Mama-Activists of Georgia Fight for Medicaid Expansion

Mama's Day 2014 Post CardBy Alissa Robbins

As Georgia Governor Nathan Deal currently considers signing into law a measure that would place further barriers between hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgians and quality, competent healthcare, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is partnering with the Atlanta Chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) this Mama’s Day to highlight the work of Mama-Activists in Georgia fighting to expand Medicaid eligibility and forever alter the healthcare destinies of the estimated 838,000 low-income uninsured women, 28.7% of whom are African-American, living in our state.

NDWA community organizing intern Zola Dadawele currently takes care of her 90-year old grandmother who is ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare under Georgia’s current eligibility requirements. Without health insurance, it is too costly to pay for the live-in nurse and the full-price prescriptions that her grandmother needs. So, the family must rely on the generosity of community support when Dadawele goes to work. Dadawele was prompted to join the fight for Medicaid expansion because she knew that she wasn’t alone in trying to provide for her loved ones.

“We don’t want to put her in a home, and we shouldn’t have to put her in a home,” she said.

According to Dadawele, there are NDWA members who qualify for Georgia’s strict Medicaid eligibility and are still unable to receive healthcare.

Leading up to the March 31st deadline, NDWA and SPARK hosted a clinic to sign people up for healthcare on the Federal Health Insurance Market Place on HealthCare.gov. The website told one NDWA member that she qualified for Medicaid and that local offices would be in touch with her. “That was two months ago,” Dadawele said and the member is now going without health coverage, paying out of pocket for expenses. Now that the deadline to receive coverage through healthcare.gov has expired, Dadawele said the member is uncertain of her options for care.

Mama-Activist Stephanie Barnett was able to successfully enroll in temporary Medicaid during her pregnancy, but still experienced barriers to her reproductive health care that could be resolved with Medicaid expansion.

Barnett wanted to begin using birth control after her pregnancy. She rushed to book an appointment with her doctor because her Medicaid coverage expired two months after birthing her child. At the visit, the doctor was unable to administer the requested IUD and would not be able to until after Barnett’s Medicaid expired. At $700, it was an expense she could not afford. “Money shouldn’t be a barrier to basic care,” says Barnett. She now fights to ensure that all families, regardless of income, have access to the contraceptives and reproductive health choices that they decide is best for them.

“That’s worth fighting for,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt [Georgia] to expand Medicaid.”

Evelyn Kummerow, an intern at NDWA working to recruit domestic workers to join the fight for Medicaid expansion, also joined the fight for healthcare after it impacted her personally. She did not know how she was going to cover her father’s medical bill of $50,000. He was visiting her from his home in Venezuela when he fell ill and had to be hospitalized for 15 days. Luckily, the tab was covered by the Venezuelan government and the family never received a bill. She compared that to her experience at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, GA where she was given a $700 bill for entering the emergency room even though she never received treatment.

“We have to change the model of care in this country,” she said. She wants to ensure that not only tourists, but everyone in the United States can always afford the care that they need.

Kummerow, Barnett, and Dadawele’s work with NDWA and SPARK have been invaluable. Together and along with partner organizations, they were able to collect 50,000 petition signatures to deliver to Governor Deal’s office, coordinate press conferences, sign people up for health insurance, and mobilize residents to lobby at the capitol.

All three women also said they are fighting to ensure that more mamas and their families receive the full promise of the Affordable Care Act. Below are some of the benefits that low-income women could receive this Mother’s Day if Governor Deal were to opt-in to expansion.

Pregnant parents who are insured now have more of the maternity care they need. Under the Affordable Care Act, about 8.7 million women will have guaranteed access to maternity care including breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.Insurance companies can no longer charge women a higher premium simply because of their gender. Insured women will have access to a large number of preventive services which will be completely covered by the insurance companies.

So, while we celebrate Mama’s today, let us also commit to supporting them year-round by providing healthcare. Join the fight for Medicaid expansion! Visit www.sparkrj.org and www.domesticworkers.org/atlanta to stay involved in their efforts.

