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Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Will Eden Foods Chairman Change His Tune Today to Save His Lawsuit against Birth Control Coverage?

Today in court, will Eden Foods’ President, Michael Potter, change his tune? Potter is one of the many for-profit business owners suing the government because he does not want to cover birth control in his employees’ health plans, as required by the health care law. Some speculate that Potter’s recent statements have cast doubt on his motivation and undermined his case. During today’s oral arguments his lawyers will attempt to reconcile his legal claims with his many statements to the contrary.

Potter has spent weeks talking up in the media his opposition to the contraceptive coverage benefit. He’s stated that he opposes the contraceptive coverage benefit because he questions “what gives [the federal government] the right to tell [him] that [he has] to [cover birth control].” But here’s the thing: he’s admitted he would not have cared if it was “Jack Daniels or birth control”—it’s the principle. Potter’s admitted that the root issue—“the beginning and ending of the story”—is the government trying to tell him what to do. As he said, “[he’s] got more interest in good quality long underwear than [he has] in birth control pills.”

Today, during oral arguments for the preliminary injunction, his tune may change. Contrary to his many statements, his lawyers will try to convince a Michigan district court that Mr. Potter’s religious beliefs motivate his attempt to deny his employees (and their families) the comprehensive insurance they are entitled to. That’s because the claims Potter is making require a violation of religious exercise. But proving religious beliefs are at issue won’t be an easy task. When asked what particular religious belief led him to oppose the benefit, Potter said “Well, there isn’t any one particular religious belief… I find it hard to get my head around the question.” Read more »

MO Attorney General Won’t Appeal Ruling Striking Down an Exemption to the Contraceptive Coverage Requirement

Score one for sanity! Last Thursday, the Missouri Attorney General announced that he will not appeal a federal court ruling that struck down a Missouri law that would have required insurance issuers to issue polices without contraceptive coverage to employers who claim that birth control violates their “moral, ethical or religious beliefs.”

The law directly conflicted with the federal health care law’s contraceptive coverage requirement, which requires all new health insurance plans to cover contraceptives with no co-pay. In his announcement, the Attorney General aptly stated, “the attempt to deny contraceptive coverage to women in Missouri is just plain foolishness” and “cannot be supported by case law or sound policy.” Read more »

Most People Want States to Take Federal Money to Cover More Uninsured People through Medicaid

Cross-posted from the Daily Kos.

Across the country, states continue to debate and negotiate whether they will accept federal money to cover more uninsured people through Medicaid. But nearly two out of three people have already made up their minds that lawmakers should take this unprecedented opportunity to cover more people, according to a new survey sponsored by the National Women’s Law Center and Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

The new health care law known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allocates money for each state to cover more uninsured people through Medicaid. It’s a great deal for states, since these federal dollars will cover 100% of costs in the first few years and will ultimately pay for 90% of the yearly costs of this coverage. But because last year’s Supreme Court decision made accepting these funds optional, in states that choose to turn down the money, some people will earn too little to qualify for tax credits to purchase coverage in the new health insurance marketplace, yet won’t be able to obtain coverage through Medicaid. In other words, these people will fall into a “coverage gap” and will get no help toward affording health coverage, while some people who make more money will still get help.

Read more »

Help Me Affordable Care Act, You’re My Only Hope!

A study published in the journal Women’s Health Issues last week highlighted a problem many women have confronted over the years when getting their birth control: even when you have insurance, the costs for contraception can be unaffordable. The study showed that, in 2010, on average women with private insurance paid $10 for a one-month supply of generic pills, $112 for an IUD, and $116 for an implant. The study also found that costs varied depending on your insurer, with some women having to pay more than $17 a month for generic pills, $305 for an IUD, or $308 for an implant. On top of these high costs, the study found that between 2007 and 2010, insurance companies shifted to women costs for long-acting contraceptives, like IUDs and implants. In 2007, a woman paid 13.8% of the cost of an IUD, whereas in 2010 she paid 17.5%.

If these price tags have you confused, there is hope. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” contains a provision that requires health insurers to provide coverage of the full-range of FDA-approved contraceptives without cost sharing. Read more »

Major Part of Obamacare Has a Chance in Virginia

It’s been an exciting few weeks for advocates who are urging Governors and state legislators to say yes! Last June, the Supreme Court upheld the health care law but let states choose whether or not to take the Affordable Care Act’s funding for covering more people through the Medicaid program. Ever since then, Virginia advocates have had their work cut out for them—making phone calls, knocking on doors, and educating anyone who will listen about the important benefits to the state of Virginia, hospitals and health systems, and to the women and families who will gain the most.

