Guest Blogger Jill O’Mahony Stewart  weighs in:

Recent events from the ridiculous to the terrifying have pushed the repeal and replacement of “Obamacare” off the front page. But this life-and-death issue will not go away. As other distracting developments play out, 13 senators on the Senate health care committee are quietly crafting their own bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 legislation that enabled an estimated 20 million more people to obtain health insurance, many for the first time.

The make-up of this committee and this secretive process make my blood boil.

Thirteen white men are quietly determining the successor bill that will affect health care access for millions of Americans for years to come. No public hearings have been held for any aspect of the legislation. There have been no debates, nor any airing of the details of what the bill might contain.

The House version of the bill, according to Congressional Budget Office, would throw an estimated 23 million off insurance over the next 10 years. Given the blowback for that unpopular piece of proposed legislation, the senators took heed and are going about their work behind closed doors.

One thing I know for certain, whatever comes out of the Senate committee is likely to hurt women, children and people of color disproportionately.

Recent examples of how these groups experience disparities in our system:

  • According to Medscape, “Maternal mortality rates in the United States have increased significantly in nearly every state except California since 2000, and women of color have a significantly higher risk than white women, experts said during an American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists (ACOG) news briefing. Black women fared the worst, with maternal mortality rates more than two-fold higher than those for white women.”
  • Lead Poisoning Is Still a Public Health Crisis for African-Americans, according to the Huffington Post “On average, between 1999 and 2004, black children were 1.6 times more likely to test positive for lead in their blood than white children. And among children who tested positive for extremely high lead levels (≥10 micrograms per deciliter), the disparity was even more stark. Black children were nearly three times more likely than white children to have highly elevated blood-lead levels, the type of lead poisoning where the most damaging health outcomes occur.”
  • A new study asks, “Is segregation causing higher blood pressure?” The answer is yes: “Living in racially segregated neighborhoods is associated with a rise in the blood pressure of black adults, while moving away from segregated areas is associated with a decrease, a new study concludes. The differences are significant enough to lead to reductions in heart attacks and strokes, according to the study that was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Center for American Progress reports the Senate version of AHCA is likely to “eviscerate coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions.” Those people will either pay much higher premiums or be completely priced out of the health insurance market, leaving many right back where they were before 2010. The other likelihood is a piece of legislation that disadvantages the poor and underserved while favoring the wealthy.

Be watchful and let your voice be heard

Bottom line? While we may all be exhausted following the daily news dispatches from Washington, we cannot take our eye off this health care bill and the impact it could have on millions of families, women, children, and seniors.

It’s easy to make a phone call to your senator to voice your concerns. At the very least, we must demand hearings so that we know the contents of this bill. To reach your senator, call 202-224-3121. Follow the prompts to be connected to your senator’s office. This issue matters too much to too many to ignore.

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Jill O’Mahony Stewart is a public relations consultant specializing in “issues that matter.” She also teaches students how to become ethical PR practitioners.


June 14, 2017