A few months ago, I told you about a new regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which prevents individuals who have been granted deferred status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from accessing key programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The individuals, often called DREAMers, would not be eligible to access health coverage through the insurance exchanges and other key programs. Yet, these restrictions do not apply to individuals granted the same immigration status by other circumstances.
Every Hanukkah, we light candles in the same way. We say the same blessings, we sing the same songs, and we eat the same foods. But every year, we bring to this ritual a slightly changed perspective. We are one year older, and have had one more year of experiences to inform how we view this holiday.
In the same way, it might seem to some of our more avid readers that parts of our blog are a bit like a broken record. Yes, we are still fighting for poverty reduction. No, we have not solved climate change. But with every time we write, with every post we release, we have that slightly changed and more informed perspective. We have that new sense of urgency, or that recent startling report.
When I look at the Torah portion for this week I see a story that holds deep reminders for us today. It is the story of Jacob and how he wrestled with something otherworldly in his journey. Perhaps it is an angel, perhaps it is a powerful “man,” perhaps allegorically it is Jacob’s own past. Despite injury, uncertainty and potentially being outmatched, he is resolved to obtain God’s blessing. It is a story of undaunted faith. This reading is particularly poignant as we recognize World AIDS day this Saturday, December 1st.
Once more we wait with baited breath the decision of the courts on the fate of the Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court ordered an appellate court to hear a lawsuit brought by Liberty University in Virginia against the Obama administration on the constitutionality of healthcare reform. Only this time, the constitutional provisions at hand has nothing to do with the individual mandate, which was at the heart of the constitutional scuffle last time.
In 2010 President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. This act contained a number of provisions aimed at providing better access to health insurance and ensuring that everyone is able to participate in the healthcare market. One of the key mechanisms for providing healthcare coverage to those with low-incomes is the “Medicaid expansion.”
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” -Genesis 25:23
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about “two nations” – in the form of two brothers, Jacob and Esau – warring for the same things. They both want the same fatherly blessing. They both vie for the same motherly attention. They both hope to conquer the same lands. We read about strategies for dealing with this rivalry: deception, trickery, flight.
Such a bi-national conflict is not foreign to those of us living in contemporary North America. Though the United States is considered to be the “melting pot” of cultures, it has historically severely mistreated the “nations,” the people, who were here before us. Native Americans in the U.S. are disproportionately impoverished and remain shut out by key legislation aimed at solving this inequality.
Today, as we celebrate the valor and sacrifices made by our veterans both at home and abroad, I cannot help but stop to think about those members of our military who are “less equal” than others.
More than 400,000 women serve in the Armed Forces, and receive their health insurance from the Department of Defense’s Military Health System. But the health insurance available to servicewomen differs significantly from every other health insurance plan provided by the federal government in that it does NOT cover abortion services in the cases of rape or incest. Rather, servicewomen can only receive insurance coverage for abortion services if their lives are in danger.
One out of three military women has been sexually assaulted, as compared with one in six civilian women. Between September 2010 and 2011, the Pentagon reported 3,192 sexual assaults – although that same study suggests that only 14% of assaults are reported. These numbers – both jarring and abstract – do not begin to describe the individual stories confronting women on military bases. Stand with Servicewomen, a coalition advocating for a change in policy that brings the health care of women in the military equal to that of civilians, highlights personal narratives from military leaders, women who have served, members of Congress and military physicians.
“We are defending a Constitution that doesn’t apply to us. This was a phrase I heard often after I joined the U.S. Army in 2005. At the time, I didn’t realize just how true that would be. I was raped by a fellow soldier when I was stationed in Korea. I found out I was pregnant as a result of the rape when my commander called me into his office one day to charge me with adultery. A doctor at the medical center had told my commander — but not me — that I was pregnant. I hadn’t reported the rape because I was trying to “soldier on” and I didn’t trust my chain of command. This is an environment where women are constantly targeted for various forms of abuse. As it turns out I was not charged, not because I was raped, but because I was divorced.
Then I faced the fact that military health insurance doesn’t allow abortion coverage in cases of rape, and I was unable to have a safe abortion off-base, so I was stuck. I was discharged from the military due to the trauma of the rape and attacks. I flew back home to the U.S. after being discharged from the Army for my own safety and ended up miscarrying.”
Jessica Kenyon; Korea
“My patient Erica* was stationed in the Middle East and working as an Arabic translator when she was raped by her commanding officer. She became pregnant as a result and wanted an abortion. Erica couldn’t end her pregnancy at her base’s medical facility unless she reported the rape, which she refused to do. She feared that her rapist would physically assault her if she turned him in. She also worried that he would go out of his way to hurt her career. Erica had no choice but to fly home to have an abortion.
Erica knew she was pregnant at four weeks, but she had to wait another ten weeks before she could go home. In addition to increasing the medical risk of her abortion, this ten-week delay complicated Erica’s emotional recovery from the rape. Her pregnancy was a constant reminder of the attack. “
Morris Wortman, MD; Rochester, NY
On this Veterans Day, take just one minute to truly make a difference in the safety of our military heroes: Write to your member of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor the Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health for Military Women Act (The MARCH for Military Women Act).
Photo courtesy of Service Women Action Network
A month ago, I tempted you with a taste of current fiscal policy (warning: please read Sequestration Part 1 before this, or you will be very confused, not to mention less informed!). You learned what sequestration is, where it came from and how it affects you and the programs you care about. So now let’s talk about the future. What are the options for avoiding the fiscal cliff? Will it be a cliff, or a slope? But most of all, why should you care?
If sequestration takes effect and the fiscal cliff hits, here is a snapshot of what is at stake: