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Press Conference by House Democratic Women, on the Affordable Care Act's Benefits for Women

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Congresswoman Lois Capps, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Congresswoman Laura Richardson held a press conference today ahead of the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. The House Democratic women focused on the importance of the Affordable Care Act to the health of America's women and families. Below are the opening remarks of each Member:

Congresswoman Slaughter. Good afternoon. My name's Louise Slaughter, I represent the 28th Congressional district of the state of New York and I want to thank all of you for joining us here today. We are people who fought very hard for the ACA and we are extraordinarily proud of the work we did. And we are inordinately proud of what this bill will do for women's health and that's been an issue of ours for a good 20 years almost, in the House. But, as you know, this is the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. As long time advocates for safer and more secure health care for American families, we are so pleased to see what it has done already. And it's promised benefits have already saved lives.

So, this morning I want to tell you a short story from one of my constituents in Buffalo. She was helped by the Buffalo Community Health Center. And she writes: "On March 2011, I had to leave a job I love because I was sick. With no insurance and no income coming in, I sought treatment at the Community Health Center of Buffalo. There I was blessed to have met the Physician's Assistant that I see now, every time I go there, Mindy Hornberger. They have helped me with both my illness, and so many other aspects in my life -- like applying for Social Security, disability for my condition. These women were also helpful with getting me in to see my OBGYN at Sisters Family Health Center, also funded by the health care, and I'm now even more blessed with my first child. The care that I received has been absolutely phenomenal. I don't know where I would be in my life right now if it were not for them and for this bill. I'm sure that, especially with Melissa's great help, and with the help of my new baby, I will have all the help that I need.

These gratifying stories mean so much to us. And what we have heard from senior citizens, what we've heard from parents who've been able, so far, to keep their children until their age 26 on their health care -- it's made enormous difference and it's going to make even more.

Now, I'd like to call on my fellow New Yorker and friend, Carolyn Maloney.

Congresswoman Maloney. Thank you. Thank you, Louise. So pleased to be here with my colleagues that have done such a great job in passing the Affordable Care Act, which we're here today celebrating the second anniversary of. Last month there was a hearing in one of the Oversight Committees, the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, on providing insurance to the tens of millions of women across our country, who want and need reproductive health services, including contraception. And when I looked out at that panel, and did not see anyone to speak up for the rights of women, the obvious question was "where are the women?" And I must say that this was a serious question because even though the focus of that hearing was on efforts to deny insurance coverage to women for contraception and reproductive health care, the Republicans chose not to have one single woman at the table. And what is particularly troubling is that, is the fact that this is just part of a larger pattern to deny long term gains that women have made in women's health and in other areas, in states and cities and the federal government with the denial, or trying, attempting to defund Planned Parenthood and many other efforts. But, fortunately, this summer, women will have coverage for more comprehensive women's preventive services without cost sharing. Including birth control as part of their basic coverage. And this coverage will not only help women manage their health and their lives better, they will help all American families. And this benefit, that of preventive health care services, that is a whole range of areas, is probably the greatest progress we've made for women's health in decades.

And in closing, I just want to mention that in yesterday's New York Times -- they pointed out that women pay more for health care because of "gender rating.' Well, under the Affordable Care Act, this discrimination, or hidden tax against women, will no longer be there. But many benefits will be there for American women and for American families.

I now have the great honor of introducing a wonderful star, really, in our Caucus, who works daily in advancing the rights of women and preserving choice. And has worked very hard on the committee to pass the Affordable Care Act, Diana DeGette.

Congresswoman DeGette. Thank you very much, Carolyn. I'm Diana DeGette from Colorado. Along with Congresswoman Slaughter who spoke, I'm the Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus in the House, and also I was the Vice-Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee two years ago when we passed the Affordable Care Act. There are so many, many benefits for women's health in this bill that my colleagues will talk about this morning. This bill really is a breakthrough for women, and for preventative health, and for all types of health care for women. But, as we celebrate the advances that we've made, we also have to acknowledge what is at risk. The Republican majority that has now won the House are again, and again, proposing extreme and divisive legislation targeted at women's health. We've already had eight votes in this Congress that would adversely affect women's health. From legislation that would increase taxes on an employer for offering insurance coverage for a full range of women's reproductive services, to a bill that would allow emergency rooms to deny life-saving care. This Congress has put forth some of the worst attacks on women's health care that any of us have seen in our lifetime. In fact, the level of these attacks on women's health, that we've seen, make a lot of us wonder whether we're in the Dark Ages or, in fact, whether we're in the 21st century.

So, today, as we celebrate the extraordinary impact, the positive impact, that the Affordable Health Care Act gave to women, we're also embroiled in an effort to roll back the benefit of giving women coverage for birth control without cost sharing.

