Senator Shaheen Floor Statement on the Importance of Health Care Reform for Women, October 8, 2009

October 08, 2009

Mr. President, I am very pleased to join my women colleagues in the Senate today to talk about the importance of passing health care reform for all the women in this country, and I want to thank Senator Mikulski for her leadership on this issue.

 

Plainly and simply, the status quo is not working. Today's health system is simply not meeting the needs of women. For too many women and their families today, quality, affordable health care is out of their reach.

 

It should surprise no one that women and men have different health care needs. Despite this difference, it is unacceptable that women are not treated fairly by the system and do not always receive the care they require and deserve. In cases where women can find coverage that is affordable, often it is woefully inadequate.

 

A recent survey by the National Women's Law Center found that the vast majority of individual market health insurance policies did not cover maternity care, and only a few insurers sell a separate maternity rider. That isn't that surprising when you consider, as we have heard, that only 14 States require maternity coverage and insurance companies are all about their bottom line. Defending the practice, one insurance spokesman called pregnancy ``a matter of choice.'' To make matters worse, many insurance companies consider C-sections a ``preexisting condition.'' One insurer simply rejects women who have had C-sections. This is unbelievable.

 

What is most shocking to me is that insurance companies can deny coverage to a woman for having been a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence--something no woman plans for or wishes upon herself or anyone else--can be used to deny insurance coverage. Mr. President, this cannot be allowed to continue.

 

Without a doubt, the current private health insurance framework leaves too many women uncovered. For those who are covered, care often falls short. It is time to end the insurance discrimination that women face. I am pleased that both Senate bills which have come out of committee ban discrimination based on preexisting conditions, and I also applaud the Finance and the HELP Committees for putting an end to gender discrimination in pricing insurance and ensuring that women and men pay the same price for the same coverage.

 

We must come together to pass comprehensive health reform to help all the women of our Nation who are facing high insurance costs just because they are women. I applaud the women on the HELP and the Finance Committees for the work they have done and reiterate that any legislation we consider must level the playing field and make health care accessible and affordable for all.

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