Wednesday, July 15, 2009

MomsRising for Healthcare Reform


Earlier today, I participated in a meeting I organized at Sen. Barbara Mikulski's office on behalf of MomsRising.org for Maryland mothers concerned about healthcare reform. (See photo at left.)

While some of the women who attended have health insurance, either through their own job or a spouse's, several pay out-of-pocket for insurance as business owners, or as recently laid-off professionals (lawyers, actually) who are footing the cost of coverage via COBRA—and are fearful of what will happen when the insurance expires in 18 months. Many of the women spoke of working full-time for employers who don't provide health insurance, or working part-time (due to motherhood responsibilities) and being ineligible for employer-provided coverage. One woman, a cancer survivor, reported having no insurance due to being denied coverage because of her pre-existing condition.


Following are the concerns—and hopes—raised by the women at the meeting, as well as by those who wanted to be there but couldn't attend.

Among the healthcare problems and concerns noted:
  • Insurance denied due to a pre-existing condition.
  • Inability to pay the premium costs for an employer-based insurance plan.
  • The high cost of insurance for the self-employed.
  • Health insurance that excludes prescription coverage.
  • Insurance denied to a legal, same-sex domestic partner.
  • The high cost of COBRA after losing a job.
  • Being too rich for Medicaid, too young for Medicare, too cash-strapped to buy individual coverage.
  • High premiums, high deductibles, high co-pays = Unable to use the insurance you pay for.
  • The impermanence of health insurance (i.e. premiums that rise every year, coverage that can be rescinded at the discretion of the provider)
  • Concern about losing health insurance due to a job loss, reduced hours, divorce, death of the insured spouse, etc.
  • Dependents losing insurance due to employers not wanting to pay the cost of covering family members.
  • Working full-time without insurance (due to an employer who can’t afford to offer health coverage or avoids having to do by requiring that all hires be “independent contractors”).
  • Working part-time (due to family responsibilities) and being ineligible for employer-sponsored insurance.
  • Non-student young adults (e.g. high school and/or college graduates) being too old to be on a parent’s health plan, but unable to find a job with benefits.
  • Insurance with so many exclusions and caveats that people with insurance are facing financial hardships due to medical bills.
  • Family-members, friends, neighbors, politicians, commentators, etc., whose health insurance is provided by the government or a private employer, hence they don’t see the need for healthcare reform and/or can’t understand what it means to have to pay out-of-pocket for healthcare or go without.

Healthcare reform goals include:
  • Providing healthcare coverage to individuals on their own, rather than having insurance based upon who someone works for or might be related to.
  • Prohibiting discrimination of pre-existing conditions.
  • Providing affordable options for people who don’t have access to employer-based health insurance.
  • Providing an open-access public option (perhaps one that charges premiums on a sliding scale, based on income).
  • Covering women’s reproductive health needs, including birth control.
  • Providing a choice of plans and doctors.
  • Enabling health insurance permanence (i.e. limit rate increases, guarantee the option to renew) and allow health insurance portability (between jobs, states, etc.)

By the way, the group had both Democrats and Republicans in attendance. There's great commonality in the fear of losing a job, and with it insurance, or being unable to afford health insurance and care, with or without access to employer-sponsored coverage. While D.C. politicians and political party operatives live at the extremes (and cater to extremists), I suspect that most Americans live in the middle. Republicans need to stop being the party of "Just Say No," and, as many moms at today's meeting said, Democrats need to use their big elective wins and enact the enormous reforms that are needed.

 

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