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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CHU. Thank you, Congressman Garamendi, for bringing this special order together.

I wanted to say a few words as to why I think women in particular need health care reform. Republicans want you to believe that our health care reform bill is poison and that doing nothing is better. But the truth is doing nothing is poison. Insurance companies will in fact continue to cheat women on their health care. And it is women of America that truly do need health care reform.

Women have a harder time getting the care they need, women like Holly from Georgia. Holly is 3 months into her chemotherapy treatment for cervical cancer. She works at a small business that does not offer insurance to its employees, and she makes too much to qualify for Medicaid. She thought still she would do okay on her husband's plan, but then disaster happened. They got the devastating news that her husband lost his job. They shopped around for private insurance, but were turned away by the best plans because of her cancer. Now they are stuck paying $850 a month to a private insurance company to cover their family of four, almost the same as her mortgage. It isn't fair. Insurance companies are cheating women.

Did you know that insurance companies make women pay more for health care? Today, women are forced to settle for less health care at a higher price. On average we pay as much as 50 percent more than men for the exact same coverage. But somehow the insurance companies justify price gouging young ladies even when they are at their healthiest.

Sarah, a 22-year-old woman in Chicago, pays one-and-a-half times the premium compared to her boyfriend for the same insurance. This type of gender discrimination, making women pay more for the same product just because of their sex, indicates how insurance companies are taking advantage of us. What's worse is that this blatant gender inequity is legal in 38 States.

Now, health care reform will make this type of gender discrimination illegal. Insurance companies will be forced to do what is right, and that is charge everyone the same rate for the same care.

Did you know that insurance companies don't invest in prevention even though that would save them money? Today, millions of women have trouble getting much-needed preventative medical services. Now we all know the importance of prevention. It has long-term health benefits and helps contain medical costs for patients and society. Yet women forgo important tests and screenings simply because they can't afford the copays.

One-third of uninsured women go without preventative care, from mammograms and pap smears, tests that can save lives if done today. Because of poor access to reproductive care, more women suffer from serious STDs like gonorrhea and genital herpes than men. But early preventive reproductive care will catch diseases that are less likely to prove fatal with early treatment.

Now health care reform will make sure that every woman has access and can afford the crucial preventive care that can save her life. It will require insurance companies to offer basic prevention services, reproductive health and maternity care, and make the preventive tests free with insurance. That's no copays, no deductibles under health care insurance, our plan.

Did you know that women have less access to insurance? Today, fewer American women have access to their own health insurance compared to American men. Many of America's women don't get health insurance through work because they work for small businesses that can't afford to offer their employees insurance. These small businesses can't afford it. Or else women work part-time or stay at home to care for their families. Making matters worse, the effect of the economic downturn that is being felt across the Nation left women and their families even more vulnerable. Women and their families have lost access to insurance and a way to pay for it.

Since the recession began, over 1 million women have lost their health insurance because their spouse was laid off. And what about single women? Without a spouse, women are twice as likely to be uninsured than men. And it is not just women who are hurt by a lack of insurance. When women are denied adequate coverage or lose their job, their families are hurt, too.

The weak job market is tough for single mothers. Unemployment for this group has skyrocketed, leaving almost one-quarter of all single mothers without health insurance to cover their families. That has left 275,000 children without regular access to doctors' visits or medication. But health care reform will help every woman--single, married, unemployed, or working part-time--to buy affordable coverage through the insurance exchange.

And did you know that women are denied health services? Today, women are turned away by insurance companies because of supposed preexisting conditions. And what are those preexisting conditions? Believe it or not, domestic violence, pregnancy, and Cesarean sections. So rather than doing what is best for the patient or for society, the insurance company is just looking for a way to save a dollar.

One advocate for the insurance industry argued that covering a victim of domestic violence was like insuring a smoker who doesn't stop smoking. A woman from Atlanta was proud to become pregnant shortly after she began working at a small downtown law firm, but her firm's insurance declared her pregnancy to be a preexisting condition and refused to cover her prenatal care of the delivery, despite the fact that the plan covered those services.

But health care reform will make it illegal to deny coverage due to any preexisting condition. And women will no longer be denied coverage for being mothers or finding a lump in their breasts. Basic women's health will be covered.

So I stand here today because women must understand how little the insurance companies look after our interests and how little the current system promotes our health needs. Health care reform will make sure women like Holly, Sarah, single women and moms can afford the treatment they need from the best insurance that they can afford and that they won't be turned away. That is why I so strongly support this legislation. The women of America truly need health care reform.


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