Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Let(ting) Her Die is NOT an Option

“I was pregnant, I was miscarrying, I was bleeding. If I had to go from one hospital to the next trying to find one emergency room that would take me in, who knows if I would even be here today. What my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are trying to do is misogynist,” admonished Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) from the floor of the House last week. What she’s warning against sounds impossible. Why would a dying woman be refused life saving measures?

If the House Republican Majority has its way, this scenario would not just be a horror story- it would be reality. The Let Her Die bill (officially called the “Protect Life Act” H.R. 358), sponsored by Representative Joe Pitts (R- PA) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), seeks to do just this. The bill would “prohibit federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services.” The Hyde Amendment has prohibited federal funding of abortion since 1976, so what makes this bill different? Let Her Die allows any hospital with moral objections to abortion to deny women the procedure, even if the life of the woman is at risk.

Hospitals would be allowed to NOT save the life of a dying woman on “moral grounds”.

Such a cruel bill would never become law, right? Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Let Her Die bill with all Republicans except two voting for it. That’s right, members of the United States Congress actually signed off on a law that would allow women to be denied lifesaving treatment!

Before becoming law, the bill has to be approved by the Senate, a situation that is extremely unlikely to happen. Plus, President Obama has said he would veto the bill immediately. Still, this bill should never have made it this far through our government. Congress should be protecting women, not signing off on legislation that blatantly endangers their lives.

Members of Congress should not be playing political games with women’s lives. Our elected officials must not pursue misguided, brutal, and dangerous bills like Let Her Die. We should not forget that an overwhelming majority of House Republicans voted for the Let her Die bill. With so many Americans out of work, Congress should be focusing on creating jobs and bettering the lives of the American people. Instead, members of the House of Representatives are using their position to take away women’s reproductive rights, and, as this bill shows, their right to lifesaving medical procedures.

As Representative Speier’s story shows, real lives are at stake. Real women will die if this bill would become law. Congress must realize that Let[ting] Her Die is NOT an option.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Women Have Lives On The Line With Health Care Reform

by Jessica Mason Pieklo

Like thousands of other families the recession has hit ours hard, but it could be worse. My family currently has health insurance, and both my husband and I still have jobs. We live paycheck to paycheck but still I feel lucky.

It’s a tenuous luck, a luck that is one medical emergency away from bankruptcy if we lose these protections. Even with insurance the recent c-section birth of my daughter still left us with a nearly $10,000 hospital bill, which is especially difficult to pay when there is no paid family or medical leave and returning to work means a return of childcare costs approaching $2000 a month.

But thanks to the Affordable Care Act my family can take a few steps back. We can exhale a bit. We can turn our attention to the countless other challenges we face raising children and balancing careers. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much to others, but for us it might literally be everything.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits such as hospital stays, nor can they deny coverage to any child under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act means that all health insurance plans must cover preventative services such as contraception, mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance. Should my children reach adulthood in a time of economic contraction like we have now, they can stay on our insurance until they are 26 years old–a benefit I did not have and one that cost me thousands in uncovered medical expenses at a time when I was just trying to set out as an adult.

That all could change in the next election. The value of reproductive health care as preventative medicine is being questioned, as is the entire foundation of health care reform. Young adults may soon find themselves again without insurance, and given the current state of the economy, no employment prospects to either provide that coverage or an income to defray unexpected medical costs. Women may once again be discriminated against in terms of coverage and cost and families may find themselves kicked off insurance through no fault of their own.

At a time when women and families are facing what can seem like insurmountable challenges, now is not the time to roll back these kinds of protections. Quite simply, too much is at stake.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival. Read more HERvotes posts by the Feminist Majority and other women’s groups.

Public Funding of Family Planning is Essential, Even Under Health Reform

This week, as we celebrate the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which promises to bring great benefits to women in this country, new threats to women’s health care have emerged. Last month the House of Representatives voted to eliminate federal funding of Planned Parenthood and cut entirely the Title X program, which supports family planning clinics across the country. Though the Senate has since rejected this proposal, House Republicans have vowed to continue to push for these cuts.

