Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rehberg’s bad health bill

Posted on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 4:00 AM

As a Montana woman and mother who always votes, I take every election very seriously. When I vote, I’m giving someone the right to be my voice. That’s a tremendous responsibility, and I don’t want to take any chances on voting for the wrong person. The persons I choose to represent me must share my values. My priorities must be their priorities.

As a mother, there is little I value more than the health, safety, and well-being of my family. In fact, it’s my top priority.

Unfortunately, Congressman Dennis Rehberg is our only voice in the U.S. House of Representatives and when it comes to my family’s health, he and I don’t see eye to eye on my highest priority. Rehberg recently wrote a controversial spending proposal that would wreak havoc on the ability of most families to get quality health care, especially women.

Rehberg’s proposal creates one road block after another when it comes to women’s access to health care. His measure would eliminate Title X, a 40-year-old initiative that provides family planning, lifesaving cancer screenings and other preventative health services available to thousands of women in Montana every year. As the mother of three daughters and the grandmother of three granddaughters, this issue is extremely important to me, and to them. It would debilitate organizations that are dedicated to providing high-quality care to women. Rehberg’s proposal would also give employers the right to reduce the scope of health insurance coverage that they offer their female employees. Someone who shares my values wouldn’t make it so hard for me or my daughters to stay healthy.

Try as I might, I cannot understand how Rehberg thinks that this plan is good for Montana. Why would he think it’s okay to pass a law that makes it even more challenging for me and other women to see a doctor? According to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, the congressman’s spending proposal would eliminate federal funding for 26 clinics in Montana that 25,000 women rely on. It would slash $300 million from the community health centers where many Montana mothers take their kids when they are sick.

Rehberg’s proposal will also cut $111 million from the Administration for Children and Families, an agency that helps vulnerable children and families. At a time when we’re struggling to keep health care professionals in Montana, Rehberg’s proposal would make it harder to attract and keep qualified nurses and doctors in our state. That’s not the Montana way. But it seems to be Rehberg’s way. Rehberg’s bill also guts critical funding for life-saving medical research.

That’s why dozens of health advocacy organizations, including the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Medical Association have raised concerns with Rehberg’s bill.

It boils down to one thing: Rehberg has the wrong priorities. He wants to pass an irresponsible budget that would jeopardize the health care that families, and particularly women, across Montana receive. Perhaps these drastic changes would be justifiable if we knew they were going to create jobs or greatly reduce the deficit. But that’s not the case.

Even more importantly, his bill will endanger the health care that all of us, especially women, rely on, and we can’t afford to let that happen. Not to me and my daughters, nor to you and your daughters, sisters and mothers. To allow that to happen is irresponsible, short sighted and absolutely not what I expect from our representatives in Washington.

Jean Bowman


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