More than one million women call the Silver State home. Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked on their behalf to improve women's health care, strengthen their legal and civil protections, and fight for equal opportunities in the classroom and in the workplace. I understand that every issue before Congress impacts women and I will continue to fight for the priorities that matter to women across Nevada and the country.
Fighting for Better Health Care
I am pleased to have worked to pass legislation that will lower costs, create greater choices, and improve the quality of health care for Nevada’s families. With the Affordable Care Act
signed into law by President Obama, insurance companies are no longer able to deny children health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or drop coverage if a patient becomes sick. The new law also means that parents can keep children on their health plans up to age 26. When fully implemented, health reform will prohibit insurers from discriminating against women or against consumers based on health status. This historic health reform strengthens Medicare for our seniors, closes the “donut hole,” and ensures that women always have guaranteed choices of quality, affordable health insurance if they lose their jobs, switch jobs, move, or become sick.
- One-Stop Shopping to Put Women in Charge Women are often the decision-makers when it comes to health care for their families. Health reform will provide standardized, easy-to-understand information on different health insurance plans available in Nevada so women can easily compare prices, benefits and performance of health plans to decide which quality affordable option is right for themselves and their families.
- Reduced Premiums and Premium Tax Credits to Expand Private Insurance Coverage in Nevada Health insurance reform will reduce family health insurance premiums by between $1,4000 to $2,000 for the same benefits, as compared to what they would be without health reform by 2016. Reform will also provide $5 billion in premium tax credits and cost-sharing tax credits for residents in Nevada from 2014 to 2019 to purchase private health insurance.
- Preventive Care for Better Health The Affordable Care Act will help to reduce the tremendous burden of preventable disease among women in Nevada by eliminating copayments and deductables for recommended preventive care and screenings in new private insurance plans. The law also eliminates out-of-pocket costs for recommended preventive care and screenings like mammograms in Medicare, while adding an annual wellness visit to the program, giving women the opportunity to develop personalized prevention plans and to assess risk factors for disease.
- Increased Medicaid Support The Federal government will fully fund the coverage expansion for the first three years of the policy, and continue substantial support, paying for 90 percent of costs after 2020, compared to the 50.2 percent that the Federal government currently covers for Medicaid costs. In total, Nevada could receive $3.6 billion more dollars in federal funds for Medicaid as a result of the expansion from 2014 to 2019.
For more information on benefits of the Affordable Care Act, please click here.
Improving Access to Contraception
The United States has among the highest rates of unintended pregnancies of all industrialized nations. Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and nearly half of those end in abortion. That is why I have led efforts to improve access to contraception and reduce the staggering rate of unintended pregnancy in our nation. I fought to include a provision in the Affordable Care Act that paved the way for a new policy that guarantees women enrolled in new plans will have access to the full range of FDA-approved contraception without any copayments beginning in August of 2012.
I also championed legislation, which is now law, that allows hundreds of safety-net providers to access affordable prescription birth control. Without this law, skyrocketing drug prices would have made it difficult for the thousands of Nevada women who rely on safety net providers to access the family planning services they need to help prevent unintended pregnancies. This common-sense legislation did not cost a dime.
In addition, I have worked to make it easier for States to extend Medicaid coverage for family planning services and supplies to women who should be entitled to Medicaid funded prenatal, labor, delivery and postpartum care if they become pregnant. I also authored a bipartisan law that requires contraceptive coverage for federal employees.
Eliminating Health Disparities
Funding promising medical research on women-specific diseases is a priority. When I first entered the Senate, I was dismayed to find that research funding for such diseases had been shortchanged. While certain illnesses cut across gender lines, they affect women differently or in higher proportion than men. For example, women are more likely than men to suffer a second heart attack. I will continue to support funding for more research to study how illnesses affect women and to learn more about the illnesses that disproportionately affect women.
Breast cancer is one such disease that takes a devastating toll on Nevada's women, with an estimated 1,770 women diagnosed in our state this year. I am proud to have authored the Breast Cancer Environmental Research Act, which is now law. This legislation boosted research and established a national strategy to study the role of the environment in the development of breast cancer. The resulting discoveries could be critical to improving our knowledge of this complex illness, which could lead to new treatments and perhaps, one day, a cure.
