Debate On Women’s Health Turns Into A Debate on Connecticut’s Exchange and Religious Freedom
A Wyoming Senator used his time on the Senate floor Wednesday to pick apart Connecticut’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said even though Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy highlighted a couple who benefited from the Affordable Care Act, there are many more in Connecticut who have been harmed.
The two were debating a bill that would have restored contraceptive coverage guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act. The bill would have reversed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, but the motion to move forward with debate failed 56 to 43, just shy of the necessary 60 votes.
Murphy talked about Sean and Emily Hanon, two freelancers from Weston, who before the Affordable Care Act were only able to buy insurance for $1,500 a month. Under the Affordable Care Act they are paying $309 per month.
“This is a fairly young couple — a savings of nearly 80 percent compared to what they used to pay,” Murphy said during the floor debate. “That is the story that can be replicated millions of times over all across this country. We would be wise this week to restore this protection to women across this country so that they have access to affordable prescription birth control.”
Barrasso said that while the Hanons may have been helped, there are “clearly people in that state that are being harmed by the healthcare law.”
He said newspapers in Connecticut have reported that two of the three insurance carriers in the health insurance exchange have proposed increasing their premiums on average by more than 12 percent.
“I didn’t hear the Senator from Connecticut make reference to that,” Barrasso said.
Barrasso also went on to cite news reports regarding a security breach by a call center worker. A backpack of notebooks with names, addresses, and Social Security numbers was left on a Hartford Street. The backpack belonged to a call center representative who works for a vendor that contracts with Access Health CT, Connecticut’s health insurance exchange.
The nearly 400 consumers impacted by the incident were offered credit monitoring, fraud resolution, identity theft insurance, and security freezes of credit reports.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York who followed Barrasso, brought the issue back to women’s health.
“This body must set the record straight about the law the Supreme Court used to make their decision — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” Schumer said. “As one of the original authors of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I was the lead sponsor in the House of Representatives, Senator Kennedy was the lead sponsor in the Senate, I can say with absolute certainty that the law has been unwisely stretched by the Supreme Court.”
He said the bill they were debating Wednesday simply clarifies what happens when the Religious Freedom Restoration Act comes into conflict with another federal law like the Affordable Care Act.
But Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, disagreed.
“This issue before this body is not about access to contraceptives,” Cruz said. “Despite a whole lot of politicking by Senate Democrats to suggest to the contrary.”
He said there’s no one in the Senate who would restrict access to contraceptives.
“There is no one in this body, no one I am aware of across this country, who is advocating restricting anyone’s access to contraceptives,” Cruz said.
Following defeat of the bill, Murphy said the debate Wednesday was absolutely about women’s access to contraceptives.
“The immediate effect of last month’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. is that a woman’s boss can call the shots about her health care decisions — an outrageous intrusion into a woman’s personal life that needs to be reversed,” Murphy said. “But despite that, Senate Republicans blocked our legislation that would have allowed women to take back control of their health care decisions.”