Voices for Health Justice State Partner Victories


APRIL 2022


Voices Colorado state partners led by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) achieved historic protections for reproductive rights and access to health care! 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. 



Voices Illinois partners, the Shriver Center, EverThrive, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and the Workers Center for Racial Justice are one step closer to health equity by ensuring that even more people now have access to affordable, comprehensive, culturally appropriate health care, no matter their income, race, gender or where they are from. In April 2022, the Illinois legislature has once again expanded health care coverage for adults ages 42-45 regardless of immigration status. This expansion will directly impact at least 26,000 more low-income Illinois residents.



CASA and Maryland Voices advocates are celebrating the passage of the Healthy Babies Equity Act after several months of grassroots advocacy across the state. The Healthy Babies Equity Act expands Medicaid to cover prenatal and postpartum care to pregnant people, regardless of 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 lobby meetings, and in the last few weeks of the Maryland legislative session, daily mini rallies outside the statehouse.


JUNE 2022


Center for Health Progress and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) in partnership with five other organizations have achieved health coverage expansion that will have a significant impact on the lives of many Coloradans through the passage of HB22-1289. HB22-1289 or Cover All Coloradans will provide full health care coverage for pregnant people and children who would otherwise be eligible for Medicaid and CHP+ if not for their immigration status. For birthing parents, coverage continues 12 months postpartum. 



The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPHEN), Black Women for Wellness (BWW), California Black Women’s Health Project (CABWHP), and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ) – recently led an effort to establish a racial equity innovation fund in the state. When these advocates learned that California had a $76 billion budgetary surplus, they quickly rallied together as a coalition that was able to secure a 70% commitment from the Newsom administration to dedicate 10 million dollars per year for initiatives to advance health equity and reduce health care disparities in communities of color. In 2021, California Voices partners also formed a coalition with the purpose of mobilizing and bringing together Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color (BIPOC) led grassroots organizations to reduce health disparities and advance health equity. In the first year, the coalition expanded to over 30 organizational members.



In their work to advocate for parent justice and Black wellness, Voices partners at Parent Voices Oakland led a robust campaign to prevent 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 Black, brown and Indigenous communities of color and ultimately affect their livelihood. The campaign activated people via social media and a press conference, encouraging community members to share their stories and experiences with Head Start. As a result of this collaborative effort, Oakland voted to keep three existing locations open and added one additional site; collectively saving 52 child care slots and 30 Head Start teaching jobs. Additionally, Parent Voices Oakland joined the Perinatal Equity Initiative (PEI) Steering Committee and helped launch the multi-county community education campaign to address racism in birthing systems. This connection has deepened partnerships with other Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) working on birthing equity issues, as well as streamlined community outreach to address Black infant birthing disparities.


The Center for Health Progress, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), the Colorado Fiscal Institute and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition have also seen the Colorado legislature take big steps forward on coverage expansion for immigrants regardless of immigration status. The advocates have engaged the public through ongoing public education, organizing and coalition building. The legislature responded by passing a so-called public option bill, which will require the state Commissioner of Insurance to establish a standardized health benefit plan to be offered by health insurance carriers in the individual and small group markets to individuals regardless of immigration status.  In addition, the legislature passed a bill that allows individuals to access contraception through Medicaid regardless of immigration status.  Finally, the legislature also passed a bill that seeks to undo some damage done by 2006 legislation that required state and local government agencies to verify the lawful presence of applicants for public benefits. 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 in the implementation of 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. 


In 2021, the New Georgia Project (NGP) launched the Voices for a Healthy Georgia (V4HG) Fellows Program in partnership with Georgia Voices partners – Georgians for a Healthy Future (GHF) and Georgia Equality (GE). The purpose of the V4HG Fellows Program is to build community power and empower people from the West Central and Southwestern Georgia regions to elevate community needs, identify challenges in accessing the health care system and provide them with an opportunity to work across the region to identify long-term solutions and advance health equity. The V4HG program received over 100 applications and a group of 18 people from disparate lived experiences and backgrounds were selected for the first leadership cohort.