I want to tell you a story about this. Why it's so important. As the National Institute of Medicine found that birth control and family planning is a part of comprehensive women's health care. I got a letter from a woman named Rachel in Colorado, she said: "I've been on birth control pills more often than not since I was 11 due to hormonal irregularities and eventual problems with endometriosis," she said. "Birth control has allowed me to have some control over my health, financial security and my life. Without it, I doubt I would have been able to hold a job for as long as I have. Medical bills have always been high for me. So often I had to struggle to make payments for whatever birth control pills I was using at the time. Birth control should be readily available to all women who need them, regardless of their financial status. And all of us standing up here today have heard from thousands of women across the country, who feel exactly the same way that Rachel does.

So today, as we celebrate the advances of health reform, let's not forget what's at stake for women like Rachel, who cannot currently afford birth control, health care reform will make a great difference in their lives. We must fight back against this war on women's health care, and not take the achievements that we've made for granted.

And now, I'd like to turn the attention to one of our wonderful colleagues from California, a champion for comprehensive women's health care, Congresswoman Lois Capps.

Congresswoman Capps. Thank you. Thank you, Diana. You know the Affordable Care Act -- passage of this new law two years ago, was a groundbreaking moment for women's health. Before health reform, our health system, our care system, was not meeting the needs of women and their families. That was certainly the case for Victoria Strong. She's a young mother who lives in my hometown of Santa Barbara, California. Victoria's daughter, Gwendolyn, was diagnosed with the rare disease, when she was six-month-old. She has spinal muscular atrophy, called SMA. Her care is extremely expensive -- round the clock. And Victoria, her mom, lived in constant fear that Gwendolyn would reach her policies lifetime limit, even though it was a very generous policy. And because of her preexisting condition, she would then be uninsurable for the rest of her life.

I cannot even imagine how difficult it was for Victoria, who has already dedicated her whole life to caring for her daughter, to not know if her child's basic needs would be covered in the future. And that's exactly what young mothers and parents with children with chronic conditions faced before the Affordable Care Act. The elimination of lifetime caps, has given Victoria peace of mind -- and that is not a small gift, to know what she now knows with certainty: that her child's health care needs can be met.

And that was what the Affordable Care Act was all about. Fixing a broken health care system. Fixing it for mom's like Victoria. For women across this country and for their families, this law gets it right. We have to remember people like Victoria. These are real stories and real voices, real people. They're the reasons we're here. We are here to give them a voice.

I'm proud of little Gwendolyn, for all that she has faced in her short life. I'm also proud of her mom, Victoria, and mom's like her across the country. For making their voices heard. They needed the Affordable Care Act and we passed it. And we're all going to stand strong to protect it. So, I'm so delighted to turn now, to our colleagues from Illinois, who is a real champion for women's voices, Jan Schakowsky.

Congresswoman Schakowsky. Thank you, Lois -- one of the nurses that serves in Congress, Lois Capps. The proudest day I've had in Congress was on March 23rd, two years ago when we passed the Affordable Care Act -- establishing for the first time in the United States of America that health care is a right in this country. And, of course, the Republicans have voted twice and will continue to support the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We've been asked today, as you can see, to talk about individuals in our districts that have had experiences with the Affordable Care Act that has helped them, or certainly has the potential to help them. And one of the most important -- and least discussed improvements is the focus on "care coordination.'

Nearly half of all senior women live with three or more chronic conditions -- diabetes, arthritis, cognitive and other serious health issues. Juggling doctors and dozens of different prescriptions is hard enough for anyone, it is particularly tough for older women who may have difficulty getting around and figuring out how to balance sometimes conflicting medical advice from their various specialists.

These are the women who rely so heavily on the Medicare guarantee. And they're the same women who would be so harmed by the Ryan Republican voucher scheme. Imagine how many private insurance companies would jump at the chance to cover my constituent Adrian Tchaikovsky. And you may think when you hear about Adrian that she's a composite of several different women, but she is actually just one woman. She is 69 years old. She has had 49 surgeries, takes 39 medications every day, she's dealing with type 1 Diabetes, heart problems -- high blood pressure, - myopathy, osteoporosis, kidney protuction, water retention, asthma, depression, pain, anemia, allergies, acid reflux, bowel reflux, constipation, breast cancer, vertigo, lupus, gastric and duodenal ulcers, and nasal inflammation. Ms. Tchaikovsky is one of millions of older women who are covered because of the Medicare guarantee and who are helped by the Affordable Care Act -- by providing incentives for care coordination, paying for quality and for primary care providers, the Affordable Care Act will help ensure that Ms. Tchaikovsky has a medical professional focused on improving her overall health.

And now, it is my pleasure to introduce my neighbor, both in state and in residence, Representative Gwen Moore, who is, I think, has been one of the loudest and most consistent voices, particularly for low income women and the ways that the Affordable Care Act will be meaningful to them, Gwen Moore.

