The Current Situation
On Wednesday, November 18th, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Reid introduced his health care bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is a proposal that works to merge the Senate HELP and Finance Committeesâ€™ proposed health reform bills.
On Saturday, November 21st, the Senate Democrats voted to allow the bill to come to the floor for debate. (All 60 Democrats voted to allow debate; no Republicans voted to permit discussion.)
Right after Thanksgiving break, the Senate will begin debate on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This is when we will all have to become especially vigilant!
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
The good news is that as far as abortion rights is concerned, it does not include the Stupak-Pitts Amendment.
In response to cries from anti-choice Democrats, the bill is very specific about the accounting guidelines for the segregation of public and private funds to ensure that no federal money would be used to pay for abortion care. Insurers would be allowed to offer abortion coverage to women in the exchange, including women who choose the public option if the Secretary of HHS ensures that federal money is not being used to pay for the services. The proposed bill also confirms that states would be allowed to pay for abortion services on their own, if the federal government decided not to include those services in the public option.
HOWEVER, in order to save money for the government (not women), the Senate HELP bill that guaranteed women access to family planning services without any extra charges was dropped from the merged bill
States would be allowed the option of covering family planning through Medicaid more easily. Further, other preventive health services and screenings would be covered and exempt from deductibles and co-payment requirements in both public and private insurance plans.
The plan also proposes to do away with gender rating which allowed the insurance industry to charge women more than men for the same coverage. It also would put an end to refusing coverage for pre-existing conditions like breast cancer, domestic violence and cesarean section deliveries and imposing lifetime limits on benefits.
Unfortunately, the plan would not put an end to the insurance industryâ€™s practice of charging older people more than younger individuals. The House bill restricted the age rating price difference to 2:1 while the proposed Senate bill price difference is 3:1.
Feel Good About Ourselves But Not Comfortable
With your help, Choice Matters along with Raising Women’s Voices and other women’s health advocacy groups responded quickly and loudly when the House passed the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. We told Senator Reid not to adopt that amendment or anything like it.
Choice Matters joined the New York Alliance for Women’s Health, a statewide coalition of more than 55 women’s health organizations, to tell Senator Reid not to turn health reform into a political football by including anti-abortion Stupak language.
People for the American Way and other national groups delivered anti-Stupak petitions to Senator Reid’s office with more than 97,000 signatures
Groups not directly involved with reproductive rights expressed outrage. Health Care for All New York sent a letter to Senator Reid on the Stupak language. Health Care for America NOW! and American Public Health Association spoke out against the Stupak language.
A National Day of Action in Washington DC is being planned for December 2nd. Buses are being organized. If you need information, email us: ChoiceMatters@ChoiceMatters.org
*Special thanks to Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need