Alissa Robbins is a 2014 intern at SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW

This piece was originally posted on the Strong Families Blog as a part of the Mamas Day 2014 blog series.

Mother’s Day: The Resilience of Black Breast-Feeding

Originally posted at The Root. Written by SPARK Organizer Bianca Campbell.

Breastfeeding

Generic Image: Thinkstock

It was out of love, compassion and the promise of better opportunities that my mother fed me baby formula.

Being new to America and struggling to breast-feed so soon after her cesarean section, my mother made desperate phone calls to my grandmother back home in Jamaica for support. The international calling cards (remember, this was in the 1980s) would expire just when I went into a screaming fit. After two stressful weeks, though she initially wanted to stick to Jamaican traditions—including nursing—she switched to formula. American advertisements had promised her that she could avoid the pain and trials of nursing and buy her daughter the best nourishment the world could offer.

It’s a common story.

Read more Mother’s Day: The Resilience of Black Breast-Feeding

‘Mamas Day’ Celebrates Motherhood Outside the Boxes

Originally posted at Ebony. Written by Asha French with comments from SPARK Youth Leader Quita Tinsley.

Quita Tinsley

SPARK Youth Leader Quita Tinsley

[Building community through partnership is central to the mission of Strong Families, and SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is one of many partnering organizations. Quita Tinsley attended the RAD Youth Summit hosted by Strong Families in 2012, and her subsequent work for Medicaid expansion in Georgia and Affordable Care Youth Enrollment Day led to her involvement with Strong Families.

The Mamas Day campaign is important to Tinsley because of her investment in the rights of LGBTQ parents. “Second parent adoption and marriage policies that discriminate against same sex couples definitely need to change,” Tinsley said. “LGBTQ families should be able to legally choose our families in the same way that our heterosexual counterparts are allowed.” Tinsley’s activist work also focuses on legalizing other family planning choices. “I would like to see a change in anti-abortion laws that seek to close reproductive health clinics. As someone from rural Georgia, I know the importance of these clinics for folks to make educated decisions about their reproductive health.”

Like other members of Stong Families, Tinsley believes that Mamas Day is an important step toward making changes in public policies that affect underserved mamas. “Honoring Mamas puts their stories and their needs in the forefront. And this to me lets people know what they can do to create the change that is needed.”]

Read full article ‘Mamas Day’ Celebrates Motherhood Outside the Boxes

Give Affordable Healthcare This Mother’s Day

Leandra Lacy

Leandra Lacy, SPARK Spring ’14 Intern

By Leandra Lacy

This Mama’s Day, we recognize and celebrate the tenacity of Black mothers living in Georgia and the South. Many of these women are struggling to support their families while living under the pressure of structural violence and deserve access to resources that help maintain their health, safety, and wellbeing and that of their families. Unfortunately, due to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility and therefore healthcare access in Georgia, many of these women are forced to go without quality, competent healthcare.

Every day, I strive to honor my mother’s strength as I fight for healthcare access for the hundreds of thousands of low-income uninsured Georgians, many of whom are women and children. As an intern at SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, I have compiled research on the impact that Medicaid expansion would have on low-income Black women and low-income Black LGBTQQ communities in Georgia. The benefits to expansion are incredible. 650,000 Georgians would be eligible for healthcare, thousands of lives would be saved costing the state zero dollars for the first three years.

My mother became the sole provider of my household when my father passed away. Fortunately, she receives medical and dental care benefits that extend and provide coverage for my sister and me due to provisions of the Affordable Care Act that allow us to remain on our mother’s policy until age 26. Though we are extremely blessed to have healthcare under my mother’s plan, I wonder about those young people whose parents are not employed or underemployed. How can they get covered? What of the children of the 70% of Black workers employed in blue-collar jobs that typically provide low wages and are less likely to even offer health insurance coverage?

However, there are plenty of mothers and families in Georgia who must face the unfortunate reality of living without healthcare coverage. Black women in Georgia earn an average of 62.1 cents for every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white male. Low-income women are more likely to forgo doctor’s visits, getting recommended tests, and following up care due to costs. While this should be alarming to all Georgians, our Governor is currently set to sign into law yet another piece of legislation that would increase the barriers between Black women and their families and quality, competent healthcare.

