National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

A Historic Moment...But at Women's Expense

November 10, 2009 | Health Care | Reproductive Health

The health reform bill the House passed this weekend had some long-overdue advances — and an eleventh hour amendment so appalling it taints the entire bill.

The U.S. House of Representatives brought the nation one huge step closer to giving all Americans access to high quality, affordable care. We've been fighting for decades to get here, and it was an historic moment.

But the outrageous, reckless, and unnecessary restriction on abortion coverage — added at the eleventh hour by opponents of women's right to choose — threatens to undermine the promise of reform and endanger women's health and lives. It simply must not stand.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) includes some real advances. - This bill's greatest strengths include ending gender rating, limiting age rating and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions. It is long past time for these disgraceful practices to end. We are pleased that H.R. 3962 would extend these new federal rating rules to all individual and fully insured group markets.

The House bill also covers maternity care, well-woman and well-child visits, and cancer screening — and it includes no-cost language to let states expand access to Medicaid-covered family planning services without a cumbersome waiver process.

We also applaud the provisions that will help lower-income families with the new obligation to buy health insurance, and support the expansion of the Medicaid national 'floor' to 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. But more must be done to ensure that affordable coverage is within reach for low- and moderate-income families.

But the inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts anti-choice amendment utterly taints this bill. Unless that amendment is removed, the promise of reform will ring hollow for women who will lose coverage for essential reproductive health care that we now have.

This is a historic opportunity that lawmakers must not squander by capitulating to the anti-choice extremists who would deny women coverage for basic reproductive health care.


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