At the same time, I will continue to support federally-funded programs that ensure access to lifesaving screenings and treatment, such as Nevada Women's Health Connection. Also known as the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, this program has been tremendously successful across the country. This program has provided 10.1 million screening examinations in all 50 states, with more than 51,100 breast cancers and 2,900 cervical cancers detected as a result. Unfortunately, because these women are uninsured, they often do not have the resources to get treatment for their cancer. To help solve this problem, I cosponsored the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act to allow women who are diagnosed under the screening program to receive needed care. As a result, Nevada women diagnosed through Women's Health Connection are eligible for Medicaid coverage until their treatment and follow-up visits are completed.
Making Work Pay
Women deserve equal pay for equal work. Unfortunately, the average woman is still paid only 77 to 81 cents for every dollar her male counterpart is paid. Even after accounting for differences in education and the amount of time in the work force, women's pay still lags far behind men who are doing the same or similar work. That is why I am proud to have led the Senate in passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill President Obama signed into law. This landmark legislation restores back pay and enforces civil rights protections for workers who faced discrimination based on gender, age, race, national origin, religion or disability. This legislation will help ensure that men and women are paid fairly and that they have a fair opportunity under the law to fight back when they are not. Additionally, I am also an original cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would revise and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and further target gender pay discrepancies in the work place. I continue to support this bill and was an original co-sponsor when it was reintroduced in the 112th Congress.
In the 1101th Congress, I also proudly helped increase the federal minimum wage for the first time in 10 years, giving millions of women a pay raise in 2007. The legislation raised minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 an hour over two years, which directly or indirectly benefits 13 million hardworking Americans. As too many Nevadans know all too well, the cost of housing, food, gasoline, and other expenses has increased since the minimum wage was last adjusted. This issue is particularly significant for women, as they comprise nearly two-thirds of workers who make less than the current federal minimum wage. Many are often the sole support for their families.
Protecting Women at Home and Abroad
We must support the rights of women both at home and abroad. I have long supported efforts to reverse the "global gag rule," a misguided policy that denies funding to groups that promote women's health and reduce the rate of unintended pregnancies by educating women about family planning methods. I was pleased that President Obama repealed this policy in January 2009. This decision is helping to advance a number of important goals including: reducing the rate of maternal and child illness and death, reducing the rate of unintended pregnancies and abortions, and fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections in developing countries.
Another issue that I am concerned about is female genital mutilation (FGM), a cruel procedure that has been internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. In 1996, I authored legislation that became law that makes the practice of FGM illegal in the United States. I am the sponsor of legislation known as the “Girls’ Protection Act of 2011” that strengthens the 1996 law by banning the act of transporting girls overseas to be subjected to FGM.
I also have been a strong supporter of funding the United Nations Population Fund, an international organization that provides life-saving reproductive health services, works to prevent female genital mutilation, fights the spread of HIV/AIDS, and helps mothers safely undergo childbirth.
Additionally, we must demonstrate our support for the women of Afghanistan by providing humanitarian relief, health care, and education for them. I am working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that women are included in the rebuilding of Afghanistan and to help women around the world.
Ending Domestic Violence
Throughout my career in Congress, I have supported federal legislation and programs designed to prevent domestic violence and help its victims, including the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, grants to combat violence against women, and the Victims of Crime Act. I also cosponsored the original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the landmark law that significantly expanded the federal government's commitment to eliminating violence against women. Among other provisions, VAWA provides federal funding to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and advocates for prosecuting crimes, addressing victims' needs, educating the public, and otherwise preventing sexual and relationship violence. I am a cosponsor of the current reauthorization and am committed to full funding for VAWA.
Protecting Title IX
I strongly support Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in federally-assisted education programs or activities. The public perception of Title IX revolves around its application to athletics, yet this landmark law applies to every area of gender-based discrimination in an educational setting. Title IX has been instrumental in promoting sports equality for female athletes at high schools and colleges around the nation. Achieving equal opportunity for women in intercollegiate sports, however, remains an ongoing challenge. We need to level the playing field and continue opening up athletics to more women.