The election in November of 2010 shifted the political ground both in D.C. and in many state legislatures. These political changes brought efforts to repeal the ACA and to reduce the national commitment both to Medicaid and to critical programs funded as a part of reform. The efforts by the political right to reset the national agenda challenge every gain we’ve made. Although the fight for health care has moved from front page news to the trenches, we have seen some impressive achievements this past year:
- Medicaid and Children’s Health: In December 2011, HHS announced that publicly funded programs had insured 1.2 million previously uninsured children and 3.0 million children who previously had private insurance found coverage through public programs. The Alliance for a Just Society’s Health Rights Organizing Project (HROP) lead with the “Medicaid Makes a Difference-Protecting Medicaid Advancing Racial Justice” report, participated in a national gathering Caring Across Generations with immigrants, caregivers and recipients spoke truth to power.
- Clinics: 2011 opened with deficit reduction plans targeting funding for community clinics. HROP mobilized calls and comments and held legislative meetings and with our allies succeeded in preventing these cuts. Next year clinic funding will be increased by $200 million nationally due to these efforts.
- Prevention Fund: Also on the chopping block was the Prevention Fund, the source of funding for a wide range of initiatives, including expansion of the health care workforce and community transformation grants. Throughout the year, HROP and our allies raised up the importance of the fund and lobbied for its funding. The 2012 budget includes the full $1 billion authorized by the ACA, and next year funding for Community Transformation Grants will expand from $145 million to $280 million.
- Immigrant Coverage and Language Access: HROP dug in this year to advance language access. HROP’s report “Left In the Dark” showed serious flaws in Health and Human Services’ proposed rules that establish thresholds for language services. Make the Road NY and the California Partnership successfully reached out to urge members of the Tri-Caucus speak up in the rulemaking process. The jury is still out, but the analysis, combined with targeted mobilization, positions us for a victory in 2012. HROP groups did banner drops, collected comments door-to-door, and joined with immigrant advocacy groups to protect provisions that require unnecessary verification in the application process at both the national and state levels.
- Native Health Services: Congress appropriated at an increase of over $200 million dollars for IHS for the modernization of the Indian Health Services program. Indian People’s Action took action to preserve and improve hospital services on the Crow Reservation.
- State Exchanges: HROP partners fought insurance companies to set up strong state exchanges, going door-to-door to gather more than 3,500 comments opposing insurance companies sitting on the Exchange Boards and advocating for stronger consumer protections. In addition, AJS submitted comments around how to address health disparities. In 10 states, we worked to strengthen the state legislation authorizing the exchange and addressing nine key issues to protect consumers. HROP finished the year working with partners to release state reports addressing insurance companies “conflict of interest” at the state level.
- Small Business Voices Defending Reform in Washington, DC: Main Street Alliance projects, many of which are organized by HROP partners, played a key role in projecting real small business voices into the D.C. debate in defense of the Affordable Care Act. On five occasions between January and November, MSA small business leaders answered the call to travel to D.C. to testify at congressional hearings or speak at press events with congressional leaders, countering the small business claims of reform opponents with powerful personal stories about how the health law is helping Main Street small businesses.
- Medical Loss Ratio: HROP and MSA partners fought successfully to defend the new medical loss ratio standards that require health insurers to meet a basic level of value for premiums or provide rebates to customers. Small business owners in the MSA network sent letters to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and congressional committees, wrote op-eds for local newspapers, and testified about the importance of the new MLR rules. In December, HHS finalized the rules without caving to the pressure to water them down.