By Emily Michels, Policy Analyst
Over the course of this glorious 2016 National Women’s Health Week, we’ve celebrated triumphs, lamented unnecessary struggles, and given advice on how to survive – and thrive – as women in the health care world. While it is clear that significant progress has been made over the years in terms of women’s health, there’s still quite a ways to go. So for the final day of our #NWHW blog series, we’re focusing on five issues that we’d like to see solved in the near future.
1.More affordable health care.
Starting the list out with a big one that applies to everyone, not just women. Fighting for affordable health care is a major part of CCHI’s vision – it’s not enough to have health care programs exist if large groups of the population can’t afford to purchase or retain coverage. Statewide individual market insurance premium rates increased an average of 9.84% in 2016 and we hope to see them plateau, but that will take some work. While we understand that many factors go into determining premium rates, we need to curb the ever-growing costs so that everyone can have a fair shot at insuring themselves and their families.
2.Permanent funding for proven programs, like LARC.
The process for determining the annual budget for Colorado is a hefty one to say the least. While LARC – Long Acting Reversible Contraception – made it into this year’s budget, there’s always the risk of it not passing each consequent year it’s requested. The LARC program directly correlates with a 48% drop in both the birth rate and abortion rate for Colorado women age 15-19 between 2009 and 2014 – with such astounding numbers, one would think that it would be the obvious choice to put some money behind its sustainability. Efforts have been made in the past to build funding for the program into legislation (HB16-1194), but have been shot down during the legislative session. We want to see permanent support for the LARC program and have the reassurance of funding for this award-winning program, and other successful evidence-based programs in the future, to show that Colorado supports women’s health.
3.No more TRAP and similarly targeting laws.
No, not TRAP music. This TRAP stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers and it stifles a woman’s right to legal medical procedures through the imposition of burdensome and unnecessary regulations on clinics and the providers who work at them. We continue to see legislators sending pieces of potential legislation like these through session (see our breakdown of this year’s pro- and anti-women’s health bills) and they continue to get shot down in Colorado – but they still keep coming. Our advocacy groups and women’s health champions are spending time and effort on defending the basic rights of women in our state, when they could be dedicating their work toward proactive legislation, progress, and innovation.
4.Finding a balance between transparency and confidentiality.
Transparency has been a hot topic issue for a long time and we support efforts to increase it in the health care sphere – except when it might put someone in danger or stop someone from seeking important services for fear of the consequences. Let me backtrack. Transparency for consumers is great. We want consumers to know prices upfront, all about the services they’re receiving, everything they’re entitled to in health care, etc. BUT we also want to strike a balance that allows consumers to retain some level of confidentiality, especially when it comes to sensitive services, such as birth control, STI testing, or mental health services. When a person receives a service, what’s known as an EOB (Explanation of Benefits) is sent afterward by carriers so the patient can have a record of those services. But if this record gets into the wrong hands – say the policyholder who may not approve of the services – it could endanger the patient or stop the patient from seeking the services in the first place. We continue to dedicate work toward getting standards and guidelines developed that will hopefully alleviate some of these issues.
5.Equal and fair pay.
This one seems like a no brainer…but unfortunately it’s still an issue we have to talk about each and every day. Campaigns like Colorado Families For A Fair Wage try to address the issue of an appropriate minimum wage for all Coloradans, while legislators introduced a handful of bills this session on topics ranging from equal pay for female workers to companies having employment practices that are friendly to pregnant workers. While some bills made it through session, unfortunately many others did not, which is why it is still an issue we continue to fight against. How, you ask, is equal pay a women’s health issue? Because as Representative Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo) put it in a CCHI interview about her work, “everything is so circular and intertwined; women’s health fits into every category you can work on.” Equal and fair pay will help women become self-sufficient, which is a major determinant of health, so it’s imperative we keep pushing forward on the issue.
So the next time you’re feeling like this:
know that there are a lot of people working to help turn it all around. So in honor of National Women’s Health Week, and all other weeks of the year when women should be able to get the most out of their health care, speak up, share your story, and take charge.