Health Care
  • Stand with Florida Women

    As we close out National Women’s Health Week, I’m struck by the dramatic contrast between Republicans’ and Democrats’ priorities when it comes to women’s health.

    Democrats are hard at work helping women access health care by defending the Affordable Care Act, and with it, no co-pay preventive care, guaranteed access to maternity coverage, and ending discrimination by health insurance companies based on pre-existing conditions or gender. And, of course, we believe that a woman’s health care decisions should be made between her and her doctor. Period. Not her boss. And certainly not politicians.

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  • Tennessee needs Medicaid expansion now

    Medicaid expansion is one of the most important issues to face the Tennessee General Assembly in more than 20 years. This decision will affect the lives nearly a quarter of a million working men and women in Tennessee, and now is the time to make a decision -- one that is based on people, not politics.

    Here are the facts: If we expand our Medicaid program, hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans -- will receive quality, affordable health care coverage. Tens of thousands of these individuals are children and veterans, many of them our neighbors from the National Guard who don’t qualify for full V.A. benefits.

    Every week when I get back to my district, I hear from working middle-class families whose jobs don’t provide health care and who make too little to afford real coverage on their own. Medicaid expansion offers an opportunity to expand coverage to these working families who live between 100-138 percent of the poverty line -- or about $31,000 a year for a family of four.

    Expanding Medicaid also makes financial sense. About 15 percent of the Tennessee economy is dependent upon the health care sector. Without Medicaid expansion, dozens of hospitals are in danger of closing, meaning our state could lose thousands of jobs over the next ten years.

    Drilling down deeper, we know that Tennessee currently ranks near the bottom in women’s health and infant mortality. Medicaid expansion offers a meaningful opportunity to address both these important issues.

    We know that the key to a healthy baby is a healthy mother. Unfortunately, our current system ignores the needs of working class mothers, who many times don’t qualify for Medicaid coverage until they are pregnant. Medicaid expansion would extend quality health care to women before they become pregnant, meaning a healthier pregnancy and healthier baby.

    It should be no surprise that Tennesseans have already made up their mind on this issue. A recent survey showed that 59 percent of Tennesseans believe we should expand the Medicaid program, while only 35 percent expressed reservations about such a move. This is because Tennesseans understand what is at stake.

    They know that expanding Medicaid will help working families, women and children. They also know it will reduce the amount of uncompensated care hospitals provide, which will ultimately bring insurance premiums down for everyone -- including those of us with employer provided or privately purchased coverage.

    The good news is that it’s not too late for Governor Haslam to do the right thing. Tennessee Democrats know that Governor Haslam can negotiate with the federal government on Medicaid expansion. That’s why we offered budget amendments that would allow the Governor to accept federal funds for expansion, if and only if the conditions for his hybrid plan were met by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    I understand there’s political pressure on Governor Haslam from the far right wing of his party. While putting this decision off may be politically popular, we owe it to the least among us to put people above all else and do the right thing.  Lives depend upon it.

    Joe Armstrong represents the 15th district in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He is the Democratic Caucus Vice-Chairman, and President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

  • Michelle Obama: “Chip in to protect Obamacare”

    First Lady Michelle Obama sent an email to supporters urging them to chip in to support Democrats protecting Obamacare. Here's what she had to say:

    Friend --

    Earlier this month, because of what you did, it became illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against the up to 129 million Americans living with pre-existing conditions. Young Americans are able to stay on their parents' health care plans as they get on their feet, and we can now know that our insurance companies won't put lifetime caps on our coverage.

    You should be so proud of that. That happened because you organized, you talked to your friends and neighbors, and you chipped in what you could, when you could, to elect Barack and a Congress who supported his agenda.

    Today, I'm asking you to do it again.

    So before Barack gives his State of the Union address tomorrow, chip in $10 or more and help protect Obamacare:

    Thank you so much,


  • A Happier, Healthier New Year for all Americans

    When the clock struck midnight on January 1st, 2014, the six million Americans who had already signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act had more to celebrate than just the start of a new year.

    Nathan A., a brain cancer survivor from Salem, VA, says that his new health care plan "has freed me from a weight, a chain, a prison of costs that were astronomical." Auldrige’s monthly premium has been cut by over 75%, which is a huge relief on his community service worker’s salary.

