IN THE NEWS: Special Healthcare Reform Edition

November 6, 2009 posted by Vivienne Heston-Demirel

With the possibility of the first health care reform in nearly five decades right around the corner, it is more important than ever that women and women’s needs are not overlooked in the national debate.  Our research has found that women are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance and more likely to skip needed care because of economic costs than men.  To increase women’s visibility in the health care reform debate, several NCRW Member Centers have launched advocacy campaigns. For instance, check out the National Women’s Law Center’s “Being A Woman is Not a Pre-Existing Condition” campaign.  Below you will find a round-up of recent NCRW member center initiatives and news coverage relevant to the healthcare debate. Let me know what you or your organization is doing to turn the heat up as the legislative process moves forward.  

Health care issues: Age and sex rating
November 6, 2009
The Associated Press: A look at key issues in the nation's health care debate:
THE ISSUE: How much more can insurers charge people based on age, sex and pre-existing conditions, and would that change if the health system is overhauled?
THE POLITICS: Charging women, the elderly and people who already have health problems higher rates for health insurance is based on the idea that those groups use more services and therefore cost more. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats want to curb the practice, a position that could enhance their standing with important Democratic constituencies. First Lady Michelle Obama criticized insurers who consider domestic violence a pre-existing condition. The senior citizen lobby, AARP, and women's groups are pushing to end what they consider discriminatory ratings. Insurance companies say a change could raise premiums for others and might discourage younger people from buying insurance. House Democrats want to limit age rating to a 2-to-1 ratio, meaning an elderly person could be charged twice what a 20-year-old must pay. The bill championed in the Senate by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., would set the ratio at 4 to 1, still too low to please insurers but not low enough to satisfy AARP.

For the House of Representatives' version of health care reform, the dust has settled and details are now available
November 5, 2009
Sister to Sister Magazine: The 1,990-page bill that was presented by Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week would include, among other things, many new government offices for women's health: Health and Human Services Coordinating Committee on Women's Health; Food and Drug Administration Office of Women's Health; Health Resources and Services Administration Office of Women's Health; Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Office of Women's Health and Gender-Based Research; Centers for Disease Control Office of Women's Health and National Women's Health Information Center.

Abortion Opponents Cannot Be Allowed to Derail Health Care Reform
November 5, 2009
The Huffington Post: A truly alarming storm is brewing in the ongoing health care reform saga. Bipartisan Congressional opponents of abortion are explicitly threatening to vote ‘no’ on any health care bill that does not explicitly prohibit abortion coverage. Such a prohibition, if put into effect, would actually have the shocking consequence of regulating abortion in the private insurance market as well.

Roundup: National Day of Action for Women's Healthcare Reform, Anti-Abortion Dems Stall Reform?
November 4, 2009
"I Am Not A Pre-Existing Condition"
RH Reality Check: Today a broad coalition of progressive organizations is unifying to address the inequities in health insurance, through health care reform. The Women's Day of Action includes a 12 hour vigil on Dupont Circle in Washington DC where women will read their personal health care stories. But there are rallies, events, house parties and other actions happening around the country. In a statement released today, The National Women's Law Center's Marcia Greenburger says,

"We want women to know that health care reform isn't something that should be debated only in Washington - because it affects women everywhere...That's why we’re taking our campaign outside the Beltway and bringing it to the women and families whose lives are affected the most. Women need to make their voices heard and speak out to demand health care reform that works for women.”

Terry O'Neill: Women and health care
November 4, 2009
The Washington Post: Women have far different interactions with the health-care system than men. Profit-driven insurance companies are allowed to charge women higher premiums than men because women's reproductive health-care needs are more costly. Even women who never experience pregnancy or childbirth may pay higher premiums. Insurers also avoid paying for women's health care (even though we pay higher premiums for just that reason) by an ingenious use of the concept of "pre-existing conditions." Having had a c-section birth, for example, can be a pre-existing condition, so the next pregnancy isn't covered. If you're pregnant when you get that job with health benefits, the pregnancy is pre-existing and may not be covered.

Anti-Tax, Anti-Government Referenda Go Down to Defeat
November 4, 2009
by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security,
Womenstake, NWLC Blog: Times are tough –- and paying taxes is never very popular. So it’s particularly notable that the two referenda sponsored by anti-tax activists to limit state and local taxes and spending were soundly defeated in Maine and Washington State. Local business leaders joined advocates in educating voters about the impact the referenda would have on the education, health care, transportation, public safety, and other services their state and local tax dollars support –- and large majorities voted to protect those services.

