22 March 2010

Historic Health Care Vote: Celebrate and Recommit to Rights of Women, Low-Income People and People of Color

There is absolutely no doubt that last night's House vote for health care reform was historic. True, it fell short in many ways -- by further restricting women's -- particularly low-income women's -- access to abortion, prohibiting immigrants from buying insurance from the exchange, and omitting a public option. But it is a monumental step nonetheless, and we applaud Democratic members of Congress who persevered amidst scare tactics and misguided rhetoric to lay the foundation for significant social change.

Early last fall, as the health-care debate was in full swing, the Ms. Foundation issued rapid-response grants to Raising Women's Voices and Women of Color United for Health Reform to mobilize greater support for and awareness about the urgent health-care priorities of low-income women and women of color, including immigrant women. Yesterday, Raising Women's Voices and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, a founding member of Women of Color United, each welcomed the House vote and recognized elements of their platforms in the final bill:

Raising Women's Voices:
The House of Representatives’ vote tonight for health care reform is a courageous and historic accomplishment. ...In the same way that Social Security and Medicare improved the health and wellbeing of so many Americans, the health reform plan approved by the House tonight will make a real and significant difference in the lives of millions of our families...and communities.

Because of this vote, women will gain health security because insurers will no longer be able to deny insurance coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, like breast cancer; and we will no longer suffer from “gender rating” that insurers use to charge women more than men for the same policies. We will also gain from the availability of affordable health insurance for millions more families and from the guarantee that maternity care will be covered. Screening and preventive services will be available without any cost-sharing barriers.

We owe a debt of thanks to the women who raised their voices -- over many, many years and especially over the last 18 months -- to bring about these important reforms. ...These women insisted that public policy respond to the needs of the people.

With great disappointment, we acknowledge that this victory came at a cost.... The legislation imposes unfair and unnecessary burdens on women who choose to purchase abortion coverage and will expand significantly the pool of women who are not able to purchase coverage for this basic reproductive health care. ... We recommit ourselves to working to eliminate this unjust and punitive policy which prevents low-income women from receiving the comprehensive reproductive health care they need.

...On balance we look back at the woman's vision for quality, affordable health care developed and issued by Raising Women’s Voices and see that the bill takes very substantial steps toward those goals. Read RWV's full response here.
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH):
NLIRH commends Congress and the Administration for continuing to push for much-needed health reform and we are pleased to see that some critical pieces affecting our community have been addressed in the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act.

...[T]he reconciliation package will cover an estimated 9 million uninsured Latinos and increase funding for community health centers, which is a lifeline for many in our neighborhoods. In addition, 4.4 million Americans in Puerto Rico and territories will receive $6.3 billion in new Medicaid funding, increased flexibility in how to use federal funding, access to the Exchange and $1 billion in subsides for low-income residents.

We understand that this legislation is not perfect. NLIRH has deep concerns about Latino immigrants and their families who will be left on the sidelines even as 31 million currently uninsured Americans celebrate the end to their long wait for reform.

...If Heath Care Reform passes, efforts to address the following priorities must commence immediately:

* Fix Nelson: the two-check provision is unworkable and will enact some of the most egregious and detrimental setbacks to abortion rights since the seventies.

* Include immigrant women: over half of all immigrants are women, and 53% of all immigrants are from Latin America.

* Parity for Puerto Rico: though the reconciliation provisions are better than what the Senate proposed, residents of Puerto Rico are still a long ways away from receiving Medicaid and other federal health care support at the same level as other states of the Union.

If health reform passes, NLIRH will celebrate.... But we will also renew our commitment to fight for the human right of all people - regardless of legal status or zip code - to health, dignity and justice. Read NLIRH's full response here.

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