HIMMAA: A Non-Solution for America’s Health Care Crisis

Marilyn Keefe, Vice President for Public Policy at NFPRHA joins us today with her thoughts on HIMMAA.


Congress is once again trying to address a very real problem with ill-conceived legislation certain to do more harm than good: The Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act (“HIMMAA”, or S. 1955).

The problem? The inability of small businesses to afford health insurance. Congress’s solution? Allow insurance companies to discriminate against employees based on everything from how old they are to where they live and take away state protections that guarantee coverage of basic health care services. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

It’s Not Sex Education If You Don’t Talk About Sex…

It’s not sex education if you don’t talk about sex, and STIs won’t be prevented if scientifically-based discussions on prevention are prohibited. But before CDC's National STD Prevention Conference next week has even begun, the research-based, biannual meeting has been commandeered by anti-sex education ideologues.

According to Slate Magazine, “The conference was supposed to include a symposium designed to explore how abstinence-only sex education may undermine other efforts to reduce STDs.”

What’s up with HIMMAA?

“America needs a health care system that empowers patients to make rational and smart decisions for themselves and their families, a health care system in which the relationship between the patient and the provider are central, not a health care system where decisions are made by the federal government.” – President Bush, 4/6/06


Few could have said it better! So why is Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) advocating for the passage of the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act (aka S. 1955, aka the “Lose Your Benefits” Act that would do just the opposite?

Church Waits For True Love, Developing World Starts Prevention Now

Despite the pope not yet taking a position as to whether married couples can use condoms when one partner is infected with HIV/AIDS, his followers are standing up and speaking out. Claiming it just makes common sense to lift this ban under the specific circumstances, Scotland’s Archbishop of Glasgow publicly stated his support for the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers’ “study on the use of condoms to fight AIDS.” Others in the Catholic Church urging the pope to lead on this issue include: Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the retired archbishop from Milan, Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels and Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico. Summarizing it best, Jon Fuller, a Jesuit AIDS physician, states "Ever since the AIDS epidemic came on the scene, we recognize that what's at issue in this case is not simply preventing conception but actually saving life."

Guttmacher Institute Takes Us To Class

Look at the lead paragraphs from two national newspapers about the new report from the Guttmacher Institute, Abortion in Women’s Lives. First, the Washington Post:

“Poor women in America are increasingly likely to have unwanted pregnancies, whereas relatively affluent women are succeeding more and more in getting pregnant only when they want to, according to a study analyzing federal statistics. As a result of the growing disparity, women living in poverty are now almost four times more likely to become pregnant unintentionally than women of greater means, the study found.”


And from the New York Times:

“Contraception use has declined strikingly over the last decade, particularly among poor women, making them more likely to get pregnant unintentionally and to have abortions, according to a report released yesterday by the Guttmacher Institute.”


Two national newspapers, two objective reports on the study having talked to people on both sides of the issue and two important data based facts: class matters when discussing reproductive health, and contraception use is declining, thus risking increased disease and infection as well as pregnancy. These trend lines are not ideological, but provable points, well documented in the study.

The Right Fails Class Distinctions

The right wing rhetoric machine was anticipating the latest Guttmacher study, Abortion in Women’s Lives discussed in earlier posts from Ellen M., so here now is a little Reality Check on what they’ve been saying:

"Programs for poor women are often so condescending, even degrading. They teach how to put on a condom rather than how to take control of their lives." – Leslee Unruh, Abstinence Clearinghouse.

Reality Check: Teaching a woman to protect herself and prevent unwanted pregnancy or disease is not degrading, it provides needed tools to women and underscores the mutual responsibility men and women who choose to be sexually active must make. Further, the failure of abstinence-only policies is well documented.

The Latest on Microbicides

With the “Microbicides 2006 Conference” having just wrapped up in Cape Town last week, the news is full of talk about these promising new technologies in the effort to halt the spread of HIV. One line of conversation is shared across almost all reports: microbicides may offer the greatest hope yet for protecting women from contracting HIV.

Vatican Talks Details, Progress in Developing World

The Vatican “dialogue” on condoms rages on – and one can only hope the pope is talking about the issue as much as the rest of the world. "The Vatican is like a submarine. On this one, it has put up its periscope, looked around and submerged again," said the Rev. James Keenan. For the church, the issue at-hand is deciding which is the “lesser of two evils”: the “theoretical possibility of preventing life with condoms has to be weighed against the statistical probability of losing millions of lives without them.

Abortion In Women’s Lives

Today’s Guttmacher Institute report on abortion in the lives of America’s women punctures many of the false fronts willfully created by opponents of reproductive health.

First, the report demonstrates conclusively the promise of prevention. Access and the means for contraception make a critical difference in the number of unintended pregnancy. Once again for those on the right who can’t seem to get it—if the United States and the world is to reduce the need for recourse to abortion, prevention—not protests or restrictive laws—is paramount. This means comprehensive sexuality education; public support for contraceptive and other reproductive health services (through Title X and Medicaid in the U.S.); mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives; Plan B and all of the other empirically demonstrated means of reducing unplanned pregnancies.