    For Eleta P. in St. Paul, MN, January 1st brought peace of mind. After applying for insurance through Minnesota’s health care exchange, Eleta discovered that she and her children are eligible for Medicaid. This mom says her new insurance is “a big deal” because “it helps ease your mind when you know that that part of your life is covered.

    Peace of mind has also come to Bo F. of Melbourne, FL, who couldn’t get coverage previously because of his pre-existing conditions. When he was uninsured, Frazer said he was “always worried about losing my house,” due to an unexpected health care crisis. But now Frazer and his wife have affordable coverage.

    But Obamacare is about so much more than planning for the worst. Because health care plans now include no-copay preventive care, people like Ana Y. from Kearny, NJ are getting their first mammograms and doctors like Sam W. at the University of North Carolina are making sure that patients have access to the preventive care they need — from colonoscopies to flu shots — to stay healthy.

    From knowing that they’ll have coverage for afford care if the worst happens to being able to prevent illness in the first place, Obamacare has changed millions of lives in the past week. Maybe Champaign, IL’s Adam P., whose insurance card arrived just over a week ago, put it best when he said that "I have been walking a tightrope and have had some twists and falls off of it. To not have to worry about this anymore is a tremendous relief.

    Here's to a happy and healthy new year for all Americans.

    Want to read more about the millions of Americans whose coverage started on January 1st? Don’t miss more stories from North Carolina, Kentucky, and more

  • In States, More Good Coverage of Obamacare

    Leading into the Thanksgiving holiday, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues to improve and sign ups continue to increase across the country. Here’s a sampling of what’s been going on in the states this past week.

    In New York, “Health Insurance Exchange Reaches 76,177 Enrollments”
    “State officials are starting to trumpet the success of New York’s health insurance exchange. In the first of what they say will be  weekly updates, officials posted new enrollment numbers on the New York State of Health Website showing 76,177 enrollments as of Sunday. The figures also show  257,414 completed applications.”

    In Kentucky, “Uninsured line up” to sign up for health care
    “In a state where 15 percent of the population, about 640,000 people, are uninsured, 56,422 have signed up for new health-care coverage, with 45,622 of them enrolled in Medicaid and the rest in private health plans, according to figures released by the governor’s office Friday… Kids: five. Salary: about $14,000 before taxes. ‘You’re going to qualify for a medical card,’ she told Hudson. ‘Well, thank God,’ Hudson said, laughing. ‘I believe I’m going to be a Democrat.’ Lively printed out his papers.  ‘RONALD’s Health Care Coverage Options,’ one of them read. ‘Oh, man,’ Hudson said.”

    In California, “California enrolls 80,000 in health plans”
    “The pace of enrollment in California continues to accelerate. The Covered California exchange got 30,830 health plan enrollees in October, its first month. By Nov. 19, it had enrolled nearly 50,000 more people in private health plans for a seven-week total of 79,891. The exchange said about 2,700 people are signing up for insurance coverage daily.”

    In New Jersey, “Medicaid applications up 35 percent since Obamacare exchange opened”
    “The number of applicants to the State’s Medicaid program — known as New Jersey FamilyCare — during October totaled 21,946, an increase of 35 percent from September when 16,339 applicants were reported, according to NJ Citizen Action Health Policy Advocate Maura Collinsgru. She said she learned about the information during a Medicaid Assistance Advisory Council Meeting today. . . . “Enrollment in NJ Family Care is up and shows New Jerseyans are eager to get coverage,” Collinsgru said. Calls to the FamilyCare telephone line rose 60 percent, she added.”

    In Illinois, “More than 47,000” have applied for Medicaid in 2 months
    “Thirty years after losing his job with the U.S. Postal Service, 61-year-old Kankakee resident Kenneth Faulkner will have insurance for the first time through Medicaid. More than 47,000 low-income people in Illinois have applied for Medicaid since October on the state-run website, Illinois also got 42,000 additional Medicaid applicants by sending a letter to the 123,000 people receiving food stamps in August. Another more than 100,000 people in Cook County, where an early Medicaid pilot program began a year ago, have already enrolled . . . . Illinois was one of 25 states plus the District of Columbia that chose to expand Medicaid after the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the choice to do so. The state estimates that 342,000 people in Illinois will enroll in Medicaid because of the change in the law by 2017.”

