Federal Policy Updates
Attacks on Health Care
House Republicans Revive and Pass Zombie Health Care Bill
Despite public opposition defeating the Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) last month, Republicans in the House of Representatives managed on May 4 to round up the votes needed to pass their deadly health care bill, the “American Health Care Act” (AHCA). If the Senate passes the AHCA, it will have devastating consequences for Medicaid and the private insurance market throughout the country, and will have the greatest impact on low-income people, women, and people with pre-existing conditions.
The AHCA would cause at least 24 million people to lose health insurance coverage; drastically increase premiums for vulnerable groups, including older adults; cut $880 billion dollars in funding for Medicaid; all while providing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, including drug companies and insurance companies. The version of the AHCA that passed includes amendments that make the bill even worse: not only will the bill allow insurance companies to charge people with pre-existing conditions thousands of dollars more–which is of grave concern for people living with HIV–it will also undermine existing requirements that health insurance covers basic health care services, such as hospital care, maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health.
Our committed activism and advocacy will be needed more than ever when the Senate takes up the bill. It is expected to meet opposition from moderate Republican Senators as well as all the Democratic Senators, and will withstand fewer defectors in the Senate, where Republicans hold a much smaller majority. Sign up here to stay in the loop on how you can help stop Trumpcare from becoming the law of the land.
Gorsuch Confirmed for Supreme Court After Republicans Use “Nuclear Option”
Despite strong opposition from Senate Democrats, Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to serve a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. Given his long judicial record of anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ and anti-worker decisions, Senate Republicans were only able to secure the confirmation by literally changing the Senate rules to lower the number of votes required to secure a confirmation, using what has been called the “nuclear option.” The social justice community is extremely disappointed by his confirmation, and we will need to continue to work to mitigate the consequences of his powerful new position, as demonstrated by reproductive justice organizations like the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health in their statement.
Government Shutdown Narrowly Avoided While Trump’s Budget Faces Opposition
This week Congress approved a budget to fund the government through September 2017, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown that would have resulted if they had failed to reach agreement. Last month, Trump proposed a budget that included many unfair, inhumane cuts to services while seeking funding increases for controversial projects such as building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Fortunately, tireless advocacy from the HIV community and our allies resulted in a final budget that did not include some of Trump’s most insidious proposals. The approved budget does not include funding for the border wall and does not defund sanctuary cities. The budget does include the same amount of funding for the Ryan White Program (other than Part C, which provides funding for Early Intervention Services and Capacity Development Programs, which was reduced by $4 million). Funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) HIV Prevention and hepatitis programs also kept the same level of funding, but there was a $5 million cut to STI-related programs under the Division of HIV, hepatitis, STDs and TB. The Minority AIDS Initiative also maintained its funding. In good news, the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program received a $21 million increase in funding. Read more about the final budget here.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Watch
Trump Appoints Anti-Choice Activists to Key Health Care Positions
This week Trump appointed Charmaine Yoest as Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As the Center for Reproductive Rights reports, “Yoest—who previously served as president and CEO of Americans United for Life—is a leading crusader of the anti-choice movement and one of the key architects behind the more than 300 abortion restrictions enacted since 2011.” Her job at HHS will include providing guidance for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which currently helps provide reproductive care to millions of people throughout the country.
In another affront to reproductive rights, Trump also appointed Teresa Manning to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at HHS. The Center for Reproductive Rights reports that Manning “has been a vocal advocate against federal funding for reproductive health care services and has advocated against access to abortion and contraception;” yet in her new role, she will be in charge of the Title X program, which provides federal funding for family planning services, and will be able to influence access to family planning services, contraception access, and teen pregnancy prevention and support programs.
Immigrant Rights, Safety and Dignity
Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s Attempt to Cut Funding for Sanctuary Cities
On April 25, Federal District Court Judge William H. Orrick temporarily blocked Trump’s order to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities,” which are cities that have adopted policies to protect immigrants and limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration and customs officials to facilitate deportations and break up families. This is another victory in our fight against the Trump administration’s xenophobic, racist, and inhumane attacks on our most vulnerable community members. Read more about the decision here. Join PWN-USA in supporting immigrants’ rights and justice by calling for an expanded sanctuary movement!
LGBTQ Rights and Inclusion
The Equality Act
At the beginning of May, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) as well as Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Equality Act, which would amend existing civil rights laws and provide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in many areas, including employment, housing, credit, education, accessing public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. This is a vital piece of legislation, especially in light of the Trump Administration’s ongoing attacks on the rights and dignity of LGBTQ individuals. Read more about the Equality Act here.
Religious Exemption Executive Order Grants License to Discriminate
The executive order Trump signed on Thursday, May 4, will allow religious organizations to endorse political candidates and expand participation in politics, by directing the IRS not to enforce an amendment that prohibits churches and other charities from endorsing specific candidates. The Executive Order also enables private employers to use religion as a pretext to deny reproductive health care to their employees and could result in amending existing regulations to allow entities, including employers and schools, that object to certain required health care services — like no-copay birth control — to take away coverage completely. This misuse of “religious freedom” will result in state-sponsored discrimination disproportionately felt by women, LGBTQ people. Read more about the executive order here.
Women Living with HIV Lead Advocacy Days Across the Country
PWN-USA Colorado led their first Colorado Advocacy day on April 21 and it was a huge success! After training group of 25 advocates from across the state, PWN-CO travelled to the capitol to share their stories, concerns, and demands with their legislators. Read more about the event here.
PWN-USA South Carolina participated in an advocacy day on April 5, where they made recommendations to their legislators around access to health care for South Carolinians Living With HIV, investment in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) which provides critical resources for South Carolinians living with HIV, protecting Medicaid, and defending consumer protections in private insurance, and also urged policymakers to repeal South Carolina’s outdated HIV criminal laws.
Finally, PWN members in Indiana hosted a lively advocacy day to combat HIV criminalization in their state. Check out this great video about the event!
Policy Agenda Listening Session May 8
PWN-USA is in the process of reviewing and updating our Policy Agenda and we need to hear from you! We will be holding a Policy Agenda listening session Monday, May 8, at 1 PM EDT/12 PM CDT/11 AM MDT/10 AM PDT. This call is open to all women living with HIV (including women of trans experience). If you haven’t RSVP’ed yet, please do so here!
Complete Our PWN Member Survey!
PWN-USA is about to embark on a strategic planning process, including updates to our policy agenda in light of the new challenges we face in today’s political climate. As the premier national voice for women living with HIV (WLHIV), our priority is to hear from as many WLHIV as possible as we consider how to have maximum impact and support our constituency. How can PWN-USA support you in meeting your needs and achieving your goals? Help us out by responding to this survey for WLHIV and passing it on to any WLHIV you know!
All WLHIV who complete the survey and provide their contact info at the end will receive a PWN-USA membership card in the mail AND will be entered in a raffle to win a $100 Amazon gift card. The survey takes about 20-30 minutes to complete and should be completed in one sitting.
Want to discuss the issues in this policy update in more detail and learn how public policies and laws affect people living with and affected by HIV? Join a PWN-USA Policy Workgroup call on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 6 PM ET/3 PM PT. The PWN-USA Policy Workgroup is for women living with HIV only. To be added to the Policy Workgroup listserv, please check the Policy Workgroup box when you fill out our membership form here.