Black women have the right to healthcare for themselves and their families. I firmly believe that the key to leading a fulfilling life is being the healthiest person you can be, and this is why I am fighting for Medicaid expansion in Georgia. So that all low-income Black mothers can have access to health services outlined in the Affordable Care Act. By making coverage more affordable, the expansion will give these mothers and their children a chance to take advantage of resources that will keep them healthy. This Mother’s Day, let’s all pledge to give our mama’s a gift they can use year-round and one that saves their lives! You can join the fight for Medicaid expansion today by visiting sparkrj.org.

Leandra Lacy is a Black feminist from Columbia, South Carolina who enjoys soul food and sunny days. As an intern with SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, she is able to use her passion for health promotion and advocacy on behalf of Black women. She is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, after earning her Bachelor of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2013. She is interested in comprehensive sexual health education for Black female adolescents and teens and, in the future, she hopes to work in underprivileged communities in the South as a health educator.

This piece was originally posted on the Strong Families Blog as a part of the Mamas Day 2014 blog series.

ANITA: Speaking Truth to Power

ANITASPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is honored to be co-sponsoring a screening of ANITA, a powerful new documentary exploring the life and legacy of Anita Hill, will open in Atlanta on Friday, April 4, at the Regal Tara Cinemas 4. Join Spark Reproductive Justice Now for a special screening and Q.A. with Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall.

ABOUT THE FILM

An entire country watched transfixed as a poised, beautiful African-American woman in a blue dress sat before a Senate committee of 14 white men and with a clear, unwavering voice recounted the repeated acts of sexual harassment she had endured while working with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. That October day in 1991 Anita Hill, a bookish law professor from Oklahoma, was thrust onto the world stage and instantly became a celebrated, hated, venerated, and divisive figure.

Anita Hill’s graphic testimony was a turning point for gender equality in the U.S. and ignited a political firestorm about sexual misconduct and power in the workplace that resonates still today. She has become an American icon, empowering millions of women and men around the world to stand up for equality and justice.

Against a backdrop of sex, politics, and race, ANITA reveals the intimate story of a woman who spoke truth to power. Directed by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, the film is both a celebration of Anita Hill’s legacy and a rare glimpse into her private life with friends and family, many of whom were by her side that fateful day 22 years ago. Anita Hill courageously speaks openly and intimately for the first time about her experiences that led her to testify before the Senate and the obstacles she faced in simply telling the truth. She also candidly discusses what happened to her life and work in the 22 years since.

Young Invincibles Care About ObamaCare

By Quita Tinsley

National Youth Enrollment Day

Visit getcoveredamerica.org for more info!
Photo Credit: Synergy By Design

February 15th is “National Youth Enrollment Dayfor the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” In fact, this is the last day one can enroll in the marketplace in order to get a health policy that will go into effect by March 1st. As a youth leader of SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, a health justice advocacy organization in Atlanta, GA, I am excited to tell other youth about signing up for health care tomorrow. Yet, National Youth Enrollment Day means so much more to me.

In the popular debate about health care, TV analysts often describe young people as aloof to the massive issue of health care reform. They dismiss our lack of enrollment as not desiring health insurance because most of us are “healthy.” They argue that Millennials don’t care about Obamacare and call us the “young invincibles.”

Perhaps the passive viewer buys what these pundits say and never question why they aren’t talking to young people. Why they aren’t asking Millennials if they want affordable health care. This is wrong, and young people deserve to be heard. As a young, queer, Black woman living in the South, on the eve of National Youth Enrollment Day, I will share my story with you.

While enrolled in college in 2010, I was covered under my mother’s health insurance policy. A factory worker, my mother was one of the few blue-collar, low wage workers to have health insurance coverage. During a “temporary” lay-off her employer, without her knowledge or consent, canceled her health insurance policy leaving us both without coverage. Unfortunately, we did not discover this fact until a $400 medical bill arrived from one of my doctor’s visit. This might not seem like a large sum, but for my mother struggling to make ends meet with a daughter in college, this was huge. Shortly thereafter, she was permanently laid off by her employer, and we have both been without health insurance.

