U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Chris Murphy defended the Affordable Health Care Act during a town hall meeting in Middletown Thursday, particularly stressing how the legislation has a positive impact on women.
"Two and a half years ago we fought, we fought hard, and at long last, women's health has been put on equal footing with that of her spouse, her son, her brother," said DeLauro, a longtime Third District congresswoman who is based in New Haven.
DeLauro and Murphy spoke before a group 45 people, most of them women, during the event at the AME Cross Street Zion Church. Each explained how the healthcare law, initiated by President Barack Obama's administration and referred to often as "Obamacare," placed female health equal to that of men. The lawmakers also urged those gathered at the town hall meeting to become advocates of women's health in this regard.
DeLauro, who called the legislation "critical" and noted that Washington has tried to repeal the law "31 times," told the crowd that women routinely pay more than men under a discriminatory practice of "gender rating."
"In fact, women pay 48 percent more for insurance than men," DeLauro said.
The two congressmen joined a panel of healthcare professionals during the event, including Community Health Center's senior VP and Clinical Director Margaret Flinter, surgeon Kristen A. Zarfos, medical director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center General Surgery at St. Francis, and Teresa C. Younger, executive director of the state Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.
Also in attendance were state Sen. Paul Doyle, D-9, and Meriden resident Dante Bartolomeo, a Democratic candidate for the 13th District State Senate seat.
The Affordable Health Act is needed, Younger explained because, "this is not something insurance companies are going to change on their own. Less than 5 percent of these plans currently cover maternity services."
"The conversation around health care is broad and deep and real," Younger said. "I see a nice representation of women of color here. This is important legislation because women of color often have a higher rate of heart disease, a higher rate of chronic illness, diabetes. We die at higher rates. If we do not own our health care, it will be taken away."
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According to Whitehouse.gov, among the many benefits to Connecticut are: free preventive services, no more lifetime limits on care, health insurance on parent's plan, coverage of pre-existing conditions and improving public health.
Murphy, a Fifth District congressman who's running against Republican Linda McMahon for Sen. Joseph Lieberman's seat, said he's often asked why he supports Congressional bills that advance women's health.
"If my wife doesn't make as much as someone doing the exact same job, it affects me," he said.
Zarfos, the Middletown surgeon who in the 1990s spread the word nationwide about "drive-through mastectomies," said lawmakers supporting this bill "have made sure it's not token legislation, because we as women know about tokens, don't we?"
While she was a community organizer at the healthcare4every1 campaign, a non-profit effort to promote affordable healthcare for all citizens, Bartolomeo said she was exposed to a "disturbing" trend.
"One of the things I found most unsettling was people that were opposed to growing the access to affordable and quality health care were often very selfish and it was more about their own situation than community responsibility."
"Opposition comes from fear," Bartolomeo said. "I would much rather sacrifice some of what I have or pay more so my family, friends and neighbors also have the access."
Murphy spoke broadly about the GOP. "Many Republicans in Washington really believe that people should have access to health care only if they're lucky enough to be able to afford it — even if that means that we're all going to pay more for it in the long run.
"Because the person who doesn't get health care until they get so sick that they go to the emergency room, they're willing to pay more so long as they don't violate that basic idea that every person should essentially exist on their own without health care in their community."
DeLauro concluded the panel by saying, "the issues that we talked about today are absolutely issues of life and death. There is nothing that is more important. You need to take that message and you need to drive that home."
"The most important thing, she told those gathered, is to vote in November," DeLauro said.