Congress has done it. They’ve thrown women’s reproductive
rights under the bus. They’ve catered to religious extremists rather than
protect the health of our mothers, daughters, and sisters. They’ve sacrificed
the health of the American people on the altar of health insurance industry
profits. They took an historic opportunity to improve the conditions in which
Americans live and die, and squandered it to protect the status quo.
This is not the change we believed in. President Obama’s
tiptoeing around our human rights is not the leadership we voted for.
House health care reform bill, the “Affordable Health Care for America Act,”
won’t actually create affordable health care for America. It will perpetuate
our existing inefficient, often inhumane health care system, one that spends
twice as much as any other nation on earth yet fails to meet the basic needs of
many individuals and communities.
The convoluted logic of our existing health insurance-based system is
echoed in the cumbersome pages of HR 3962.
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over 30% of each dollar of our insurance premiums goes not to cover actual
health care costs, but instead to pay for the overhead and profits of the
private health insurance industry. With the House version of health care reform
passed last night, we’ll throw more of our tax money into this inefficient,
for-profit system. (Medicare, a single payer, not-for-profit, government-run
health plan for seniors and some disabled people, spends 2-3% on overhead.)
health insurance industry, which exists not to care for sick people or keep us
healthy, but to reap profits, is the big winner so far in health care reform.
As of today, women are the biggest losers. With the addition of the Stupak
amendment, health care reform further chips away at women’s fundamental right
to abortion by eliminating coverage through health insurance plans associated
with Health Insurance Exchanges (what’s left of the ‘public option’). Ironically,
the agency overseeing the Exchanges is called the Health Choices Administration. In fact, there will be no choice in the new health reform
plans—the bill restricts any system funds from going to abortion care, even the
premium monies women pay out of their own pockets.
amended bill allows for “non federal entities” including local and state
governments and individuals to “purchase supplemental coverage for abortion.”
This provision would be hilarious in its absurdity if it were not so tragic. The
point of health insurance—indeed, the point of all insurance—is to provide a
safety net when life throws unexpected, difficult events our way. Of course, no
one plans ahead for their abortion. When women and families are applying for
insurance, they don’t think to themselves, “Well, are we going to need an
abortion this year?” Plus, most companies
and government entities will surely be unwilling to pay for supplemental coverage
of any kind, much less for supplemental coverage for one particular highly
marginalized and stigmatized (yet common) reproductive health service.
legislation is not all bad. It’s good that the law would prohibit insurance
companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, like
me with my cystic fibrosis and breast cancer. It’s good, and about time, that
preventive health services will be fully covered under Medicare and Medicaid.
It’s a relief that our government will finally be able to negotiate drug prices
directly with pharmaceutical companies for Medicare Part D plans.
HR 3962 is not good enough. It does not provide universal coverage and it will
not control health care costs. It does not eliminate or even reign in the
private insurance companies, who waste $400 billion each year—enough to cover
health care for all 46 million of the uninsured. The law, if passed, will
blindside a lot of women, from all walks of life, who won’t care much about the
abortion restrictions until life throws them a curveball. When they find themselves
in a situation they did not and could not have planned for, they will learn, as
do poor women in most states, Native American women, and our soldiers and
veterans, that their choices have already been made, by bishops, by
corporations, and by their Congress.