    Washington State “outpacing others in enrolling residents”
    “More than 55,000 people in Washington state enrolled in health coverage in October — most in Medicaid — and about 40,000 more applied for coverage, making the Evergreen State one of the brightest success stories in the rocky national rollout of the federal health law. Here in the home of online shopping giant, officials credit the exchange's success in part to the Pacific Northwest's high-tech bent. Colorado enrolled just over 37,500 people in the same period. New York state — with a population nearly three times the size of Washington's — had enrolled just more than 48,000 in health plans as of Tuesday, state officials announced. Kentucky enrolled more than 32,000 in its first month. California is expected to release figures this week. All are among the states that embraced Obamacare and crafted their own insurance exchanges rather than rely on the federal site . . .”

    Also in Washington State, The Obamacare horror story that wasn’t, “totally uninsured” family gets insurance
    “After Jessica Sanford was misquoted on her new health care rate, critics hammered the health care law for the injustice, Except there’s a key detail none of these media outlets mentioned. Which is: Sanford’s son was discovered to qualify for Medicaid coverage at a cost of just $30 a month. He has ADHD and, according to Sanford, it costs them $250 a month for prescription drugs alone. Which will now all be covered. It’s true the rest of her insurance won’t get a big discount, as she had first thought. . . . But a bronze-level policy for a 48-year-old woman making $49,000 can be had on the state exchange for $237 a month, and a silver-level policy for $313. So here’s a family that was totally uninsured for 15 years because it had always cost at least $500 to $600 a month for skimpy policies to cover them both. And what they can get now is full coverage for $30 a month for the son and scantier coverage in the $250 to $300 a month range for the mom. How is that a horror story?”

    In Kansas, Eagle Editorial: “Medicaid expansion a lifesaver”
    “But by neglecting to be among the roughly half of states expanding Medicaid under the ACA as of 2014 to cover those whose income is 138 percent of the federal poverty level, Kansas already is sitting out the first of three years during which the federal government will pick up the full cost of expansion. That’s dumb – a case of Kansas subsidizing other states while idly letting thousands of its own people remain not only uninsured but uninsurable under the ACA… Continuing to deny Medicaid expansion may hold a misguided political appeal, but it will do a grave and shameful disservice to Kansans and Kansas hospitals.”

    In Indiana, community health center “receives ‘substantial grant’. . . allowing greater reach of services”
    “There are exciting changes ahead for a local health center that for years has been providing health services to the poor in the Wabash Valley. A recent infusion of federal dollars will allow The Wabash Valley Health Center, commonly known as St. Ann Medical and Dental Services, to continue to provide health care, expand its services and reach more people in the Valley. The Wabash Valley Health Center (WVHC), sponsored by the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, was awarded a $778,750 grant from the United States Health and Human Services (HHS). It is one of six health centers in Indiana recently awarded the New Access Point funds under the Affordable Care Act. . . On Sunday, Sister Lawrence Ann Liston, administrator of the Wabash Valley Health Center, told the Tribune-Star about the grant and the changes ahead. ‘Receiving this grant rewards the hard work of the citizens of Terre Haute, the clinic board and the staff of the health center. We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to expand access to primary care in Terre Haute.’”

    In Kentucky, “Ky.'s health care sign ups going well”
    “Kentucky's program, Kynect, has enrolled 56,422 Kentuckians as of Nov. 22, said Carrie Banahan, executive director the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange. An additional 22,000 have entered personal information through the website and have found they are eligible for subsidized insurance but have yet to pick a plan.”

  • In states: Good signs for Obamacare

    While the blame game continued inside the Beltway this weekend, Obamacare saw positive coverage in states across the country. From Louisiana where the winning candidate ran in support of Medicaid expansion to Washington State where exchanges are up and running to Iowa and Kentucky where Republican leaders are being taken to task for their gut, block, and repeal strategy, see below for a sampling of news coverage of ACA in the states.

    In Florida…"No Apologies – Obamacare Works"
    “Detractors ridicule President Obama's apology to people who are ‘losing’ their health-insurance plans. He had no need to apologize to my family. We are grateful for the Affordable Care Act. As for ridicule, consider the source: Most harsh critics are the same politicians who have fought every aspect of affordable health insurance for all. My husband and I buy our own health insurance. We're among those who don't enjoy employer-paid health or other coverage, and we represent only about 5 percent of the population. That's a small number, but you wouldn't guess that from opponents' vitriol or the headlines and TV they command. To these critics of the health law — especially those lamenting the botched implementation of it — spare us your crocodile tears. If there are any apologies, it should come from these unrelenting opponents hell-bent to repeal the reform but who never utter a peep what they would do to replace it.”

