Posts Tagged ‘women’s healthcare’

Piggy Bank with back to school messageIn this installment of our ongoing Budget 101 blog series, we’re exploring what was in the “fiscal cliff” package passed by Congress over the New Year’s holiday. Late last night, the House of Representatives passed the Senate bill to pull us back from the fiscal cliff — the combination of tax and spending changes that were set to go into effect today and could have sent the U.S. economy back into a recession. But the deal, which President Obama is expected to sign, dealt only with the tax changes and merely delayed the spending cuts known as sequestration.

AAUW commends lawmakers from both parties for coming together to reach a true compromise (look up how your senators and representative voted). Like any compromise, the deal is far from perfect, but it includes several AAUW-supported provisions that will help women and their families, such as

  • Returning to the Clinton-era tax rates for high-income earners while continuing the current rates for individuals earning less than $400,000 and families earning less than $450,000
  • Extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an AAUW-supported $2,500 tax credit to help college students and their families pay for tuition and related expenses
  • Ending the payroll tax holiday and returning to the previous rate of withholding, therefore protecting Social Security’s long-term solvency
  • Extending federal unemployment insurance for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks
  • Delaying the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for two months, giving Congress more time to find a way to protect key programs like K–12 funding, Pell Grants, and family planning from sequestration

Although the automatic spending cuts have been delayed, they are still dangerous. In the next two months, Congress will need to find a solution to avoid deep cuts to important investments such as education, funding for civil rights enforcement, women’s health programs, and workforce training programs.

obama fiscal cliffThe 113th Congress, which begins on January 3, is in for a bumpy next few months. The sequestration delay is projected to end at roughly the same time the United States hits its newly set debt limit (early March), setting the scene for a pitched political fight. This will likely be followed by another battle when the current appropriations bill that is funding the government expires in late March.

AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, but we’re also multi-partisan, representing a variety of political affiliations and viewpoints. Despite our differences, AAUW members come together to get things done and serve our communities. Congress should do the same. AAUW members will continue to press Congress to support budget policies that further the principles of fairness and fiscal responsibility and protect women and their families.

Make your voice heard! Sign up for AAUW’s Action Network and speak up for women and families.

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via Wikimedia under Creative Commons license by Keith EllisonWednesday, March 23 marked the one-year anniversary of when President Barack Obama signed the health care reform law, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although it’s been a year since the law was formally adopted, it still faces challenges from different corners: The House of Representatives voted to bar federal funds for the law’s implementation, several court cases challenge ACA’s constitutionality, and some states have expressed their opposition to key parts of the reform, such as the individual mandate. Yet repealing or dramatically changing the law would have a significant effect on major parts of the law that have already kicked in and are improving the lives of people across the country.

Already, ACA does the following:

  • Ends most gender rating practices

“Gender rating” is the process by which insurance companies charge men and women different premiums for individually purchased health care plans. Women of various ages are often charged more than men, even when purchasing identical health care plans. Under ACA, gender rating will be banned in plans offered in both the individual and the small-group markets (defined as organizations employing 100 or fewer persons). You can learn more about gender rating in the Winter 2011 issue of AAUW Outlook magazine.

  • Requires coverage of women’s reproductive health services

AAUW played a key role in a coalition effort opposing House and Senate amendments that would have prohibited women receiving federal insurance subsidies from purchasing an insurance plan that includes abortion services — even though under the current system the majority of plans have covered abortion for years. Although ACA allows plans to cover abortion services, the new law unfortunately requires insurance companies that provide abortion coverage to collect two separate payments from women: one for the premium covering abortion care and one for the remainder of the coverage. Further, individual states may decide to exclude abortion coverage in their health insurance exchanges, and indeed many states have already done so. AAUW continues to work to protect women’s reproductive freedom and to oppose attempts to limit those rights.

  • Ensures access to and coverage of preventative services and care

The two leading causes of death for women in America by far are heart disease and cancer — afflictions that can often be prevented if women have access to preventative care services. Fortunately, the new law contains a specific women’s health provision under which insurance companies will be required to cover additional preventative health care and screenings for women — such as mammograms and pap smears — at no additional premium or co-payment cost.

