Update from Raising Women's Voices
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the existence of the ACA even more important, as millions of people have lost their jobs and/or their health coverage at exactly the time when affordable health care is critically important. The new Biden administration COVID relief plan, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is helping to make ACA health plans even more affordable – at least on a temporary basis. Health advocates hope such changes can be made permanent in the future.
Starting next week, April 1, much needed relief is coming to COVID-weary Americans who cannot afford to buy or keep their health coverage. Thanks to the ARPA, low- and middle-income people will get more financial assistance than ever in American history to buy high quality health plans on their own. An estimated 14.9 million uninsured people will now qualify for financial assistance to buy their own health plan through HealthCare.gov, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The ARPA COVID relief package will help people afford health coverage in three main ways. The first two improve the affordability of private ACA health plans sold through HealthCare.gov or state insurance marketplaces:
The ARPA has an additional provision to help people who lost their jobs keep their employer-sponsored coverage. COBRA is the federal law that enables people to remain on a former employer’s health plan for 18 months, or longer in some states, by paying the premiums themselves. However, many people have found this option to be unaffordable. Now the federal government will pay 100% of the monthly premiums for six months (April - September 2021) for anyone who involuntarily lost their employer-based coverage and opts for COBRA. This relief, although temporary, makes COBRA a much more attractive short-term option.
On February 16th, Governor Tony Evers outlined his groundbreaking and forward-thinking 2021-2023 Budget Proposal. He included a wide range of initiatives that get to the heart of making a difference in Wisconsinites' lives.
If you're interested in viewing Governor Evers' entire budget proposal, you can do so here. But to make it easier for you, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health has analyzed and scrutinized the 717-page document and crafted a summary of the items we're excited about in Governor Evers' budget:
The Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health will continue to advocate for these and other important budget items that are critical in achieving our vision: Every Wisconsin woman - at every age and every stage of life - is able to reach her optimal health, safety and economic security.
Here's what you can do to help ensure these items remain in the budget to be passed by our State Legislature:
The Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health is proud to join with over 100 other organizations in Wisconsin calling on the Joint Finance Committee to hold Budget Hearings virtually for public safety and accessibility
February 18, 2021
To: The Joint Finance Committee
Cc: Governor Evers, Senate Majority Leader LeMahieu, Senate Minority Leader Bewley, Speaker Vos, Assembly Minority Leader Hintz, Members of the Legislature
Dear Co-Chairs Marklein and Born,
The state budget process is one of the most important policy discussions that legislators, the Governor’s staff, and advocacy groups engage in together. At the heart of the state budget is the belief that our state’s values are reflected in the decisions that are made about how we spend our state’s tax dollars. But, it is also true that robust public engagement in making these decisions is a value in and of itself. As advocacy organizations representing various issues, geographic reach, and constituency bases, it is essential that we reach out to you as the Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee to offer our support for making the 2021-2022 State Budget hearings be as productive and inclusive as possible. While we represent far ranging and diverse populations, we are united in wanting to make sure that every person who wants to participate in the JFC hearings, and other legislative hearings this session, can do so safely.
Because of the known risks with large public gatherings due to Covid-19 and the uncertainty about when it will be safe for all members of the public to attend, we as member-based organizations cannot in good conscience encourage our members to risk their health to attend large public hearings. Many of our members are at higher risk of developing life-threatening health issues due to age or underlying health conditions. Some of our members are from communities that have been especially hard hit by the COVID pandemic, such as people of color, who are at higher risk for adverse outcomes from a COVID infection. In addition, there is concern that not adequately following public health guidance for large public gatherings will further strain our health care system, which we all benefit in keeping COVID care from overwhelming.
The below signed advocacy groups are asking you, in your discretion as chairs, to make the following virtual and remote options available for public testimony to the JFC committee and ability to formally register their positions on the state budget:
The below signed groups and our members wish to support a state budget process that welcomes the voices and experience of all people in Wisconsin during this critical time. We believe these suggestions will help you and other members of the committee run a state budget hearing process that we can all be proud of together.
1000 Friends of Wisconsin
A Better Wisconsin Together
ACLU of Wisconsin
African American Roundtable, Inc.
AFSCME Council 32
All Voting Is Local
Alliance for the Great Lakes
Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin
Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin
Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin
Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC)
Black Lives Matter to Wisconsin Unitarian Universalists
Blue Sky Waukesha
Central Wisconsin ADAPT
Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance, Inc.
Citizen Action of Wisconsin
Citizen Advocates for Public Education
Coalition For Justice
Common Cause Wisconsin
Common Cause Wisconsin
Consumer Direct Care Network
Crawford Stewardship Project
Disability Rights Wisconsin
Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa
End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin
Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO)
First Baptist Church of Madison
For Our Future Wisconsin
Harambee Village Doulas
Interfaith Earth Network
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
LOV Inc, Living Our Visions Inclusively
Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin
Madtown Mommas and Disability Advocates
Main Street Alliance
Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, Inc.
