Save the ACA Rally at Seattle’s Westlake Park

On Sunday, January 15, Washington CAN! members were out in force at Westlake Park rallying to not just save health care, but to expand it so everyone in Washington is covered. Our leader Roi-Martin Brown addressed the crowd along with the Main Street Alliance of Washington leader Makini Howell who told their own personal stories of how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made a difference in their lives.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal led the rally with strong support from the crowd. She will be a fierce ally in Washington D.C. as the fight begins to #SaveTheACA.

We are facing the repeal of the ACA and potentially huge reductions in the support for Medicaid for low-income Washingtonians. We also face an attempt to privatize Medicare. Almost all of the progress made in the last decade in health care is in jeopardy. Washington CAN! is helping to lead the fight against these challenges. A bill is being drafted to protect Washington State against the possible destruction of huge portions of our health care system.

Retirement Security Training

Retirement Security Training

By Lucas Asher, Washington CAN! intern

It’s an exciting time to be interning for Washington CAN! In early August, I was fortunate enough to participate in a Grassroots Ambassador training on retirement security. About 25 members from our organization, along with the Montana Organizing Project, collaborated on workshops and presentations around Social Security and Medicare expansion. It was amazing to have so many people in one room from different states working together on the same campaign.

During the training, we learned about the history of the movement around retirement security and what specific policies we want to focus on during our campaign. Members shared their personal stories of how vital Social Security and Medicare are to their lives and why they were taking action to expand the programs. We also learned how to deliver effective messages to our allies and to folks whom we need to persuade to join the campaign. The three day training ended on Saturday at a huge rally in downtown Seattle to celebrate the 80th and 50th anniversaries of Social Security and Medicare, respectively. We heard from community and political leaders on the importance of these systems and why it is crucial that we protect and strengthen them.

Overall, I learned a lot from the training and was inspired to continue to fight for these crucial programs.

Black Lives Matter at August 8th Rally

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My name is Xochitl and I am the organizer from Washington CAN! who represents our group within the Social Security Works Washington coalition. I helped plan the birthday rally for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and was a co-emcee of the event. There were many organizations who were involved but I can only speak for ours.

It took me a while to respond publicly because it has been a difficult few days. We organized for months to bring this rally together, and I was proud to be on that stage introducing the many amazing speakers. I even had an opportunity at the beginning to link the campaign to expand Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare with our broader commitment as an organization to racial justice, combating mass incarceration, and lifting up policies that would specifically benefit people of color. It was hard for me to suddenly be the target of a disruption, even if I believe with all my heart in the ideals that those who took over the stage are fighting for.

When I realized what message the Black Lives Matter activists wanted to convey, I told people on the stage to let them speak. Some people in the 5,000 person crowd were shouting, pushing, and fighting. There were many elderly and disabled people in the crowd, including several of our members. Our main priority at that moment was the safety of all involved especially since some people in the crowd were spewing vitriol, much of it racist and sexist, towards the Black Lives Matter activists who disrupted the rally and the organizers who let them speak. In that moment, my co-workers focused on de-escalating the tension in the crowd. When the police were about to go on the stage, a co-worker ran to tell them to back down.

People in our community, including elected officials, need to push for policies that reflect the fact that Black Lives Matter. We need to challenge institutionalized racism, and fortunately, Black Lives Matter is creating a much needed space for a critical dialogue around institutionalized racism within our judicial system. The racist and sexist comments from the crowd were very ugly and revealing. Racism and sexism are pervasive, even in progressive Seattle.

Washington CAN! supports the Black Lives Matter movement and talking about the importance of earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare for so many people in our country, especially to people of color and women. We need to fight to protect and expand these programs. Luckily, these issues are not dichotomies – they are intertwined, just as other issues that Washington CAN! works on intersect with the Black Lives Matter movement. We need to keep up the fight on all of these fronts.

As a young woman of color, I have experienced the impact of racism and sexism, and on a personal level, understand the urgency many feel around working on these issues. I feel that same sense urgency as well.

Social Security, Medicare Rally and Embracing a Teaching Moment

After months of planning, August 8 arrived with the promise of a celebration to mark two great anniversaries in our nation.

Medicare has been providing coverage for the elderly and disabled for 50 years. Social Security, which turns 80 on August 14, secures the promise of retirement for Americans who are not able to put away money in their working years.

We heard from a bevy of engaging speakers who rallied in defense of these programs which face acute crisis. Talk of fiscal cliffs, trust fund shortfalls and the constant threat of cutting benefits are stressful scenarios for beneficiaries. These programs are vital to the survival and quality of life of our nation’s low-income population. Rally speakers called to protect and expand these measures which have protected millions from living in poverty for decades.

Although the rally did not end as planned, its message was delivered and received well.

We thank all of the speakers and performers.

 

 

We heard another, unexpected message at the rally, that of the Black Lives Matter movement. Washington CAN! has been and will continue to support the rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation. Although the interruption by two Black Lives Matter protesters was unexpected, we embrace the teaching moment it has created.

Thanks to Garet Munger, Clay Showalter and Randall Smith for taking pictures

Washington Uninsured Rates Among Lowest in the Nation with New Medicaid Options

health insuranceBefore new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rolled out in October of 2013, Washington CAN! mobilized to make sure the state accepted federal funds to cover low-income adults through Medicaid. Now, after two years of enrollment through the ACA, nearly 552,000 people are now covered by Medicaid, also known as Apple Health, and despite initial hiccups and stumbles with the online system our state had the fourth highest drop in the number of uninsured. Most people agree Washington’s efforts to close the coverage gap were incredibly successful.

Despite this evidence, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R), was determined to paint a different picture. She asked her Facebook followers to share negative stories to bash the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, instead, her post received an overwhelming response from nearly 10,000 fierce defenders of the ACA. Many of their comments indicated that either they or family and friends benefit from the new health care options under the ACA, including Apple Health. It was heartening to see so many Washingtonians stand up for health care coverage and for their friends and neighbors.

At Washington CAN!, we know the thousands of positive comments on Representative McMorris Rodgers’ Facebook post represent the true benefit of covering more people. In our own outreach we heard similar things from people across our state. We heard from Sam, a University of Washington graduate student who told us that Apple Health has given her peace of mind as she finishes her degree and starts her job hunt. She was afraid of getting sick and having to choose between treating her illness and paying tuition. Now, she’s considering starting a family thanks to her Apple Health coverage.

We heard from Kristi Brown Wokoma, chef and owner of That Brown Girl Cooks, a small business. She and her husband were still paying the debt for a hospital stay to remove fibroids when another serious condition surfaced. They were covered by Medicaid because Washington accepted federal funds to cover more people through the program. Now they can take care of her medical challenges without losing ground financially. Wokoma is grateful her family is now covered.

As we see and hear about the importance of insurance coverage for people in our state, we know there is more work to do to make sure everyone has access to care. We organize with the idea that our members are a powerful representation of every consumer and encourage them to advocate for the best coverage possible.

At Washington CAN!, we believe the next step for Washington is universal single-payer health care. The Health Care is a Human Right movement, a two-year, grassroots campaign to give all Washington State residents access to quality affordable health care is underway. Two bills were introduced in the 2015 legislature and, because they heard from Washington CAN! members in their districts, 45 legislators were co-sponsors, an impressive number for a first-time bill. The campaign, built with a robust coalition, is off to a great start. So yes, Washington State has indeed benefitted from increased access to Medicaid and will continue to do so, but it’s only the beginning.