Policy Update: June 26, 2015

Policy Update: June 26, 2015


A quick look back at events this week impacting women and families, from Valerie Young, a public policy analyst with Mom-mentum.

Dozens of members of Congress, 44 to be exact, have sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asking for specific guidance regarding the obligations of health insurers to cover lactation services and supplies. Recent reports issued by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) reveal numerous occasions of insurance companies not following the relevant law, contained in the Affordable Care Act, or being unaware of the law’s requirements. Kudos to the NWLC for bringing this issue to light, and kudos to the legislators who are trying to address it.

Motherhood can be dangerous to your health. Maternal mortality rates are much higher in the US than in similarly wealthy nations, and amazingly they are increasing. “It turns out that here in America women are dying or nearly dying during pregnancy and childbirth at rates more than double those of 25 years ago. In fact, we rank 64th in the world in maternal mortality, and an estimated 60,000 women suffer life-threatening emergencies (called “near misses”) every year,” according to the Huffington Post. Clearly motherhood is not the health priority that it should be in this country.

New York State has passed a law to allow pregnant women to sign up for health insurance to cover the birth, which is not typically allowed. “Currently, if you become pregnant, want to carry the pregnancy to term but are uninsured, you’re out of luck where coverage is concerned until the baby is born. That’s because becoming pregnant is not a qualifying life event under Obamacare, though “changes in family size,” such as divorce, marriage, or having a baby, are included” reports RH Reality Check. Prenatal care and delivery set some families back financially for years, and can cause bankruptcy, if a family doesn’t have insurance coverage.

Could paid maternity and paternity leave really happen in the US? Yes, but it’s not because legislators have suddenly woken up or voters have become insistent. According to the New York Times, help for the middle class and competing for workers may be moving the needle. “Long a pet Democratic cause that seemed hopelessly far-fetched, paid leave suddenly seems less so. With pay for most workers still growing sluggishly — as it has been for most of the last 15 years — political leaders are searching for policies that can lift middle-class living standards. Companies, for their part, are becoming more aggressive in trying to retain workers as the unemployment rate has fallen below 6 percent.”

Something sure needs to change. This headline says it all: America Has the Worst Family Leave Policies Of Any Developed CountryNot a surprising conclusion, because the US has no nationally guaranteed statutory program, as workers in most every other country do.” America is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to family leave policies, according to findings from a Pew Research Center report. Of 38 nations, including Mexico, America ranks dead last for weeks of paid leave and protected leave.”  As in, zero.

Follow Valerie on Facebook (Your (Wo)Man in Washington) and Twitter (@WomanInDC) and find her on the blog at Mom-mentum.

Photo: gettyimages

Policy Update: May 22, 2015

Policy Update: May 22, 2015

BC Logo_SquareA quick look back at events this week impacting women and families, from Valerie Young, a public policy analyst with Mom-mentum.

Breastfeeding has been going on since the dawn of time, yet it still causes all sorts of heated exchanges when it happens in public. Mothers are pushing back via social media. The Washington Post reports: “Sometimes, these days, instead of meekly acquiescing and feeling like second-class citizens, mothers will use the weapons at their disposal—namely social media—to turn the shame on its head and feed it right back to the business. This changes the companies’ struggle from a one-on-one customer battle of “rights” to a publicly discussed and judged incident of a business treating a customer as less than.”

The price of child care keeps going up, putting more and more pressure on family budgets. New data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that child care costs more per year than annual in-state college tuition in 31 states. In a single mother household, it eats up 40% of the average annual income. That’s a major policy failure.

Chicago’s political leaders are pressing on for earned sick time. The current proposal follows a program adopted in nearly two dozen other US cities and 3 states, one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked, for “personal or family illness or preventive care; due to an incident of domestic violence or sexual assault; or because of school or building closure due to a public health emergency” according to the Chicago Sun Times. As pointed out in the article, what good is organic food if it’s coughed and sneezed on?

There is talk more often now about paid family leave, as if this basic labor standard in most of the world has finally registered in the American consciousness. Considering the number of families pitched into hard times following a birth, illness, or other major health event, it is a subject worthy of attention, especially as we move closer to national elections in 2016. Is the real issue the reluctance to give women a reason to choose paid work over unpaid domestic labor, as argued in this excellent New Republic article Taking Care of Our Own;  Paid leave goes from progressive pipe dream to political reality. Or, as women are 49.3% of today’s workforce, are incentives, at this point, irrelevant?

Follow Valerie on Facebook (Your (Wo)Man in Washington) and Twitter (@WomanInDC) and find her on the blog at Mom-mentum.