Advocacy works—Two months, two big battles, two big wins

Added April 6th, 2017 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

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We did it … again! I may be sounding like a broken record, but at least we’re stuck on a good song. For the second month in a row, I get to use this column to celebrate a big win and thank you for all you did to make it possible. The efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have hit a major wall, and President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan are shelving the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that would have harmed millions of Michiganians.

In their haste and partisan vigor, federal elected officials made a few significant missteps. They underestimated how “complicated” healthcare is and how effective the Affordable Care Act has been overall, especially with the Healthy Michigan Plan here in our state. Most importantly, they underestimated the power people have beyond the election process.

Congress&HealthCareThe strategy for defending the ACA and protecting the related Healthy Michigan Plan was simple. First, arm people with information. Right out of the gate, we put together a fact sheet and blog outlining all the good the Affordable Care Act has done for Michigan residents. Economist and Board Chair Charles Ballard connected universal healthcare to our conscience, our quality of life and our economy.

We quickly analyzed alternative healthcare plans and shared our findings on their flaws. This included outlining the devastation proposed block grants or per capita caps on Medicaid would cause in Michigan and exposing the real potential impact of the AHCA: 24 million fewer people with health insurance, $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid, and $600 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and big insurance and drug companies. And we made sure that this information was on the airwaves and in front of readers the week of the expected vote.

The next step was to engage and mobilize people into advocacy. We knew that the ACA had touched many lives and was important to many organizations, and that the more we could combine our efforts, the stronger we’d be. That’s why we were proud to be a part of the Protect MI Care Coalition, a diverse group of organizations and individuals working together to ensure all Michigan residents have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.

Through the coalition, we worked to get the people involved who would be most affected by a repeal or replacement of the ACA. We helped gather the stories of real people who have benefited from the ACA, even those whose very lives were saved, and shared them with the media and elected officials. And we joined in an online advocacy effort that enabled people to email and call their U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators to tell them to oppose the AHCA.

Similar efforts were undertaken by our various public policy partners at the national level and organizations similar to the League in other states. Collectively, those advocacy efforts worked!

The strong public opposition and political friction ground the bill’s progress to a halt. Despite the push from the President and pressure from the House Speaker, and despite their party having the majority, the bill did not have enough votes. When the bill’s supporters courted moderates, they lost conservatives. And when they courted conservatives, they lost moderates. This sunk the AHCA, but it also showed that Republicans in Congress will face a similar challenge with any other healthcare bill that significantly undermines or undoes the ACA.

That doesn’t mean they won’t try. This threat remains imminent and new discussions are already underway. But I hope you feel as empowered as ever that advocacy does work and that you can make a difference. We are lucky to have passionate and determined people like you on our side. The League will keep fighting and I know you will too. And together, we can keep winning.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

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