Boehner Substitute Still Treats Women Like a Pre-existing Condition
November 4, 2009
Womenstake, NWLC Blog: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh) released last night his substitute amendment to the House health care reform legislation. The statement of Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), follows:
“Representative Boehner’s health care substitute does not address many of the problems that exist today in our broken health care system. Worse still, it takes us backwards in the effort to provide accessible, affordable and comprehensive health care.”

Democrats' concerns over abortion may imperil health bill
November 3, 2009
The Washington Post: While House leaders are moving toward a vote on health-care legislation by the end of the week, enough Democrats are threatening to oppose the measure over the issue of abortion to create a question about its passage. House leaders were still negotiating Monday with the bloc of Democrats concerned about abortion provisions in the legislation, saying that they could lead to public funding of the procedure. After an evening meeting of top House Democrats, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) said, "We are making progress," but added that they had not reached an agreement. The outcome of those talks could be crucial in deciding the fate of the health-care bill. Democrats need the vast majority of their caucus to back the bill, since nearly all congressional Republicans have said they will oppose the legislation.

Health Reform Offers More Care to Abuse Survivors
November 3, 2009
Women’s eNews: Health care reform promises to protect domestic violence survivors from insurance companies that consider abuse a pre-existing condition. Some advocates say what is really needed is a public plan that helps victims leave their abusers.
NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--In eight states and Washington, D.C., it is legal for health insurance companies to deny coverage to an applicant with a suspected history of domestic violence. Those states are Idaho, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming. The National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C., highlighted this information a year ago in a report, and the issue has gained political traction as Congress buckles down to choose a final health reform bill.

How Women Will Benefit from Affordable Health Care Act 
October 30, 2009
Gather News: In our current health care system, women often face higher health care costs than men and multiple other barriers to obtaining health insurance. In the individual insurance market, women face discrimination — often being charged substantially higher premiums for the same coverage as men or being denied coverage for such “pre-existing conditions” as pregnancy, having had a C-section, or being a domestic violence victim. Fewer women have access to insurance than men, since many are ineligible for employer-based coverage. As a result, many women are under- or uninsured, and simply can’t afford the services they need. In a recent study, more than half of women — compared with 39% of men — reported delaying needed medical care due to cost.

Why women of color cannot wait for healthcare reform
October 26, 2009
The Louisiana Weekly: The topic of health disparities among African-American men has been discussed in seminars and symposiums during the recent debate regarding healthcare reform. However, the Obama administration has not ignored the fact that women of color face the same, if not more discrepancies. Last week, the White House invited women of color to participate in a free audio-teleconference titled: “Why Women of Color Cannot Wait for Health Reform.”

Fight Erupts Over Health Insurance Rates For Businesses With More Women
October 25, 2009
Kaiser Health News: The Pennsylvania home health care company Linda Bettinazzi runs is charged about $6,800 per worker for health insurance – $2,000 more than the national average for single coverage. One reason: nearly every one of her 175 employees is a woman.

The Cost of Being a Woman
October 19, 2009
Newsweek: At a recent Capitol Hill press conference on women and health care reform, Sen. Barbara Mikulski started things off with rallying cry: "Equal insurance for equal premiums!" Four female senators spent the event discussing disparities women face in the individual health-care market, where eight states and D.C. consider domestic abuse a preexisting condition and maternity coverage is often lacking. Chief among concerns about health-care discrimination is gender rating, the health-insurance practice of charging different premiums based on gender. Mikulski reiterated the point on Larry King last Thursday: "Just like we didn't get equal pay for equal work, we haven't got equal insurance benefits for equal insurance premiums."

Analysts Urge Democrats To Tailor Health Reform Pitch To Women
October 19, 2009
Kaiser Health News: Politico reports that provisions addressing women's concerns about health care may help Democrats build public support for their overhaul plans and grease the passage of a bill.
"Maternity care would be guaranteed. Insurance companies could no longer charge higher premiums for women than men. And insurers now allowed to label a Cesarean section or even domestic violence a pre-existing condition to deny coverage would be barred from the practice."

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