Pennsylvania officials on Monday announced that they are looking into $48 million in undisclosed spending in the roll out of Healthy PA, the state’s alternative to Medicaid expansion.
In a letter to Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he wanted a “detailed accounting” of how the $48 million in state and federal money was spent.
The DePasquale audit is apparently a response to an article in a local newspaper that quoted the Corbett administration citing the $48 million figure.
The Obama administration in August gave the green light to Corbett’s answer to Medicaid reform under the Affordable Care Act. Healthy PA, as it’s called, doesn’t actually expand the federally funded insurance program for low-income residents, but instead uses federal money to subsidize payments toward private insurance plans.
Healthy PA includes some reforms to the Medicaid plans offered in the state. Among the reforms is a reduction in the number of available Medicaid plans from 14 to two.
Health insurance companies will now be allowed to charge premiums on Medicaid coverage for anyone whose income is more than 100 percent of the federal poverty level–$11,670 for an individual and $15,730 for a family of two.
Earlier versions of the reform would have created even harsher restrictions, including an eligibility requirement that unemployed people prove they are actively seeking work before accessing Medicaid.
Critics say that even though some half million uninsured Pennsylvania residents will be able to purchase health insurance under Healthy PA, many other people will lose their Medicaid insurance because of the cutbacks.
Neal Bisno, president of Service Employees International Union-Healthcare in Pennsylvania, criticized Corbett for “choosing a costly and complicated” method of health-care reform “that not only squandered taxpayer dollars, but also aims to reduce benefits for 1.2 million seniors, pregnant women and people with disabilities that currently receive Medicaid.”
“Imagine what $48 million could have offered this past year for the hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians in the way of doctor visits, medications and life-saving care” Bisno said in a statement on the SEIU Healthcare website.
This November, Corbett faces a tough race against Democratic challenger Tom Wolf. A recent poll found Corbett trailing Wolf by 25 points. Wolf has said that if elected he will fully expand Medicaid in the ways set out by the Affordable Care Act, calling into question what would happen to Corbett’s new rules.
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Senate Republicans once again blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act from advancing on Monday, after having allowed it to move forward last week.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which needed 60 votes to advance, but failed 52 to 40, would have strengthened protections against gender-based pay discrimination. Republicans opposed it because they claim it would line the pockets of trial lawyers.
Republicans have voted against the act four times, counting procedural votes, since 2012. They blocked the bill earlier this year on a 53-44 vote, which prompted President Obama to sign an executive order to extend the same protections to workers employed by federal government contractors.
While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected that Democrats designed the bill to fail as a political show vote, Republicans seemed to have political motives of their own in letting the bill move one step further in the legislative process. It wasted Senate floor time that could be used to advance other measures in the Democratic “Fair Shot” agenda like minimum wage increases or student loan refinancing, and it still resulted in the bill being blocked.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would have prohibited retaliation against workers who discuss their salaries, which makes it easier for women to learn that they are being paid unfairly based on their gender.
It would have also required employers to prove that pay disparities are legitimate, required the Department of Labor to collect wage information based on gender, allowed workers to sue for wage discrimination, and created a grant program to train women on wage negotiation skills.
Women’s groups condemned Republicans for voting against the bill.
Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said the vote “makes painfully clear that, despite claims to the contrary, many lawmakers are not serious about ensuring women and men are paid equally in this country.”
Republicans fighting to gain credibility with women voters have found a new issue to hang their hats on: suntan lotion.
Later this month Main Street Advocacy will launch a Women2Women tour with a town hall targeting women voters in Charlotte. Recent statewide polling shows Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) holds a slim lead in the polls over state House Speaker Thom Tillis.
An Elon Poll found “the gender gap in North Carolina is quite wide,” with 52 percent of women planning to vote for Hagan and 33 percent for Tillis, a margin that grows among single women to 65 percent over 18 percent.
On the issue of abortion, 44 percent said they favored less restrictions on abortion and 40 percent favored more. This September poll affirmed an April poll that first showed the emergence of a relative majority in North Carolina that prefers liberalizing laws on abortion.
Abortion rights and a gender gap in voting preferences are not what Sarah Chamberlain, the Women2Women initiative’s leader, plans to talk about. “We’re not here to touch the third rail, and they [the targeted women attendees] know that going in,” she told Roll Call. “We’re not here to talk about the social issues.”