Midwest Environmental Advocates
Milwaukee Branch NAACP
Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission
Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH)
Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force
Milwaukee Zen Center
NAACP Milwaukee Branch
Northern Wisconsin NORML
People First Wisconsin
People of Progression
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin
Protect Our Care Wisconsin
Rid Racism Milwaukee
River Alliance of Wisconsin
Schools and Communities United
Sierra Club Wisconsin
Souled Out Ministries INC
Souls To The Polls
Southeastern Wisconsin ADAPT
Survival Coalition of WI Disability Advocacy Organizations
The Arc Greater Columbia County
The Arc Wisconsin
The Arc-Dane County
UFCW Local 1473
Waupaca County ARC Inc.
WI Association of Family & Children's Agencies
WI Board for People with Developmental Disabilities
WI Conference NAACP
WI Early Childhood Association
Wisconsin Aging Advocacy Network
Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools
Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health
Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers, Inc.
Wisconsin Conservation Voters
Wisconsin Council of Churches
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Wisconsin Education Association Council
Wisconsin Environmental Health Network
Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice
Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training & Support (WI FACETS)
Wisconsin Farmers Union
Wisconsin Green Muslims
Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action
Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light
Wisconsin Justice Initiative
Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association
Wisconsin Long Term Care Workforce Alliance
Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance
Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association
Wisconsin Public Education Network
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
Wisconsin's Green Fire
Youth Justice Milwaukee
From our partners at Raising Women's Voices:
News about the Trump-backed lawsuit to repeal the ACA, which will be heard by the Supreme Court on November 10, has no doubt created confusion about whether the ACA will continue to exist. Moreover, Trump’s nomination of Barrett, who has openly spoken out against the ACA, to fill the seat left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death has further increased public uncertainty about the future of the ACA. That’s why it’s important to let people know that as of now, nothing has changed, and the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.
While the lawsuit challenging the ACA will go before the court next month, no decision on it will be released until next June (the traditional time period for SCOTUS decisions to be handed down). Moreover, it is possible that SCOTUS would strike down only the individual mandate provision of the ACA, not the entire legislation. Exactly that possibility was raised prominently during Barrett’s confirmation hearing in a discussion about the “severability” of one portion of a law that is found to be unconstitutional from the remainder of the legislation, which would still stand.
So, how should we reassure people who may be eligible for ACA coverage and encourage them to apply starting November 1? Here are some of the key messages that we want to get out for Open Enrollment:
Election Day is ON.
While Governor Evers tried to postpone today's election for the safety of Wisconsinites, the State Supreme Court order the election to take place.
We know it's been incredibly confusing, so here's some information to help you navigate today's election day:
You can vote in person at the polls until 8:00 PM. You still need ID. You can still register to vote at the polls. These rules have not changed.
If you have an absentee ballot in hand, you can still mail it! ALL ABSENTEE BALLOTS MUST BE POSTMARKED OR RETURNED TO YOUR CLERK'S OFFICE, DESIGNATED POLLING PLACE, OR DROP BOX (IF AVAILABLE) BEFORE 8:00 PM ON APRIL 7th.
If you plan to mail your absentee ballot, be sure to take it to a post office so it will be postmarked with a date. Dropping your ballot in a neighborhood collection box will not ensure that it's postmarked on April 7th. Ballots postmarked after April 7th will not be counted.
Clerks will be allowed to continue counting mailed absentee ballots as they are received, until April 13th, as long as they are postmarked by April 7th. Because of this we won't know election results until April 13th.
VOTING AT THE POLLS
Voters are still assigned to designated polling places (like normal) BUT YOUR POLLING PLACE MIGHT NOT BE WHERE IT USUALLY IS. Check with your municipal clerk to make sure you are headed to the right place. Find your clerk here: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/MyMunicipalClerk
Due to a shortage of poll workers, many cities have had to drastically reduce the number of polling places, and in some areas, you might have to drive to another town to vote.
MORE ABOUT ABSENTEE BALLOTS
If you requested an absentee ballot but did not receive it yet, you can vote in person at your polling place. The poll worker will be able to tell that you had requested an absentee ballot and may ask you if you received it and if you already returned it. Because you didn't receive it yet, you will be issued a new ballot and may vote at the polls.
Likewise, if you received your absentee ballot, but did not return it yet, you will be issued a new ballot and may vote at the polls.
As long as you haven't already returned an absentee ballot (by mail, drop off, or any other method) -- you have the right to be issued a new ballot and vote in person on election day.
