This morning, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) participated on a conference call with the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Judy Feder to discuss Republican efforts to shut out women’s issues in the health reform debate. Feder noted that in 2006, nine Senate Republicans voted to explicitly kill a proposal that would have ensured that insurance companies cannot use domestic violence as a pretext for denying coverage to women. The two went on to discuss how, as the House vote drew near, Republican lawmakers’ disregard for the interests of women became more apparent.
In the House Rules Committee the Friday before the vote, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who is also the chief recruiter for Republican House campaigns in 2010, justified the practice of insurance companies discriminating against women by comparing gender differences to smokers and non-smokers. The next day — on Saturday morning — Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) and several of his GOP colleagues shouted down congresswomen making 1-minute speeches on the importance of health reform for women. Wasserman Schultz denounced the interruption tactics and Sessions’ comparison of women to smokers as the “Republicans’ back of the hand treatment to women”:
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I’m pleased to have an opportunity to express and underscore my concerns of essentially what amounts to the Republicans’ back of the hand treatment to women, issues that are important to women, particularly women’s health. We already have had a clear sense that Republicans were opposed to our efforts to advance women’s health interests. Now we know we know they’re opposed to letting women voice opinions on health care as well. […] My colleague Pete Sessions actually compared women to smokers and suggested women, like smokers, have to pay more for insurance just by the accident of our ability to get pregnant.
Indeed, asked by a witness why should a woman pay more for a man for health insurance premiums, the supposedly pro-life Sessions scoffed:
SESSION: We’re all different. Why should a smoker pay more than a non-smoker.
Insurance companies employ a variety of discriminatory practices towards women. In many states, insurance companies consider rape, previous pregnancies, a c-section, and domestic violence as preexisting conditions. President Obama’s health reform proposals, including the bill passed by the House on Saturday, will end all denials of care based on preexisting conditions and ban gender discrimination for premiums.