There is a serious and deep disconnect on health reform between the reality of actual people in this country and the debates going on in Washingtion. For one thing, despite continued support by the actual "people of the United States" (or as politicians like to say "the American people") for a public option in health reform, some Senators, including leading Democrat Max Baucus (D-Montana) just want "a bill that can pass." That sounds to me like a strong endorsement and a foregone conclusion of a bill representing the lowest common denominator in health reform, one of the most important issues of our time. We should not be caring whether or not it is "bipartisan." We should be caring whether or not it does the right thing. These two things often are in fact mutually exclusive.
Yet another deep, deep disconnect is on the issue of women–the people, their lives, their reproductive needs–being considered either irrelevant, a la Senator "Who-Needs-Maternity-Care" Kyl of Arizona (home of the Sheriff who wanted female inmates to pay extra transportation costs to procure abortions) or in the person of Senator "You-Can’t-Pay-For-Your-Abortion-With-Your-Private-Insurance-Policy" Hatch (R-Utah), or the insurance companies and the Catholic Bishops for whom women’s health is either a pre-existing condition, or a condition of original (and ongoing) sin.
Out of all of this is an increasing string of stories of individual women and their families who’ve been denied insurance because their wombs, breasts, rapes (pick one) or simply their sex makes them a "pre-existing condition."
Among the most recent examples is a woman who spoke at the launch of NWLC’s “Being A Woman Is Not A Pre-Existing Condition” campaign on October 20th, 2009.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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Writing at Womenstake.org, Amanda Stone recounts the tale of the speaker, Chris Turner:
“Nope, we won’t take her.” This is what
insurance companies in Florida said when asked whether they would
provide insurance coverage to a hypothetical applicant who had survived
rape. Let’s back up a few steps. First, who was asking the question?
Second, why was the applicant’s history posed as a hypothetical? Third,
what can we do to change this dire situation?
Turner is a health insurance agent from Tampa Florida, and a rape survivor who spoke of her survival story. She was the person, in Stone’s frame, who was asking the question.
As recounted by Stone:
In November 2002, [Chris Turner] was drugged and
raped while on a business trip. She sought medical help from her
physician, who put her on preventative anti-HIV medication, since there
was no way of knowing whether the person who raped her used a condom.
Following her assault, Chris was afraid to leave her house for some
time. About a month after the assault, Chris gathered the courage to
seek counseling to deal with her fears-counseling which continued for
about a year. She took the steps she needed to take care of herself,
and the steps she now encourages other rape survivors to take as a
volunteer at a Florida organization called SOAR-Speaking Out About Rape.
As a volunteer, she warns rape survivors about a harm which she
faced-she tells them, “if you lose your insurance, you might not be
able to get it back.” This is exactly what happened to Chris.
A few months following her rape, Chris needed to find new health
insurance on the individual market.
This, writes Stone, "brings us to our second
question-why did Chris pose her story to insurance underwriters as the
story of a hypothetical applicant?"
As an insurance agent, Chris knows
how the system works: “if you’re rejected for coverage once it can put
a black spot on your insurance record and keep you from getting health
insurance in the future.” So, why did the insurance companies she
consulted refuse to cover a hypothetical rape survivor? Because the
hypothetical rape survivor had sought treatment for her rape! Her use
of preventative anti-HIV medication and her attendance in much needed
counseling—steps that were necessary to Chris’s health and
well-being—became obstacles to her future health and well-being, as
they were cited for reasons why insurance companies refused to insure
her hypothetical applicant. In order to qualify for insurance coverage
at all, her hypothetical applicant would have had to have tested
negative for HIV for two to three years and have completed counseling
for one to two years (depending on the specific insurance company and
plan). If Chris, an insurance agent who knows the ins and outs of the
insurance market, was unable to obtain health insurance following her
assault, what chance do the rest of us have?
And to the third question:
"What," asks Stone, "can we do to fix our
flawed insurance market which penalizes us for using the insurance we
have (if we are among those lucky enough to have health insurance at
Working together, states Stone, we must make sure that no other woman feels the
sentiments that Chris Turner expressed at the launch of the campaign:
“I was punished for
doing the right thing to take care of myself and my livelihood.”