Health Care for All New York has done an amazing job this past legislative session. From a recent press release:
“Last night, the Senate passed three insurance reform bills strongly supported by HCFANY:
1. A.8400/S.5471, which extends COBRA coverage from 18 to 36 months for workers who are laid off or have a reduction in hours;
2. A.9036/S.6030, which allows young adults (ages 19-29) to obtain a COBRA-like coverage through his or her parent’s insurance, while still preserving New York’s pure community rating system; and
3. A.8402/S.5472, which strengthens and updates consumer and provider protections in managed care and similar products, including enhanced access to cutting edge treatments for people with rare diseases.
These bills have already passed the Assembly, and HCFANY urges the Governor to sign them as quickly as possible.”
Super exciting! Check out their website here.
North Carolina passes sex-ed bill: Yesterday, lawmakers passed a bill that requires all seventh through ninth graders to learn about “sexually transmitted infections, how to properly use contraceptives and prevent pregnancy, and “other topics such as sexual assault”. This is a great step away from the abstinence-only program that was in effect in the state until yesterday. However, the bill still allows parents to pull their kids from these classes, so there is definitely still work to be done. Read the full article on RH Reality Check.
What do the private companies have to fear? An opinion piece from Paul Duncan at ABC.
Reflections on health care reform, the rally, and choice from Adrienne at Womenstake.org.
Strip search of Arizona 13 year-old ruled illegal by the Supreme Court
Raising Women’s Voices wants to give a shout-out to Tina Reynolds from Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), an advocacy and consulting group of formerly and currently incarcerated women working toward mutual support, leadership development, fighting public stigma about women in prison, and working to change public policy. Tina and WORTH have been instrumental in getting S.1290-A/A.3373-A through both houses of the state legislature. This bill forbids the use of restraints on incarcerated women during labor and post-delivery recovery and restricts the use of restraints during transport to and from the hospital. This violation of international human rights standards doesn’t have a place in the great state of New York.
Tina spoke at our Raising Women’s Voices Speak-out in April, bringing stories of incarcerated women and the challenges they face in getting fair, comprehensive health care. You can make a difference by signing on to the letter being sent to Governor Paterson urging him to sign the bill into law, or writing your own letter to send to the state house. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to sign on. You can also fax to 212-473-2807 or mail a letter to: Women in Prison Project/Correctional Association of New York, 2090 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Suite 200, New York, New York 10027. It’s easy and great – please make your voice heard!
Senator Max Baucus of Montana, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, announced at last Friday’s meeting that he was looking into ways to maintain employer self-insurance plans, meaning that a public payer option would be set aside for the moment, though it was “still on the table”.
Baucus said he believed that there should be a national system that allows benefits from differing state plans to transfer across state lines, but stressed that it is not his plan to interfere with employer-based health plans. “The system I envision is where self-insured companies, ERISA companies, can keep their own plans and manage health insurance in the way that they have. We’re not going to change the ways self-insured companies handle health care for employees” said Baucus.
The Senate Finance Committee will meet this Wednesday to discuss Baucus’ proposals. The Senate has the option of using the budget reconciliation process which would allow for legislation to pass with 51 votes rather than 60. However, many Democrats, Baucus included, have noted that the reconciliation process would not be needed if they could find a way to all work together.
Read more about this from Kaiser’s Daily Health Policy Report
On April 2nd, 2009, HHS Secretary Nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) answered a number of questions at the Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearings. Answering Senator Kyl’s queries about abortion, the Kansas Governor responded, “I am personally opposed to abortion, and my faith teaches me that all life is sacred. Throughout my career as a public official I have tried to reduce unwanted pregnancies, and thus curtail the need for abortion. In Kansas, the abortion rate dropped over 10 percent during my administration. I also signed into law bills to support adoption.”
While Sebelius does not hide the fact that she is personally opposed to abortion, she believes in protecting the Constitutional rights of America’s citizens. Sebelius went on to answer Senator Kyl’s question about her position on abortion and legislation that she vetoed while serving as Governor of Kansas. “Most of the abortion-related bills I vetoed as Governor threatened the constitutional rights or medical privacy of women. Some sought to provide people other than a woman’s doctor access to her medical records. Like most Americans, I strongly believe the privacy of medical records must be protected. In addition, I vetoed two bills that attempted to put specific regulations on abortion facilities without applying those same standards to all outpatient surgical centers. I favored treating all outpatient surgical centers equally.”
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the number of individual health insurance policies in California that do not include maternity coverage has increased from around 192,000 in 2004 to about 805,000 now. With a steady increase in the number of people losing their jobs, more and more are starting to pay for private plans, which oftentimes costs less than staying on a former employer’s plan.
Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-Los Angeles County) is introducing a bill that requires health insurance products regulated by the State Department of Insurance to include maternity benefits. Governor Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has vetoed a similar bill brought forth in 2004 by then-Senator Jackie Speier, a Democrat, and one brought forth by De La Torre last year.
Those opposed to including maternity coverage say that they should not be forced to pay for a service they have no intention of using, especially because it would cause their premiums to increase. But those in support claim that for a monthly average of $7.17, society would save money if fewer women were on government supported programs.
De La Torre said, “Why do women pay for prostate cancer? Why do men pay for breast cancer? Because that’s the whole point of insurance,” arguing that excluding maternity benefits opposes the whole philosophy of shared risk.
Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York already have laws in place for maternity coverage, and Ben Singer, a spokesman for Anthem Blue Cross, claims that their costs are higher for individual insurance coverage than California’s. Pregnancy is a choice, Singer maintains, clearly overlooking the accidental pregnancies that occur yearly, unlike heart-disease or adult-onset diabetes, which is linked to poor eating and exercising habits, which can also be labeled as “choices”.
Patricia Bellasalma, president of California’s National Organization of Women, argues that not all pregnancies are by choice, and excluding maternity coverage in health insurance is discriminatory against women, the only ones in that pool. This discrimination is part of the reason Californian women pay as much as 39% more for health insurance than Californian men.
For the full article click here
“When I withdrew from consideration to be secretary of health and human services, some pundits said health reform had received a devastating blow. While it would be flattering for me to believe that, it would also be completely wrong…the biggest error those pundits made was in thinking that the debate over health-care reform would be decided by who occupies certain positions in Washington. It won’t. It will be decided by the American people. And at the Forum on Health Reform, those voices were finally heard,” says former HHS Nominee Thomas Daschle.
The former South Dakota Senator reports that while it may be flattering to hear that his withdrawal is a serious blow to health care reform in this country, he believes that there are many advocates and reformers in Washington that are able to achieve change. Furthermore, Daschle notes that with a President who believes “Health-care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year” , a committed HHS nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius , White House Office of Health Reform head Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, Republicans who support health reform and allies from the pharmaceutical lobbyists, not to mention the thousands of Americans who have already voiced their concerns, health reform has many staunch supporters.
The reforms, which were adopted in 2006, include free coverage for the poor, subsidized plans for those with low-income, low-cost plans provided through a state agency, and a mandate for almost all citizens to obtain insurance. The reforms have decreased the number of uninsured and increased the number of employers offering coverage. But the dependence on private health plans has failed to slow spending. Without a public plan option to compete with private plans, there has been no reduction in costs.
Food for thought while we decide what to do on a national level.
When searching for an individual health policy, women will find that they are often charged more than men, even if they are within the same age and health bracket. Why? According to the insurance companies it’s because women use the health care system and its services more than men.
One report quotes Mark Wright of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida says, “Among other things, women stay current on annual screenings, which tends to lead to better future health.” The Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would end the gender-rating associated with health care policies.