Last weekend, Virginia took a big step forward. The two-year state budget includes a compromise proposal that could lead to Virginia extending coverage to approximately 350,000 Virginians who currently lack health insurance. Under this proposal, a legislative committee will ultimately determine whether the expansion will move forward. Governor McDonnell is currently reviewing this legislation.

What’s at stake by covering more people?

  • Approximately 169,000 Virginian women would gain health insurance coverage
  • Combined with other reforms in the Affordable Care Act, it could reduce the percentage of uninsured women in Virginia from 17 % to 4 %
  • Accepting the money could save Virginia approximately $424 million in uncompensated care costs over the next ten years

Why I’m Gushing About the ACA’s Contraceptive Coverage Requirement as the U.S. Teen Birth Rate Hits a Record Low

The CDC published new data today showing that the teen birth rate in the U.S. dropped to a historic low in 2011. The CDC attributes this in part to teens using contraception more regularly and more effectively. This is great news for a number of obvious reasons. But what it makes me really excited about is how the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage provision could help reduce these rates even more in the coming years.

Yes, I recognize how wonky my excitement is, but think about it: these new statistics are from a period of time before the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement went into effect. Imagine what might be coming down the road for us as more and more women have access to contraceptive coverage without worrying that they won’t be able to afford the co-pay at the pharmacy. Read more »

The Results Are In: NC Should Take the Federal Money and Cover More Hard-Working Women and Families

A recent study by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine confirmed what many Governors, state legislators, advocates, and the public already know: covering more hardworking people through the Medicaid program is not only the right thing to do, it’s a good deal that makes a lot of sense.

I’ll just reiterate the strong findings of the report:

In summary, a decision to participate in Medicaid expansion, as put forth in the [health care] law, would provide insurance coverage to approximately 500,000 North Carolinians; most of whom would remain uninsured without the expansion. Providing health insurance coverage will help people gain access to the care they need, which can help improve health outcomes. Because of the high federal match rate, the offsets, and the new tax revenues, the state would likely experience a net savings of $65.4 million from the Medicaid expansion over the eight-year time period.

There you have it! Read more »

Breast Pumps Aren’t a Fashion Accessory

This weekend, the Washington Post published an article describing how the breast pump industry is faring now that the health care law requires health insurance coverage of such pumps. The article quoted our very own Judy Waxman and yours truly. As expected, there were many comments from readers vehemently disagreeing with the premise of covering breast pumps. The gist of the complaint is: “why should I pay for other peoples’ breast pumps. Why do women get these things for free?”

My initial response to these complaints is – as I have explained time and again – women are not getting their birth control or pumps for “free.” They are paying for it when they pay for health insurance, either by working for it and having it included as part of the employee’s benefit package (and likely still paying part of the premium) or by paying for it directly on the individual market. So this stuff isn’t “free,” the woman IS paying for it. Do you call the preventive care visits that now don’t have a no co-pay as “free?” No, it is not free. You pay premiums to your health insurance company so that they cover these medical care costs when you need such care. Read more »

The ACA Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuits: The Employee’s Right to Comprehensive Insurance Coverage

Last week at a lunch with African advocates for women’s rights, we discussed pregnancy rates in Africa and the United States. Across the continents one thing remained constant—women have better outcomes when they are able to control their fertility. They enjoy greater freedom to pursue academic studies or careers, and to plan their lives as they see fit.

The ACA’s contraceptive coverage rule affords 47 million women this freedom by ensuring that they will be able to access birth control and related information through private insurance without having to worry about the cost. While many celebrate the anticipated improvements to women and children’s health, others are infuriated by the rule.

Opponents to birth control have made speeches decrying the rule, hosted conferences and brought lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit... Since the lawsuits have proved to be a publicity-gaining tool, we can anticipate many more. Read more »

States Not Expanding Medicaid Eligibility is a SCARY Thought

Halloween is just around the corner and I’m pretty psyched about the arrival of haunted houses and scary movie marathons. I’m not easily scared. I will watch The Shining without flinching; I was thrilled about the new season of American Horror Story starting, and one of the first things I do when visiting a new city is look for a good ghost tour. One thing that does have me frightened though (other than the ridiculous lines at Party City the weekend before Halloween) is the prospect that some States may not expand Medicaid eligibility in 2014.

The Affordable Care Act extends health coverage to 30 million currently uninsured Americans through tax credits to purchase private insurance and a major expansion of Medicaid eligibility to all qualified individuals under age 65 who have incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL) (about $30,000 for a family of four). The Medicaid eligibility expansion accounts for approximately half of the coverage gains under the new healthcare law. Read more »