Celebrating State Victories
State advocates are making huge victories in the Voices for Health Justice Project
Voices for Health Justice is a coalition-led project with Community Change and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The project shares resources with 25 organizations committed to health justice, racial justice, and anti-racism in order to address access and affordability in health care in the United States.
These 25 state and community-based organizations are engaged in grassroots efforts to collectively reform our health system — on a local, state, and national level — into one that treats every person with dignity.
So far, Voices organizations have achieved historic protections for reproductive rights in Colorado, advocated for Medicaid expansion in Florida alongside members of Congress, and pushed to protect health care access for people in Maine — regardless of their immigration status.
Victories in 2022Victories in 2022
Victories in 2021Victories in 2021
Victories in 2022
Voices organizations are making a huge impact in communities across the United States. Here are just a few highlights from 2022 alone.
Voices partners, led by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, achieved historic protections for reproductive rights and access to health care in Colorado.
The Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA) was signed into law in April 2022, making Colorado the 16th state in the country that protects reproductive rights as fundamental rights under the law and only the fourth to do so without a gestational limit. RHEA became a possibility thanks to the power-building efforts of Colorado advocates and community-based leadership.
The Center for Health Progress and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights partnered with five other organizations to expand health coverage for thousand of people in Colorado through the passage of HB22-1289 in June 2022.
Also known as Cover All Coloradans, HB22-1289 provides full health care coverage for pregnant people and children who would otherwise be eligible for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) if not for their immigration status. For birthing parents, this coverage continues 12 months postpartum.
Florida Voices partners led various efforts to increase access to care for Floridians with low incomes.
Florida Voices for Health launched the For Florida’s Health coalition, hosted three press conferences with members of Congress, convened virtual health care briefings, and enlisted 41 For Florida’s Health coalition members to advocate for Medicaid expansion.
Central Florida Jobs with Justice leveraged social media, including a new Facebook group called Floridians Deserve Healthcare, to mobilize community members to tell their own health care stories.
The Florida Policy Institute changed the narrative through its publication of Bending the Arc Towards a More Just Medicaid Program.
The Florida Health Justice Project shared vital information about the unwinding of the continuous coverage requirement through a webpage hub with fact sheets, training videos, and FAQs targeting frontline social service staff and Medicaid beneficiaries.
Catalyst Miami graduated 51 community leaders from two cohorts of its Leaders in Grassroots Health Transformation program.
The Shriver Center, EverThrive, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and the Workers Center for Racial Justice are one step closer to health equity.
The group is ensuring that more people — regardless of their income, race, gender, or where they are from — have access to affordable, comprehensive, culturally appropriate health care. In April 2022, the Illinois legislature expanded health care coverage for adults ages 42-45 regardless of their immigration status. This expansion directly impacts at least 26,000 Illinois residents with low incomes.
CASA partnered with other Maryland Voices advocates in grassroots advocacy across the state to ensure passage of the Healthy Babies Equity Act.
The Healthy Babies Equity Act expands Medicaid to cover prenatal and postpartum care for pregnant people, regardless of their immigration status. At the forefront were immigrant mothers and the launch of the #MommyBabyChallenge campaign that shared 150+ photos of mothers and their babies, virtual lobbying meetings, and — in the last few weeks of the Maryland legislative session — daily mini rallies outside the statehouse.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) led consequential messaging research to challenge the narratives that do not consider or include the experiences of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) communities in Michigan.
With rapid response funding from Voices for Health Justice, ACCESS conducted one-on-one interviews and focus groups with 50 MENA individuals in Michigan to learn about their perceptions regarding reproductive health and abortion access and better understand their information, language, and cultural needs. Because of their prompt action, ACCESS became better positioned to connect MENA communities with resources to help people make informed decisions, and speak out for reproductive and abortion access in Michigan.
In addition, results from the in-depth study will be instrumental in de-stigmatizing reproductive care, implementing future reproductive health programs that are culturally relevant and responsive, and key to developing community-driven educational materials that serve needs identified by the community itself.
Victories in 2021
In 2021, Voices organizations made big gains for health justice. Here are a few of their key accomplishments.
