Monday, December 21, 2009

Healthcare - What the heck is going on?

While most of DC was enjoying SNOPACALYPSE '09 this weekend, our dear friends in the Senate were negotiating the Healthcare Reform bill. Once again, women's rights ended up being used as a bargaining chip.

Voting during an unusual 1 am session on Monday morning (the bizarre timing has been forced by the GOP, which has thrown every feasible parliamentary procedure hurdle in the bill's way), the Senate ended debate on the healthcare bill, clearing the way for expected final passage of the bill on Christmas Eve. The 60-40 vote fell along party lines and came after a tense weekend of negotiations with Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). As a result of those talks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced the Reid Amendment, a 383 page "manager's amendment," which includes new language relating to abortion.

Under the new version of the healthcare reform bill, state legislatures will decide whether their insurance exchanges will permit plans that offer abortion coverage. If a state does permit insurance plans that cover abortion services to participate in the exchange, those services must be paid for by private health insurance premiums and not by federal funds.

The new plan, known as the "abortion opt-out" immediately raised protests from pro-choice leaders, who worry that the compromise will result in a de facto abortion ban for women in conservative states. "It is not acceptable to burden women and employers with the chilling requirement of multiple payment structures, creating a condition where participants are less likely to opt for full coverage. And it is unconscionable to allow state-run exchanges to opt out of providing abortion coverage, even when a woman's life is in danger," said Kelli Conlin of the National Institute for Reproductive Health.

Despite these concerns, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), two champions of reproductive rights in the Senate, put out a joint statement on the Reid Amendment, saying, “We said all along that we wanted to ensure there was a firewall between private and public funds — this compromise achieves that. We said we would not accept language that prohibited a woman from using her own private funds for her legal reproductive health care – this compromise meets that test.”

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), leaders of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, disagreed with their colleagues, declaring that the compromise is "not only offensive to people who believe in choice, but it is also possibly unconstitutional."

Are there still good things in this bill? Yes. But it is infuriating that women have been thrown under the bus, yet again, for a bill that doesn't improve a public option or even a Medicare buy-in. And the bill is full of special benefits for Nebraska, Arkansas, and other states whose Senators and Representatives played hardball. This bill will probably end up passing, and it will hopefully improve healthcare for millions of Americans. But I can't help but feel disappointed and betrayed after a very difficult year.

Image via Photo_Phiend

1 comment:

Lara said...

I had to wait years to get my breast implants because the American health care system refused to cover the cost of the procedure. That is an injustice. I was denied my right to health care and my right to be who I am. I was told I was "male".

President Obama is working to make sure that will not happen to people in the future. Americans are very close to having access to health care regardless of their gender-status, racial-status or their sexual-status. We cannot allow people of hate, the religious, the Republicans or Conservatives or any non-progressive person to deny us our rights.

This is not about stopping a movie. This is about protecting and defending human rights. Tolerance and diversity and health care are basic human rights.