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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Health Action Update: Reports from Arizona, Maine, and Vermont

Abby Bott

Business Manager & Board Liaison

Melissa Burroughs

Oral Health Campaign Manager

Okenfe Lebarty

Senior Health Action Associate

The Families USA Health Action Team provides resources and consults on strategies for health care advocates around the country, working with our state and national partners.  In this monthly blog, we’ll share news about our travels and progress on state policies.

Get alerts when this monthly blog is published and updates from our partners across the states by signing up for our monthly newsletter, State Health Beat.

Hosting future health equity leaders in D.C.

Members of the Satcher Fellowship Program meet with Families USA staff in Washington, DC.

Last month, the Health Action Team and our Health Equity Department co-hosted guests from the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Fellowship Program. The Satcher fellowship prepares physicians and postdoctoral professionals to be leaders in efforts to reduce disparities and advance health equity.

We invited Satcher fellows to discuss the policy and advocacy work of Families USA and hear about national health equity work from these guest speakers: Toni Lewis of SEIU, Susie Saavedra of National Urban League, and Matthew Lopas of the National Immigration Law Center.

Legislative highlights from Arizona, Maine, and Vermont

The following are some highlights of recent progress around affordable health care in the states. In June, we’ll be producing a more thorough wrap-up of the state legislative sessions from around the country.

Victory for Arizona’s CHIP program

In Arizona, advocates finished off a multi-year political fight to restore the state’s CHIP program, KidsCare. Enrollment in the program had been frozen for six years, making Arizona the only state in the country without a functioning CHIP program.

After several years of their work to draw media attention and turn up public pressure on lawmakers, the Cover Kids Coalition, led by the Children’s Action Alliance, helped generate enough public outrage that legislators from both sides of the aisle felt they had to act.

When both an initial bill and a budget amendment were blocked by the Senate leadership, public backlash finally persuaded enough senators to push through a bill right before the session ended. Arizona’s children now join the rest of the nation in gaining access to high-quality, affordable health coverage.
- Melissa Burroughs, Health Action Associate

Medicaid in Maine and dental therapy in Vermont

In Maine, advocates are still pushing forward on Medicaid expansion despite the governor’s veto. Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC), Cover Maine Now!, and Maine Equal Justice Partners all report that there are a number of conservative members of the House and Senate who have shown interest in supporting a push for expansion.

Indeed, bipartisan legislation passed through both the House and Senate this past session. However, advocates have been unable to procure enough support to override the governor’s certain veto.

CAHC was successful in its efforts to pass Medicaid Ombudsman legislation with a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate. This campaign helped to highlight the important role MaineCare (Maine’s Medicaid program) has in meeting the health care needs of low-income people.

CAHC’s victory indicates that there is ample support for assisting people with navigating the Medicaid system. A majority of legislators understands that navigating MaineCare is daunting and that those who must do so need an advocate working on their behalf. 
- Okenfe Lebarty, Senior Health Action Associate 

Dental therapists and ACOs in Vermont

After more than five years of work, the Vermont Oral Health Care for All Coalition and Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) helped pass legislation that will allow dental therapists to offer care to Vermonters. Dental therapists have a scope of practice that is greater than a hygienist, but smaller than that of a dentist, and will perform common procedures such as preventive care, fillings, and routine extractions. These providers have been shown to improve access to first-class care, and are already part of the dental team in more than 50 countries around the world as well as Minnesota and Alaska.

Vermont’s Office of the Health Care Advocate worked with legislators to pass a law that sets parameters for an all-payer model (APM) and requires Vermont to regulate Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The act requires the creation of a "Medicaid Pathway” – or process for integrating all Medicaid providers and services into initiatives to reform payment and delivery systems. It also requires the state to establish nutrition procurement standards and requires foods and beverages provided by the state to meet those standards. This law is scheduled to be signed by the governor in June.

Want to share your work in the states? Connect with the Health Action Network: