Now Is the Time to Build on the ACA’s Gains, Not Dismantle Them

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Last week, President Obama vetoed a bill that would have left millions of Americans without health insurance and access to affordable, quality care. Since the law’s implementation, nearly 18 million people—including four million Latinos—have gained health coverage. Despite those important gains, efforts have continued by Republicans in Congress to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), culminating most recently in the passage of a bill repealing the ACA. Thanks to the President’s veto, the ACA continues to be the law of the land. Rather than focusing on stripping health insurance away from millions of people, Congress should work to build off existing gains and increase the opportunity for even more individuals and families to enjoy the peace of mind and financial security that comes with having insurance.

Despite the historic gains in insurance coverage, Latinos still have the highest uninsured rate in the nation, with one in five lacking health coverage. That is nearly three times the rate of non-Hispanic Whites. Our community stands to gain a great deal under the ACA as organizations like NCLR and our community partners in the NCLR Affiliate Network work to connect Latinos with the information and resources to enroll in health coverage that best meets their needs. At NCLR, we know there is more work to be done to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health coverage. Now is the time to double down on these efforts, not reverse them.

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As we look to the work ahead, Medicaid expansion—a critical opportunity to further increase the number of insured individuals—remains a key piece of unfinished business under the ACA. While 30 governors have accepted federal funds through the ACA, which allow more low-income people in their states to be eligible for Medicaid, the rest of our nation’s governors have not. These state decisions leave some of our most vulnerable without any opportunity for health coverage, putting them at greater risk of illness and medical debt. If states such as Texas and Florida—which have large Latino populations—expanded Medicaid eligibility, they could make a big difference in reducing the number of uninsured. In fact, if every state expanded Medicaid, nearly 3.7 million Latinos could gain health insurance. We need leaders to step up and do what’s right on behalf of their most vulnerable residents.

Health care is an important issue to many Americans, including Latinos. A recent Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans believe that government should be responsible for ensuring that everyone has health coverage. When Gallup compared the views of Whites and Non-Whites, 65 percent of Non-Whites agreed that the government should be responsible for ensuring health coverage, compared with 44 percent of Whites. The Latino community has experienced historic gains in coverage thanks to the ACA, and we need leaders with the vision and commitment to advance these gains for the well-being and future success of our families and our country.

Weekly Washington Outlook — May 4, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess, returning the week of May 11th.

Senate:

On Monday evening, the Senate will vote to override the President’s veto of S.J. Res. 8, a bill that would block a proposed National Labor Relations Board rule on expediting workplace elections in certain circumstances. On Tuesday, the Senate will resume consideration of legislation that would give Congress the authority to review any nuclear agreement with Iran. The Senate also plans to vote this week on a conference report of a joint budget resolution.

White House:

On Monday, the President will travel to New York City to deliver remarks at an event at Lehman College launching the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new non-profit organization. He will also tape an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, and attend DNC events.

On Tuesday, the President will host a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House.

On Wednesday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, the President will welcome the United States Air Force Academy football team to the White House to present them with the 2014 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. In the afternoon, the President will travel to the Portland, Oregon area to attend a DNC event.

On Friday, the President will attend an event held at Nike headquarters to discuss how workers will benefit from progressive, high-standards trade agreements that would open up new markets and support high-quality jobs both for Oregon small businesses and large companies like Nike. The President will also make the case that strong bipartisan trade promotion legislation – introduced this month by Senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch – is an important step to ensure our trade policy works for the middle class through strong enforcement provisions, transparency, and the requirement that our trade agreements include high-standards to bring greater opportunity to American businesses, level the playing field for American workers, protect the environment, and raise human rights and labor standards around the world. Afterward, the President will travel to Watertown, South Dakota to deliver the commencement address for the graduating class at Lake Area Technical Institute. Lake Area Technical Institute is one of the top community colleges in the nation, and is recognized for rigorously preparing its students with the skills they need to compete in the 21st Century economy. With a two-year graduation rate more than twice the national average, Lake Area Technical Institute focuses on providing its graduates smooth pathways to high skilled careers with private-sector businesses.

Also This Week:

Immigration – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark-up several bills on Wednesday, including S. 750, “Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act.” This bill would allow Customs and Border Protection access to federal lands in Arizona for their patrols. It has been criticized by environmental groups, immigration advocates, and others.

Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Committee continues to hold hearings this week. The Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White and the Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Tim Massad will both appear on Tuesday before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will make her first appearance in her new role on Thursday before the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee. When the House returns from recess, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has indicated he plans to bring the Legislative Branch funding bill to the floor before the end of the work period.

Budget – The Senate is scheduled to vote this week on a conference report on a joint budget resolution for FY2016. The measure maintains discretionary domestic spending at sequester levels, but increases defense spending by $96 billion. It also includes reconciliation instructions, setting the stage for a fight over repealing the Affordable Care Act later this summer. The House passed the conference report last week.

Education – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wrote in his May memo that he still plans to bring H.R. 5, the “Student Success Act” to the floor in the coming weeks. Without any Democratic support, however, the legislation is rumored to still be short of votes needed for passage. Acknowledging this, Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has recently signaled openness to a different legislative vehicle for passing legislation to rewrite ESEA. The Senate is likely to take up a bipartisan reauthorization bill in early June. The “Every Child Achieves Act,” which passed unanimously out of the HELP Committee earlier in April, still faces challenges from civil rights groups and others about what has been perceived as a weak accountability system.

What Do You Want President Obama to Address at the State of the Union?

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The State of the Union is today at 9 PM EST. What issues are you hoping President Obama addresses in his speech? We posed that question to our Mobile Action Network, and below are a sampling of the responses we received.

Want to see yours below? Text SPEECH and your issue to 62571 now!

