понедельник, 17 сентября 2012 г.

Women shouldn't lose access to health care - The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA)

Ten women. My measure of effective health care reform is based onthe words of 10 wise women, all of them longstanding patients ofPlanned Parenthood in Roanoke.

Planned Parenthood invited them to participate in a focus group discussion. We wanted to know what made them such loyal clients ofours year after year.

Among their many insights came a surprise revelation: Nearly allof them have had health insurance coverage for years. Yet, foryears they came to Planned Parenthood and paid in cash for theirhealth care needs.

We had assumed that after our patients (women and men) obtainedhealth insurance, they seek medical care from health care providersthat accept their insurance. In truth, having insurance doesn'tnecessarily make health care more affordable. That's especiallytrue of preventive women's health care.

Too many women have insurance policies that do not cover the costof their birth control pills (but cover Viagra). Too many otherscan't afford to pay hundreds of dollars toward their deductible tosee a private practitioner. They instead come to Planned Parenthoodfor professional health care at a fraction of the cost.

Thanks to the focus group, our local Planned Parenthood nowaccepts health insurance. We added this payment option to ensuregreater access to women's reproductive health care. Yet, access towomen's health care remains elusive under health care reform.

Not only have publicly funded abortion services been all buteliminated from the health care reform proposals before Congress,but amendments have been offered to prevent even private insurancecompanies from continuing to offer such services.

The assault on reproductive health care being waged by somemembers of Congress further extends to basic contraception. Themore than 100 congressional amendments to limit access to women'shealth services include efforts to restrict access to birth controlpills and emergency contraception. Some members of Congress havealso sought to bar Planned Parenthood's participation as a healthcare provider under health care reform.

The vast majority of Americans believe that women shouldn't beworse off as a result of health care reform. A recent pollconducted by the Mellman Group on behalf of the National Women'sLaw Center found that American voters would oppose a plan that doesnot include access to comprehensive reproductive health care,including abortion care -- because voters want health caredecisions to be made by medical experts, not by members of Congress, and certainly not by opponents of reproductive healthcare. Women in America have the most to gain and also the most tolose from health care reform.

Women are the largest providers of health care, users of healthcare and purchasers of health care, and women make the majority ofthe health care decisions for their families. Public opinionresearch has shown repeatedly that a major concern of female votersis that they could be left worse off after health care reform, bylosing access either to care or to their provider of choice. Theconcerns go beyond just reproductive health care.

The women in our focus group and so many others have come to relyupon Planned Parenthood as their primary care provider -- not onlyfor birth control, but for stomach pains, urinary tract infectionsand other ailments that we can address promptly, personally andaffordably.

In hundreds of communities beyond Roanoke, women and theirfamilies rely upon Planned Parenthood as an essential communityprovider. They rely upon us and other reproductive health careproviders not only for birth control, but also for cancerscreenings, immunizations, flu shots and basic health care needs.

The United States has the highest rates of unintended pregnancyand teenage pregnancy in the developed world. Fifty percent ofsexually active Americans suffer a sexually transmitted disease byage 25. These are crises in public health that result from thelimits already placed upon reproductive health care, particularlycare for women. Further limits would worsen the public health.

Congress has the opportunity to recognize women's health care asa core component of health care reform.

Alternatively, reforms could further marginalize women's healthcare in America. The final prescription will depend upon how many ofus speak as plainly and clearly as those 10 wise women.

Nova is the vice president of Planned Parenthood Health SystemsInc. in Roanoke.