The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Black Women for Wellness, California Black Women’s Health Project, and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice worked together to establish a racial equity innovation fund in the state.
When these advocates learned that California had a $76 billion budgetary surplus, they rallied together to secure a 70 percent commitment from the Gov. Newsom administration to dedicate 10 million dollars annually for initiatives aimed towards advancing health equity and reducing health care disparities in communities of color.
California Voices partners formed a coalition to mobilize grassroots organizations led by communities of color to reduce health disparities and advance health equity. In the first year, the coalition welcomed 30+ organizational members.
Parent Voices Oakland prevented the closure of seven Oakland Head Start locations in August 2021. Parent Voices Oakland convened with a broad group of local organizations and advocates to uplift the voices of community members to highlight how closures would harm communities and affect their livelihood. As a result, Oakland voted to keep three existing locations open and added one additional site, saving 52 childcare slots and 30 Head Start teaching jobs.
Parent Voices Oakland also joined the Perinatal Equity Initiative steering committee and helped to launch a multi-county community education campaign to address racism in birthing systems. This connection deepened their partnerships with other community-based organizations working on birthing equity issues, and streamlined community outreach to address Black infant birthing disparities.
During the first year of the Voices project, health insurance became more affordable for some Coloradans purchasing coverage on the individual market. Colorado Voices partners led the implementation of the Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise, which allocates $62 million dollars annually to provide $0 premium health insurance plans to over 10,000 Coloradans without proper documentation.
The Colorado state legislature took big steps towards health equity in 2021, with several key bills enacted due to tireless efforts by Colorado Voices partner organizations.
The Center for Health Progress, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, the Colorado Fiscal Institute, and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition pushed for coverage expansion for immigrants, regardless of immigration status. The advocates engaged in public education, organizing, and coalition building.
The legislature responded by passing a so-called public option bill, which requires the State Commissioner of Insurance to establish a standardized health benefit plan for individuals, regardless of immigration status, offered in the individual and group marketplace by health insurance carriers.
The Colorado legislature also passed a bill that allows individuals to access contraception through Medicaid, regardless of immigration status.
In another big moment, Colorado legislature passed a bill that attempts to undo damage from a 2006 legislation that required state and local government agencies to verify the lawful presence of applicants for public benefits.
The New Georgia Project launched Voices for a Healthy Georgia — a fellowship program with Georgia Voices partners, Georgians for a Healthy Future and Georgia Equality.
The purpose of Voices for a Healthy Georgia is to build community power and empower people from West Central and Southwestern Georgia to elevate their community needs, identify challenges in accessing the health care system, and collaborate across the region to identify long-term solutions and advance health equity. The fellowship received more than 100 applications—18 people from disparate experiences and backgrounds were selected for the fellowship’s first leadership cohort.
Idaho Voices for Children, Centro de Comunidad y Justicia, and Medicaid Matters launched the Idaho Kids Covered coalition in June 2021.
Idaho Kids Covered is a statewide network of health care advocates and stakeholders working to support affordable access to health coverage and care for all children in Idaho. Since its creation, Idaho Kids Covered has focused on relationship building and establishing the coalition as a central voice on health coverage and policy for Idaho children.
Hoosier Action prevented budget cuts to the Medicaid program during Idaho’s 2021 legislative session.
Indiana advocates accomplished this significant feat by actively reaching out to everyday Hoosiers and Medicaid providers to build a health justice base and coalition. This coalition was essential in showcasing the value of the Medicaid program and its impact on the quality of life for Hoosiers, especially during COVID-19.
Additionally, Hoosier Action led public education sessions that included trainings on Medicaid, information on programs funded by Medicaid, and a legislative session program focused on connecting community members with legislators.
Illinois Voices partners, including the Shriver Center, EverThrive, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and the Workers Center for Racial Justice, engaged in community organizing, outreach, and education to address racism in health care, bringing diverse Latina/o/x and Black community voices together to advance a race equity agenda.
