As an avid political junkie (and Netflix subscriber), I have been known to watch the classic Aaron Sorkin series “The West Wing” on repeat. Last week, while watching one of my favorite episodes, I could relate when President Bartlet (played perfectly by Martin Sheen) said: “I really did wake up energized this morning…I never go to bed that way”. That is exactly how I have felt since joining the League a year and a half ago because—no shocker here—being an advocate is exhausting.
Coming to the League to work on healthcare policy in the days before the Trump administration was sworn in, I was expecting something a little different. I thought the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be repealed—maybe even before I had time to figure out how the copy machine in the office worked or that staff meeting days usually meant bagels.
But due to the work of voices like yours, repeal efforts were stopped not once, not twice, but FOUR times. As I’ve written before, these months were filled with late nights watching C-SPAN, Friday afternoon conference calls and a feeling of anxiety that only a person like me would get when it came to the release of CBO scores.
The end of 2017 brought a new blow, as Republicans in Washington included a repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate into their tax bill. This move meant that individuals would no longer be penalized for not having health insurance—likely resulting in younger, healthier people choosing to opt-out of health insurance and ultimately leading to increased premiums and the possibility of making coverage unaffordable for those who need it the most. Much of the media attention those days was on the massive tax cuts provided to companies and the wealthy, with less attention paid to the repeal of the individual mandate. I would expect that in the coming months and years we will see how this major change—along with all the other sabotage the Trump administration has been inflicting—will affect our costs and access to healthcare.
As 2018 started, we saw where the next healthcare battle would be fought, and that was right here in the states. In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services announced that they would allow states to apply for waivers requiring Medicaid recipients to work in order to continue to receive care. By pure happenstance, we released a report on the harms Medicaid work requirements would have on Michiganders the DAY before legislation was introduced in our state Legislature. And boy, were the next few months a whirlwind.
Much of my time from March to early July was spent updating coalition partners on lengthy conference calls and educating legislators on the harm work requirements would do to our fellow Michiganders. We testified in committee and did numerous media interviews, including reporters calling me multiple times on my birthday (this work stops for no celebrations). Between the perfect timing of our report and the League’s reputation as a leader in state policy, it was clear that we were leading the opposition on work requirements. While the legislation was ultimately approved by the Legislature and the governor, I think that without our pressure and advocacy (along with pointing out the ramifications that the original version would have on people of color), it would have moved much more quickly—giving little time for advocates and consumers to weigh in. I’m proud of the work we did and will continue to do to educate the public about this backwards and harmful proposal.
The changes to the Medicaid proposal require approval by the federal government and as part of that process, both the state and federal government collects public comment. This is incredibly important to explaining the harm that will be caused by these restrictions. And there is no better example than a recent court case in Kentucky, which struck down Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements because there was little consideration given to the impact these changes would have on coverage or of the comments submitted in opposition.
This public comment process can be somewhat onerous, but in order to make it easier we have launched a simple form to compile Michiganders’ comments and concerns and submit them to the state on your behalf. We would love for you to take a few minutes and tell us how Medicaid has helped you, your family, or your community, or how you think work requirements may impact you.
As you can see, it has been a long year and a half. And every time I thought I might get a little break something new would come up. Like I said, being an advocate is hard but working to protect health coverage for our fellow Michiganders makes it all totally worth it.