If you received your absentee ballot, and already returned it (with or without a witness signature or other statement), you will not be allowed to vote at the polling place.
There are no in-person ballot drop offs allowed after April 7th -- including for print-at-home ballots. If you are utilizing a drop box on election day, be sure to check the "last pickup time" and don't wait until the last minute. Clerks will be emptying drop boxes before 8:00 so they can get the ballots back to their office by the 8:00 PM deadline.
Report problems with absentee ballots here: https://www.wheresmyballotwi.org/
If you have questions, or need help or additional resources, Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683)!
From the Raising Women's Voices :
Today, Congress is expected to give final approval to a $2.2 trillion relief package designed to respond to both the health and economic crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The president has said he will sign it. Called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the package is also known as “phase 3” because two earlier COVID-related funding bills have already been enacted (including one we covered last week), this week’s package is the largest spending bill (by far) ever passed in the United States — 2.8 times bigger than the 2009 stimulus package. The bill came together quickly over the course of 10 days and was negotiated largely without public input.
There have been conflicting reports about what the package does and does not do, and we may not know for weeks what certain provisions mean in practice or how the administration is going to implement them. But we can give you a sense of the top line impact on women and families.
Based on our initial reviews of the legislation, the bill does the following things:
As massive as the package is, however, it almost certainly doesn’t go far enough in helping families, funding health care or preparing for the future. One indication of how deep the looming recession is likely to be: initial unemployment claims spiked to 3.3 million last week, more than quadrupling the highest number of initial jobless claims ever recorded in the US. (For contrast, initial unemployment claims peaked at 665,000 during the Great Recession.)
Members of Congress are already talking about a possible “phase 4” COVID-19 package. But alarmingly, both chambers are preparing to recess for weeks without a clear plan in place for how to vote (or meet with constituents) in the face of this once-in-a-century pandemic. What happens if our senators and representatives can’t fly back to Washington for a vote? How can Congress hold the Trump administration accountable for their disastrous handling of the pandemic, or push for increased production of health care equipment, if they aren’t here?
Governor Tony Evers declared a Stay at Home order. What does it mean?
For how long?
Can I leave my home for any reason? You can leave for essential activities. You can go to a:
You can also:
If you are an employee at an essential business, you can go to:
Do I need special permission or paperwork to leave my home?
No. You do not need special permission or paperwork if you leave for a reason
listed above (an essential activity).
What are NOT essential activities? You cannot go to:
What if I’m homeless?
What if my home is not safe?
What is social distancing?
What about my business?
Non-essential businesses must close:
What if I don’t follow this order?
You might have to:
Link here for Spanish version
On October 11, 2019 judges stopped the new "public charge" rule from taking effect. This may change, but in the meantime, it it NOT in effect.
What is "public charge"?
When a person applies for a visa or green card, immigration officials may use the“public charge” test to determine if they are likely to need help paying for things like food, housing or health care in the future. Someone judged a “public charge” can be denied a visa or green card, unless they qualify for an exemption.
"Public charge" does NOT affect you if you live in the US and...
If you are in one of these groups, you will NOT face a "public charge" test. You can enroll in any health plan without concern for public charge.
If you are NOT in one of the four groups listed on the front of this fact sheet, you may face the "public charge" test when you apply for a visa or green card.
What health care coverage may count against you in a "public charge" test?
The ONLY health insurance program that MAY count against you in a "public charge" test is regular Medicaid, known as BadgerCare in Wisconsin.
Which Medicaid program will NOT count against you in a "pubic charge" test?
What are the OTHER health care programs that DO NOT count in a "public charge" test?
If you are concerned about "public charge", talk to someone who can help you look at all your options. Got to ailalawyer.com to fina an immigration lawyer near you.
Why is strong gun reform a high priority for WAWH? Gun violence is a women’s health issue and a domestic abuse issue. More than 50% of intimate partner homicide victims in American are killed by males with a gun, and in over 50% of mass shootings the victims were intimate partners or family members.  The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations can increase the risk of homicide for women by as much as 500 percent.
Gov. Tony Evers has called the legislature into special session November 7th to take up gun reform legislation. The two bills to be taken up this week are bills that address Background Checks loopholes (AB 431) and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO).
As of 11/4/19, there have been 357 mass shootings, 32,991 people killed and 24,983 people injured by guns in our country this year . These numbers include 589 children injured or killed age 11 and under, and 2,580 teens ages 12-17. As you read this, these numbers are already outdated, because with each passing day, they rise.
After each mass shooting, people express outrage, anger, sadness. A common theme echoes across social media platforms, the helplessness to make it stop. The attention quickly fades away, until the next major mass shooting - which we all know is coming, we just don’t know when or where.