In June 2021, Idaho Voices for Children, Centro de Comunidad y Justicia and Medicaid Matters officially launched the Idaho Kids Covered coalition. 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 Idaho children’s health coverage and policy. 



Hoosier Action successfully prevented budget cuts to the Medicaid program during the 2021 legislative session. Indiana advocates accomplished this significant goal by actively reaching out to everyday Hoosiers and Medicaid providers to build a health justice base and coalition. This coalition was essential in helping to uplift the importance of the Medicaid program and its impact on the quality of life for Hoosiers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Hoosier Action led substantial public education sessions that included providing training on Medicaid and information on programs funded by Medicaid, and a legislative session program that focused on connecting community members with legislators.  


The Illinois Voices partners, including the Shriver Center, EverThrive, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and the Workers Center for Racial Justice, have been engaged in community organizing, outreach and education around addressing racism in health care and bringing diverse Latin(x) and Black community voices together to advance a race equity agenda. In response, the Illinois legislature passed a bill that included a variety of provisions that address health and racism, including providing 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 55, becoming the first state in the nation to do so. In addition, Illinois advocates’ continued commitment to expanding comprehensive health coverage has also resulted in the expansion of 12-month postpartum coverage to all women regardless of immigration status. Advocates are also celebrating the enrollment of four times the number of expected eligible immigrant seniors in the first year of the 65 and older expansion. 


The Voices partners in Louisiana – The Louisiana Budget Project, Louisiana Community Health Outreach Network (LACHON) and Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center (SWLAHEC) – saw the passage of HB 190, which requires any health coverage in the state that provides benefits for pregnancy care 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 healthcare-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!  


The Voices partners in Maryland have rallied the public to support efforts to target state funding to reduce health disparities, improve access to primary care, prevent illness, and reduce hospital reliance. The general assembly responded to this public education by passing the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act. This law will provide $59 million over five years to fund organizations in communities that suffer health disparities and poor health outcomes. CASA advocates also built a coalition with nonprofit organizations, Federally Qualified Centers (FQHCs) and community leaders to create a robust primary care program that would provide wrap-around services, including, medical care, mental health and dental care, to nearly 45,000 uninsured residents in Prince George County. Congratulations to the Maryland advocates: CASA, the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and the Ministers’ Conference Empowerment Center Community Development Corporation. 


The partnership composed of Health Care for All (HCFA), Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA), Massachusetts Senior Action Council (MSAC) and Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) completed a 4-part series of Health Justice Academy sessions attended by more than 200 people in the spring of 2021. The Health Justice Academy utilizes 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 the broader policy and program landscape in Massachusetts 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. Expansion is expected to provide access to health care coverage for 275,000 Missourians.

New Jersey

The Voices partners in New Jersey have organized public support for the bipartisan bill to “Cover All Kids,” which will create many opportunities to address the barriers keeping more than 80,000 children in the state uninsured. The bill, signed into law by Governor Murphy will improve New Jersey Family Care, the state’s Medicaid program, by eliminating premiums and waiting periods and increasing outreach initiatives. In addition, this bill will establish new coverage options through a buy-in program. Through ongoing grassroots organizing, public education, and coalition engagement, Voices partners have helped to once and for all create public support for genuine universal health care for all New Jersey children. 


New Mexico

The New Mexico Worker Organizing Collaborative (WOC) had an amazing legislative session in which they achieved paid sick leave for all workers in the state. This outcome, built in part on public education funded by the Voices for Health Justice project, is the culmination of five years of persistent organizing work. Through ongoing public education, grassroots organizing, the sharing of stories, and strong 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. Workers statewide will now accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 64 hours annually, beginning in July 2022. The WOC will next get to work helping workers 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 will expand coverage primarily for low-wage workers and people who are uninsured. 


