Thursday, December 9, 2010

From Raising Women's Voices: The Latest Health Reform News You Can Use!

End separate and unequal abortion access!
A report, published this week by the Center for American Progress, describes the disproportionate impact that abortion funding restrictions have on poor women and women of color, making a strong case for opposing these restrictions on racial and economic justice grounds.  Separate and Unequal, written by Jessica Arons and Madina Agénor, lays out the history and impact of abortion funding restrictions – from the Hyde amendment, first imposed on the Medicaid program in 1976, to other government-run or -managed health programs, including Medicare, the military's TRICARE program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, federal prisons, Indian Health Service, the Peace Corps, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and most recently the Affordable Care Act.
As Toni Bond Leonard, president of Black Women for Reproductive Justice and an RWV regional coordinator in Illinois, explains in her preface to the report, the political context for these policies is much broader than the narrow confines of the abortion debate.  She notes that it encompasses welfare and criminal justice reforms, the war on drugs, and even reaches back in U.S. history to slave owners' possession and control of black women and their children.  Bond writes that viewing the cumulative impact of these policies through a reproductive justice frame reveals "an agenda that is still very much intent upon controlling the childbearing of black women and other women of color."
Separate and Unequal offers arguments against abortion funding restrictions that might be persuasive to people and organizations that don't have a clear and strong prochoice stance but that share a commitment to achieving health equity for poor women and women of color.  It acknowledges that appealing abortion funding restrictions by itself won't result in full equity, but it demonstrates why repeal is a necessary part of that struggle.


Expanding equity goals in health reform
One of the important goals of health reform is to promote health equity. The most common focus of this work has been to reduce health disparities based on race and ethnicity, and as we just mentioned, that work is crucial to help the health reform law fulfill its promise to the most vulnerable among us. It is important that we include all those vulnerable populations in our work to achieve equity. Two state health reform coalitions have recently added gender, disabilities, sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of disparities they hope to address through health reform. They further specified that access to reproductive health services must be ensured to promote health equity.
Health Care for All New York (HCFANY) included the expanded health equity goal within its new standards for how New York's insurance exchange should be constructed and operated. The HCFANY health equity language calls for access to abortion coverage. Health Care for All of New Mexico incorporates similar language in the principles it adopted for health reform implementation work in New Mexico.  You can find both of these coalition statements on the RWV website.
Interested in trying this approach within your state health reform coalition, as it prepares to work on state implementation? Contact for help.

Pennsylvania women plan strategy
Dismayed by election results that will give their state an anti-choice governor and markedly increased anti-choice strength in the state legislature, Pennsylvania women's health advocates came together this week to discuss how to avoid an abortion coverage ban in their state's insurance exchange.
Raising Women's Voices of Southeastern PA and the Pennsylvania Coalition for Choice held a joint meeting in Philadelphia. RWV co-founder Lois Uttley, Jordan Goldberg of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Talcott Camp of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project joined them to discuss the state's new political climate and how to respond to expected efforts to ban or restrict abortion coverage in the private insurance plans that would be sold in Pennsylvania's state insurance exchange. This kind of coordinated planning is essential for women's health advocates as states begin implementing health reform in January. Want help planning a strategy session in your state? Contact

Proof positive: Health reform is a women's issue
We certainly know it from our own experience, but a new study demonstrates the reason statistically!
Women's spending on health is 32 percent higher per capita than men's, according to new analysis by researchers from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS). The gender differences were especially striking among Americans of childbearing age and among the elderly, due to women's longer life expectancy. Women spent approximately $1,448 more per person than men ($5,989 versus $4,541) during the latest year (2004) for which the data was available. The study, "Pronounced Gender Differences in Personal Health Care Spending," is available here.
Why is this important to the work of Raising Women's Voices and our allies? We need to use it to demonstrate to broad-based health reform coalitions and health funders that, in fact, a "gendered" view of health reform is both valid and critical to the success of this important national undertaking. Moreover, when we establish goals for achieving health equity in health reform, we must include gender as one of the factors that is causing health disparities.

Medicare doc "pay fix" passes Congress
Older women worrying about losing their physicians because of a pending 25 percent cut to Medicare payments can breathe a little easier. The Congress, pushed by the White House, approved a one-year "doc-fix" late Wednesday in the Senate and Thursday afternoon in the House. The bill now heads to the desk of President Obama, who is expected to sign it. Without this action, Medicare payments would have been slashed on Jan. 1. The bad news? The pay restoration is being paid for with some of the funds that had been set to provide subsidies to people buying insurance in state-run insurance exchanges. Read more here.

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