Donna Edwards

Urgent Need for Health Care Reform - Oct. 9, 2009

Donna Edwards
October 09, 2009— Washington, D.C.
Press conference
Print friendly

Thank you very much. Thank you, Madam Speaker, for your leadership. I am excited to be here today. I am excited to be here to talk about the need for health care reform for all Americans and particularly for women who face unusual circumstances when it comes to health care. Madam Speaker, I am especially glad for your support of health care reform that will, indeed, lower cost, ensure competition, and provide accountability in the system. Reform is most especially needed for women and particularly for women of color.

As a former executive director and founder of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, I want to share with you that each year in this country, nearly 2 million women of all races, incomes, education levels and religious backgrounds experience domestic violence. One in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. It is shocking and inexcusable that in eight states these victims are told that their experience of domestic violence is a preexisting medical condition. It is imperative that we enact health care reform that eliminates the practice of categorizing such things as pregnancy, cesarean sections and even domestic violence as a preexisting condition and, as a result, often denying coverage. If left unchecked, under these discriminatory practices the insurance industry would effectively exclude coverage for millions of women. This is a shameful practice. It must stop, and it will stop when the President signs into law this year health care reform for all Americans.

For African-American women and women of color, we must have access to preventative and diagnostic care to screen for such conditions as breast cancer. According to the Office of Minority Health, African-American women are 34% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Also, African-American women are 10% less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. This disparity in screening, diagnosis, and treatment leads to not only more expensive care in the long run, but far too often it leads to death. A report released by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies estimates that between 2003 and 2006, the combined cost of health inequality and disparity and premature death in the United States totalled $1.24 trillion. Eliminating health disparities for minorities would have reduced direct medical care expenditures at the same time by $229.4 billion for this period.

We must eliminate disparities and discriminatory insurance practices impacting minorities and women, not only because it is cost effective, but because it is the right thing to do. Passing health insurance reform is really a matter of life and death for millions of Americans, especially for women.

I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and all of my colleagues here today for standing together to demand that health care reform is passed this year. Domestic violence is a crime; it is not a preexisting condition.

Speech from