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Recently Barack Obama did an interview with Katie Couric from NBC news. While chatting about health reform and other things, he made a reference to the precedent of the Hyde Amendment that restricts federal funding for abortions. In this reference he made it sound like he may support a health care bill that has an explicit exclusion of abortion care. Check out more from Feministing here. There’s also some frustrating things coming out of congress for the appropriations bills: crazy amendments proposed at silly hours of the night. Check out RH Reality Check for that.
A few days ago Barack Obama spoke out in a news conference about health insurance reform. He stated that congress still has “a few things to work out” and that “this debate is not a game…they [average Americans] are counting on us to get this done”. He spoke for about ten minutes and then spent the large part of an hour answering questions. He sounded pretty upbeat: “What’s remarkable at this point not is how far we have left to go, it’s how far we’ve already come”, and he’s be backing off the time limit since it doesn’t look like bills will go to the floor of the senate before the August recess. But maybe before the end of the year?
The National Immigration Law Center came out with a document comparing the different health care reform proposals that are on the table in Washington right now. The piece gives side-by-side comparisons of the House tri-committee bill, the Senate Finance Committee bill, and the Senate HELP bill. There are a variety of areas of health reform that are being compared, including eligibility requirements for individuals to purchase insurance in the exchange, the subsidy system that will be available and to whom that system will be accessible, tax exemptions, how the bill treats those who are undocumented, stipulations around the expansion of Medicaid and who is eligible for Medicaid. Keep up with what’s going on with health care reform and immigration at the National Immigration Law Center here.
Our newsletter this week focused on the reports that compromise discussions are happening right now in the House Energy and Commerce Committee that would restrict access to abortion. Please contact your representatives and let them know this cannot happen! Click here to see a list of Energy and Commerce Committee members, and here to find the name and contact information for your Representative. Please cc firstname.lastname@example.org so that we know how many of you have raised your voices for quality, affordable health care that meets women’s health needs.
Check out this article from Newsweek written by Ted Kennedy.
“This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, “that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it’s always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.”
This article from RH Reality Check outlines the challenges faced by women of low income in the search for abortion – women may not be able to afford it and not eligible for federal or state funds, many insurance companies claim they cover elective abortions, but may not have providers in the region, or women face obstacles like 24 hour waiting periods or parental notification. Despite these obstacles, legislators are talking up their concerns about abortion provision in the health care bills. Give me a break.
Things seem to be murky as we look ahead in health care reform. People are saying all different things – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi seems to think we’ll get all the committees to finish their bills by August (as the self-imposed timeline dictates), but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer doesn’t agree. There has been talk of compromises about abortion issues as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee talking of transferring the responsibility of cuts to federal health care programs to an outside panel. In addition, the media is making headlines out of setbacks and largely ignoring success stories in health reform. Leadership walks a fine line between pacifying moderate Democrats and not enraging progressives.
A very complicated part of the process is yet to come – the conference committee. This is a group put together by leadership of the parties (speaker of the House and senate majority leader as well as minority leaders). Conference committees are formed when complex bills from both chambers need to be melded into big pieces of legislation. Each party is to be represented in the correct ratio, and chair people and members of all the committees involved in the legislation are included in conference committee. There are a few set rules for when a piece of legislation goes to conference committee: no new amendments can be added, and no pieces can be taken out if they are agreed on by both chambers of congress. Other than that, the committee is left to determine the best way to synthesize the two bills, with usually significant oversight by the president.
Once the Senate Finance Committee and House Energy and Commerce come out with their versions of the bill, we can expect to see a conference committee created. Should be…tedious.
Denis Kucinich proposed an amendment in the House of Representatives committee on Education and Labor last Friday that would make states able to set up single-payer systems independent of the federal government. His amendment passed in committee, so it may end up in the conglomerate health care bill at the end of the line.
There is bipartisan support for this measure – from Democrats for the possibility of a government-run system in the states and from Republicans so as to respect states’ rights. Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, and Massachusetts are all states in which there are healthy campaigns for single-payer coverage, and in those states the creation of this kind of system is a possibility. As we’ve said before, a single-payer system would be a great option for women. A single-payer system provides lower costs and goes toward universal coverage – both things important to women and their families.