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Monday, February 13, 2017

States Have the Power to Protect Our Care

Heather Bates

Director of Community Engagement

Just days after the 2016 election, Families USA, along with national partners, launched the Protect Our Care coalition to mobilize advocates to fight to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

We also ramped up our work with state partners who were equally ready to hit the ground running in the fight to protect the health coverage gains we have made in the past several years. Together, we began to brainstorm and implement strategies to ensure that members of Congress understand the devastating impact of repeal without simultaneous and responsible replacement of the ACA, which has provided health coverage to the more than 20 million previously uninsured individuals. 

This blog highlights just a few of the many powerful strategies and tactics that advocates in three states—Iowa, Alaska, and West Virginia—are using to Protect Our Care. Families USA is engaging in intensive, targeted efforts in these states to preserve health coverage. 

Read on for approaches and ideas about how to illustrate and communicate the real-world consequences of repeal.

State-Based Grassroots Efforts in Iowa, West Virginia, and Alaska

Iowans didn’t miss a beat: In November, as soon as the State Public Policy Group (SPPG) and its coalition partners heard that an ACA repeal vote was on the table, it organized stakeholder groups from around the state to advocate for the preservation of high-quality, affordable health coverage.

Photo courtesy of SPPG

The group brought together small business owners, freelancers, young adults, and farmers— Iowans who all stand to lose under a repeal of the health care law—to speak at several press conferences.

In one event, SPPG and partners described how more than 230,000 Iowans stand to lose coverage. The event was held at a small business where workers and owners alike would be harmed by repeal.

To raise public awareness, Iowa advocates went on to organize rallies and collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to Protect Our Care.

Up next they will launch a new Iowa coalition to plan a sustained statewide campaign to combat the threat of ACA repeal without responsible replacement.

West Virginia is one of two states that would be most affected by repeal of the ACA, according to a new study. To protect their state from the devastation that repeal without responsible replacement would cause, West Virginians are uniting to voice their concerns. Together, advocates are highlighting consumer stories and sharing information directly with their elected officials about how losing health coverage would hurt the state’s health and economy.

Photo provided by WVAHC and featured in WV Metro News

West Virginians for Affordable Health Coverage, a statewide coalition focused on ensuring access to affordable health coverage, issued a list of principles outlining what West Virginians expect and need when it comes to health coverage. They are using this list to hold their elected officials accountable on any forthcoming health reform proposals.

Since November, WVAHC has held press conferences and rallies, including a Christmas rally for health care in December.

The group has also submitted numerous op-eds to local papers, all driving home the message that the right stand for lawmakers to take to keep the Mountain State healthy is to vote “no” on repeal without a simultaneous, responsible replacement.

Alaskans depend on the Affordable Care Act for a range of services and benefits, ranging from Medicaid to women’s health services and consumer protections. In late November, advocates in the state formed the Protect Our Care Alaska coalition under the leadership of Alaska Voices for Children.

For its January 26 rally, in the middle of the harsh Alaskan winter, the Protect Our Care Alaska coalition joined with supportive state legislators and university students at the state capitol to call on Alaska Members of Congress to vote “no” on repeal without responsible replacement.

Coalition partners are now organizing to analyze replacement plans coming from Congress. They want to ensure that the needs of all groups in Alaska are considered, including Alaskan Natives, women, children, and other residents.

Advocacy Works

After the election, Congress promised they would have a repeal bill on President Trump’s desk on his first day in office. However, week after week since President Trump took office, the timeline for repeal has slipped. This is because the rhetoric of repeal faced reality: Consumers and advocates across the country are raising their voices to Protect Our Care, demanding that Congress and the Administration not rip their coverage away without a responsible replacement.

Despite meeting for a three-day retreat, Republicans still have no consensus on a cohesive path forward for replacing the ACA. And just last week, President Trump indicated that repeal may take a year. However, we must not slow our efforts: What makes this progress possible is consistent, ongoing advocacy in states across the country.

What You Can Do

To keep up the momentum we have achieved so far to Protect Our Care, state advocates must consistently engage in actions to amplify the voices of consumers who depend on the coverage and care that the Affordable Care Act provides. Here are some tips and resources for advocacy in the months ahead:

  • Meet with your Members of Congress and attend town hall events: Call your members of Congress to set up a meeting for you and coalition partners. Check your members’ websites to see if they are holding town hall events. If so, attend and ask about health care. Encourage your partners and stakeholder allies to do the same.
  • Contact the press: Write Letters to the Editor or Op-Eds that show the impact of repeal on the people in your state. Families USA created a tool you can share to encourage members in your network to submit Letters to the Editor to their local newspapers.
  • Critique insufficient replacement plans: Use this checklist to assess how proposed replacements stack up against the coverage and protections the ACA provides. For a summary of why Republican plans fall short, see our fact sheet.
  • Share your story: Amplify and share the stories of people impacted by repeal to your elected officials and the media. If you have stories that you would like Families USA to amplify, you can share them in our Story Bank.
  • Spread the word: Help your colleagues, friends, and family stay-in-the-know.  Encourage people to sign up for our action alerts and updates to get the latest information on how they can #ProtectOurCare.
  • Don’t agonize, organize: Arrange rallies and press conferences, share your messages on social media, and know that Families USA is here to support you! Reach out to us at if you have questions or need any specific tools.