After a period of uncertainty, this week marks the beginning of a new push by health reform advocates in Washington, D.C. for Congress to pass a bill. The White House posted its proposal today – taking the Senate-passed bill as a base and putting forward a list of changes to improve that bill (see Lois’s blog entry from this morning). The White House has also invited Senators and Representatives from both parties to a meeting on Thursday where his proposal and other ideas will be discussed.
The President’s proposal does not include the changes that Raising Women’s Voices has been urging Congress to make to the restrictive abortion provisions in bill – eliminating the requirement that policyholders would have to make two separate, monthly payments of private dollars to get a policy that includes abortion coverage. Several other elements of the proposal, however, address changes that RWV believes are necessary to ensure a health reform bill that meets the needs of women and families. The President's proposal:
- Improves on the Senate bill by giving more cost-sharing and premium assistance to low-income families. Improves on the House bill by making health insurance more affordable for middle-income families earning between $55,000-$88,000.
- Does a better job than the Senate bill did of closing the Medicare prescription drug donut hole, providing immediate assistance to beneficiaries who hit the donut hole in 2010 and closing it completely by 2020.
- Includes more funding for community health centers than what was in the Senate bill, increasing funding by $11 billion over 5 years.
- Includes strong new provisions for federal oversight of insurance premium increases and help to states in enforcing and monitoring insurance markets.
- Extends insurance market protections – like prohibitions on annual and lifetime limits and bans on pre-existing condition exclusions – to the older insurance plans that the Senate bill states individuals may keep if they like them. Also requires those plans to cover proven preventive services with no cost-sharing.
Advocates of health reform – in the Congress, the White House and at advocacy organizations – have said the goal is to get enough agreement coming out of the meeting for Congress to finish health reform. Multiple paths to that goal are still possible, but the one that seems most likely is for a majority of the House and Senate to reach agreement on changes to be made to the Senate bill, for the House to pass the Senate bill and for both bodies to pass a bill that makes the agreed-to changes. If there are a substantial number of Republicans who, after Thursday’s meeting, say that they are willing to support a proposal that also maintains the support of most Democrats, Congress might pursue a different path. But the steps outlined here would not require any Republicans to break with what has been their party’s lock-step opposition to the bills to date.
In the days leading up to Thursday’s meeting, advocates across the country are taking many actions to communicate the urgency of health care reform. RWV regional coordinators in Pennsylvania and Maryland have been working with broad coalitions of advocates on Melanie’s March – from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. Today they were in Baltimore and tomorrow at the University of Maryland in College Park. On Wednesday, they’ll arrive in Washington. You can find information about how to join them at Melanie’s March.
This is a critical time to speak up about what women need from health reform. We have to raise our voices in support of the encouraging elements in the President’s proposal and also let the White House and Congress know that the bill must not set back women's health coverage by restricting or deny access to abortion coverage. Tell the White House that they must show leadership on improving the abortion language in the Senate bill We elected a pro-choice President -- now we have to make sure he knows we’re counting on him to stand up for women! For information on how to reach the White House and additional suggestions on how to deliver these messages to members of Congress, check out the RWV Action Tips.