12 January 2011

Vote to Repeal Health Care Law Still Looms

Had not the horrors in Arizona taken place this past weekend, today, the US House of Representatives would have staged a largely ceremonial but still dangerous vote on the repeal of health care reform. Ceremonial because even if the vote had passed the House, it wouldn't have passed the Senate (where Democrats still hold a slim majority); dangerous, because it continues to lay the foundation for a repeal of these laws at the state level and "dismantling the law piece by piece."

That would spell real trouble for millions of low- and middle-income people -- many of them women, children and people of color -- who would once again find themselves shut out of the health care system if the repeal takes place.

For women, the stakes in this debate are incredibly high. As our friends over at Womenstake, the National Women's Law Center blog, noted:
Repealing the law will return us to the days when women were treated like a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies will be allowed to drop coverage when an enrollee gets sick and deny women coverage if they’ve had a C-section, breast or cervical cancer, or received medical treatment for domestic or sexual violence. Repeal will keep 11 million women from receiving subsidies to help them buy affordable health insurance and prevent 4.5 million low-income women from becoming eligible for coverage through Medicaid.
Consider that just the tip of the iceberg. Our recent grantee Raising Women's Voices -- a leading voice on the importance of health care reform to women -- published a useful fact sheet on the benefits women gained from health care reform in 2010, and just highlighted a few more women friendly policies that will go into effect in 2011, if nothing changes. These include:
  • Lowering prescription costs for seniors (many of them women);
  • Providing free preventive services, such as vaccinations and cancer screenings, for seniors on Medicare; and
  • Requiring insurers to give us rebates if they don't spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care.
But if repeal efforts gain any foothold, these benefits -- along with others like the requirement that new insurance plans provide preventive health care and screenings (such as pap smears and mammograms) for free -- would be gone with the wind.

There's no question that the Affordable Care Act (the official name for health care reform) was a giant win for communities long discriminated against by the insurance companies. And it's clear, too, that after the long fight to get the legislation passed, Congressional Democrats and the President have no intention of rolling over and marching back the clock on women's lives (the President will all but certainly veto any repeal legislation that hits his desk, were the Senate to somehow approve repeal). But a number of states now under Republican control are making moves as we speak to reject the law in their legislatures -- efforts which could just as surely leave millions of women and their families scrambling to protect their own well-being and the lives and health of those they love.

If you're interested in learning the specifics of how health care repeal would affect women in your state, check out NWLC's state-by-state fact sheets on the issue. Stay tuned for more news from us on Conservative efforts to repeal this important legislation; a new vote could come as soon as next week.

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