Policy Updates

On the Hill Updates: January 31, 2020

Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice

Trump administration advances harmful changes to Medicaid program

On January 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance encouraging states to apply for waivers to block grant federal Medicaid funding, radically restructuring the program providing health insurance to 74 million Americans. In agreeing to cap Medicaid dollars received from the federal government to a low and finite amount, states accepting block grants are exempted from complying with key program requirements and patient protections. Upon exhausting this federal Medicaid funding, states will be forced to make dramatic program cuts such as limiting patients’ choice of prescription drugs, restricting program eligibility, or increasing premiums and cost-sharing. Notably, as Medicaid is the largest payer of family planning care, this move could leave countless low-income people without access to critical reproductive and sexual health services. NCJW believes that no one should have inferior access to care simply because of their income and supports high quality, affordable, accessible, and comprehensive health coverage for all.

California abortion coverage requirement under attack

To appease anti-abortion zealots gathered for the annual March for Life, the Trump administration announced on January 24 that California must eliminate its requirement that health insurance plans in the state provide coverage for abortion. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) cited the Weldon Amendment — which specifies that federal funds may not be provided to any state or local governments that subject “any institutional or individual healthcare entity to discrimination on the basis that the healthcare entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions” — in justifying its decision. The state now has 30 days to repeal its coverage mandate or risk losing an unspecified amount of HHS funding. NCJW knows that abortion isn’t a right if you can’t access it and that lack of insurance coverage often pushes this critical care out of reach for those struggling to make ends meet, people of color, immigrants, young people, and LGBTQ individuals.

Federal Courts

SCOTUS allows public charge rule to go into effect

This week, the US Supreme Court allowed the public charge rule to go into effect while lawsuits against the rule continue. The “wealth test” rule radically expands the list of programs that will be considered as the government determines whether someone is likely to become a public charge (i.e. dependent on the government) to include food assistance, housing vouchers, and Medicaid. Under the rule, people can be prevented from entering the US, receiving a green card, or sponsoring family members. In October 2019, the rule was blocked from going into effect by the lower courts, and these legal battles continue. Prior to the rule’s release in October, NCJW advocates submitted hundreds of comments in opposition. After the rule was finalized, NCJW signed on as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to a brief in one of the cases opposing the rule. NCJW condemns this cruel wealth test, which disproportionately impacts immigrants of color, low-wage earners, and people with disabilities.

  • Take Action! Tell your representatives to support immigrants’ access to health care by cosponsoring the HEAL Act (HR 4701).

States sue to block HHS’ restrictive abortion coverage rule

On January 30, a coalition of seven states sued to block the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from implementing a rule requiring insurers offering abortion coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) exchanges to issue two separate bills to patients: one for abortion coverage and one for all other health coverage. This rule was blatantly designed to further restrict abortion coverage by dissuading insurers from offering it and by confusing consumers. NCJW knows that coverage for the full range of reproductive health care services, including abortion, helps families and communities thrive and submitted a comment strongly opposing this rule.

Gun Violence Prevention

Bold gun safety package introduced

On January 30, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act — bold legislation to address the epidemic of gun violence. This comprehensive measure includes many smaller common-sense gun safety proposals and would create a federal gun licensing system, require universal background checks, keep weapons of war off our streets, establish Extreme Risk Protection Order systems, raise the minimum age for all gun or ammunition purchases to 21, and establish a 7-day waiting period for the purchase of all gun laws, among other critical provisions. NCJW welcomes this comprehensive approach to addressing the gun violence crisis in the US.

Immigration and Refugees

NCJW CEO demands Congress overturns the Muslim Ban

January 27 marked the third anniversary of the Muslim Ban, a policy pushed hard by White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller and implemented by President Trump just days after taking office. The current iteration of the ban was upheld by the US Supreme Court and bars immigrants and visitors from six countries, five of which are Muslim majority, from entering the US. The ban has separated tens of thousands of families since its inception. On the anniversary, NCJW CEO Sheila Katz joined Members of Congress and civil rights leaders at a press conference speaking out against the ban and calling on Congress to pass the NO BAN Act (HR 2214/S 1123), which would overturn the Muslim and asylum bans and prevent similar blanket bans in the future.

Amicus Briefs

  • NCJW joined organizations on an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in Flores v. Barr, a case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals about whether the administration can weaken the standards for children in federal immigrant detention.

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