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ACLU Filing Lawusuit Challenging Trump Administration Contraceptive Coverage Rule

NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union is filing a lawsuit today against the Trump Administration challenging interim final rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies that would allow nearly all employers (except publicly traded companies) to deny their employees insurance coverage for contraception if the employer has a religious or moral objection.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of members of the ACLU and Service Employee International Union-United Health Care Workers West (SEIU-UHW) who are at risk of losing their contraception coverage because of where they work or where they go to school.

Kate Rochat is an ACLU member who is a law student at the University of Notre Dame and who stands to lose her access to contraceptive health care because of the rule. “No woman should ever be denied health care because her employer or university’s religious views are prioritized over her serious medical needs,” said Rochat.

In the lawsuit, the ACLU argues that the interim rules violate the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by authorizing and promoting religiously motivated and other discrimination against women seeking reproductive health care. The ACLU is joined by co-counsel Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP as well as the ACLUs of Northern California, Southern California, and San Diego in bringing forward the lawsuit.

The Trump Administration is forcing women to pay for their boss’s religious beliefs,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri. “We’re filing this lawsuit because the federal government cannot authorize discrimination against women in the name of religion or otherwise.”

Dave Regan, the President of SEIU-UHW, said, “With the stroke of a pen, the Trump administration has shamelessly attempted to rip away the rights of untold numbers of women to receive essential healthcare, under the warped facade of ‘religious freedom.’ Apparently, ‘religious freedom’ to this administration is the freedom to allow bosses to make medical decisions for and discriminate against female employees. Women in the workplace need compassionate care, not doors slammed in their faces by their employers.”

This press release is online at : https://www.aclusocal.org/en/press-releases/aclu-filing-lawsuit-challenging-trump-administration-contraceptive-coverage-rule

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Medicare Open Enrollment Season Is Here

When you shop for a new car, you don’t just buy the first one you see, do you?

Probably not. You usually shop around, looking for the best deal you can get on a vehicle that fits your driving needs as well as your pocketbook.

Well, it’s the time of year when you should think about shopping around for a Medicare health or drug plan.

Medicare’s open enrollment period begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7, 2017.

If you have Original Medicare, meaning that you can choose any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare, you don’t need to think about open enrollment.

But if you have a Medicare Advantage (Part C) health plan, or a Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plan, you may want to see whether there’s another plan on the market that would be a better match for you, at a lower price.

If you’re enrolled in a plan and you’re happy with it, you don’t need to do anything.

But Medicare health and drug plans – run by private insurers approved by Medicare – can change from year to year. A plan can raise its monthly premium or drop a medicine that you need.

So it makes good sense to review your coverage each year. Make sure your plan still is a good fit for you in terms of cost, coverage, and quality.

If it isn’t, look for another plan.

During open enrollment, you can sign up for a Medicare Advantage health plan or Part D prescription drug plan, or switch from one plan to another. Your new coverage will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

How do you shop for a new plan?

One way is the “Medicare & You” handbook, mailed each fall to every Medicare household in the country. This booklet lists all the Medicare health and drug plans available where you live, along with basic information such as premiums, deductibles, and contacts.

There’s also the Medicare Plan Finder, at www.Medicare.gov.

Look for a green button that says, “Find health & drug plans.” Click on that, plug in your zip code, and you’ll see all of the Medicare Advantage and Part D plans available in your area. You can compare them based on benefits, premiums, co-pays, and estimated out-of-pocket costs. Contact information for the plans is listed.

If you don’t have access to a computer, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Our customer service representatives can help you with questions about Medicare health and drug plans. The call is free.

Another terrific resource is the State Health Insurance and Counseling Program.

SHIP is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides free, personalized counseling to people with Medicare. You can make an appointment to speak with a SHIP counselor in-person or over the phone.

SHIP counselors are well-trained volunteers who often are enrolled in Medicare themselves, so they know the issues. They can help you sort through different health and drug plans and help find one that’s right for you.

To contact your local SHIP office, go to www.shiptacenter.org.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan as of Jan. 1, 2018 but you’re not satisfied with it, you have a 45-day window to dis-enroll. Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14, 2018, you can drop your plan and return to Original Medicare. You can also sign up for a Part D drug plan during that time.