    In Louisiana…5th District Chooses McAllister Who Ran on Obamacare Medicaid Expansion
    “While some thought the all-Republican runoff would be marked by each candidate running to the far right of every issue, McAllister took leave of the usual party line during a debate last week by coming out in support of optional Medicaid expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act. McAllister said he disagreed with Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision not to accept the expansion because of the economic make-up of the 5th District.  According to census data, the district is one of the poorest in the nation with nearly 25 percent of its more than 750,000 people living below the poverty line in 2010 and 21 percent without health insurance. Riser blasted McAllister for the admission, issuing an ad stating ‘a vote for Vance McAllister is a vote for Obamacare.’ He also claimed McAllister flip-flopped on the issue by telling Democrats he supported the health care law and Republicans that he did not.”

    In New Jersey…"This is not a political game"…Obamacare Critics "lack credibility"
    “This is not a political game. If the reform dies, we will be stuck with a health care system that is the most expensive on Earth by far, and still leaves nearly 50 million people without coverage, most of them in working families that rely on mediocre jobs without benefits. Not surprisingly, those lacking coverage and their children are far more likely to die from a range of treatable diseases, including cancer and diabetes. No other advanced countries tolerate that kind of social Darwinism. It is savage in a nation as rich as ours. And until the opponents of the Affordable Care Act suggest a better way to bring those millions aboard, their criticism will lack credibility.”

    In Iowa…DMR Hits Branstad for Blocking Obamacare
    “There are now 106,000 Americans who will have comprehensive health insurance coverage on Jan. 1. Hundreds of thousands more will sign up in the coming months as problems with the Website are resolved. Young people are allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance policies, which keeps them off the rolls of the uninsured. Newly created high-risk pools provided temporary relief to Americans who previously couldn’t find insurance anywhere. Some states have enrolled tens of thousands of new, low-income residents in Medicaid…Unlike governors in many other states, Gov. Terry Branstad refused to simply expand a 50-year-old government program to insure more Iowans under the new law. While elected officials in other states quickly agreed to expand Medicaid and then directed their energies to outreach efforts, Iowa’s elected officials spent months arguing about what to do.”

    In Kentucky…Tough Questions for McConnell’s Promise to Repeal ACA “root and branch”
    “When Sen. Mitch McConnell summoned reporters to his Louisville campaign headquarters last week to denounce the Affordable Care Act, he was asked which parts, if any, are worth keeping. McConnell insisted the law is a "monstrosity" that should be repealed, ‘root and branch.’ His response should make Kentuckians wonder: Does McConnell really want seniors to have to choose between medicine and food? What does he have against the 3 million young adults who have gained health insurance through their parents' plans? And why is he so dismissive of 600,000-plus uninsured Kentuckians — and the enormous expense shifted onto others when they can't get medical care until it becomes more complicated and costly?... Kentucky's exchange is working but it will take time to enroll all who lack preventive care and even more time to improve Kentucky's desultory health status. McConnell should spend a day with one of the navigators who are listening to his constituents and helping them secure health care coverage, many for the first time or at a lower cost. He might not need a health plan to discover he has a heart.”

    In Washington..."Washington state is making health exchange work"
    “Two years of worry about whether she could stay healthy without a safety net were erased in just 20 minutes Saturday — the time it took the 62-year-old to navigate Washington's online insurance exchange with a little help from "in-person assister" Pearl Rodriguez. Mansfield was one of 100 uninsured women and men who flocked to an aging community center here on a drizzly afternoon and signed up for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is formally known. They were part of the Washington Healthplanfinder's ‘mobile enrollment tour.’ More than 55,000 people in Washington state enrolled in health coverage in October — most in Medicaid — and about 40,000 more applied for coverage, making the Evergreen State one of the brightest success stories in the rocky national rollout of the federal health law. Here in the home of online shopping giant, officials credit the exchange's success in part to the Pacific Northwest's high-tech bent.”

  • Thanks, Mr. President

    "I am not going to walk away from 40 million people who have the chance to get health insurance for the first time." — President Obama
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