Yesterday, as expected, HR2 was passed by the House, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act—and all the good that comes with it. But the debate, and our fight, is far from over. Today, the House takes up a companion vote which has received a lot less attention—and certainly is no less worthy of a “no” vote—and that is House Resolution 9. This Resolution would instruct the chairs of the appropriate House committees of jurisdiction to develop legislation to meet ten vague principles that would replace the Affordable Care Act that they just voted to repeal. What is so telling about this resolution? After two years of town halls, 79 bipartisan hearings and Committee markups (comprising nearly 100 hours in hearings, with over 180 witnesses testifying at the invitation of both parties) and debate on the House floor (not to mention the hours of debate and hearings in the Senate), House Republicans still don’t have a plan. Rather, the resolution merely instructs these committees to report legislation—with no timeframe or deadline—that would meet these ten vague objectives that will basically put us all back at the mercy of the insurance companies. Thank goodness this wasn’t a crisis that needed to be solved in a timely way. Unless of course you consider it to be a crisis when people die from lack of health coverage. Or it happens to be your health coverage at risk.
And what is most telling is what is missing from those ten objectives. I have to say those ten objectives simply don’t address the many challenges that women face in our current health care system. Here are just a few critical things missing from their list of objectives that any reform plan must have to meet the needs of women.
1. Making sure insurance companies can’t drop your coverage when you get sick.
2. Providing no-cost sharing for necessary preventive care and screenings such as mammograms and pap smears. Studies have shown that even small co-pays can keep people from getting recommended preventive screenings.
3. Prohibiting insurance companies from setting premiums based on sex, known as gender rating.
4. Prohibiting insurance companies from setting of premiums based on your health status (basically charging you higher premiums because you’re sick).
5. Prohibiting insurance discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions such as being pregnant, or having had a Cesarean section, breast or cervical cancer, or having received medical treatment for surviving sexual assault or intimate partner violence.
6. Making sure women can actually get health insurance (outside of employer plans) that covers women’s basic health care needs like MATERNITY. (I’ll issue my challenge one more time: I dare someone, ANYONE to show me a health insurance policy that excludes a basic health care service that only men need). Too many women who buy insurance directly from an insurance company can’t find coverage that includes maternity at any price.
7. Ending the Medicare drug coverage gap. In 2007, women comprised more than two-thirds of all Medicare recipients who fell in the Medicare drug coverage gap known as the donut hole.
8. Prohibiting insurers from imposing lifetime or annual caps on medical benefits.
These are just a few of the many, many things that should be included in any health reform plan that will address the needs of women—and not coincidentally, they are all part of the Affordable Care Act. Members of the House need to hear why HRes 9 fails to meet the needs of women. If you’ve already called your representative to tell them to vote no on HR2—call them again—and tell them to vote no on House Resolution 9 because it fails to meet the needs of women. Now that HR2 has passed and has no chance in the Senate, we can expect many more attacks in the House on the Affordable Care Act—bills that will try to repeal individual pieces of the law. The Affordable Care Act is important for women’s health—we will work hard to defeat all attacks on this law.