My story is not unique. African Americans are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than White Americans and account for 20 percent of the uninsured in the US. Nationally, 6.8 million African Americans eligible for coverage are uninsured with 55 percent (3.8 million) having family incomes 100 percent below the Federal Poverty Line. 3.2 million (47 percent) are young adults ages 18 to 35, and of this figure, 1.3 million (41 percent) are women.

The figures are staggering. And yet, while we fight to live long, healthy lives – overcome health disparities and their causes – insurance companies are fighting for their bottom-lines pressuring consumers into more expensive insurance plans and concealing the benefits of the ACA. Let’s be clear, when a multi-million dollar company says they can’t afford to provide health care to their employees, what they are actually saying is that saving a buck and turning a profit means more to them than the safety and health of their workers.

Unfortunately, this behavior is all too common and is mirrored by our elected officials. Instead of rallying for our best interests, many have tried their best to halt the promise of the ACA, even going so far as to shut down the Federal government to prevent its implementation and rejecting key measures of the policy that could save the lives of millions. As of February 7, 2014, 25 states (Georgia included) have opted to not expand Medicaid eligibility, denying health care coverage to the estimated 1.7 million young African Americans ages 18 to 34 that would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if all states participate in the ACA’s Medicaid expansion program. In a state home to 631,000 uninsured African Americans, Governor Deal’s decision to reject federal subsidies and not expand Medicaid is mindboggling.

Furthermore, naysayers attribute low-enrollment of young adults in the health care marketplace to the eventual failure of this health care reform. While simultaneously blocking low-income young people from receiving coverage. How can the policy live up to its potential when those most in need are being denied access? An estimated 500,000 African American young adults have already received coverage under a provision of the ACA that allows youth to stay on their parent’s insurance plan until age 26.  But what about the 40 percent of LGBTQQ homeless youth? Where do they turn for health care coverage?

The ACA has provided a needed foundation for establishing competent, quality health care in the US, however, there is much more work to be done to ensure that the millions living without coverage can have access to care. As our elected officials roll the dice on our health care and our lives, we have to use our collective power to put pressure on our local governments and demand that they take action to expand Medicaid.

Yes, I am a youth — one of many living in the South who care about our health destiny.

Join us and SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, February 20th for our 7th Annual LegislateTHIS! statewide day of action and lobby event as we stand for Medicaid expansion and health justice for all!

Visit www.getcoveredamerica.org to find local “National Youth Enrollment Day” events in your area.

Quita TinsleyQuita is a self-described ‘city girl, with small town roots.’ She is a graduate of Georgia State University (the real GSU) with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, a concentration in Public Relations and minor in Sociology. Due to the power of capitalism, she moonlights as a recruiter for a staffing agency in Metro Atlanta.

She was a participant in SPARK’s 2013 FYRE Media Justice Camp and a former Communications and Programs intern. She’s a femme, a feminist and a woman of color. She believes in the power of storytelling and validation of lived experiences. She hopes to continue fighting oppression and uplifting silenced people, all while wearing a stylish bow and lipstick.

Why is health care important to you?

February 15th is “National Youth Enrollment Day” for the Affordable Care Act.

Today, SPARK is amplifying the voices of LGBTQQ Youth of Color by highlighting the experiences of our young leaders!

Micky and Alexis have provided their responses to the question “Why is health care important to you?”, highlighting the ways in which LGBTQQ Youth of Color have been marginalized in the health care debate. For more info on National Youth Enrollment Day and to find enrollment events near you, visit getcoveredamerica.org.

REMINDER: Join us Thursday, February 20th at 9:00AM to demand health care for LGBTQQ Youth of Color at the 7th Annual LegislateTHIS – Taking Action for Medicaid Expansion: For Our Bodies, Our Futures, Our Communities. RSVP at http://legislatethis.sparkrj.org

Micky – Health Care & Queer Youth

Micky discusses why health care is important to him as a Black, gay man.

