Invite Tom Daschle to Your House for Cookies – and Health Care Reform

Lois Uttley

When's the last time the Secretary of Health and Human Services asked to drop by and find out what we think about fixing America's broken health care system?

How many of you are inviting
Tom Daschle over
for egg nog and a nice, friendly discussion about health
reform and reproductive health during the holidays?  

What, you’re too busy shopping
the discount stores for affordable presents, figuring out what to serve
at that Chanukah party or Christmas dinner and – oh yes, worrying
about your rent, your mortgage, the grocery bills, your 401K and even
whether you’ll still have a job come January? Don’t have time to
dust for Daschle? 

Yes, it’s inconvenient. Surely,
no woman would have suggested trying to host community health care meetings
between December 15 and 31, but come on! When’s the last time the
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services asked to drop by and find
out what we think about fixing America’s broken health care system?  

We have an incoming administration
that says it actually wants to hear what all of us think about the problems
with the current system and what would improve it. Moreover, our next
President says he thinks we need to get started on health reform right
away, in the middle of the economic crisis. 

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"It’s not something we
can put off because we’re in an emergency," President-elect Barack
Obama said at his news conference Thursday. "It’s part
of the emergency." He cited increasing joblessness, and the loss of
health coverage that accompanies layoffs, skyrocketing health premium
costs and the rise in personal bankruptcy filings related to medical
debt. "The runaway cost of health care is punishing families and businesses,"
he said.  

With that, Obama introduced
former Senator Daschle as his nominee to head not only the Department
of Health and Human Services, but also a special health reform office
within the White House. Daschle is no stranger to the women’s health
community, as Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile
Richards quickly pointed out: "Former Sen. Daschle has a strong
record of standing up for women’s health and women’s rights and
supporting commonsense policies that improve health outcomes for women." 

So, let’s invite our friends,
neighbors and family over. Go to to sign up to lead one of these discussions
at your house, and let Tom Daschle know where to find you. Perhaps he’ll
even arrive early enough to help put out the napkins and cookies.  

While he’s sipping and munching,
what do we want to tell him? Here are some suggestions from "A Woman’s
Vision of Quality Health Care for All" produced by Raising Women’s
Voices for the Health Care We Need, based on small-group discussions
with women like you all across the country: 

  • Health care coverage
    must be affordable. Women and our families need to be able to afford
    not only the premiums, but also those co-pays and deductibles. Don’t
    forget that women still earn, on average, only 75 cents for every dollar
    that men earn, and we use the health system a lot more, in part because
    of our need for reproductive health care. So, for example, we may have
    prescription drug coverage for birth control, but the co-pay for filling
    the prescription can make it unaffordable.
  • Health care coverage
    must be always available. One quarter of American women get our health
    coverage through a spouse’s employer, meaning we are at risk of losing
    it through divorce. Others of us are unable to get coverage at all because
    of insurance company policies denying coverage for people with pre-existing
    conditions, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer or even having had
    a c-section delivery! Still more of us work at low-wage jobs that don’t
    offer health insurance.
  • Health care systems
    must provide the acute, preventive, chronic and supportive health care
    services that women and our families need. Let’s start with comprehensive
    reproductive health care – contraception, sexuality education, sterilizations,
    abortions and a full range of childbirth choices – but don’t stop
    there. We also need services across women’s lifespans, including support
    for family caregivers, who are overwhelmingly women. Don’t forget
    mental health and dental services.
  • Health care systems
    must actively work to achieve equity and eliminate disparities in health
    care provision. Women who are low-income, immigrants and women of color
    are at the highest risk for having no health insurance or being under-insured.
  • The health care
    system must be user-friendly, easy to navigate and transparent. Who
    can decipher all those insurance company rules and requirements? Who
    can make sense of the bills we get, or which doctors are in the networks
    we are supposed to use? Women know these problems intimately, because
    we are the arrangers of health care for most families.
  • We must attain the
    highest attainable standard of health for women, our families and our
    communities. Health coverage is an important first step, but it can’t
    be the only one we take. We need to address environmental threats to
    our health care, lack of healthy food choices for some urban residents
    and lack of recreational opportunities. Prevention and a health environment
    can keep us healthy!

Need more ideas of what to
say? Visit  Let us know if you host a health
care conversation in your home. Send us a summary of what was said (to [email protected]). If Tom Daschle didn’t show up
at your house, we’ll help make sure he finds out what happened. We’ll
even send you a thank you!

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