Today in Montana: Big Win on Medicaid Expansion

Today, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed SB 405 into law, making Montana the 29th state in the country to expand health coverage for low-income residents through Medicaid expansion.

Thanks to this bill, up to 70,000 Montana residents who are currently uninsured will be eligible for quality, affordable health coverage for the first time. It’s a big victory for Montana families and communities. But it didn’t come without a fight.

To an outside observer, the odds may not have looked good going into the 2015 legislative session. Medicaid expansion had already failed to clear the Montana Legislature once before. And the Montana chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP is the flagship organization in the Koch network) was throwing all its weight behind ginning up opposition and trying to scare moderate lawmakers away from the negotiating table.

But the Healthy Montana Campaign, a statewide coalition of 10 core partner organizations working in support of Medicaid expansion, was undeterred. Through three years of disciplined organizing, the coalition sent a clear message: when it comes to quality, affordable health care, we’re in it to win it. And that’s exactly what they did.

The Montana Organizing Project (MOP), an affiliate of the Alliance for a Just Society, played an integral role in the organizing that made this victory possible, mobilizing its base of members and leaders across the state, including in rural and eastern Montana, to join the fight.

MOP and HMC partners knew it would require a large-scale grassroots effort to overcome the Koch money on the other side. So they started early. And never quit.

In 2014, when MOP ran a nonpartisan civic engagement project focusing on low-income women voters that logged 19,000 phone calls, 3,500 doors knocked, and more than 3,000 “I pledge to vote” cards. They not only boosted turnout in their target universe – they also built a list of Medicaid expansion supporters, and prepared those supporters to take action.

As the 2015 session got underway, MOP mobilized its supporters to turn out at rallies, testify at legislative hearings, make calls to key legislators, and write letters to the editor.

Leaders in the Campaign expected an onslaught of opposition from Americans for Prosperity. But at the first legislative hearing, the Healthy Montana Campaign rallied 250 supporters, including businesses and statewide organizations. Americans for Prosperity turned out fewer than a dozen people in opposition.

Through this show of strength in numbers, partners in the HMC highlighted the difference between their grassroots support from Montana families and AFP’s astroturf opposition.

That set the tone for the debates to follow. And when AFP tried to run town hall meetings in the home districts of swing legislators to drum up opposition, they got out-smarted and out-organized: the targeted legislators showed up, won the crowds over, and turned them against AFP.

The final deal on Medicaid expansion in Montana isn’t perfect. It includes some provisions the HMC strongly opposed – like mandatory premiums (up to 2 percent of the recipient’s income), a co-pay of up to 3 percent, the ability to remove people who earn above 100 percent of the poverty level and fail to pay their premiums from the program, and a sunset provision.

But the Campaign won on its two most important goals: making sure the final deal accepts all of the federal funding available for Montana, and ensuring that everyone earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level (about $16,000 for a single person) will be eligible. That means up to 70,000 low-income Montanans who’ve had nowhere to turn will be eligible for quality, affordable health coverage thanks to Medicaid expansion.

The passage of Medicaid expansion will also help small, rural hospitals across Montana – hospitals that may otherwise have faced closure due to funding shortfalls – to remain solvent, preserving access to health care for rural communities and preserving good-paying health care jobs in those communities.

The work for quality, affordable health care in Montana isn’t over, of course. While today’s signing of Medicaid expansion is a great stride in expanding health coverage, there’s still a lot of work to do to make sure getting health coverage translates into getting health care, especially for women, Native Americans, and rural residents. MOP and the HMC partners look forward to engaging in the Waiver process to ensure that as many Montanans as possible get covered and get on the path to quality care.

There’s a lot more organizing and more fights ahead to make health care reform fulfill the promise of eliminating race and gender-based disparities in health access and outcomes in Montana. The Montana Organizing Project will be in the thick of that work.

 

 

Jay Johnson on Why We Need A National Movement at Populism 2015

Every speaker from throughout the country at Populism 2015 last weekend in Washington, D.C. was inspiring. Among them, Virginia Organizing Treasurer Jay Johnson especially nailed it, rallying the crowd during a Saturday plenary session.

“We need a national movement like we’re trying to build here,” said Jay. “It needs to be grounded in and owned by community organizations that are committed to building power within their states.”

Watch the full clip of Jay Johnson here , or watch the full opening plenary video at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDnTzgoNUMc.