 

Alexis – Health Care & Queer Youth

Alexis discusses why health care is important to her.

Announcing our 7th Annual LegislateTHIS! Musical Performers

LT 2014 Performers Monica and YaNi

We’re honored to have Executive Director of SisterSong, activist, poet, and songstress Monica Raye Simpson and local popular, faith-based spoken word artist YaNi & The Peace People joining us for the 7th Annual LegislateTHIS! to move us with their powerful music!

The 7th Annual LegislateTHIS! takes place on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 9:00AM. RSVP today!

Check out Monica Raye Simpson performing at the 27th Annual From Abortion Right to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom Conference!

 

Check out this live acoustic performance of YaNi!

Georgia Heating Up for Legislate THIS! Day – Annual Day of Action Calls for Gov. Nathan Deal to Approve Medicaid Expansion under Affordable Care Act

Legislate THIS 2014 HeaderFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Margaret Kargbo
(770) 875-0427
iwonder.mediagroup@gmail.com

ATLANTA – February 11, 2014 – SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, in partnership with Strong Families and the Atlanta chapter of National Domestic Workers Alliance, invites Atlanta and surrounding communities to join the 7th Annual Legislate THIS! at the GA State Capitol on February 20, 2014 from 9:00am – 2:00pm. Legislate THIS! is a statewide day of action and lobby event where key public policy leaders, social justice groups and youth engage in transformative dialogue with leading Georgia decision makers regarding policies that protect reproductive rights and expand healthcare access to women of color, young parents and LGBTQQ youth of color living in Georgia.

Legislate THIS! Day provides an opportunity for Georgians to connect with legislative officials and advocate on behalf of the 650,000 residents currently living without insurance particularly marginalized groups such as young families, LGBTQQ and women of color represented by SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW. According to a recent Abt SRBI Inc., poll conducted for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, nearly “57 percent of Georgians said the state should expand Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act” – however, Governor Nathan Deal has yet to approve.

“It’s not okay that low-income uninsured Georgians are forced to choose between getting necessary x-rays, buying vital prescriptions or paying their rent. Governor Deal has an opportunity to change the health destiny of more than 600,000 citizens by saying yes to Medicaid Expansion.” Malika Redmond, Executive Director of SPARK Reproductive Justice

Highlights for Legislate THIS! Day includes a keynote address and remarks from SPARK’s Executive Director, Malika Redmond; Tamieka Atkins, Atlanta Chapter Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and; Eveline Shen from Forward Together/ Strong Families. Musical performances include activist, poet and songstress Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong and a local popular, faith-based spoken word artist Yani & The Peace People.

For over 25 years, SPARK has been on the forefront advocating for just policies that protect and expand access to the full range of family planning options, abortion and sexual health education. Our signature event, Legislate THIS! is designed for citizen engagement to highlight our right to make sustainable and liberatory decisions about our bodies, genders, sexualities, and families within the context of public policy making and best practices.

To learn more about Legislate THIS! Day, visit Legislate THIS! with SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW or call 404.343.6506

SPARK Executive Director Malika Redmond Named Among Planned Parenthood’s Top 98 Dream Keepers

Malika Redmond

Malika Redmond

“To celebrate Black History Month, Planned Parenthood is honoring 98 leaders from the African Diaspora —one for each year since Planned Parenthood was founded.

The achievements of the Top 98 Dream Keepers range from the transformative leadership of Debra Lee to the tart and humor of comedian Wanda Sykes, from in-the-trenches HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy work of Pastor Touré Roberts to the glamorous Hollywood milieu of Nia Long.  Whether they are whispering, singing, preaching, writing, or rallying for justice, their work helps us connect to each other.  Their leadership inspires us to break down barriers to health care and opportunity posed by poverty, racism, and sexism.”

Malika has been included under “The Do’ers” section.

These leaders are on the front lines of the movements for social change.  They educate Americans about the new health care law plans, advocate for the rights of those with HIV/AIDS, and address the social conditions of marginalized people. These Doers are essential for increasing opportunity and health care access in the black community.

Read more about the Top 98 Dream Keepers.