Many have spoken out about the harm this would have on low-income women, who rely on Planned Parenthoods and other family planning clinics for important preventive care like contraception and cancer screenings. Even in Massachusetts, where 98 percent of residents have health insurance due to groundbreaking state health reform, such cuts would be devastating.

Massachusetts has a robust network of family planning clinics, Planned Parenthood among them, which offer contraceptive services and counseling, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and cervical and breast cancer screening on a sliding fee scale. In the wake of Massachusetts reform, family planning clinics continue to play a role in providing services to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.

In 2008, a year after Massachusetts’ health reform law took effect, Ibis Reproductive Health and the Massachusetts Department of Health Family Planning Program undertook research to explore the impact of reform on low-income women’s access to contraception. We conducted a survey and interviews with family planning providers and also held focus groups with English- and Spanish-speaking low-income women.

We found that health reform has provided a number of benefits to women and many women expressed relief over finally having insurance.

But our research also uncovered new barriers. Information about insurance plans and what is covered is confusing and difficult to navigate. For women new to insurance, having to get a prescription for contraception filled at a pharmacy instead of getting one’s method onsite at the clinic required education and support. Many women struggled to keep up with the numerous paperwork requirements to prove eligibility for state-subsidized plans and were pushed on and off insurance plans as a result, which likely affected their ability to consistently stay on contraception.

Providers also worried that teenagers on their parents’ insurance would not seek out family planning services for fear of their parents’ finding out.

Immigrant women also reported experiencing barriers to health care. Many do not qualify for subsidized insurance plans under reform and some have stopped seeking health care because they are afraid of being fined or deported if authorities find out they are undocumented and uninsured.

Our research also showed that family planning providers—in addition to their traditional role of providing sexual and reproductive health care—were taking on the challenge of addressing barriers for these populations most in need. Family planning clinic staff helped women enroll in insurance plans, determined their eligibility for state-subsidized plans, and spent time helping women decipher what their plans cover.

Family planning clinics also addressed patients’ other primary health care needs, including in some cases helping managing chronic conditions like diabetes and mental illness. They have also been a safety net for the uninsured and underinsured—they will never turn anyone away.

When Massachusetts health reform was first in effect, the Commonwealth made enrollment grants to health care agencies to help them get their clients signed up for health insurance. In spite of dramatic reductions to those grants, and after massive cuts to the state budget following the recession, family planning providers continue to serve women above and beyond what they have the resources to do.

Federal funds from the Title X program and state funds support Massachusetts’ 11 family planning agencies, which include 81 clinics located across the Commonwealth. If Congress succeeds in eliminating funding for Title X, it will succeed in eliminating subsidized services for the women who need them most. It will also lead to increased costs in Massachusetts and other states, because investments in family planning save dollars. We can hardly afford to stop funding cost-saving programs in the current economic environment.

The major goal of health reform—both in Massachusetts and nationally—is to achieve universal health care coverage. Even with the great strides Massachusetts has made, we still need a safety net. Continued support for Title X and family planning providers, including Planned Parenthood, supports the goals of health reform and ensures access to critical preventive health services for the most vulnerable women.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival. Read more HERvotes posts by the Feminist Majority
and other women’s groups.

The Affordable Care Act and Women

By Desiree Hoffman
YWCA USA Director of Advocacy and Policy

March 23, 2011, marked the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet polls show that less than 47% of Americans know how it affects them.1 Lack of understanding was highest among low-income households and the uninsured. When asked, “Do you feel you have enough information about the health reform law to understand how it will impact you personally?,” 61 percent of households with incomes less than $40,000 per year said “no;” 60 percent of uninsured individuals responded “no.”

Today, many households are struggling in a difficult economy and rightly feel a sense of disconnection between their own lives and politics. It isn’t surprising that many people don’t feel they have enough information about the ACA, let alone feel they have accurate information.

