Women must stand with Obama to protect health care rights
The last time President Barack Obama came to Grand Junction, it was to celebrate the community-based medical system in Mesa County.
He held our community up to the nation as an example of how quality medical care could be delivered at an affordable cost, while still achieving good medical outcomes.
But he also came to deliver his own message on health care reform. He drew a standing ovation for his promise to pass a health care bill to extend medical benefits to all Americans.
Though it fell short of universal health care, the Affordable Care Act promises to relieve the majority of Americans from the anxiety of living without adequate health insurance and the suffering that follows when tragedy strikes an uninsured individual or family.
With intransigent Republicans ritually voting to overturn the ACA, often called Obamacare, and some conservative religious organizations preaching against the evils of birth control, controversy has swarmed around Obama’s health care bill from the beginning.
But, as The Week magazine reports, “unbeknownst to many Americans, several of its provisions have been quietly implemented over the past two years. Just this week, an estimated 47 million women gained access to eight new medical services at no out-of-pocket costs.”
The eight new prevention-related services include (1) well-woman visits, (2) screening to protect pregnant women from the danger of gestational diabetes, (3) screening and counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence, (4) contraceptive education and counseling, including FDA-approved contraception methods, (5) breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling, (6) HPV DNA testing for women over 30, (7) sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually active women, and (8) HIV counseling for sexually active women.
Other provisions that affect women, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, immunizations, diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol screening, have been in effect since 2010. Most of these benefits go to older Americans, including those on Medicare.
Benefits of the ACA that began in 2010 also include allowing children to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 and forbidding insurance companies from excluding children with pre-existing conditions from coverage.
The new provisions uniquely target women during their sexually active and child-bearing years. Even though Obama has granted an extension to implementation of the part of the law requiring religious employers to include reproductive services in policies provided to employees, religious conservatives are determined to make a stand against Obamacare central to their election plans.
The provisions for covering contraception in particular have energized the religious right. Richard Land, who has connections to the Southern Baptist Convention, called Obamacare “a codification and personification of pro-abortion policies.”
Religious conservatives and evangelicals, Land predicted, would “want to bury Obamacare in a lead coffin with a stake through its heart and cover its grave with garlic.”
The notorious Koch brothers and other wealthy conservatives are funding several conservative Christian organizations dedicated to defeating Obamacare by defeating Obama in November.
The date of Obama’s speech seems propitious. In the same city where, three years ago, he promised a reformation in health care, tonight he will stand up to the regressive forces who seek to impose their values on the entire nation.
As I stood in line Monday morning to pick up tickets for President Obama’s visit to Grand Junction tonight, one thing was clear. The long line stretching from the new Organizing for America office, down to the corner, then a good distance around the building was predominately women.
Here, I thought, is Obama’s army.
If western Colorado women stand with millions like them who will benefit immediately from the eight new Obamacare provisions, they can ensure that decisions concerning their personal health issues will be between them and their doctors.
If women are to make reproductive decisions based on their own individual values, the government must protect the rights and benefits granted by the Affordable Care Act. Questionable claims of religious freedom should not be allowed to impose restrictions on those whose beliefs are different.
“President Obama is moving our country forward by giving women control over their health care,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “This law puts women and their doctors, not insurance companies or the government, in charge of health care decisions.”
And that, ladies, is a freedom worth fighting for.