ObamaCare case is a 'win-win' for the Tea Party

On March 26, the Supreme Court will begin three days of historic oral arguments on the president’s controversial healthcare law.

No matter what the court decides, it’s likely to galvanize the law’s opponents, identified with the Tea Party movement, more than its supporters.

Here’s why:

Elections are won and lost based on differential turnout, which is a fancy word for what happens when Team A, although tied with Team B in the polls, shows up in greater numbers at the polls -- and thus cleans Team B’s clock.


Congress must reauthorize VAWA now

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark in the movement to end violence against women and girls, is up for re-authorization. Authored by then-Senator Joseph Biden and signed into law in 1994, VAWA revolutionized the way violent crimes against women are prosecuted and prevented, and the way communities respond to survivors.

The act created the first federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes. VAWA created the first federal funding stream to support rape crisis centers across the country. It provided federal resources to encourage community-coordinated responses to combating violence. And it provided $1.6 billion in its first five years to enhance investigation and prosecution of violent crimes perpetrated against women.

Subsequent reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005, with widespread support in both houses, created a legal assistance program for victims, broadened the definition of violence against women to include dating violence and stalking, implemented culturally- and linguistically-specific services for communities and broadened VAWA service provisions to include children and teenagers.

VAWA has improved, protected, restored and saved lives. The time has come once again to move this crucial legislation forward.


Empowering women empowers us all

International Women’s Day was established more than 100 years ago to honor the strides and sacrifices made by women worldwide. As we honor the enormous impact women have on their families and communities worldwide, we also call on lawmakers to do more for global maternal and newborn health.
Politically, the two of us are viewed as worlds apart. When we look at Washington today, more issues divide our parties than unite us. But we have come together as Democrats and Republicans in recent years to work toward the common global health goal of saving lives, building communities and strengthening our own national security in the process. When we reach out with simple interventions to promote health and save women’s lives, we build international allies for life.


Not all women are in favor of contraception mandate

Do the women of America really want to force Christian schools, religious ministries to the poor, and other believers into participating against their conscience in a pro-abortion and sexual-liberation agenda? Laura MacCleery of the abortion industry’s legal arm, the Center for Reproductive Rights, would have us believe so. But it’s not true.

What CRR doesn’t want you to realize is that many women are deeply religious. Women are, in fact, the backbone of Christian service and work in society. More women call themselves “pro-life” than “pro-choice.”

American women are not as heartless or as anti-religious as activists like MacCleery make it seem. They don’t share CRR’s view that abortion trumps every other value. Whether or not women use contraception, women in America do not want to force their religious neighbors, friends, and churches to pay for other people’s abortion-inducing drugs and other activities that violate their sincerely held beliefs.

Most health plans cover contraception, and federal and state governments already subsidize it heavily. Only extremists would insist that our government must also coerce religious Americans to cover it themselves or be seriously penalized.


Renewing our national commitment to a secure retirement

If your aging parents or an older neighbor had to choose between groceries or medicine, between gas or heat, what would you tell them to do without? If they faced a household income shortfall of $2000, which basic needs should they cut? What about $4,000? What would you tell them to do without if that gap was $10,000 for the year? Sadly—these are not hypothetical questions.  Families are making these choices every day across America, and now we are learning more about the depth and breadth of the economic insecurity facing older adults.
The organization I lead, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) set out several years ago to understand the real costs facing households headed by older adults. In partnership with the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts, we created a measure of income adequacy that lets us look at the basic costs facing aging adults. This week we are launching a web-based version of the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), a measure of economic security for households in every county of each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Seeing these numbers in their entirety for the first time, the existence of gaps between median levels of household income and the Elder Index for adults over 65 did not surprise us.  Where the gap widens and by how much did.


All heat and no light: The contraception kerfuffle

Another high-profile dust-up played out in the Senate last week over women’s health, when Sen. Roy Blunt (R.-MO) teed up a vote to allow employers or insurers to deny coverage for any “moral or religious” reason. As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) pointed out, although contraception coverage was the target, the amendment would have imperiled insurance coverage for cancer treatments, health screenings, obesity-related conditions, and virtually any other needed medical care.
As one in a long line of attacks on the Affordable Care Act, the Senate’s all-too-close defeat of the Blunt amendment has health advocates breathing a sigh of relief. But opponents of both contraception coverage and healthcare reform will doubtless resurrect this debate, like a dead horse they can’t stop beating, over the coming year.
And the fight isn’t limited to Congress. There are the lawsuits — six and counting — brought by a few far-right advocacy groups and one from seven state Attorneys General on legal and constitutional grounds against the rule. We recently published a comprehensive reply to opponents’ claims. Our overall conclusion? Despite the intensity on display, their arguments just don’t hold up.


So much for gender equality

Women’s History Month started under less than auspicious terms for women as another unjust fight against their rights has been picked by Republicans. As if the recent state-level initiatives targeted at curbing reproductive rights weren’t enough, the amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act introduced by Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri pushed the right-wing crusade against reproductive rights back on to the national stage. The measure seeking to allow employers to opt out of the federal benefit mandate would have translated into decreased coverage for women seeking preventive services, including contraception, and was voted down in the Senate by a narrow margin.

This is yet another example of extreme legislative initiatives aimed at eroding women’s access to reproductive health care. While this might not sound as radical as forcing a woman to have a transvaginal ultrasound or as putting an equal sign between a “fertilized egg” and a “person”, having a debate on contraception in the 21st century in the United States seems to be outside the realm of reality. Perhaps more appropriate for the Middle Ages, this discussion certainly doesn’t fit our modern world and a democratic society, where a woman having control over her body should be a non-debatable, fundamental human right.


The IPAB is bad medicine for seniors

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee marked up H.R. 452, the Medicare Decisions Accountability Act, legislation I introduced to repeal the dangerous rationing board created by the Affordable Care Act – the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

Next week, the House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing to examine the impact IPAB will have on the Medicare program. There is bipartisan concern about this board and how it could harm Medicare. It is important for these committees to shine light on the dangers posed to seniors by the IPAB.

The IPAB will consist of a group of fifteen unelected bureaucrats who will decide what constitutes “necessary care,” and who will create a “one size fits all” solution when it comes to medical care. As a physician, I can tell you firsthand how troubling this mindset can be. In medicine, every case is unique and must be treated that way.


Here are the women

What if, two weeks ago, instead of letting five men discuss what insurance coverage of contraception means to them (photo here), House representatives let five women speak? What might they have said?
One would tell how embarrassed and powerless she felt when, standing at the pharmacy counter, she first learned that contraception was not covered by her insurance. She had to walk away, unable to afford it.
Another would say that she recently gave birth, and her doctor explained that she needed contraception because it would be physically detrimental to become pregnant again too soon. But her insurance coverage doesn’t cover contraception when used to prevent pregnancy, even when it’s medically necessary to do so.


IPAB repeal: good policy and good politics

What if I told you there was a country where medical decisions were made not by doctors in consultation with their patients, but by a panel of 15 unelected bureaucrats who determine the fate of millions of Americans? You would probably think that such a system would only exist thousands of miles off our shores, where access to even the most rudimentary healthcare is reserved for the privileged few. You would be incorrect.
When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, it created the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) with the intent of slowing future spending growth of Medicare, which already consumes $468 billion of our federal budget and is projected to rise ever higher. But Congress decided to give the Board unprecedented power to make cuts to Medicare where they see fit, and only a supermajority vote can overturn them. On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health will vote on HR 452, the Medicare Decisions Accountability Act, which would repeal IPAB and send a clear signal that the American people will only fully except the ACA when all of its fatal flaws, chief among them IPAB, are rectified.