Recently I had the chance to speak to a room full of seniors and retirees about the ACA. What stood out to me was the audience knew more about how the law protected their grandchildren than they did about how ACA helps them. Under the new law, the audience knew that insurers could no longer discriminate based on a child’s preexisting condition, and that dependent children under the age of 26 could remain on their parent’s health care plans. What the mostly female audience did not know, however, was that they would no longer be charged co-pays for preventative services such as mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, immunizations, and annual physical exams.

Retirees and seniors were not aware that the ACA:

  • provides free mammograms every one to two years for women aged 40 and above, and patients identified as high-risk candidates for breast cancer can receive consultation on chemoprevention, and genetic evaluation;
  • makes it illegal for insurers to deny coverage to women based on pre-existing conditions, including cesarean sections, breast cancer, chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes and even domestic violence; and
  • ensures that low-income and moderate-income women and families are able to afford health care by expanding Medicaid and offering new affordability credits to families — between 133 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (Example: The range is between $29,328 to $88,000 for a family of four based on 2009 HHS guidelines) — to help pay for health care premiums.

Most shocking to me was that the audience of primarily women had no idea that, before ACA, insurers refused to cover survivors of domestic violence. Before the law, insurers defined domestic violence as a pre-existing condition since many victims often had higher utilization rates of the emergency room and, thus, were viewed as “high risk” or more costly to insure, providing the basis for refusal of health care coverage at all. Under ACA, an insurance company can no longer discriminate against — and re-victimize — a domestic violence survivor by denying health insurance coverage.

From the provisions that help children and grandchildren, to the measures that address breast cancer and help domestic violence survivors obtain health care insurance, the ACA clearly makes healthcare more affordable for women and their families. While the affordability credits do not kick- in until 2014, they are important components of the law that help low and moderate income families. People are struggling with rising healthcare costs and stagnant wages in an economy where unemployment remains high; expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies to help pay for health care premiums will help tremendously.

Despite these benefits, there are intensifying efforts to repeal or weaken the ACA. At the beginning of the 112th Congress, bills were introduced to repeal the entire law, but they did not muster enough votes to pass. Now, there is a flurry of amendments to halt agencies from fully implementing key provisions of the ACA, and bills to restrict comprehensive reproductive health care services.

This month is declared both national Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Knowing the important benefits that ACA means for breast cancer prevention and treatment and for survivors of domestic violence, there is no better way to commemorate this month than by speaking out in support of the ACA to your Senators and Representative or by educating yourself and your loved ones on the benefits of the new law.

To learn more about the new law visit:

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival. Read more HERvotes posts by the Feminist Majority and other women’s groups.

#HERvotes Blog Carnival Takes on Health Care

Welcome to the third #HERVotes Blog Carnival! This time, the focus is on women and health care. The blog posts below share personal stories and details about the new benefits from the health care reform law, while also offering original insights on what’s at stake for women and health care. You’ll also find personal stories and analysis delving into the health care services we’ve all gained–and will gain–through the passage of the new health care reform law.

Some of the most impactful new health care services for women and families that have come about because of the new health care reform laws include:

• All new health care plans now must cover certain preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, co-pay, or coinsurance.
• Young adults are now allowed to stay on their parent’s health care plan until they turn 26 years old.
• Insurance companies are now prohibited from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential health care benefits, like hospital stays.
• Insurance companies now cannot deny health care coverage to children under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition.

These new benefits are just the start of the increased coverage that will come about as a result of the new health care reform law. And to find out more about developments in coverage, go to www.Healthcare.gov for the most updated answers to your enrollment and coverage questions.

Last but not least: Since many of these resources and stories will help moms and families looking for information about health care coverage, please be sure to share the link to this blog carnival on Facebook and to follow our Twitter conversation at #HERvotes.

Enjoy reading the many thoughtful and eye-opening blogs below!

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.


Personal Stories