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ELECTION 2012: The Power of the Youth Vote

1:51 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Debra Hauser for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Yesterday, any doubt about the power of Millennials was laid to rest. Young people voted at record levels, representing 19 percent of the total voting public — the largest percentage ever, including in the 2008 presidential election.

This generation of youth represents one of the most influential, diverse, and socially progressive generations in our history, and they are engaged and taking part in our country’s political debate and as advocates and leaders in the reproductive and sexual health field.

A few facts about Millennials.

Millennials are growing in influence. Globally, almost half the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — under the age of 25.  The reproductive and sexual health decisions these young people make will determine the size and health of our planet for decades to come.

Here in the United States, there are approximately 64 million Millennials who were eligible to vote in the 2012 election. This means they represented approximately 29 percent of all eligible voters. Early poll data shows that of those who voted in this election, one in five was between the ages of 18 and 29.

Millennials as a group are expected to grow by four million every year through 2020, when they will number 103 million of voting age. Ninety million Millennials will be eligible to vote in 2020, representing almost 40 percent of all eligible voters.

Millennials are diverse. Currently 39 percent of Millennials are young people of color compared to 30 percent of the general population. Nationwide, communities of color are growing. In fact, between 2000 and 2008, communities of color grew by approximately 20 percent accounting for more than four-fifths of U.S. population growth.  Demographers tell us that by 2050 America will become a Minority-Majority nation.  Communities of color will make up fifty-four percent of America and Latinos/Hispanics will make up 30 percent of the total population (up from 15 percent).

Much of this change is fueled by youth. In fact, people of color will represent a majority of young people by the year 2023.

And all of this matters to those of us who care about progressive issues, because Millennials are more socially progressive than their older counterparts. Whether the issue is immigration, race and gender equality, religious freedom, environmental and economic justice, or access to reproductive and sexual health services, including abortion, Millennials are more progressive than their older counterparts.

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As we continue to get more data, it is likely that young people played an important role in a string of progressive victories: reelecting President Obama; turning the tide in favor of marriage equality with wins in Maryland, Maine, and Minnesota, with Washington poised to join them; defeating an anti-choice ballot measure in Florida; electing the largest cohort of women ever to the Senate, including America’s first openly LGBT Senator; and making history with the passage of the Maryland Dream Act.

Over the next four years, young people will continue to lead us towards new solutions and lasting change. We have a responsibility to work alongside them and we call on President Obama and elected leaders across the country to do the same.

ACA Qué (What)? A Policy Wonk’s Mother Still Wonders How it Affects Her and Latin@ Families

4:11 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Marisol Franco for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

We are now in the aftermath of the historic and significant Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Our celebrations have simmered down and now we are analyzing what it all truly means and educating our  communities, while pushing back against the relentless opposition (i.e. the 33rd vote by the House to repeal ACA).

As I monitored the SCOTUS blog at the crack of dawn on the day of the ruling, I reminded myself that my mother, who had already been at work since 5 a.m. inside the hotel where she has worked for over 35 years, probably did not hear about the decision. While those who work on reforming our health care delivery system blasted emails, tweeted, blogged, and spoke with media, I wondered what she would have thought if she heard President Obama speak. Despite having a health policy wonk for a daughter, she would probably still wonder how this decision affects her, as most people did that morning and still do.

Despite the onslaught of reporting that day, the majority of discussions did not address how the ACA would benefit Latina/o individuals and families. Based on a xenophobic narrative, coverage about the fastest growing ethnic group in the country falsely pegs Latinas/os as immigrants who “drain” the system, and ignores contributions of immigrant and non-immigrant families as well as the less than half of Latinas/os who have access to job-based health insurance.

Overall, California Latinas/os stand to gain the most with the ACA, whether currently insured or uninsured. Latinas are the most uninsured group in the state with 4 out of 10 of us lacking health coverage. With this decision, over 2 million more California Latina/os will have access to affordable health care in 2014. It will also help the Latinas/os who already have employer-based coverage through regulatory and broader public health provisions.

My family is part of the 38 percent of Latinas/os in California who have employer-based coverage. Despite a debilitating work-related injury to her shoulder, my mother continues to work full-time through the pain she feels when cutting fruits and vegetables for the hotel restaurant, so that she can obtain health coverage for herself and two of my younger siblings. Latinas/os value health care and will often go to great lengths to obtain affordable health care for their families.

For California Latinas/os, the ACA means:

  • About 1.1 million California Latinas/os who are low-income citizens or qualified immigrants with incomes under 133 percent of federal poverty level ($30,657 for a family of four) will qualify for Medi-Cal.
  • More Latinas will have access to no-cost basic women’s preventive health, including contraception and cancer screenings.  This is extremely important for Latinas who are disproportionately affected by breast cancer and cervical cancer.
  • More families will have access to no-cost preventive care, including physical exams and immunizations.
  • More funding will go to community health centers, where anyone regardless of insurance or immigration status can receive care.
  • For those whose employers do not offer health coverage, which is a large percentage among Latinas/os, the ACA will provide tax credits to families on a sliding scale to purchase their own insurance through new insurance marketplaces called Exchanges.

