Yesterday morning, the Senate voted through their version of the health care reform legislation. Unfortunately, what could be a tremendous opportunity has been used instead to deliver a blow to women and immigrants. Even though the restrictive abortion language passed in the House did not make it into the Senate bill, the compromise that was forged by Senator Nelson (D-NE) remains excessively restrictive; people who purchase insurance policies that cover abortion would be expected to write two checks – one for abortion coverage, and one for the rest. Though this may seem a small inconvenience, the added administrative processes that will be required is an incentive for insurance companies to drop abortion coverage altogether. Moreover, states can decide whether to prohibit plans that include abortion coverage in the exchange, meaning that women in more conservative states will be unable to purchase affordable health insurance policies that cover the entire scope of reproductive health services.
This is unacceptable.
Immigrants fared no better; Senator Menendez’s (D-NJ) amendment to remove the five-year bar to Medicaid for legal permanent residents did not make it into the final bill. Even worse, the Senate version of the bill does not let undocumented persons buy insurance policies from the exchange with their own money.
However, it is not over yet. There is another step in the legislative process where the House bill and the Senate bill must be reconciled during a procedure called “conference committee.” We must continue, and demand that health care reform not be passed on the backs of women and immigrants. Enough with divide-and-conquer politics – restrictive abortion language and anti-immigrant provisions must be removed from the final health care legislation in congress. We will stand for nothing less.
the NLIRH Staff