Millions of Latinos Can Keep Their Health Coverage

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The Affordable Care Act survived the latest, and hopefully final, attack today with a highly favorable decision from the Supreme Court, which upheld the constitutionality of the federal and state market exchanges where Americans are able to purchase health insurance. In a 6-3 ruling, the Court said that all people who buy health coverage through federal or state exchanges should receive premium tax-credit subsidies if they meet eligibility requirements.

In the case of King v. Burwell, the plaintiffs had challenged the law, claiming that the provision was written in a way that only extended the tax credits and cost-sharing reductions to enrollees in states that had established their own exchanges. In the 34 states that have not set up their own exchanges, including Texas and Florida, two states with large numbers of Latino voters and families, about nine million people risked losing their subsidies.

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, more than four million Latinos have obtained quality, affordable health care. Today’s ruling now ensures we can move forward with the hard work of reaching the millions more who remain eligible for coverage.

“Today’s decision is a victory for the health and safety of our country. It means that millions of Americans, including Latinos, will continue receiving critical financial help to purchase a quality, affordable plan through the insurance marketplace,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía in a statement. “But the job is not done and our work continues, since one in four Latinos is still uninsured. We know that the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act is something our community needs and supports.”

We stand with other civil rights and health equity organizations in affirming the critical role the ACA has played in improving the lives of millions of Americans, including millions of Latinos.

“Given today’s decision, it’s time to stop trying to repeal or weaken the law and instead start working on substantively building on the gains we’ve made. There remain millions more eligible people waiting to benefit, including limited-English-proficient individuals and those from mixed-immigrant-status households,” said Murguía.

Weekly Washington Outlook — June 22, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

 Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House is not in session.

On Tuesday, the House will meet at meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m and the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. 805 – Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus / Energy and Commerce Committee)

2) H.R. 2576 – TSCA Modernization Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus / Energy and Commerce Committee)

3) H.R. 893 – Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry / Financial Services Committee)

4) H.R. 1698 – Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga / Financial Services Committee)

5) H.R. 2620 – To amend the United States Cotton Futures Act to exclude certain cotton futures contracts from coverage under such Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. David Scott / Agriculture Committee)

6) H.R. 1633 – DHS Paid Administrative Leave Accountability Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Barry Loudermilk / Homeland Security Committee)

7) H.R. 1615 – DHS FOIA Efficiency Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Buddy Carter / Homeland Security Committee)

8) H.R. 1640 – Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker / Homeland Security Committee)

9) H.R. 1626 – DHS IT Duplication Reduction Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Will Hurd / Homeland Security Committee)

10) H.R. 2390 – Homeland Security University-based Centers Review Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Homeland Security Committee)

11) H.R. 1637 – Federally Funded Research and Development Sunshine Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe / Homeland Security Committee)

12) H.R. 2200 – CBRN Intelligence and Information Sharing Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

13) H.R. 1646 – Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman / Homeland Security Committee)

14) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 615 – Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)

Also Tuesday, complete consideration of H.R. 1190 – Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015 (Subject to a Closed Rule, No Further Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Ways and Means Committee / Energy and Commerce Committee).

On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business and will consider H.R. 2042 – Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield / Energy and Commerce Committee).

On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.

On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m. with consideration of H.R. 2822 – Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Ken Calvert / Appropriations Committee). There might also be consideration of legislation related to trade.

Senate:

Today, the Senate will vote on two nominations. Tomorrow and the remainder of the week, the Senate will focus on trade, with a vote on a procedural motion to limit debate on “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. Senate passage would clear the bill for the president’s signature. There will also be a cloture vote later this week on the legislative vehicle for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). If passed by the Senate, that bill would go back to the House, where its passage is anything but assured.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House.

On Tuesday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

On Wednesday, the president will host a reception at the White House in recognition of LGBT Pride Month.

On Thursday and Friday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

Supreme Court

By the end of June, the Supreme Court is set to hand down numerous decisions, including on three significant cases. As noted above, King v. Burwell will decide the availability of tax subsidies for those who enrolled in health insurance through the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with a decision against the government potentially leading to the disruption of health care coverage for millions of people. A decision on Obergefell v. Hodges will determine if the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriages and if states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states that allow it. In Texas Department of Housing and Community Affiars v. The Inclusive Communities Project the Court will decide on whether disparate-impact claims are viable under the Fair Housing Act.

Also This Week:

Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittees will continue mark-up of their versions of spending bills for FY2016. Up on Tuesday are Transportation-HUD and Labor-HHS-Education. Senate Democrats have vowed to vote against procedural motions on the floor for any appropriations bill that upholds sequestration spending levels. The House Appropriations Committee plans a mark-up Wednesday on their Labor-HHS-Education spending bill. The measure would slash programs by $3.7 billion, with education taking the biggest hit.