Congresswoman Moore. Thank you so much, Jan. And I certainly am here, so proud to be standing with my colleagues to talk about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act here on the second anniversary of its passage. You know one of the things that Democrats who voted for this bill were so reviled for was that this was this thousand or so page document. But, within those things there are so many of our constituents, who have been surprised to find out that it indeed helps them. And I'd just like to share with you the story of one of my constituents, Lorraine, a very middle class woman, happily married for 35 years. And after 35 years, her happily-ever-after wasn't happily ever after anymore. She was divorced. Her husband maintained his very good health insurance, and she was offered the opportunity to take on COBRA. They named it COBRA, after a snake, because it is just about impossible to maintain the very high cost of COBRA. She then went out into the marketplace to try to find some affordable health care. And she found inexpensive health care with an extremely high deductible -- so much so that it was discouraging for her to take care of her basic health care needs. She was under 65, not eligible for Medicare. And she discovered through the Affordable Care Act that she was eligible for primary care because of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that required insurance companies to provide basic primary preventive health care coverage such as mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, life-saving procedures for people, and women in particular.

And she discovered, without reading the huge thousand-some pages, that this was an immediate, immediate benefit of the Affordable Care Act. And I thought it was an extremely important story to bring forth here today.

I am so happy to be joined by these colleagues, and one, in particular, who serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the committees that had jurisdiction over this bill -- represents the [Sacramento] area, Representative Doris Matsui .

Congresswoman Matsui. Thank you, Gwen.

And, as you've heard, the Affordable Care Act has already begun to make great strides on behalf of women. And I just want to highlight one of the provisions in this.

First of all, did you know that just being a woman was treated as a pre-existing condition? Imagine as if we're an illness or a disease. Pretty shocking, huh? Well, thankfully, that is changing. In 2014, many important provisions of the law will go into effect, including the provision that bans insurance companies from treating being a woman as a pre-existing condition. Insurers will no longer be able to deny women coverage for such things as being a victim of domestic violence or for having a c-section. This provision will help many women, including my constituent Laura, who has Turner's syndrome, and has not been able to get the full health benefits that she needs and deserves.

Since this condition only affects women, Laura has only been able to obtain limited coverage, and her current insurance only covers a few doctor visits and a few prescriptions. These are not the burdens that she should have to bear. The law reins in the worst practices and abuses of health insurance companies. And elimination of the practice of treating being a woman as a condition is crucial for all women.

I look forward to the full implementation of all these important provisions for women's health. Also consider, too, usually the woman in the family is the one who is the keeper of the family's health. So this is really a family issue, too. So it really is something that reaches throughout our families and communities.

And now, I'd like to introduce my colleague from San Francisco, the wonderful Jackie Speier.

Congresswoman Speier. Good afternoon.

American women have been second class citizens when it comes to health care. In fact, women pay a billion dollars more per year for health care than do men. But, with the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, starting in 2014, no longer will women be second class citizens; we will attain the position of first class citizens in this country, because no longer can there be gender discrimination in the providing of health care.

Let me give you a couple of examples. A 30 year old woman will pay 31 percent more than a 30-year-old man in the present system. A 40-year-old non-smoking woman will pay 14 percent more than a 40-year-old male smoker. That's what changes because of the Affordable Care Act.

When I was still in the California legislature, I got passed a bill that said: "no discrimination based on gender in terms of providing health care." It's the law in California, we want to make it the law in the nation.

Let me end with one little story. When I was in the state legislature in California, I passed the first law that made it a requirement that if you provide a prescription drug benefit, that you had to cover contraceptive pills. And it took me four years to get that passed and signed into law. And when we finally did sign it into law, I take no credit for its signature, because that year, Viagra was put into the marketplace by Pfizer, was immediately covered in prescription drug benefits. And then the argument no longer could be made that somehow women shouldn't have contraceptive pills.

So the Affordable Health Care Act really is going to say: "No longer are women second class citizens." We are just as good as men. Thank you.

Let me introduce Laura Richardson, who is a colleague from California, as well, from Southern California.

Congresswoman Richardson. Thank you, thank you very much.

Well, first of all, I'd like to applaud my colleagues. It's really an honor to stand with so many women who've led not only in their individual states and districts, but here in this country. So it's an honor to be here.

I only want to highlight one point that the ladies before you, our Representatives, have not mentioned, and that is the benefit to young people. In my district I have over one third of my constituents are under the age of 18. And when you look at the unemployment rate in the nation, it might be 8.2 percent, 8.3 percent. But in my district it ranges anywhere between 13-and-a-half and 25-and-a-half percent. So our young people who are competing with their parents and their grandparents for jobs do not have health care insurance. And things do happen. So, for those young people who are under the age of 26, who have a catastrophic illness as well, they have the opportunity to continue to be covered under their parents' health care insurance.

And that's very important to a family, because, if a young adult has an emergency, that can be catastrophic and cause great economic pain. So, we're very excited about the anniversary, the implementations that we're seeing every day, of these benefits. And we urge its continued implementation.

Thank you very much.

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