Alliance For a Just Society Map of Affiliates 2015

 Map of AJS Afiliates 2015 jpeg


Washington         California     Connecticut     Florida     Idaho     Illinois     Iowa     Louisiana   Maine     Massachusetts     Michigan     Montana     New Jersey     New York    Ohio     Oregon   Pennsylvania     Texas     Vermont     Virginia       … and Washington D.C.

Progressive Leaders Unveil Shared Populist Agenda

MEDIA ADVISORY CONTACTS:   Populism2015 logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jacob Swenson-Lengyel (jacob@npa-us.org), 312-316-3973

PROGRESSIVE LEADERS UNVEIL SHARED POPULIST AGENDA

Populism2015 Conference Will Bring 1,000 People From Across the Country Together in Washington, D.C. this Weekend

Washington, D.C. – Progressive leaders today unveiled a new shared populist agenda on a media conference call in advance of the Populism2015 conference. This agenda is galvanizing the progressive populist community and defining the debate going into the 2016 elections.

“There is a bottom-up progressive populist sentiment building in this country,” said George Goehl, Executive Director of National People’s Action, “It’s no secret that we are looking for political leadership, but we are also not waiting for that leadership. Populism2015 and the agenda we are organizing is one sign of that. The ideas in our agenda create a clear line in the sand for all candidates. At the end of the day the question is simple: do you stand with everyday people or do you stand with big-monied corporate interests?”

“This platform has been shaped by the key issues that determine the direction of our communities and our national economy,” said Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future. “We are taking the questions raised by our platform to the national political debate and to communities across the country.”

“In 18 months, we will go to the polls and choose a new president. Those candidates and all the others on the ballot in 2016 will have choices to make,” said Fred Azcarate, Executive Director of US Action, “Will they stand with working families and advance bold ideas that create an economy and a democracy that works for us all? Or will they side with the rich and Wall Street?”

“When you organize, you can win. Our power is in our numbers,” said LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “Our organizations have worked together on many issues to put the powerful on notice and to demand accountability from corporations ­– and from Congress.  We will use that strength to wrest our nation back from the corporate class, from the bankers and billionaires who put profits ahead of people.”

“Collectively we bring together a team of 600 organizers who will fight to move these ideas into the national conversation,” said Goehl. “They will be working in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and beyond to make sure candidates of both parties have to articulate where they stand on these issues.”

Populism2015 is sponsored by National People’s Action, Campaign for America’s Future, USAction, and Alliance for a Just Society, four organizations that collectively employ more than 600 professional organizers, with on the ground operations in 32 states, and a network of more than two million activists. For more information visit https://populism2015.org/

What:         POPULISM2015: BUILDING A MOVEMENT FOR PEOPLE AND THE PLANET

Who:        National People’s Action, Campaign for America’s Future, USAction, Alliance for a Just Society

When:     Saturday, April 18 – Monday, April 20, 2015 Registration 3 p.m. April 18 | First session: 6 p.m.

Where:     Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington D.C.

Highlights:
Plenary: Sun. April 19, 1:30 pm with Rep. Keith Ellison and Vien Truong of the Greenlining Institute
Rally: “Don’t Trade Away Our Future,” Mon. April 20, 12pm at 600 17th Street NW, Office of the US Trade Representative, Opposing Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership featuring Senator Bernie Sanders, CWA President Larry Cohen, National Radio Commentator Jim Hightower

Website:     populism2015.org

Social Media:  #Populism2015, #PeoplePlanet1st

Leaders Available for Interviews Before Conference

  • Robert Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future

  • George Goehl, National People’s Action

  • LeeAnn Hall, Alliance for A Just Society

  • Fred Azcarate, USAction

    To arrange interviews with the conference leaders and grassroots activists contact Isaiah J. Poole (ipoole@ourfuture.org), 202-641-1414 or Jacob Swenson-Lengyel (jacob@npa-us.org), 312-316-3973.

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CHIP’s Two-Year Reprieve

This week, Congress passed legislation funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program for an additional two years. The bill passed with strong majorities and bipartisan support.

There’s the good news in that legislative development: the bill included none of the attacks on CHIP – including provisions specifically targeting immigrant children – that had surfaced in previous proposals. CHIP will remain strong as one of the country’s most important health coverage programs, thanks to a vigorous defense from community groups across the country.

But Congress has still put CHIP on a two-year deadline. With this kind of short-term funding, kids and their families – including kids with ongoing courses of treatment – can’t feel secure about their health care. Two years isn’t enough – no one’s health care follows that kind of legislative calendar, and kids’ health care shouldn’t be expected to.