Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Women's Working Group joined leaders from women's organizations for a press conference outside the Capitol this afternoon to discuss "how women stand to gain the most from health insurance reform". Women will continue to face discrimination in both coverage and cost if health reform fails. Below are the Speaker's opening statement and closing remarks.
On Why Health Insurance Reform is Essential for Women:
"We will be finalizing a bill soon, and among its provisions, it will address the issue that women are charged nearly 50 percent more than men for the same coverage when they purchase insurance in the individual market.... We will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for recommended preventive services, such as early screenings, mammograms, well baby care, well child care, and maternity services.... If you have ever had a c-section, pre-existing medical condition. Or being a victim of domestic violence. Think of this, you have survived domestic violence and now you are discriminated in the insurance market because you have a pre-existing medical condition. Well, that will all be gone under this legislation."
Speaker Pelosi Opening Remarks
"Good afternoon, everyone. It is wonderful to see you on this beautiful day as we move closer to achieving affordable quality accessible health care for all Americans. This is important to all Americans; we want to emphasize today why it is especially necessary for women and what is in our bill for women and why passage of this legislation is so necessary.
"I am pleased to be joined by my colleagues whom you will hear from in the following order: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, and Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy of Ohio, Ellie Smeal from the Feminist Majority and then our wrap up will be Representative Gwen Moore. I also want to acknowledge that we are joined by Dolores Huerta, who has been a leader for equality in our country for a very long time.
"We will be finalizing a bill soon, and among its provisions, it will address the issue that women are charged nearly 50 percent more than men for the same coverage when they purchase insurance in the individual market. More than 50 percent more. That will end.
"Did you know that fewer than 50 percent of women get their health insurance through work? Fewer than 50 percent of women get their health insurance through work, which is also pointing out the need for us to create this legislation.
"We will eliminate co-pays and deductibles for recommended preventive services, such as early screenings, mammograms, well baby care, well child care, and maternity services. We will eliminate these costs, especially pertaining to women. Very important - eliminating the co-pays and deductibles.
"And because in our legislation with the insurance reforms that we have, no one will be denied coverage or charged higher premiums for so called pre-existing medical conditions and for women this is especially important. Because, did you know that having had a pregnancy was a pre-existing medical condition? I found out that myself. I had five children, and they told me I was a poor risk. I said: 'I thought I proved my strength' If you have ever had a c-section, pre-existing medical condition. Or being a victim of domestic violence. Think of this, you have survived domestic violence and now you are discriminated in the insurance market because you have a pre-existing medical condition. Well, that will all be gone under this legislation.
"In its totality, when we present the bill, and that will be soon, I think all Americans will see that this is very important legislation for individuals and families - their health and well being as well as their financial security.
"It is important for businesses to be able to level the playing field and have people in small business have a fair shake. They sometimes pay more than people in large corporations for their health care. Small business and women owners and women workers they will have a fair shake. It is great for our economy to have the dynamism of a work force that is not job locked but that can move job to job or start their own business or be self-employed. All of this is about the dynamism of our economy and our competitiveness in world markets not to have the anvil of heavy and ever-increasing medical expenses make us less competitive. It is absolutely essential to our budget.
"President Obama has said that 'Health insurance reform is entitlement reform.' He has said with this legislation, 'We will improve quality; we will lower cost; we will expand coverage; and we will retain choice. If you like what you have you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.'
"The fact is, in order for all of that to happen, we must pass the legislation because the present system is financially unsustainable. Individuals can't afford it, businesses can't afford it, our economy can't afford it. And the upward spiral of medical cost is taking our deficit to a place that we have a moral responsibility to protect our country from. We have that obligation to our children.
"It is a pretty exciting time, and I am honored to be joined by these leaders and so many in the crowd here who recognize how essential this reform is for women. Now I will yield the floor to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who serves on one of the committees of jurisdiction that wrote part of this bill. She serves as the Chair of the Women's Caucus in the House of Representatives. With those credentials, please welcome Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky."
Speaker Pelosi Closing Statement
"I want to thank my colleagues for their excellent presentations, their strong leadership, their constant work to pass this legislation this year. Since we began, we have been joined my Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, Congresswoman Lois Capps of California, and I want to thank our friends in the Feminist Majority, and from all of the groups who are here and acknowledge Peg Yorkin, who is the inspiration for so much of this. Thank you, Peg.
"So our message is very clear to the women of America: if you are a young woman, if you are a woman of child-bearing age, this legislation helps you. It helps you by removing co-pays and deductibles for preventive care, whether that is for mammograms, whatever challenges there may be. If you are a young woman of child-bearing age, they consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition - that will no longer be the case.
"So if you're young, the age of some of our daughters and the age of many of you here, you have much to gain from this legislation by eliminating high-deductibles and co-pays for preventive care like screenings, mammograms, etc. If you're of child-bearing age, this bill works for you because it does not consider pregnancy, c-section and the rest as a pre-existing condition.
"And I also want to say that if you are a woman, not quite on Medicare but in-between as Congresswoman Schakowsky referenced, the opportunity to participate in health insurance is greatly enhanced for you in this legislation - say between 50 and 65, where you may lose your job and lose your insurance, but not old enough to go onto Medicare - this legislation works for you.
"And if you are a senior, as some of us here are, and you're on Medicare, this legislation works for you in the following ways: seniors, men and women alike, benefit. First of all, by closing the donut-hole - which means lowering the prescription cost to the American people. Secondly, by allowing you to retain your benefits - if you like your doctor, then you can keep your doctor. But we can only do that by passing this legislation which makes all of that affordable under Medicare. And third of all, because of the responsible cut-backs that we have in terms of waste, fraud, abuse, obsolescence, duplication.
"By being fiscally sound as we go forward with Medicare, we will add, by this bill, at least five years of solvency to Medicare, preserving the system for our seniors and our future seniors.
"This legislation will have, again, lower cost, improved quality, expanded coverage, retained choice, and as it does so by creating an exchange where people can go buy their insurance and within that exchange will be included a public option. And within all of that will be included the insurance reforms.
"And, if you're a man or a woman with a disability, think of this: There will be a cap on what you pay into the system - the premiums you pay into the system. There will be no cap on the benefits you receive back - either in a year or in a lifetime. This is very important for people with disabilities. It's a very well thought out agenda.
"It will be fully paid for. It will not add to the deficit. It will be responsible in lowering costs in future years. It will be what will enable us to make America healthier through prevention, through technology and science, and through health insurance reform so necessary, and a system in which it is all the more affordable.
"I thank all of you for your participation."