  • Provides reasonable break time for nursing mothers

A little-noticed provision in ACA requires employers to provide “reasonable break time” for nursing mothers for up to a year after a child’s birth, creating a flexible environment in which new mothers can care for their children.

AAUW believes that everyone is entitled to health care that is high quality, affordable, and easily accessible, and we will continue to work for just that.

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Let your (virtual) voice be heard! If you are interested in participating in a global conversation about education, empowering women, civil rights, the environment, and economic power, today is the launch of Global Pulse 2010, a three-day online event about global development assistance.

From the Global Pulse 2010 website:

Global Pulse 2010
March 29–31, 2010

The U.S. Government wants to engage, and partner, with the international community in a meaningful way. Join the conversation! Participate in a unique event and help shape the future.

Global Pulse 2010 is a three-day, online collaboration event that will bring together individual socially engaged participants and organizations from around the world. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is sponsoring the Global Pulse 2010, in partnership with the Departments of State, Education, Commerce, and Health and Human Services.

As the name implies, the event will take the pulse of as many as 20,000 participants on key issues facing communities around the world. Global Pulse 2010 will connect participants who are champions for the same social issues to build new, or strengthen existing, relationships and inform U.S. foreign assistance and diplomatic strategies on major themes and ideas that emerge across the span of the event.

Ten pre-designated discussion topics include Empowering Women and Girls, Promoting Global Health, and Enabling the Essential Education. Visit Global Pulse 2010 for complete details.

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Maria Shriver’s ambitious report, The Shriver Report A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, has grabbed our attention and focused us on a national priority of the highest importance. Women’s equality is, I believe, an even greater priority than health care reform, because closing the gender gap is necessary for the success of a sustainable, productive modern society. The report is interesting, often provocative, and in some ways groundbreaking. It surely requires the attention of anyone who cares, even a little bit, about women’s issues — which should mean just about everyone. Women’s issues, like men’s issues, affect us all in the most far-reaching and, too often, unimaginable ways.

In a blog posting, I reacted against the optimism of the feminist movement, a movement of hope and promise that has teased us for more than three decades. But with publication of the report, I must acknowledge that the elephant in the room can no longer be ignored. The Shriver Report is a seriously committed, highly visible, complex take on the heretofore relatively academic and unsexy discussion of women’s rights and gender discrimination.

But the fanfare surrounding the report’s arrival must be accompanied by more than cheerleading and self-congratulatory rhetoric. AAUW has provided some concrete policy recommendations, but policies can only serve to guide actionable solutions implemented through tight timelines that must result in substantive, measurable change. We have enough evidence that our inaction is harmful. We cannot waste one more year, month, week, hour, or minute of precious resources — our women.

At more than 400 pages, the report has the feel of a comprehensive study, but that is not the case. It covers so much ground that it necessarily paints with a broad brush. Health care is one area in which I would like to see a more complex understanding of the effects of gender disparity on our society. Not just for women physicians who take care of men, women, and children, but also for women patients and women caregivers, the latter of whom currently bear the bulk of responsibility for the ill and infirm.

Let’s not think of this quest as a road to women’s equality in health care. Let us think of it as a journey that results in a mutual lift of both men and women from the reality of today to a more ideal place where both can realize their highest potential in multiple roles tomorrow. Let’s not assume that where men are today is the place that women and men want to and need to be tomorrow.

“From the Real to the Ideal” is a series of blogs for the AAUW audience (who should think of joining this great organization if they don’t already belong). How do we see where we are — the “real”? How do we measure it? What is worth reporting and measuring? And what would be our “ideal”? Is there even a place for one point of view? Clearly not, but can we identify a set of shared ideals that are incontrovertible no matter where you stand on the political, social, religious, or socioeconomic spectra?

I intend to examine the Shriver report in terms of the gender gap in health care. My intention is to inspire realistic, actionable steps that can then be implemented with firm resolve and without delay to carry us from the real closer to the ideal. Together, let’s start this journey now.

This post was written by Dr. Linda Brodsky, Pediatric Otolaryngologist and advocate for gender and pay equity.  Dr. Brodsky also blogs at The Brodsky Blog.

Note: While we welcome open dialog, the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of AAUW.