The ACA also keeps insurance companies in check:

  • Insurance companies now have to justify to the Insurance Commissioner if they plan to raise their rates by more than 10 percent.
  • Insurance companies can no longer charge women more than men for the same insurance policy.
  • Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children for pre-existing conditions.
  • Insurance companies must spend the bulk of our premiums on providing care and not CEO bonuses. Families will receive rebates for un-spent premium dollars.

While we share and celebrate the positive changes that the ACA has already accomplished and those to come, we must also continue to fight for equal access to health care for everyone in our communities, specifically our undocumented brothers and sisters. Twenty-six (26) percent of uninsured Latinas/os in California would be excluded due to citizenship and immigrant clauses that prohibit undocumented residents from participating in public programs, receiving tax credits and using their own money to purchase coverage through the Exchange. We must inform immigrants about which public programs and health centers they can access, and at the same time work on solutions to cover all Californians, regardless of immigration status.

Opponents of the ACA can use scare tactics to inflame “the taxpayers” about all of the immigrants they would have to be responsible for providing health care – but the bottom line is that when families in our community cannot access care we all lose. Emergency care costs are mounting and safety net providers are over-burdened and under-resourced. And let us not forget that our immigrant families are also “taxpayers” and contribute invaluably to California’s and the nation’s vitality. Immigrants, regardless of status, are equally entitled to their human right to health care.

This “win” was not just for the policy and advocacy community, it was for families–like mine, like yours, and many other Latina/o families in California. Because of the Supreme Court ruling, I can rest assured that when my mother, who is still far from Medicare eligibility, can no longer work the required hours, we will be able to find her affordable health coverage.  

While most people have moved on to the latest breaking news, the decision did pique people’s interest. They want to know more about the ACA and how it will affect them. We all have a responsibility to inform our family, friends and broader communities about the details and importance of the ACA especially as conservative politicians push back and muddle the facts. We must speak clearly, loudly and relentlessly. Now is the time to drown out the naysayers and stand up for health care for all.

A Pyrrhic Victory? In ACA Ruling, Roberts Court Takes Big Swipe At Social Safety Net

11:12 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jessica Mason Pieklo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

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When the legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act first started taking form, the assertion that Congress did not have the power to regulate the health insurance industry under either the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause was largely seen as an academic argument that had percolated in law schools thanks to a robust presence of the Federalist Society. After all, how could an industry that accounts for approximately 16 percent of economic activity in this country be said not to affect interstate commerce? Of course it can be regulated. Under the even the most cynical view opponents of the Affordable Care Act peddled these arguments simply as political cover for the Court to invalidate the law since the tension between the Obama administration and the conservative wing of the Roberts Court was nearly palpable.

The Court declined the political cover, a fact I think speaks loudly to the rumors that Chief Justice Roberts was concerned about the partisanship and rancor brewing within and around the Court, and the implications of this for his legacy. But the Chief Justice hardly “joined the liberal wing” of the Court in upholding the law. In fact, his decision gives conservatives a potentially significant tool to further attack the social safety net in its limitation of the Commerce Clause.

People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society. Those failures—joined with the similar failures of others—can readily have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act.

That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned.

For centuries the Court has held that these congressional powers are broad and expansive, and that the main risk an expansive view of federalism poses is a political risk, not any real risk to individual rights or liberties. Then, in 1995, in the Court’s decision in United States v. Lopez, Chief Justice Roberts’ predecessor re-discovered those limits.

The Lopez decision invalidated the law banning the possession of guns near schools on the grounds that the activity challenged — gun possession and presumably gun use — was too far attenuated from the stream of commerce for Congress to regulate. Gun rights activists heralded the decision as a triumph of the Second Amendment, but social conservatives saw much more in the ruling. They saw the dawning of a new Golden Age limiting federal power and future legal avenues to challenge laws and policies they deeply opposed — like the Affordable Care Act.

In rejecting Congress’s ability to regulate the health insurance industry under the Commerce Clause while still upholding the mandate under Congressional taxing authority, Chief Justice Roberts builds on the Lopez line of reasoning in a way that did no broad political damage to the Court — after all, the mandate survived and only those on the hard right seem intent on calling for Roberts’ impeachment — while still giving lots of juicy tidbits for federal judges to cite in future rulings hemming in other Congressional action. And since so much of Congressional action on domestic programs relies on its authority under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, it’s too soon to say if this distinction is again merely academic.

More importantly, Roberts extends the logic of Lopez which may prove to be more significant than we realize even now as the Court considers future challenges to Medicaid funding, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and affirmative action challenges. As the logic goes, just because social ills have a broad economic impact does not mean Congress is empowered to fix them.

It’s a logic that whole-hardheartedly rejects the very premise of the New Deal and our social safety system and one that was just reinforced within the confines of a win on health care reform. Those of us that support the bill should celebrate the victory but we cannot get comfortable now. Chief Justice Roberts made it clear he upheld the law because he had to, both legally and politically. But in many ways the decision is a chilling repudiation of the heart and soul of its reform and a rallying cry for more vigorous challenges to the safety net. And we can expect conservatives to heed the call.