Education – The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) remains off this week’s House schedule despite its inclusion in Majority Leader McCarthy’s memo for this work period. Instead, attention remains on the Senate where members are preparing ESEA reauthorization for introduction after the July 4 recess, at the earliest. The business and civil rights community is continuing to work toward bipartisan support of an amendment to strengthen the accountability system in the bill.

Health – The House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee is holding a hearing on Wednesday on health insurance premiums under the ACA. In anticipation of a King v. Burwell decision, House and Senate Republicans are preparing a response. Senator Johnson (R-Wis.) has crafted the most likely legislative proposal, which would reportedly block new enrollments in the federal health care exchange, but would extend tax credits for two years for those already enrolled. Repeal of the ACA would increase the budget deficit by an estimated $353 billion according to a recent Congressional Budget Office assessment.

The House Education and the Workforce Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee is holding a hearing on Wednesday titled “Child Nutrition Assistance: Looking at the Cost of Compliance for States and Schools” and the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee and House Agriculture Committee Nutrition Subcommittee are holding a joint hearing on the “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: How Our Welfare System Can Discourage Work.”

Labor – The Department of Labor is expected to announce a long-awaited overtime rule that could double the salary level of workers able to claim time-and-a-half payments. Republicans are expected to fight the rule, with a House Education and Workforce hearing earlier this month indicating staunch opposition to any regulatory proposal seen as an overreach.

Consumer Protections – This Thursday the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee is holding a hearing on “Examining Continuing Allegations of Discrimination and Retaliation at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” with testimony from two whistleblowers after reports that worker complaints against the agency have increased.

Civil Rights – The House Judiciary Committee is holding a listening session on criminal justice reform this Thursday and the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a Friday hearing titled “The State of Property Rights in America Ten Years After Kelo v. City of New London.”

We’re Committed to Protecting Health Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has the potential to significantly reduce the number of uninsured Latinos in the United States, and NCLR has worked to ensure that the benefits of the law reach as many eligible individuals as possible. As an organization that represents the most uninsured community in the country, NCLR has long advocated for quality, affordable, and accessible health insurance and care for all Americans. It is why we became deeply involved in the fight to enact the Affordable Care Act. While it is not perfect, it is the first meaningful effort in nearly 50 years to address the long-standing national health care gap and at long last bring quality health care to millions of families in the U.S., including Latinos.

Alejandra Gepp, Director of the NCLR Institute of Hispanic Health, and Steven Lopez, Senior Health Policy Analyst outside the Supreme Court this Wedensday.

Alejandra Gepp, Director of the NCLR Institute of Hispanic Health, and Steven Lopez, Senior Health Policy Analyst outside the Supreme Court this Wedensday.

Earlier this week, we continued that fight when we joined numerous organizations on the steps of the Supreme Court to affirm our support for the ACA as the Court heard oral arguments in King v. Burwell. The case challenges a core component of the ACA, endangering the financial assistance that the law provides for millions of low- and middle-income Americans who live in states that did not set up their own health insurance marketplaces.

The outcome of King v. Burwell is critical. According to a widely referenced report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about 9.3 million people in 34 federally facilitated marketplace states are at risk of losing premium tax credits if the Court rules in favor of King. About 8.2 million people are projected to become uninsured. Such a decision by the Supreme Court would be a step backward for all Americans, including Latinos, stripping away the gains we have made in providing quality, affordable coverage to so many hardworking families.

What does this mean for Latinos?

Outside the Supreme Court, NCLR talked with a number of news outlets. One key question we fielded was, “What’s at stake for the Latino community?” According to a follow-up report by the Urban Institute, of the 9.3 million people who would lose tax credits if the Court ruled in favor of King, about 1.5 million are Hispanic and about 1.2 million would become uninsured as a result.

ACA_SCOTUS1Given that Latinos are less likely than other workers to have access to employer-sponsored health insurance—only 38.3 percent of Latinos are covered by employer-based plans—the coverage options offered by the ACA are critical to filling that gap. During the first two open enrollment periods, NCLR and its Affiliate Network, along with other key partners, worked to enroll Latinos across the country. There is still work to be done, but there is no question that these collective efforts have increased the number of insured Latinos.

While the country awaits the Supreme Court’s decision in June, remember that nothing has changed. Tax credits remain intact and coverage purchased via the marketplace remains valid. It’s important for individuals to continue paying their premiums. As a community that has long strived for meaningful coverage opportunities, Latinos, like so many Americans, have much to gain from the ACA. Our community can ill afford—literally and figuratively—attempts to thwart those opportunities.