In an interview with WBTV, a CBS affiliate in Charlotte, Chamberlain clarified further those issues she says affect women and should motivate them to get out to vote:
The first one is twenty-first century cures, which is trying to get the government out of the way of the scientists, as they begin to find cures for cancer specifically; suntan lotion, trying to improve the quality of suntan lotion so melanoma goes down in this country, so just issues like that.
Chamberlain is chief operating officer of Main Street Advocacy, a lobby group that is affiliated with the Republican Main Street Partnership.
That group is led by former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) and calls itself “the governing wing of the Republican Party.”
A video promoting the Women2Women tour on Main Street Advocacy’s website features Chamberlain stressing the importance of the economy to women. It includes footage on a sunny day at several prominent locations in the downtown area and Dupont Circle neighborhoods of Washington, D.C, where Chamberlain concludes “we’re bringing main street to you.”
In October the town hall will travel to Tucson, where Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) faces Republican challenger Martha McSally in a race Real Clear Politics ranks as a toss up, and Jamestown, New York, where Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) faces Democrat Martha Robertson in a tight race that leans Republican.
Republican leaders have struggled to appeal to women voters as they become increasingly known for efforts to restrict access to abortion and contraception, as well making inaccurate or controversial comments about pregnancy and rape.
An August report commissioned by the conservative groups Crossroads GPS and American Action Network found the party “intolerant” and “stuck in the past,” with nearly half of women viewing Republicans unfavorably.
In that poll, women voters looked at policy proposals on charter schools and flexible work schedules that had been promoted by House Republican leaders as a way to attract them, and then ranked them as least popular.
On Monday, Republicans in the Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.2199), which Irin Carmon of MSNBC reports is the fourth time they have voted against the equal pay bill in the past two years.
Main Street has not responded to an email from RH Reality Check requesting comment on how the group would handle discussions of abortion, contraception, or equal pay legislation during the Women2Women speaking tour.
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At the end of August, Jandira Magdalena dos Santos Cruz, a 27-year-old women living in Rio de Janeiro, decided to end her pregnancy. Abortion is illegal except in rare cases in Brazil, but a friend gave her the name of a clandestine provider, and she agreed to pay the equivalent of U.S. $2,200 for the procedure. On August 26, Cruz, who had no other information other than a card with the doctor’s name and phone number, met a stranger in the bus station who was supposed to drive her to the clinic. Her ex-husband was the last person to see her when he dropped her off in the morning; when he went to pick her up in the afternoon, she had not returned. She has not been found since.
Cruz’s case is exemplary of the dire effects that criminalizing and stigmatizing abortion can have on women’s health and safety. In the past few years, a series of highly publicized raids on clandestine clinics around Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian cities has forced abortion providers even further underground than they were before—frequently putting those who seek them in extreme danger.
According to When Abortion Is a Crime, a report by the human rights groups Ipas and the Institute for Religious Studies, Brazilian police reported 351 abortion-related cases from 2007 to 2011. Of these, 334 were against women who had either induced an abortion on their own using pills or had obtained one illegally from a provider. The remaining 17 cases were the result of clinic raids, in which health-care staff—including doctors, nurses, receptionists, and others—were charged with criminal activity related to abortion.
Because Brazilian law only permits the procedure in cases of rape, fetal anencephaly, or risk to life, in 2012 the country’s Ministry of Health reported only 1,626 legal abortions in a nation with 203 million people. However, the organization estimates that one million Brazilian women have abortions every year—comparable to the rate in the United States. Many of those women, particularly those without the financial or social resources to see a well-trained, willing provider, run a huge legal risk when they decide to end an unwanted pregnancy. But the physical consequences, too, can often be devastating.
Cruz’s case came to light only a few weeks ago. Recently, the press in Rio reported that the police had found a mutilated body in the trunk of a car: a woman who had been shot in the head, with her arms, legs, and teeth removed, leaving officials unable to identify her. Physical characteristics, though, suggest that the body is Cruz’s; police are carrying out genetic tests to confirm that and will release the results within 30 days.
When we talk about “abortion-related deaths,” we generally mean from direct injuries that occur when a women obtains an abortion from an unsafe provider. However, the reality is that Brazilian women—especially those in vulnerable situations or from marginalized groups, such as poor, young, or rural women, or women of African descent—put their safety on the line when they seek the procedure at all.
