Health Reform and Women’s Health in Missouri

Paula Gianino

More than 750,000 Missourians are uninsured. Medicaid benefits for 300,000 Missourians were cut, and coverage for 100,000 more eliminated. In 2003, 30,000 women lost Medicaid coverage.

Health Care Reform: The Voices of Providers appears today on RH Reality
Check
with 3 concurrent articles.  Each of these appeared originally on
American Forum.

Health care reform bills are moving quickly in Washington D.C. As a
trusted health care provider serving over 50,000 women a year with
thousands of pap smears, breast exams, and tests for sexually
transmitted disease, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and
Southwest Missouri wants to make sure women’s health is a priority in
health care reform.

Reform is sorely needed with more than
750,000 Missourians (one out of every six) uninsured according to the
Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, former Governor Blunt’s Medicaid
cuts reduced benefits for 300,000 Missourians, and eliminated Medicaid
coverage for 100,000 Missourians according to the Missouri Citizen
Education Fund. Furthermore, in 2003, the Missouri House eliminated a
successful and cost-saving program that gave 30,000 Missouri women
access to family planning services.

In our current health care
system, women of childbearing age spend 68 percent more in
out-of-pocket expenses than men. A recent report by the Department of
Health and Human Services titled “Roadblocks to Health Care: Why the
Current Health Care System Does Not Work for Women,” show that “women
are more vulnerable to high health care costs… [because] women’s
reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care
providers, including yearly Pap tests, mammograms, and obstetric care.”
And a 2009 survey conducted for the American College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists found that women are delaying their annual exams as a
result of the economic downturn.

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Most of the news reports about
the ongoing health care debate have focused on costs, pharmaceutical
and hospital inpatient benefits, physician reimbursement, mandatory
coverage and the possibility of a public, government-run option. But
none of these have focused on the behind-the-scenes attempts of several
organizations to eliminate access to women’s reproductive health care
in any and all versions of the proposals being debated. These groups
have drafted over 20 restrictive amendments to the House and Senate
proposals which if passed, would make coverage for women’s health care
worse than what it already is today. And, there is growing pressure
from some legislators to take away even more existing benefits that
most women have today.

Actions like this should be a wake-up call for all women!

Earlier
this year, Congress took family planning benefits out of the stimulus
bill. It seems that women’s health care is always one of the first
things to be on the chopping block.

If we do not act, a health
care reform proposal could be passed by Congress and sent to the
President that eliminates access to previously-covered services like
Pap smears, breast exams and comprehensive reproductive health care,
and eliminates the ability to choose one’s provider of choice. This
would be a huge setback for women in America.

Now is the time
for women to be included in this important debate. Women must demand
that access to comprehensive reproductive health care services and the
freedom to select their physician and health care provider be protected
and included in health care reform legislation.

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