 

Having trouble paying for your Part D plan? You may be eligible for the Extra Help program, which helps cover your premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. Medicare beneficiaries typically save about $4,000 annually with Extra Help.

For more information on Extra Help, go to www.SSA.gov/prescriptionhelp.

Greg Dill is Medicare’s regional administrator for Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

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HIV Criminalization Laws Disproportionately Affect Marginalized Communities

LOS ANGELES – New research from the Williams Institute found that HIV criminalization laws in California were enforced inequitably and lacked consideration for modern medical advances related to HIV.

Women and people of color bear the heaviest burden of HIV criminal laws in California. Also, the state’s HIV-specific criminal laws do not take into account modern medicine, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the use of antiretroviral therapy treatment as prevention (TasP), which may inadvertently work against best public health practices.

The Williams Institute reports are the first to analyze California Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) data on the criminal history of all individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system under the state’s four HIV-specific criminal laws.

The vast majority of HIV-specific criminal incidents involve sex work. Until recently, if a person with a known HIV-positive status was arrested for solicitation, an act of agreeing to engage in sex acts in exchange for something of value, he or she could be charged with a felony under California’s HIV criminal laws. With the passage of a SB 239, the felony charge has been repealed.

Our studies show that certain marginalized communities are bearing more weight of the penal code than others. What’s more, these HIV criminal laws, which were originally intended to control the spread of HIV by prosecuting individuals who expose others, don’t require proof of transmission, or even exposure in most cases. So they’re not doing what they set out to do,” said Amira Hasenbush, lead author and Jim Kepner Law and Policy Fellow at the Williams Institute. “With SB 239, California’s criminal law treats HIV like any other communicable disease.”

Key findings from each study include:

HIV Criminalization in California: Penal Implications for People Living with HIV/AIDS

The vast majority of HIV-specific criminal incidents (95 percent) involved sex work.

Women made up 43 percent of those who came into contact with the criminal justice system based on their HIV-positive status, but were only 13 percent of the people living with HIV during the time period reviewed.

Black people and Latino/as made up two-thirds (67 percent) of those who came into contact with the system related to these offenses, but made up only half (51 percent) of the people living with HIV.

Across all HIV-related crimes, white men were significantly more likely to be released and not charged (60 percent) than expected. Black men (36 percent), Black women (43 percent) and white women (39 percent) were significantly less likely to be released and not charged.

HIV Criminalization against Immigrants in California

From 1988 to June 2014, 800 people have come into contact with the California criminal system related to their HIV-positive status. Among those individuals, 121 (15 percent) were foreign born.

Thirty-six people, or 30 percent, of these foreign-born individuals, had some form of a criminal immigration proceeding in their histories. Of those individuals, nine (25 percent) had those proceedings initiated immediately after an HIV-specific incident.

While U.S. born people who came in contact with the California criminal system were divided fairly evenly between men and women, immigrants were overwhelmingly men: 88% of foreign born individuals in the group were men. Criminal records do not record gender identity separately from sex assigned at birth, so the number of transgender individuals is unknown.

HIV Criminalization in California: Evaluation of Transmission Risk

From 1988 to June 2014, 379 criminal incidents resulted in HIV-specific felony convictions or sentence enhancements.

Of those incidents, 100 percent required no proof of actual transmission of HIV and 98 percent did not require intent to transmit HIV.

93 percent involved no specific allegation of conduct that is likely to have transmitted the virus.

Current HIV criminal laws in California do not address the medical advances that antiretroviral medications and pre-exposure prophylaxis have made in reducing the risk of HIV transmission and extending the quantity and quality of life for people living with HIV.

HIV Criminalization and Sex Work in California

Between 2005 and 2013, women made up half of the population of California, but accounted for two-thirds of prostitution arrests.

Over that time period, women made up 12 percent of the people in California living with HIV, but accounted for 37 percent of those arrested for felony solicitation while HIV-positive.

Between 2005 and 2013, Black women made up 4 percent of all HIV-positive women in California, but accounted for an average 22 percent of the arrests for felony solicitation while HIV-positive. Of all the HIV-positive people living in California, Black women were the most overrepresented group for felony solicitation while HIV-positive.

These reports were made possible by funding from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the David Bohnett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the California HIV/AIDS Research Program, California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, and the support of the California Women’s Law Center.

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