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Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times focused his column yesterday on the need to attend to women and maternal health on a global scale. He has an excellent way of calling attention to the social barriers that exist for women everywhere — as well as the limitations and levels of societal control placed over women’s lives — by writing about topics such as rape as a weapon of war, sex slavery, and other pertinent issues . Kristof adds an interesting twist to his writing yesterday: rather than simply advocating for better maternal health, he captures attention by speculating on the vast differences in care that would exist “if men had uteruses.”  I’ve thought similar things while studying women’s issues. Would sexual violence be such a pervasive social problem if men were predominantly the victims and survivors? Would we even have to fight to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act if men were the ones who were paid less?

Even though Kristof’s column was written to highlight the problems that exist within the realm of maternal health, it inspires one to think even more broadly about what makes women’s issues less important. Perhaps pondering this will help motivate more and more people to become champions for women and girls everywhere.

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Tomorrow is not only my favorite holiday (I love candy and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”) but also the 30th anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). In commemoration, this week AAUW issued a press release and launched a new PDA section of the Legal Advocacy Fund’s Online Resource Library. We also signed on to an amicus brief in the case AT&T v. Hulteen, which will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in December and addresses pregnancy discrimination.

Wendy Williams

Keynote speaker Wendy Williams

Yesterday I attended a symposium on pregnancy discrimination, presented by one of AAUW’s partners, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Speakers and panelists discussed the history of the PDA, recent trends, and related issues on the horizon. While I knew prior to the symposium that pregnancy discrimination still occurs, I was surprised to hear several panelists discuss studies or trends at their organizations showing an increase in the number of pregnancy discrimination cases, particularly among women of color. For example, in their most recent report the National Partnership for Women & Families found that

  • the number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed with the EEOC in 2007 was 65 percent higher than the number filed in 1992, and
  • between 1996 and 2007, pregnancy discrimination claims filed by women of color rose 76 percent, while overall pregnancy discrimination claims rose 25 percent.

Several panelists discussed the need for nationwide campaigns to educate employers about the rights of pregnant employees. Two panelists discussed complications regarding the legal treatment of pregnant women (special treatment versus treating them like every other worker) and discussed ideas for improving how they are treated under the law. Others talked about the need for better leave policies in general as more women and men struggle to balance various caretaking roles in their family with their work obligations, including around the birth of a child.

EEOC Chair Naomi Earp noted that the October 31 date for the PDA anniversary was appropriate because the current data and trends are scary, and I agree! However, I am hopeful that through the efforts of organizations like the National Partnership for Women & Families, the National Women’s Law Center, the EEOC, various employment justice organizations, and AAUW, we can work to turn that around.

Visit the LAF library for information about recent pregnancy discrimination cases and what to do if you think your rights have been violated. The next issue of LAF Update will discuss pregnancy discrimination trends and outlook in more detail.

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My sleep is not as sound as it used to be. I wake up worrying about financial issues. All my life I’ve been told to buy a house, put as much as possible toward retirement, and use advice about stock market issues. What’s that old adage of “don’t buy high and sell low?” Well, through actions beyond most of our control, I feel like that’s exactly what a lot of us have had to do as we watch the housing market continue to fall, the stock market acting like it hasn’t since the Great Depression, and retirement dreams turn into a nightmare.After a hard day. Photo by Margaret E. Vincent. This image is protected a Creative Commons license

An article in AAUW’s latest Washington Update shows that I am not alone. The article reports on a recent study by the American Psychological Association, Stress in America, which found that the nation is taking on more stress as a whole due to the burgeoning financial crisis and that this stress is causing increased physical and emotional health problems. However, women are more likely to experience stress due to the economic climate than men are. Some of the statistics provided included the following:

When compared with men, more women say they are stressed about money (83 percent vs. 78 percent), the economy (84 percent vs. 75 percent), job stability (57 percent vs. 55 percent), housing costs (66 percent vs. 58 percent) and health problems affecting their families (70 percent vs. 63 percent). Women in their mid-to-late 40s and older are the most likely to bear the burden of financial worry, and the effects of this increasing level of stress are great. The study found that women were more likely than men to report fatigue, irritability, depressed or sad feelings, and headaches due to stress. This has become increasingly true in the past year.

What is keeping you up at night?

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