Mrs. MALONEY. Mr. Speaker, as we face what may be one of the most important decisions Congress has made in our lifetime, I would like to highlight what a huge, positive impact the passage of health care reform will have on the lives of American women, on the health and the economic well-being of our mothers, daughters, your wives, and your sisters.
First and foremost, passing reform will expand dramatically the number of women and children who have access to quality health care throughout their lifetime.
The Joint Economic Committee, which I chair, has issued a report entitled ``Comprehensive Health Insurance Reform: An Essential Prescription for Women,'' which documents that, in America today, 64 million women lack adequate health insurance. Over one quarter of our daughters between the ages of 19 and 24 do not have any coverage; 39 percent of all low-income women lack health insurance coverage. Passing health care reform will expand the availability of care, improve the affordability of care, and will expand the minimums of care.
Today, due to costs, 1 in 5 women over age 50 has not had a mammogram in the past 2 years due to costs. The health care reform bill will require coverage of annual mammograms for women, including coverage for those under 50.
Passing health care reform will bring badly needed changes to a system that places a particularly unfair burden on women who seek to buy insurance in the individual market.
In a report by the National Women's Law Center titled, ``How the Individual Insurance Market Fails Women,'' investigators found there are huge and arbitrary variations in each State and across the country in the differences in premiums charged between women and men.
The report found that insurers who practice gender rating might charge a 40-year-old woman anywhere from 4 percent to 48 percent more than a 40-year-old man. Passing health care reform will put an end to that. Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to charge women higher premiums simply because they are women.
Health care reform will also put an end to discrimination based solely on the prospects of motherhood. In most States today, individual market insurers are allowed to deny health insurance coverage to an applicant simply because she is pregnant. A previous C-section can also be the basis for denying coverage.
Passing health care reform will put an end to discrimination based on preexisting conditions. And they call pregnancy a preexisting condition.
Reform is also urgently needed because, under the status quo, even if you are not pregnant now but at some point in the future you may become pregnant and so you may wish to buy maternity coverage now, coverage simply may not be available.
In the capital cities of four States, Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the NOW Women's Law Center investigators were unable to find an offer of maternity coverage in the individual market at any price. It simply was not available.
Under the status quo, only 14 States require maternity coverage in policies that are sold on the individual markets. No wonder then that 79 percent of women with individual market policies don't have any maternity coverage at all. And if you don't have maternity coverage, heaven help you if you have a problem pregnancy because your insurance company will not be there to help.
Passing the health care reform will put an end to all of this and require that maternity care is a part of an essential benefits package.
And then there is the problem of rescission. Evidence presented to the House Energy and Commerce Committee told a story of a Texas woman who had a policy with WellPoint. After she received treatment relating to a diagnosis of a lump in her breast, the insurance company investigated her medical history. They concluded that she failed to disclose that she had been diagnosed previously with osteoporosis and bone density loss, and so they rescinded her policy.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe practically every woman alive has some form of bone density loss. They refused to pay for medical care for the lump in her breast.
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According to the Committee's investigation, this case was not unusual. Under current practices, the majority of States do not require a showing of fraud or intent before insurance companies may rescind coverage.
A simple mistake, an oversight, a typo can result in a life altering denial.
Health care reform will put an end to such cruel and heartless practices.
While I strongly support the passage of health care reform, I must state my opposition to any restrictions on women's access to reproductive health services. At a time when we are making historic changes in the delivery of health care, we must not deprive women of the very health care they both need and deserve. We must work against any serious constraints on abortion coverage that could cause women to lose ground in health reform.
Mr. Speaker, we cannot and we must not turn our backs on the urgent need, on the call of history, on the millions of uninsured, on the tens of millions who cast their votes in the last election and on the promise the we made loud and clear: We will pass health care reform--and we will pass it now.