It is well within the power of our state legislators change this cycle, but to date Wisconsin's Republican-led legislature has not engaged on gun reform despite polling on this issue showing that 80% of Wisconsin voters support universal background check legislation, including 75% of households that own a gun. However the gun lobby, in particular the National Rifle Association of America (NRA), has very deep pockets, and their priorities are not in line with the general public.
We need our legislators to listen to their constituents, the people who elected them to their positions, and pass laws that will reduce gun deaths and violence in Wisconsin. We need to make our schools, churches and public places safer. Governor Evers has made it clear that he supports meaningful gun reform and would sign good legislation into law. Public support is firmly behind smart measures to curb violence, including universal background checks.
Below is an outline of some of the strong gun reform legislation introduced in Wisconsin this session that WAWH supports. Please contact your legislators to ask them to protect Wisconsin by supporting and ensuring these bills become law. This isn’t about political and partisanship, it is about saving lives.
Universal Background Checks:
Wisconsin’s needs to enact Universal Background Check legislation as it has been proven to save women’s lives. In states that have universal background checks, women are 46% less likely to be shot to death by intimate partners. A 2018 poll showed that the vast majority, a whopping 81% of Wisconsin voters are in favor of background checks, including 78% of gun-owning households.
Rep. Sargent and Sen. Johnson introduced AB431, a Universal Background Check bill that would close Wisconsin’s current loopholes. Currently a background check is not required when guns are purchased at a gun show or via a private seller. Governor Evers is strongly in support of this legislation, and would sign it into law if it passed the Assembly and Senate. However, Republican leadership has been vocal about their unwillingness to engage despite such strong public support. Pressure needs to mount on this issue. Our legislators on both sides of the aisle need to make this a priority.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO):
Rep. Sargent and Sen. Taylor just introduced AB573/SB530, which would create an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) process where if a person is likely to injure themselves or another, a family member or law enforcement officer can petition to temporarily prevent the person from possessing a firearm.
Red Flag Laws:
Assembly Bill 334, introduced in early July, would prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing a firearm and possession of a firearm by people found not guilty due to mental disease or defect. Given the documented nexus between domestic abuse and gun homicides, this legislation is crucial to protect lives.
48-Hour Waiting Period:
Senate Bill 312, introduced on June 7th (National Gun Violence Awareness Day), would restore Wisconsin’s 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases. Wisconsin had a waiting period on the books until 2015, when the Wisconsin legislature eliminated the requirement that a federally licensed firearm dealer wait 48 hours to transfer a handgun. Research has shown that waiting periods can reduce gun homicides by 17% and gun suicides by 7-11%.  Wisconsin needs this legislation restored.
We are not helpless. We have the power of our vote and must reach out to our elected officials to make our expectations crystal clear. Good legislation, aimed at reducing gun violence and deaths, is introduced each session just to be ignored and languish. Given what we know about gun violence, and the proven effectiveness of specific types of legislation, inaction by legislators equals complicity.
What you can do:
At a time when women need access to as much evidence-based, medically accurate information about their reproductive health as possible, there is a wide-spread effort to mislead and lie to women through so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" or CPCs, fake health clinics run by anti-choice organizations.
There are more than 3,000 CPCs across the country (over 80 in Wisconsin), and they are usually strategically located near hospitals and abortion clinics in order to confuse or harass women. They may offer free ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, and diapers, despite often having no doctors or licensed medical professionals on the premises. Their websites typically advertise “abortion information” and "pregnancy options counseling," or carry slogans like “We inform. You decide.”
However, these centers are not licensed medical facilities, and they neither provide nor refer patients for abortion care. Instead, they actively dissuade pregnant people from seeking and obtaining abortions by manipulating and shaming pregnant people, and by spreading falsehoods regarding the safety and outcomes of the safe and legal medical procedure. Much of this misinformation is fabricated based loosely on flawed, biased, or outdated studies, and does not in any way reflect the current scientific and medical evidence regarding abortion care.
What are these fake health centers?
These centers pretend to be medical clinics that offer health care services and
all-options counseling for pregnant people. THEY DO NOT. These fake centers are funded by anti-abortion groups and go by different names like "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs) and "pregnancy resource centers." Their aim is to prevent people who are pregnant from accessing abortion in a timely manner. They advertise services such as pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, counseling, and resources. Some even say they offer abortion referrals. However, in reality, they fail to provide medically accurate information and even mislead women about their abortion care options.
If you notice any of these signs, it may be a fake health center:
Learn more about our efforts to expose these fake clinics.
To seek medical care from someone you can trust at a licensed family planning center:
Sara Finger, Executive Director