Proposed Amendments Would Deny Health Care to Women

Dear Gentlemen of
the Congress: 

Excuse us, but
have you forgotten about the women in your life? 

We are
waiting for you to deliver quality,
affordable health care for all — as soon as possible, given the economic
trials our families are enduring. Instead,
some of you are wasting valuable time
and taxpayer dollars proposing amendments that would
deny health care to women, gays and lesbians, people with HIV
and anybody else conservatives don’t like! 

Imagine our dismay to see the
proposed amendments submitted to the Senate Health, Education, Labor
and Pensions (HELP) committee this week
by Republican Senators Michael Enzi, Orin Hatch and Tom Coburn: 

  • Coverage for abortion
    would be banned;
  • Health providers
    and insurers would be protected against
    "discrimination" for refusing to provide health care requested by
    their patients including abortions, emergency contraception, aid-in-dying (such as in Oregon,
    Washington and Montana, where this is legal) or really just about any
    health service they find objectionable;
  • Federally-qualified
    health centers could not provide abortions and still get government
  • Any independent
    medical board appointed to determine the
    benefits that would be included in national health reform coverage would
    have to include "professional ethicists…with specialty in rights
    of the life of the unborn."

you conservative Republicans have forgotten the advice
GOP consultant Frank Luntz gave you just two months ago
about how to talk about health reform:
"What Americans are looking for in health reform is more access to
treatments and more doctors…with less interference from insurance
companies and Washington politicians and special interests."
That means we don’t want any more interference
in our health care from you, or any of the right-wing
groups urging you to use health reform to
restore the rejected Bush "moral values" agenda.  

Now, let’s turn to you Democrats
who are supposedly running Congress.
You are spending far too much time trying to
win over colleagues who are never going to vote for health reform, no
matter if you offer them abortion exclusions or
new provider "conscience" laws or other provisions that would hobble
health reform. You need to get over your worries that if you support
inclusion of a strong public plan in health reform, somebody is going
to call you a socialist.  

Don’t forget that women are
among the strongest supporters of moving quickly on health reform this
year. Why? Women are grassroots experts
on what is broken in the current health system. 

Insurance plans try to squirm
out of covering us when we are having babies by declaring our pregnancies
to be "pre-existing conditions." In a lot of states, insurance companies
charge us more than men for health coverage, largely because of the
costs of having children. They call this "gender rating." We call
it discrimination.  

If we’re not ready to have
children, we’re also out of luck. Some insurers don’t cover contraception.
And low-income women have no coverage for abortions in the federal Medicaid
program that you’re talking about expanding. It’s not included in
the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, either, so let’s not
make that a model for health reform. 

If we get a divorce, we can
lose our health coverage if it’s through our spouse’s policy from
work. We can also lose dependent coverage if our husband dies, or if
he becomes eligible for Medicare. Some of us, however, aren’t even
eligible for dependent coverage in a homophobic system that does not
recognize our relationships. 

Women are the majority of
the low-wage health care aides who
often don’t have health insurance coverage ourselves. We strain our
backs lifting patients, and then have no coverage for the treatment
we need.  

We take everybody to the doctor
– our kids, our spouses, our elderly parents, even our neighbors,
when they need help. We sit for hours in those dismal waiting rooms
with plastic chairs. We dig deep in our pocketbooks for co-pays. When
somebody is sick, we’ve often the ones who stay home to provide care,
using up our sick time.  

So, what do women want? Call
your mother – or sister, daughter or spouse! Meanwhile,
here’s the list we’ve been compiling at Raising Women’s voices for the Health Care We Need:

  1. Keep politics, politicians
    and ideology out of the decisions about which benefits should be included. 
    This is health care, people! Your moral values don’t belong there.
  2. Health coverage
    should start at birth and end at death, with no interruptions. We shouldn’t
    lose it when we change jobs, get divorced or move from one state to
  3. Make it affordable.
    Use a sliding scale. Offer subsidies for those who can’t pay very
  4. Make it fair. Don’t
    charge women more than men. Don’t let insurance companies refuse to
    cover people because they have diabetes, cancer, asthma or any other
    "pre-existing condition."
  5. Make it simple.
    Tell insurance companies to stop tricking us into buying policies that
    don’t cover the care we need. There should be no hidden clauses or
  6. Make it better. 
    Give us the high quality care that this country is capable of delivering,
    instead of extra tests and unneeded services that feed the bottom-line
    for drug companies or for-profit hospitals and medical systems at our
    expense.  And fix the system so that poor people, people of color,
    people with disabilities and LGBT people get high quality care too.
  7. Cover everybody!
    Stop arguing about whether we should cover undocumented immigrants or
    force legal immigrants to wait five years to be eligible. If they are
    living here as our neighbors, we want them to be healthy. Fixing the
    immigration system is a separate issue.
  8. This should be a
    wellness system, not a sickness system. Sure, we want to have medical
    care when we get sick, but better preventive care and stronger public
    health measures in our own communities can help us stay healthy.

Our message to you is this:
Get health reform done!  We know it’s not easy, but women have
been doing the hard work of keeping you and the rest of your families
healthy under very tough circumstances for a long time.  Now it’s
your turn! 

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  • invalid-0

    Thank you. This is one of the best articles on the healthcare debate that I’ve read. You’ve made it very clear and very understandable what Congress must do. Now, to get our fine leaders to hear the message!

  • alison-cole

    That pretty much sums it up. Thank you for laying it all on the line. I’ll be sharing this with friends.

  • clydweb

    Thank you Lois! I wrote to my Congressional Reps this morning, thanks for giving me the best talking points I’ve seen yet.

    Hope everyone who sees this does the same.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you, Lois, for this clear, concise summary of the issues facing women (as well as children and men) as the health care reform debate becomes more and more muddled. Please consider submitting your letter to the Washington Post Op-Ed pge. Go to: and scroll down to the bottom for the link to the instructions.

  • ashtonk

    Health Care’s cost is escalating, all because of increased technology and specialized training for physicians. Health care providers have limited the number of days for hospitalization depending upon the diagnosis and prognosis. Health care is now a huge national concern. There’s a lot of talk about health care reform, and the industry does need it, especially since so many people that are only after the most basic of care have to get emergency cash loans to cover something as simple as a simple antibiotics script, and a full third of the nation is without health insurance. The lead researcher for the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, Elliot Fisher, a practitioner for over 20 years, has pointed out that areas that spend more on health care interestingly spend more on unnecessary procedures, and have higher mortality rates. So why do we need payday cash advances for health care that is worse when more expensive?

  • invalid-0

    This should be a wellness system, not a sickness system. Sure, we want to have medical care when we get sick, but better preventive care and stronger public health measures in our own communities can help us stay healthy.