In response, the Illinois legislature passed a bill with a variety of provisions that address health and racism, including Medicaid coverage for doulas and home visiting for new parents, grants to community-based hospitals and organizations to engage in projects to reduce structural racism in health, and measures providing implicit bias training for all health professionals.
Illinois also expanded health coverage to undocumented immigrants over age 65, becoming the first state in the nation to do so. Advocates later celebrated the enrollment of four times the number of expected eligible immigrant seniors in the first year of the 65 and older expansion.
In addition, Illinois Voices partners’ commitment to expanding comprehensive health coverage resulted in the expansion of 12-month postpartum coverage to all women, regardless of immigration status.
Voices partners in Louisiana — The Louisiana Budget Project, Louisiana Community Health Outreach Network, and Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center — saw the passage of HB 190, which requires pregnancy care benefits to include coverage for health care services provided by a midwife and/or doula.
The Voices partners in Maine have been actively working to ensure that health care is accessible to every low-income Mainer, regardless of immigration status. In July 2021, the Maine Legislature passed LD 718 and restored health care benefits for pregnant people and people under 21, regardless of immigration status.
The coalition formed by Maine partners is also the first health care-focused coalition for immigrant rights policy change in Maine. Congratulations to Maine advocates: Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Equal Justice, Consumers for Affordable Health Care, New Mainers Public Health Initiative, Presente Maine, and the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
Voices partners in Maryland rallied the public to target funding to reduce health disparities, improve access to primary care, prevent illness, and reduce hospital reliance.
The general assembly responded by passing the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act. This law provides $59 million over five years to fund organizations in communities that suffer from health disparities and poor health outcomes.
CASA advocates also built a coalition with non-profit organizations, Federally Qualified Centers, and community leaders to create a robust primary care program to provide wrap-around services — including medical care, mental health, and dental care — to nearly 45,000 uninsured residents in Prince George County. Congratulations to Maryland advocates: CASA, the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, and the Ministers’ Conference Empowerment Center Community Development Corporation.
A partnership composed of Health Care for All, Men of Color Health Awareness, Massachusetts Senior Action Council, and Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition conducted a four-part series of Health Justice Academy sessions, attended by more than 200 people in spring 2021.
The Health Justice Academy uses a three-part process to cultivate, inform, and organize new leaders to get involved in health justice advocacy. First, participants learn about different health injustices by hearing the perspectives of community members. Participants then learn about Massachusetts’s broader policy and program landscape as it relates to the issue area. Finally, participants learn about ways to take action to advance these efforts.
Voices advocates in Missouri — Missouri Health Care for All, Missouri Faith Voices, and the Missouri Budget Project — successfully defended Medicaid expansion in the state. By expanding Medicaid in Missouri, 275,000 Missourians are anticipated to receive essential health care coverage.
Voices partners in New Jersey organized public support for “Cover All Kids,” a bipartisan bill that seeks to address barriers that prevent more than 80,000 children from having health care coverage in New Jersey. Signed into law by Governor Murphy, the bill improves upon New Jersey Family Care — the state’s Medicaid program — by eliminating premiums and waiting periods, and increasing outreach initiatives. In addition, this bill establishes new coverage options through a buy-in program.
The New Mexico Worker Organizing Collaborative (WOC) had an amazing legislative session, achieving paid sick leave for all workers in the state.
This outcome is the culmination of five years of persistent organizing work. Through ongoing public education, grassroots organizing, sharing stories, and coalition outreach, OLE, Somos, the Center on Law and Poverty, Strong Families, El Centro, NM Café, and the Center for Civic Policy saw Governor Grisham sign the Healthy Workplaces Act into law. As a result, workers in New Mexico accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 64 hours annually, beginning in July 2022. WOC is now focused on helping workers to understand what to expect when the new law takes effect.
Through the efforts of New Mexico partners, the state also established the Healthcare Affordability Fund, which is projected to generate more than $165 million annually for programs that reduce health care costs and expand coverage primarily for low-wage workers and uninsured people.
The Ohio Alliance — consisting of Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Policy Matters Ohio, Contact Center, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, and the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio — expanded eligibility for childcare subsidies to 6,000+ families, a year of guaranteed postpartum care, and guaranteed Medicaid treatment for breast cancer and cervical cancer.
