Friday, March 19, 2010

Health Reform Home Stretch: Keep raising your voice for health care that meets our needs!

Yesterday, the House Committee on Rules released the reconciliation bill, bringing another critical step closer to passing health reform legislation. Overall, the reconciliation bill makes significant improvements to the Senate health reform bill in some key areas that we had hoped to see changed. Taken together with the Senate bill, this health reform package will make health care better, make health insurance more fair and affordable and help people who can't get insurance now to get it.

There's a lot at stake and this might be our last chance to call our Representatives and tell them that we want good health care reform, and we want it NOW!

Despite all of the pressure, some of our Representatives are still on the fence about health reform. To find out about how YOUR representative is leaning, check this regularly updated list.  If your Rep is on the list, call or email them right now!  For people listed as "No" or "Undecided," let them know that you want them to support health reform.  For people listed as "Yes" or "Leaning Yes," let them know that you support health care reform and are glad to see them standing up for women's health.

What should you say? Our message is clear:  This bill will provide important protections for those of us who have health insurance. It will provide new coverage options for those of us that don't have coverage. And it will reduce our national deficit in the long term. Women, families and our communities need your support!

We at Raising Women's Voices are always motivated and inspired by the work that you all have been doing all around the country. As this part of the process draws to a close we encourage you to keep up the momentum into these next few days! We could not have come this far without you and we need your voices TODAY!

More About What's in the Final Health Care Bill

There are some important things to note about what this bill will actually mean for women, our families and our communities. The fixes in the reconciliation bill improve the subsidies that are available to help middle-income individuals and families buy insurance, and cover more people.  The bill closes the Medicare prescription drug donut hole by 2020 and helps seniors this year with a $250 rebate. It eliminates gender rating. It covers the increased Medicaid costs for all states until 2016.  It strengthens insurance protections for consumers who would have been exempted from the protections under the terms in the Senate bill.

Unfortunately, the reproductive health measures that we were concerned about weren't improved, and the exclusions of immigrants remained intact.  As we expected, the two-check provision, requiring two separate payments of private dollars for people with abortion coverage is still in the bill.  We had higher hopes that the Senate's ill-advised decision to continue funding ineffective, abstinence-only until marriage programs would be remedied in the fixes bill, but that didn't happen. We also hoped to see more improvements to the subsidies for low-income people.  And it's disappointing that even the improved subsidies for middle-income families may not continue beyond the first few years.

However, as we've said, there are some very important provisions and safeguards in the bill that would provide greater access to good health care to many women and our families. Our partners at Health Care for America NOW! point out these ways that the bill would improve health care and health security:
  • Stop insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and cutting people off when they get sick.
  • Eliminate deductibles or co-pays for preventive care in all new health plans.
  • Deny insurance companies the ability to charge higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions, gender, or occupation. Higher premiums based on age are still allowed but limited.
  • Require insurance companies to spend money on health care, not CEO salaries and profits.
  • Strengthen Medicare and close the "donut hole" in drug benefit plans for seniors.
  • Help small businesses afford health insurance for their employees.
  • Control costs and make good health insurance affordable to everyone.
    • For example, a family of 3 earning $37,000 would pay less than $200 per month for health insurance for the entire family. The family's out-of-pocket costs would be limited, too, so even if someone in the family faced a serious illness, they would not have to pay more than $4,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Invest resources in the primary care workforce, and provide bonuses to providers practicing in provider-shortage areas.
  • Increase the diversity of health professionals and strengthen cultural competence among all providers.
  • Provide additional funding for needed data collection and research that helps to identify and eliminate disparities.
  • Begin a national strategy to improve health care quality, patient outcomes, and population health.

What changes would happen immediately (in 2010, within six months of enactment of bill)?
The Senate bill and reconciliation package offer a number of immediate benefits to women and our families, including:
  • Insurance companies will be prohibited from canceling our policies if we get sick.
  • Insurance companies will no longer be able to set lifetime limits or "unreasonable" annual limits on the amount of  medical care they will cover under our existing policies.
  • We will be able to keep our dependent children on our family policies until their 26th  birthdays.
  • People on Medicare Part D whose prescription drug expenses are high enough to put them into the non-reimbursed "donut hole" this year will be eligible for a $250 rebate to help defray their personal drug costs.
  • All new insurance plans will be required to cover preventive health care and screenings (such as pap smears and mammograms) without charging co-payments to the patients.
  • Small businesses with low-wage workers will be eligible for tax credits to help them purchase health coverage for their employees.
  • People with pre-existing conditions will have new, more affordable coverage options through a "high-risk" pool to be established within 90 days of enactment of the bill.
  • Early retirees will be able to get more affordable health coverage until they are old enough to qualify for Medicare.
  • People shopping for health insurance coverage will be able to better compare plans and their costs because of a requirement for standard policy documents and establishment of a website identifying coverage options in each state.

As always, Raising Women's Voices will keep you up to speed as more information is available. Please stay connected to our regular updates by bookmarking and following the
RWV blog!

Upcoming Events: Mark Your Calendars!

Doctors of America, March on Washington! 
March 22, 2010
Washington, D.C., Capitol Building
Our patients need it, our communities need it, our country needs it. A sea of white coats and scrubs on
Pennsylvania Ave. will give Congress a strong message - we must pass health reform now. Click here for details about how to join in!

Healthy Women, Healthy Choices: Reform! Respect! Rejuvenate! 
March 23,2010
9:00am - 3:00pm
The InterchurchCenter (475 Riverside Drive, New York)
Join RWV and the InterchurchCenter to learn more about health care reform and what it means to you. We will be discussing the reform debate, balancing your work and social lives, and how to make healthy choices for you and your family. Keynote Speaker, Byllye Avery of the Avery Social Institute of Change will be presenting along with: Dr. Manisha Sharma, Eesha Pandit, VerĂ³nica Bayetti Flores, and other advocates for social justice and health reform. Email us to RSVP.

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