I am sure you saw the news out of DC this weekend. While health care reform passed a hurdle in the House of Representatives, women and immigrants were left on the sidelines. Anti-choice and anti-immigrant advocates have been working around the clock and have successfully pushed ideology over common sense, public health strategies. We cannot afford to not to take action. We are calling on you over the coming days and weeks, as health care reform moves forward quickly. We need you to make your voices heard and not just once.
Here's a snapshot of the final House bill:
In an effort to pass health care reform, Congress included an amendment that singled out and banned most abortions from all public and private health plans in the insurance exchange. Women who think they may need an abortion in the future would be required to buy an additional insurance "abortion rider" with their own personal funds for coverage. Essentially they are saying that under current health care reform, women would have to plan for an unplanned pregnancy. Of course, the real goal of this anti-choice compromise is to limit women's access to abortion coverage in both public and private health insurance plans since many private plans may choose to deny coverage for abortions.
Thanks to the hard work of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Latino advocates across the country, immigrants fared a bit better in the debates. Under the House bill, undocumented immigrants can buy into the public health insurance exchange with their own money. This is a significant improvement over what's in the current Senate bill up for debate, which denies undocumented immigrants from using their own money to buy health insurance on the exchange, leaving millions without health care!
But, as it exists right now, in both bills undocumented immigrants still face a two-tier health system. They are prevented from receiving any subsidies, affordability credits, or receive federal Medicaid. The 5-year ban on legal residents accessing public health benefits also remained intact. And anti-immigrant forces are working day and night to strip out health care access for undocumented immigrants in the final bill that goes before the President for his signature.
While this outcome was extremely disappointing, all news was not bad. The House bill included important provisions on data collection in order to address health disparities and additional funding and resources for community health worker programs, such as Promotoras de Salud (community health educators). It also expands eligibility for Medicaid and prevents insurance companies from discriminating against women and families for 'pre-existing conditions', such as pregnancy or being a victim of domestic violence.
National Latina Institute is gearing up for the next set of debates as health care reform makes its way through the Senate. We're on the Hill talking to Senators and working the phones with reproductive justice and immigrant allies. We expect a Senate vote very soon and lawmakers need to hear from you!
Here's what we want to put back in the Senate bill:
· Include FULL coverage for comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion coverage for all women;
· Allow undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance on the exchange; and
· Lift the 5-year ban for legal permanent residents to participate in public health programs, such as Medicaid.
CALL YOUR SENATOR. While we'll be doing everything we can to protect the health and rights of Latinas and their families, your Senators need to hear directly from you.
Contact the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be directly connected to your Senator or contact their office directly. To find and contact your Senator click here.
Here are some talking points to help you get started:
· Health care reform should help all women and families, not just a select few.
· Right now we have a two-tier system in the United States: women with private health insurance or private funds can access health care, but poor women and families, particularly undocumented immigrants, cannot.
· Pregnancy and parenthood are not political issues; they are personal decisions that families should make for themselves.
· Don't let ideology get in the way of public health. Please support comprehensive reproductive health care and health care reform for all families in the Senate bill.
SPREAD THE WORD. Tell your families and friends to do the same. Also, don't forget to spread the word on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter!
We will keep you updated on all the twists and turns of health care reform as we work to create real reform for Latinas and their families.