion in bonds to fund construction and remodeling of facilities. You can read more in-depth results of the count here.
Lawmakers Reach State Budget Deal, Includes Funding for Critical HIV Programs
California lawmakers are set to approve a state budget deal June 15 following intense negotiations between Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature. One of the most contentious debates had been over how to spend over $1 billion in revenue from Proposition 56, the 2016 ballot initiative that raised taxes on tobacco products. Brown originally proposed using the funds to cover normal growth in Medi-Cal, which provides health coverage for the poor, while the Legislature and health care groups argued the funds should be used for increased payments to doctors and dentists that treat Medi-Cal patients.
Under the final budget deal, $465 million of the new tobacco tax revenue will go toward boosting payments for Medi-Cal doctors and dentists—a big win for legislative Democrats and Republicans—and $50 million to increase reimbursements for reproductive health providers such as Planned Parenthood. The deal also includes $4 million to increase reimbursement rates for the AIDS Waiver Program, which provides case management and in-home supportive services to people living with HIV. APLA Health and other providers across the state have been advocating for these funds for several years to help stabilize the program, as low reimbursement rates have caused many agencies to discontinue the program and significantly reduced access for people living with HIV. The budget provides an additional $4 million to help people living with HIV enroll in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and expands California’s Earned Income Tax Credit, allowing more than 1 million households to claim the credit.
Gov. Brown has 12 days to sign the budget following approval by the Legislature.
A Few Republican Senators Could Tip the Vote on the Health Care Bill: Call Them Now!
We have asked you to call your senators before, and many of you have. But California’s Democratic senators aren’t really the votes that count in the American Health Care Act debacle. So we are providing you with the direct telephone numbers for high-priority Republican senators whose votes could make the difference. We need to flood their lines with calls, objecting to this treacherous effort to undo the Affordable Care Act.
Make calls to the legislative health assistants in charge of health care for the priority targets listed below. We have included a calling script suggestion, but please make every call different, so you don’t sound like you’re reading from a script. Example:
“Hi my name is X and I‘m calling from [your town or the town where you live in the Senator’s state]. I am worried about health care and angry about the proposed American Health Care Act because [I/my friend/my family/my patients] have [a health condition]. There are a lot of people like me. I’d like the senator to make a public statement opposing any bill that doesn’t insure more people get coverage at a lower out-of-pocket cost, with the same or better benefits we have now, regardless of age, income, or pre-existing condition, and to protect Medicaid and continue its expansion. I’d like a written response to my request at [email]. Thank you.”
You are encouraged to add personal details to the first half. Also, consider adding statements about how you are so worried that you will volunteer and donate funds to any opponent in the next election, or other consequences you think of.
Note: If you live in California and do want to reach out to Sens. Feinstein and Harris’ offices, call this toll-free number: 866-220-0044.
TOP 12 HIGH-PRIORITY TARGETS TO CALL:
ARIZONA: Sen. Jeff Flake (R)
Legislative Assistant Helen Heiden
ARKANSAS: Sen. Thomas Cotton (R)
Abigail Welborn, Legislative Assistant
ALABAMA: Sen. Luther Strange (R)
Legislative Assistant Nick Moore
ALASKA: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Legislative Aide
COLORADO: Sen. Cory Gardner (R)
Legislative Director Curtis Swager
Ali Toal, Legislative Assistant
LOUISIANA: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R)
Senior Health Policy Adviser Matt Gallivan
Research Analyst Davis Mills
MAINE: Sen. Susan Collins (R)
Legislative Assistant Elizabeth Allen
OHIO: Sen. Rob Portman (R)
Legislative Assistant Sarah Schmidt
NEVADA: Sen Dean Heller (R)
Legislative Assistant Rachel Green
TENNESSEE: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R)
David Cleary, Chief of Staff
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee health staff Mary-Sumpter Lapinski
WEST VIRGINIA: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R)
Legislative Assistant Dana Richter
Legislative Correspondent Mike Fischer
WISCONSIN: Sen. Ronald Johnson (R)
Legislative Director Sean Riley
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.