The Ohio Alliance consisting of Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC), Policy Matters Ohio, Contact Center, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, and the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio (UHCAN), gained expanded eligibility for childcare subsidies for more than 6,000 families, a year of guaranteed postpartum care, and guaranteed Medicaid treatment for breast cancer and cervical cancer. 



The Voices advocates in Oregon attained meaningful investments for mental health services in the 2021 legislative session. The Oregon legislature recently passed Mental Health & Wellbeing for All (HB 2949), which directs $80 million toward the recruitment of 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 has had a more significant impact on BIPOC individuals seeking to become licensed providers. Due to their grassroots leadership, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Family Forward Oregon and Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste are now at the forefront of this issue and have been invited to be a part of a statewide working group tasked to work on the implementation of HB 2949.  

Rhode Island

The Voices partners in Rhode Island have rallied the public to support efforts to improve nursing home care in the state. In response, in late May Governor McKee signed into law the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act, which will require 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.  In addition, the new law will provide a pathway out of poverty for caregivers by ensuring that 80% of Medicaid rate increases go directly to wage boosts. Through ongoing public education, grassroots organizing, the sharing of stories, and strong coalition outreach, the Rhode Island Organizing Project, the Senior Agenda Coalition and the Economic Progress Institute, in collaboration with their other allies, have helped to achieve one of the highest staffing standards in nursing homes in the nation.



The Afiya Center, Every Texan and the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund (TOPEF) have organized several conversations across the state to highlight the impact of the Medicaid coverage gap. During this 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 womxn and maternal health outcomes, partners were successful in advocating for Medicaid to be expanded from two months to six months for pregnant low-income women* in the state.

*Note: The current legislation as written does not include transgender and non-binary pregnant and birthing people.



The Voices partners in Virginia: Virginia Organizing, CASA, Virginia Poverty Law Center, and the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis have made vast improvements to advancing health care access and affordability in the state. In March 2021, the state eliminated the 40-quarter rule or the 10-year work history requirement for lawful permanent residents before qualifying for Medicaid benefits. In addition, effective July 2021, Medicaid prenatal coverage was expanded to all pregnant women regardless of immigration status.  

Washington DC

In Washington, D.C., the Maternal Health Resources and Access Act of 2021 was introduced to address the district's maternal and infant mortality disparities. Each of the Voices partners in DC – Children’s Law Center, Early Childhood Innovation Network and SPACEs in Action – testified at the public hearings and met with Henderson’s staff about the bill. As a result, DC has developed and will roll out a pilot program in 2021 for Medicaid reimbursements of doula services, 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 ridesharing. Due to the advocates’ ongoing efforts to address infant mortality and maternal health, the district’s 2022 budget includes a mandate for doula coverage, with implementation set to begin in October 2022.



Voices for Health Justice Rapid Response Victories

APRIL 2021

West Virginia

With rapid response funding from the Voices for Health Justice project, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and coalition partners successfully generated public opposition to the effort to phase out the state’s personal income tax. Because the personal income tax is responsible for funding a large percentage of the state’s Medicaid program, they launched a public education campaign about the tax’s importance to health care access, affordability, and equity. The bill was defeated in the House with a unanimous ‘nay’ vote.  Though the advocates in WV will continue to keep watch, as the effort might re-emerge in a special session, this is a victory well-worth celebrating! 


JUNE 2021


Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas worked to defeat six different attempts this past legislative session to limit health care access for transgender and non-binary people in Texas. By using organizing tactics to elevate the individual stories of the people and families who would be harmed by such bills, working with doctors and other health care providers to add their voices to the chorus of those opposing such efforts, and engaging in bus tours and rallies, partners ended the 2021 legislative session without any of these transphobic attempts passing.  While advocates are waiting to see if Governor Abbott will call a special session, where they anticipate many bills will be reintroduced, they have not stopped organizing since the session ended to ensure that they can defeat these efforts, resoundingly, yet again!




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