In addition to the legal barriers they face, these women must also combat a culture of stigma arising from the collective belief that abortions are unethical, uncommon, and unacceptable. And in turn, this stigma contributes to the individual secrecy, social silence, and medical marginalization experienced by women like Cruz. Cruz’s death was an unmistakable tragedy; its root cause, though, is all too common. The fact that abortion services are penalized by the law and by society is a stark violation of women’s most basic human rights: the right to life, the right to health care, and the right to bodily integrity.
It can be said that Cruz died because she lives in Brazil, not in Canada, Mexico City, or Uruguay, for example, where she could have secured a safe and legal procedure. Women’s dignity and reproductive rights in Brazil have been so ignored, and the social shame around abortion is so strong, that politicians prefer to be silent about the horror of a woman’s mutilated body and what it means. Although President Dilma Rousseff suggested during her first campaign that she might have doubts about Brazil’s strict 1940 legislation criminalizing abortion, the government has since bowed to conservative religious groups and declared its unwillingness to examine it. Because of this, women’s lives and health are still not taken seriously.
Brazil will be holding presidential elections in October. So far, neither of the two leading candidates, who both happen to be women, have been willing to entertain any deeper discussion about the state’s failure to prevent these avoidable deaths and the urgent need to liberalize current abortion law. In fact, women’s rights issues haven’t even been raised in political debates, due to the strong influence that public ignominy and religious conservatives have had on directing campaign priorities.
Until leaders are willing to pull their heads out of the sand, Brazil will continue to watch more women disappearing and dying—as if these tragedies were merely an expression of God’s will or divine fate, rather than a direct result of the silence and stigma surrounding abortion.
Legal Wrap is a weekly round-up of key legal reproductive rights and justice news.
Republicans are never going to successfully repeal health-care reform, so instead they hope to use the courts to gut the most popular and important provisions and render the law a political liability for Democrats.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell applies only to “closely held” corporations, but as Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon points out in the New York Times, nobody is sure exactly what that means.
RH Reality Check‘s Sofia Resnick has this fantastic piece uncovering how many of the companies challenging the birth control benefit on religious grounds fail to offer parental leave for their employees.
In New Jersey, a bank that only offered health-care coverage for its male employees has settled the discrimination complaints brought by its female employees.
Senate Republicans remain opposed to the Paycheck Fairness Act, which should surprise exactly no one.
Equally unsurprising: opponents rejected the latest “fix” to the birth control benefit.
There are more calls for federal legislation that would put an end to the Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion coverage.
The question of what, precisely, constitutes an “undue burden” on abortion rights is shaping up to be the next big test of Roe v. Wade.
Attorneys defending Texas’ radical anti-abortion law that in part mandates that abortion facilities operate like ambulatory surgical centers faced some tough questions from federal judges, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean the requirements are doomed.
Lawmakers in Missouri voted to override a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) of legislation that forces patients that need an abortion to wait 72 hours until they can have the procedure.
In Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union has asked a federal judge to strike several anti-abortion restrictions tacked on to Ohio’s budget as riders.
Meanwhile, a federal judge finished the job started last term by the Roberts Court in SBA List v. Driehaus and ruled Ohio’s “false statements” law unconstitutional.
Annamarya Scaccia has this great piece for RH Reality Check about how Ohio’s conflicting statutes of limitations are making it difficult for some abuse survivors to find justice.
The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case of a Tennessee woman convicted of child neglect for relying on prayer to heal her daughter.
Meanwhile, a former Tennessee government employee is accused of stealing more than $216,000 from women prisoners’ trust accounts, many of which exist because those prisoners are unable to earn income on their own.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Falin’s administration is fighting for the power to withhold documents from the public related to state-level opposition to Obamacare under the newfangled theory they are part of a ‘deliberative process’ and therefore privileged and confidential.
Michigan lawmakers introduced a bill that would requires employers to notify all current and prospective employees as to whether the insurance plan offered by the company covers contraceptives.
San Francisco is poised to pass a measure condemning sex-selective abortion bans.
Let’s close with a string of victories: First, a federal appeals court upheld New Jersey’s ban on gay conversion therapy. An Arkansas judge with a history of making inappropriate comments online has been removed from the bench. And Texas may get its first openly gay federal district court judge.
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