How and why the #KeeptheCare initiative came to be

HealthyWomen's CEO dishes on the #KeeptheCare initiative, and the rigors of activism and advocacy in the digital age.

Last year, the Republican Congress and the Trump administration sought to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act, prompting national demonstrations, lobbying efforts, primers on the intricacies of health policy, and debate about insurance premiums and individual mandates.

Obscured by this activism was the major threat to women’s health posed by dismantling the ACA: The possibility that, without it, women would likely lose access to many of the 26 preventive care services with no out-of-pocket expenses that the law mandates.

HealthyWomen saw this as an opportunity to galvanize women across the country. In March 2017, we partnered with MSL to launch #KeeptheCare, a national awareness and advocacy initiative intended to educate women about their right to these preventive health care services. These include well-woman visits, prenatal care, Pap tests, mammograms, STD screenings, and contraception.

Currently, more than 55 million women ages 19 to 64 can get these services through their health plan without a deductible or co-pay, improving their lives and saving our health system billions by preventing costly diseases and chronic conditions.

Right away we learned awareness is a challenge: Surveys find only 57% of women know their health plans must cover recommended screening mammograms and Pap tests without cost-sharing. Thus, we rolled out KeepTheCare.org, with information on the 26 no-cost preventive care services now available from most insurance plans. We also provided advocacy tools to spark a grassroots movement and hosted briefings to inform policymakers, media members, and allies about the impact repeal would have on women.

We’re particularly proud of the congressional briefing we hosted the week of a key Senate vote in July 2017, which garnered more than 500 viewers on Facebook Live, and the social summit we led in October 2017 in New York City. Those efforts attracted about 100 congressional staffers, health care leaders, and media members to learn about the consequences of rolling back preventive care services.

We’ve also received notable press coverage, including an op-ed in the Huffington Post and a Working Mother article by a cancer previvor who explained how ACA coverage allows patients to prevent cancers linked to a BRCA2 diagnosis.

By combining traditional PR, digital advertising, social media marketing, and direct advocacy, the #KeeptheCare campaign puts women’s preventive care on the national radar. The fate of the ACA remains unclear, but one thing is certain: MSL and HealthyWomen remain at this debate’s front line by continuing to advocate for the certainty of women’s access to preventive care.

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