Taken from the November/December 2016 issue of the Women's Health Activist Newsletter.
Texas’ Medicaid Expansion House Party
RWV continues to promote and support RC’s innovative use of our Medicaid Expansion toolkit, Cover our Families: A Community Organizing & Advocacy Toolkit, to impact states that have not (yet) expanded Medicaid. In Texas, RWV works with the Houston-based Lesbian Health Initiative (LHI), an organization focused on eliminating barriers to health care and promoting health and wellness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Using the Toolkit, LHI organized a house party with Young Invincibles, called “Dialogue: TX Millennials Left Out of Healthcare.” A majority of attendees were people of color between the ages of 18-34. Aurora Harris, LHI Executive Director, said the Toolkit and its game suggestions “made it really, really easy to make it our own and tailor it to the people we’re working with.” This summer, LHI also joined the Steering Committee of Cover Texas Now, a coalition working to expand Medicaid in Texas. The group meets regularly about strategies and activities to foster awareness about the need for expansion to cover low-income, uninsured Texans. This work is critical, since the Texas Legislature only convenes every other year, and begins its next session in January, 2017.
The Little Organization that Could…Organize to Expand Montana Medicaid
Montana Women Vote (MWV) is a statewide organization that educates and mobilizes low-income women to participate in the democratic process. MWV’s three years of hard work organizing and advocating succeeded in 2015, when the state agreed to expand Medicaid. Our work continues, however. MWV is now using women’s and LBGT individual’s stories — collected as part of the Medicaid Expansion campaign — to highlight the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. We are supporting MWV collect additional stories from a variety of individuals, including rural, low-income, and Native-American women. MWV is working in coalition with partners to highlight the benefits of the ACA and Medicaid expansion in order to keep these issues front and center during the election season. The group generated significant media coverage about topics including the large number of people enrolling in Medicaid Expansion and resulting drop in the number of uninsured Montanans, the impact on rural hospitals, and the availability of RWV’s A Women’s Step-by-Step Guide to Health Insurance. MWV supplements its small, two-person staff with volunteers, and was able to do tabling at a large number of community locations and events — as a result, MWV reached almost 800 people in conversations about Medicaid expansion and the ACA. Talk about small, but mighty!
Civic Engagement and Other Efforts to Improve Wisconsin Women’s Health
Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health (WAWH) is one of the first RCs and has been part of RWV since it was founded in 2007. This election cycle, WAWH engaged, in a non-partisan way, with other partners to highlight the importance of civic engagement. The groups created a website, www.AskLearnVote.org, with educational resources and tools to help voters ask candidates key questions about important issues, including Medicaid expansion. WAWH also helped State Representative LaTonya Johnson draft a bill for the next session, to protect the confidentiality of dependents who get their insurance through another person, like a parent or spouse.
In collaboration with RCs, RWV has been identifying gaps in health plan networks, particularly in OB/GYN and family planning services. As part of this effort, WAWH studied the Federally Facilitated Marketplace’s (FFM) Silver Plans, as well as Medicaid plans in 10 Wisconsin counties. As has been the case in other states, WAWH found a lack of OB/GYNs in much of Wisconsin, particularly in rural areas. Further, women in rural areas often face limited options, and frequently have to seek care from a religiously affiliated hospital, clinic, or provider that restricts reproductive care. WAWH’s research also uncovered ways in which Medicaid beneficiaries weren’t given the same treatment options as women with private plans, for example, being expected to see nurse-practitioners for well-woman exams, without the choice of an OB/GYN. For the full report, please contact Cecilia Sáenz Becerra at email@example.com.
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Cecilia Sáenz Becerra is a Program Officer at Groundswell Fund and a former Regional Field Manager for the NWHN’s Raising Women’s Voices initiative. With over a decade of activism for reproductive justice, Cecilia continues to work for women’s and transgender rights by co-founding Repeal Coalition and by serving on the board of directors for Access Reproductive Care – Southeast.
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