SEIU nurses and healthcare workers who care for patients everyday know that there are still too many patients who cannot afford the healthcare coverage they need, including contraception. But thanks to the nation's healthcare law, this is about to change.
Starting this August, most health insurance plans will be required to cover women's preventive services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay or deductible. This is a tremendous milestone for women's health and equality in our country.
And yet, this decision has come under attack by some in the Catholic hierarchy because of the administration's decision not to expand an exception it created for churches and religious institutions to encompass a broader set of "religiously -affiliated" employers, such as hospitals and universities.
Here are the facts:
- The healthcare law seeks to improve women's health by expanding preventive coverage, not to interfere with personal religious beliefs. Religious institutions--churches--are exempt.
- Birth control use is nearly universal among women of child-bearing age and 98 percent of Catholic women will use birth control at some point during their lives. The law seeks to increase access and affordability.
- No woman will be forced to buy or use contraception and no doctor will be forced to prescribe it.
- In 28 states, Catholic hospitals and institutions are required to offer contraceptive insurance coverage under existing state law.
If the religious exemption were expanded nearly 800,000 people who work in Catholic Hospitals could be denied coverage.
Far too often, women's healthcare choices are driven by the reality that the cost for gas and groceries comes first. The expansion of preventive coverage under the Affordable Care Act will bring real economic and emotional relief to the millions of women who prior to the healthcare law, had nowhere to turn.
SEIU Nurses are speaking out in their communities and standing up for the freedom of women to make their personal health decisions with their families and physicians, not their employers. Here is some of what they are saying across the country:
"As a registered nurse for more than twenty-five years, I applaud President Obama and Secretary Sebelius for standing strong to make sure all women -- no matter where they work -- will have access to affordable birth control. Too often, working women are unable to afford the family planning help they need."
- Dian Palmer, RN, President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and President of the Nurse Alliance of SEIU Healthcare.
*Note: The author is employed by Catholic Health Partners.
"As a nurse, I know the decision not to expand the exception was the right one--as a matter of public health, respect for individual conscience and simple fairness to Ohio women and their families. This is a decision that should be made 'between a woman and her God' -- not between a woman and her employer."
- Beth Zaworski, RN, Mercy Regional Medical Center, Lorain, Ohio,
"Reality Check: Just because most women's insurance policies will now cover contraception thanks to the healthcare law does not mean women must use that benefit. Also, the rule from the Department of Health and Human Services gives religious employers, such as churches, a waiver on the requirement....
"Concern about employers whose principles would be offended by having to underwrite such coverage ignores the principles of the thousands of Iowans who would be denied this insurance coverage if the exception were expanded. Further, evidence demonstrates that employers would not really be underwriting this coverage, since their premiums would likely not change, or could even decrease, when contraceptive coverage is included."
- Cathy Glasson, RN, Coralville, IA
"As a Catholic, my mother had ten pregnancies within less than twelve years. With birth control, her pregnancies could have been spaced so as to minimize the extreme physical, emotional, financial, and psychological toll placed upon her and our family."
- Mary McNaughton, RN, BSN, Everett, WA
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