Immigration and mental helth for seniors.

11 million undocumented immigrants. Stop separating families.

El presidente debe hablar de la reforma migratoria como de la educacion y el futuro del pais economicamente.

Vanessa from Oregon: More low cost housing.

GAY RIGHTS

Guadalupe from California: Bring back the middle class!

Carlos from New York: Economia, migracion, salud.

Cynthia from California: Pathway to citizenship, income inequality, women’s rights.

Concrete steps that the president can and will take independent of Congress to move along his stated goals as it pertains to employment opportunities.

Suppressed wages, unemployment assistance, food stamps, wealth inequality, education, immigration and other critical issues facing people on Main Street.

Alejandro from Arkansas: Consumer protections for non-citizens and limited English proficient individuals.

Veterans health care, benefits, jobs, & business development.

Please push hard against inequality, call the Republicans by name everyone should have a chance at a better life also push against against voter ID.

Betiana from New Jersey: Early childhood education, immigration.

Maria from Georgia: I want president to talk about what he is gonna do to pass immigration reform and stop deportations.

Lea from Arizona: Dear President Obama- Please address the challenge our small businesses face in getting bank loans in this slow recovering economy.

I’d like the President to discuss minimum wage and veterans’ services taking so long to receive.

Oscar from Texas: What will ur next move be on the immigration overhaul? What details can you offer on keeping the rapidly rising cost of tuition/education down?

Abdin from Oklahoma: DREAM Act

If he will address Puerto Rico statehood.

Raising the minimum wage.

Gun control. Please.

Income disparity and Women’s Rights.

Karen from Nevada: Education, immigration, integrity as members of a global community, veterans and racism are all issues close to my heart as a black-immigrant-educator.

El recorte de todo tipo de ayuda para las personas de bajo recurso sobre todo para los mayores de 50 anos.

Celia from Michigan: Expand support for community college trade programs.

GMO & GE Foods & what is his stance on it.

I’d like to see the president address more on immigration reform. Helping our loved ones keep their jobs and allow them to study!

I need the Pres. to address Social Security. We who lost our Pensions & 401Ks in the crash of 2007-2008 only have SS to live on and it’s barely enough.

Anzorena from California: Unemployment benefits for those who are struggling to find a job.

Stephen from New York: Minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. Labor union rights.

Improving Race Relations.

WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE DREAM ACT?

Ofelia from Illinois: Affordable Housing

Lucreda from Virginia: Poverty reduction in the US and job creation.

I think POTUS should discuss successes of ACA, bipartisan successes for example budget, stabilization and growth in the economy and achievements.

Vince from California: Gun violence.

Wanda from Illinois: Student loan forgiveness.

Manuel from Florida: I want to hear him saying. I will stop deportations.

Brandi from New York: Student debt.

GMO & GE Foods & what is his stance on it.

Federico from Virginia: Strengthen our democracy and stop the madness with election reform!

Responsible parenting and breaking negative cycles within older models of family dynamics to further and promote education.

Lisa from Texas: I want to hear the importance that we Latinos are to the US. From Education, workforce, equal rights for all, etc. I hope he mentions our influence in the country and we can’t be ignored. Fix immigration. Do it.

Where is the jobs bill?! Our young people need hope for a future that pays a living wage and offers opportunity for growth. Many have given up hope…. and entered into chronic depression.Many are wallowing in despair and constant rejection when prospective employers don’t bother to even respond to their applications for employment. Discouraging to say the least.

Initiatives to help mom & pop business that are struggling these days.

Mara from California: Immigration reform to include and fast track our youth towards citizenship.

Elvira from Illinois: Despite the bailout banks (Chase) still not helping people refinance or get mortgages. My son & daughter-in-law have an excellent rating and want to build a home. We gave the the land to build on. They have saved for years. Chase which is our family bank does not offer loans to build. What a shame!!! we want them to stay in Chicago – but obstacles continue.

As many Mexican Americans, I have been unemployed for far too long; we need jobs now!

Mario from Texas: Need to address immigration reform and update on health care stats..I was able to register my 25 year old son at work…These number will not show up as registered on the new health care web site but it is happening with current employers making family coverage available.

Jerry from Georgia: Compromise with GOP house of reps for immigration reform this year.

Glover from Montana: Renewables go to head of class. Coal oil & natural gas has to be safer for the public.

Carolina from Massachusetts: Education and converting to a federal teaching licensing system.

Martha from California: Solve immigration issues. We need an expedient pathway for citizenship for families that have been here undocumented for more than 10-15years!

Bonnie from California: Minimum wage and extended unemployment.

Carol from Kentucky: I want President to address raising taxes on the wealthy/elimination of tax loopholes/ending tax breaks to companies who pollute our water and air and who send jobs out of the country!!

Kali from Minnesota: Immigration Reform… More specifically how reform will give relief to the 4.1 million households of USC and UDP mixed status families.

CREATE NATIONAL JOBS PROGRAM a la WPA to rebuild infrastructure and hire new graduates & long term unemployed.

I would like him to address issues and questions regarding the new health care act. And for those that have not yet purchased their health plan. The cost and penalties. Penalties that I think the people should not be forced to pay.

Walter from Virginia: CIR, with a path to earned legalization – no piece meal approach; transportation infrastructure with transit emphasis; ACA and the Latino community; income inequality; and voting rights act enforcement.

Kristiana from Colorado: Immigration reform for ALL immigrants (not only Dreamers)and the growing gap between the extremely-rich and the widening/deepening pool of poverty that is swallowing more families daily.

Reinstate unemployment benefits to long time unemployed…reinstate food stamps to th poor…reinstate meals to the senior citizens financially needing this assistance.

The views above do not necessarily represent those of NCLR, its staff, Board, or Affiliates.