UHCAN’s monthly call in June opened with a focus on democracy. Our call started with this theme because UHCAN believes that, without winning the democracy battle, Americans will never win health care justice.
There are grave concerns that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census form, as the Trump Administration tried to do, could “scare away millions of immigrants from filling out their surveys – throwing off the count of who is present in America.” An accurate count is crucial for the fair distribution of federal funding for key programs like SNAP, Medicaid, education grants, community health centers and school lunches. The census is also used to establish the possibility of fair and accurate representation in Congress for each state.
Valerie Arkoosh, MD, Chair of Montgomery County (PA) Board of Commissioners, described the Complete Count Committee her county has set up to ensure that everyone is counted in the 2020 census, including hard-to-reach populations. Complete Count Committees are forming all across the country and are one way that people are fighting back against efforts to undermine the census.
Next, the call turned to efforts in so many states to make it harder for people to register to vote or to be secure that their vote will be counted. Voter suppression results in Black, Hispanic and other marginalized communities being disproportionately impacted. Health care justice activists need to help people see the connections — states that repress the vote are often the same states that refuse to expand Medicaid and in other ways restrict access to health care. Of the many voting restrictions states are pursuing, one of the worst anti-democratic practices is voter purges, which the Brennan Center for Justice defines as “the often-flawed process of cleaning up voter rolls by deleting names from registration lists.”
Mike Brickner, Ohio State Director of All Voting is Local, described the struggle to fight back against voter purges in Ohio and to institute positive changes to make it easier for people to vote. Many states are exploring automatic or same day voter registration. All Voting is Local is a national not-for-profit that also works in Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Another great resource on this issue is Nonprofit Vote.
Women’s Reproductive Rights
The call also addressed the growing wave of attacks on access to reproductive health care services. Kelley Robinson, Executive Director of the national Planned Parenthood Action Fund, highlighted the extreme nature of recent early abortion bans passed in rapid succession in multiple states. This year, over 300 bills proposing severe abortion restrictions have been introduced in 47 states.
But while the news is grim in many states, other states are codifying Roe v. Wade into state law in order to protect women’s right to safe, legal abortion. Many Democratic presidential candidates are now on record opposing the Hyde Amendment. Even some corporations are opposing abortion bans and limits to women’s reproductive rights, through the Don’t Ban Equality campaign.
Nathan Bennett from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism discussed the new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the HHS Office of Civil Rights. The Division is “pursuing a narrow agenda of expanding religious and moral exemptions at the expense of broader nondiscrimination and patient privacy.” Instead of maintaining the separation of church and state, the government is being used to impose certain religious views on all Americans. In May, a new rule was announced that would greatly expand the use of religious and moral objections to allow providers to refuse contraceptive and gender transition related care. Thus, federally funded health care programs will be allowed to discriminate, which we know will especially hurt women and LGBTQ people.
UHCAN believes the Health Care Justice movement must stand side-by-side with our allies fighting all of these attacks on access to abortion, contraception and other aspects of women’s health care and reproductive justice. In the face of the divide-and-conquer strategy of the opposition, our approach must be solidarity.
OTHER NATIONAL TOPICS covered on this call included … an overview of the array of activities this summer promoting Medicare for All, including this letter from racial justice organizations asserting that Medicare for All is a civil rights issue (released 7-10-19; guidelines to help identify which proposals to bring down high drug costs are advances, and which might just be detours; and, how Social Security remains strong, despite scare tactics to undermine it.
STATE AND LOCAL UPDATES came from … Utah, regarding the effort to protect their Medicaid expansion in the face of the Legislature’s efforts to undermine it; Maryland, where a coalition is fighting John Hopkins Hospital’s harsh practices to try to collect medical debt from low income patients; and, Colorado, where advocates are “keeping universal health care on the table” via a task force to study financing universal health care in the state via either a multi-payer or a single payer approach.
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UHCAN’s conference calls for state health care justice leaders take place monthly,
usually on the second Tuesday, at 12:55 pm (E).
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