Voices advocates in Oregon attained meaningful investments for mental health services in the 2021 legislative session.
The Oregon legislature passed HB 2949, which directs $80 million towards recruiting a diverse and culturally competent mental health workforce to meet the needs of communities across the state. HB 2949 also removes the barrier of requiring a high number of supervised hours, which will allow more individuals from diverse backgrounds to become licensed behavioral health providers.
Due to their grassroots leadership, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Family Forward Oregon, and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste are at the forefront of this issue and were invited to join a statewide working group focused on the implementation of HB 2949.
Voices partners in Rhode Island rallied the public to improve nursing home care in the state. Thanks to extensive public education, grassroots organizing, story sharing, and coalition outreach, the Rhode Island Organizing Project, the Senior Agenda Coalition, and the Economic Progress Institute — in collaboration with other allies — helped Rhode Island to establish one of the highest staffing standards in nursing homes in the nation.
In late May, Governor McKee signed the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act into law. This measure requires an average of at least 3.58 hours of direct nursing care per nursing home resident per day starting in 2022. In 2023, that number increases to just over 3.8 hours. The new law also provides a pathway out of poverty for caregivers by ensuring that 80 percent of Medicaid rate increases go directly to wage increases.
The Afiya Center, Every Texan, and the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund organized conversations across the state to highlight the impact of the Medicaid coverage gap.
During the campaign, Texas partners collected 821 individual public comments addressing the 1115 Waiver reapplication process, engaging Texans across the state and lifting up their voices in support of Medicaid expansion. Through these efforts and intersectional conversations about how health care barriers affect Black women and maternal health outcomes, Texas partners successfully advocated for Medicaid expansion from two months to six months for pregnant women* with low incomes.
* The current legislation, as written, does not include transgender and non-binary pregnant and birthing people.
With rapid response funding from the Voices for Health Equity project, Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas worked to defeat six different attempts during the legislative session to limit health care access for transgender and non-binary people in Texas.
These partners ended the 2021 Texas legislative session without any of these transphobic attempts passing — thanks to their organizing tactics, in which they elevated stories of people and families who would be harmed by such bills, connected with doctors and other health care providers to add their voices to the chorus of opposition, and led and joined bus tours and rallies. While Governor Abbott may call a special session, where many of these bills could be reintroduced, Texas advocates have not stopped organizing since the session ended to ensure that they can defeat these efforts, resoundingly, yet again!
Voices partners Virginia Organizing, CASA, Virginia Poverty Law Center, and the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis made vast improvements to advancing health care access and affordability in the state.
In March, the state eliminated the 40-quarter rule — a 10-year work history requirement for lawful permanent residents before qualifying for Medicaid benefits. In addition, effective July 2021, Medicaid prenatal coverage expanded to all pregnant women, regardless of immigration status.
In Washington, DC, the Maternal Health Resources and Access Act of 2021 was introduced to address maternal and infant mortality disparities.
Voices partners in DC — Children’s Law Center, Early Childhood Innovation Network, and SPACES in Action — testified at the public hearings and met with DC Councilmember Christina Henderson’s staff.
As a result, DC developed a pilot program for Medicaid reimbursements of doula services and has plans to conduct a feasibility study to establish a birthing center east of the Anacostia River and provide transportation subsidies for rides to maternal health appointments for services, including rideshare services like Lyft and Uber. Due to DC Voices efforts, the District’s 2022 budget includes a mandate for doula coverage, with implementation set for October 2022.
With rapid response funding from the Voices for Health Justice project, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and coalition partners successfully raised public opposition to the effort to phase out the state’s personal income tax in April 2021.
Because personal income tax is responsible for funding a large percentage of the West Virginia’s Medicaid program, they launched a public education campaign about the tax’s importance to health care access, affordability, and equity. The House defeated the bill with a unanimous ‘nay’ vote. Though advocates in West Virginia will continue to keep watch — as the effort might re-emerge in a special session — this is a victory worth celebrating.
The Voices for Health Justice project is conducted in partnership with two incredible organizations: the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Community Change.