The policy team has been busy since the election working to better understand the proposed plans coming out of the President-elect’s administration and the impact they would have on people living with or at risk for HIV, hepatitis C, and other chronic conditions.
Federal Policy Updates
After six years of failed attempts, the House of Representatives announced a vote for January 3, 2017, to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which currently insures 20 million Americans who did not have insurance before enactment. The congressional staff on committees of jurisdiction, on the House and Senate side, are working with members and key constituencies to develop legislation to replace the ACA. It is essential that any replacement plan maintains affordable, health care access for the millions of ACA recipients who rely on public programs like Medicaid and Medicare, and private insurance plans through state or federal marketplaces. While there is disagreement between the House and Senate about the length of transition time from ACA to the new replacement, it will be at least 2 to 3 years before any new plan is enacted, and individuals in the plan today should be able to maintain their coverage for that time.
The ACA has been an important law for people with HIV, many of whom were able to obtain comprehensive health care coverage for the first time due to its expansion of the Medicaid program to low-income people regardless of their disability status and the removal of the pre-existing condition clause, that had previously prevented people with HIV and other chronic conditions from being able to purchase health insurance.
In California, HIV advocates have been working with other low-income health advocates to highlight how well the health law is working here. As part of this effort, we have been working with Health Access and their #Fight4OurHealth campaign, highlighting all the work that California has done to lead the nation in expanding Medicaid, giving working families subsidies in Covered California in order to afford private insurance, preventing people from being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, letting young people stay on their parent's insurance until age 26, and much more.
It is important that our elected officials continue to hear how the Affordable Care Act is working for people, so if you have a coverage story that you’d like to share, we encourage you to do so here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ShareYourACAStory.
We also encourage you to call your senators and representative. You can find yours here. You can then call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and a switchboard operator will connect you directly with the congressional office you request.
Sample message: I’m calling to express my strong support for the Affordable Care Act and urge you not to repeal it without a replacement. It will cause millions of Americans to lose health care and create chaos in the U.S. health care system. Do not repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement that provides access to high-quality care for all. [If you can, please share what health coverage means to you, your family, and your community.]
Of course all of this is going on during the open enrollment period, which has seen record-breaking enrollment. Working with our HIV advocacy partners from across the state, we have once again published our plan choice guide for people living with HIV, hepatitis C and those seeking PrEP.
In addition to this work to protect the ACA, we have been busy at the state level working with the Office of AIDS to fix significant problems with the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), a life-saving program for some 30,000 low-income Californians living with HIV, that resulted from the recent transition to three new contractors as well as the implementation of a new eligibility and enrollment system. The Office of AIDS has recently extended eligibility for all ADAP clients for the next two months in order to ensure that people with HIV are able to continue to access their medications while the necessary systems fixes are made. If you are having trouble with ADAP for any reason, please feel free to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
All of this leads us in to the beginning to the California budget legislative session, with the Governor’s proposed budget due out January 10th. This will be a busy session and we will be sure to share updates as things progress.
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