Northwest Health Law Advocates is the consumer voice in the health care debate. We aim to improve access to health care for all Washington residents. Here are some examples of our recent advocacy efforts:
Expanding kids’ coverage
NoHLA worked successfully toward Washington’s landmark “Cover All Kids” legislation. We are now leading advocacy efforts to achieve full implementation of this law by urging the state to remove barriers that prevent eligible children from qualifying. Read “Zander’s Story” to learn about how these barriers can affect kids’ access to coverage.
Persuading the State to Protect Medicaid for Newborns
Recently, the federal government announced a change in the longstanding “newborn deeming” policy, a rule that keeps infants on Medicaid for a year when born to a mother on Medicaid. The government announced that the automatic eligibility would no longer apply to infants born to non-citizen mothers, but could only be used for infants born to mothers who were citizens. When Washington State announced implementation of this change, NoHLA provided a persuasive legal analysis of the illegality of the federal change. We convinced the state to reverse its decision, to restore coverage for these infants, and to go even further. Governor Gregoire sued the federal government, who then backed down and reversed its original decision. Thanks to NoHLA’s advocacy, all states may once again deem newborns eligible for a year.
Making Medicare prescription drugs affordable for low-income seniors
Under the new Medicare Prescription Drug benefit, elderly and disabled low-income Medicaid beneficiaries who never before paid for drugs are now charged co payments that are unaffordable for those with multiple prescriptions. These charges endangered their access to the medicines they need. NoHLA led advocates to urge Washington State to pay these co payments for Medicaid enrollees. We succeeded, and the state co payment assistance is now in effect. But there are still problems with Medicare Part D. Read our 3-state study identifying needed improvements in the program to ensure Medicaid-Medicare recipients maintain access to their medications, published by Kaiser, "The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured."
Maintaining access to benefits
In 2005 , Congress adopted legislation requiring Medicaid recipients to come up with citizenship documentation, which would undo much of the streamlining of the application process that has been achieved, such as mail-in applications. NoHLA supported a process that avoids delays in receipt of medical assistance during the time it takes to procure documents – allowing signed citizenship declarations in the interim. The state’s use of this process has vastly reduced the number of citizens losing Medicaid in Washington, compared to other states.
Health Benefits for Immigrant Children
In 2002, the state of Washington eliminated state-funded Medicaid look-alike coverage for certain immigrant families. These families then became eligible for more limited coverage in the state's Basic Health program. Northwest Health Law Advocates collaborated with the University of Washington Health Policy Analysis Program to produce a report on the transition, funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This report details the process of this transition and the outcomes for coverage and access for these individuals.
This report, including an 8-page summary, is found on the Kaiser Family Foundation's Web site.
Our report alerted policymakers to the problems with this transition. In 2005, the Washington State Legislature partially restored the immigrant medical program, and funding was increased in 2006. Children in families with income below the poverty level became able to apply for Medicaid look-alike coverage. From 2007-2009 further expansion occurred as the "Cover All Kids" law passed.
Check out the DSHS web page with information about enrolling in Apple Health for Kids.
Other recent milestones in NoHLA’s fight for health care justice include:
- Preventing harmful restrictions in the state’s process for determining what are “medically necessary” covered services, by advocating for individualized consideration of patient needs
- Leading an initiative to develop a Medicaid agency plan to eliminate health disparities in ethnic minority populations. NoHLA was instrumental in getting the legislature to fund a “Health Navigator” pilot project through the Department of Social and Health Services.
- Serving on the Washington State Certificate of Need Task Force, by Governor’s appointment, to advocate for consumers in the state process for authorizing new hospitals and other changes in the health system. The Task Force just issued its recommendations for a more robust Certificate of Need review process
- Testifying on health reform at the request of the state’s joint legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Costs and Access
Letter to the editor published in the May 3rd edition of the Seattle PI