Archive for June, 2012

Gender Rating by Insurance Companies Soon to be Prohibited

State Rep. Nancy Garland (D-New Albany), chair of the Ohio Democratic House Women’s Caucus, and State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood), co-chair of policy for the Ohio Democratic House Women’s Caucus, applaud the landmark ruling made by the United States Supreme Court yesterday which upholds President Obama’s healthcare reform initiative. The Affordable Care Act includes a provision that would prevent discrimination of health insurance premiums based on gender.

 The Affordable Care Act will not only provide healthcare access to millions of Americans who previously were uninsured, but it will also make significant reforms to current policy. More importantly, insurance companies will be prohibited from setting higher premiums for women.

 Reps. Garland and Antonio (D-Lakewood) introduced HB 551 that, once passed, would immediately prohibit insurance companies from using discriminatory practices when setting premiums in Ohio.

 “Ohio’s women will not be forced to pay higher insurance premiums starting in 2014. Not only does this put a financial strain on individuals, but also on small businesses that are owned by or employ women,” Rep. Garland said. “I commend the Supreme Court for upholding the Affordable Care Act. All women should be allowed equal access to affordable health insurance.”

 “HB 551 will ban insurance companies from using gender to determine health insurance premiums.  The Affordable Care Act will be fully implemented in 2014, allowing insurers to continue to discriminate over an additional year” said Rep. Antonio. “HB 551 will help the women of Ohio immediately with affordable access to care. I am calling on my colleagues to move forward on policies that have already been deemed constitutional by the high court and to allow women to finally gain more equality in our state,” said Rep. Antonio.

 Currently, health insurance companies determine premiums based on a variety of factors, one of which is the gender of the policy holder. Women are consistently charged significantly higher rates than men, even when factoring out maternity coverage. The passage of HB 551 would eliminate gender rating in Ohio, and the Affordable Care Act will eliminate gender rating nationally by 2014.

Rep. Hagan Applauds Affordable Care Act Ruling

In response to the Affordable Care Act ruling this morning delivered by the U.S. Supreme Court, Rep. Robert F. Hagan (D-Youngstown) issued the following statement: 

 “Today’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act by the Highest Court in the land was an incredible win for consumers and America. President Obama told the American people that he cares about them, he cares about their struggles, and he cares about their health. Today the Supreme Court confirmed that indeed, ‘Obama-cares’. 

I am still a staunch supporter of a single-payer health insurance system, but I am confident that the Affordable Care Act will cover more Americans that are currently uninsured, under-insured, or have preexisting conditions.  This is a victory for all of America.

Access to quality health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those wealthy enough to afford it. Any attempt by Republicans to discredit or destroy this opportunity for real health reform will be met and decided at the next election.”

Representative Carney Calls for Bipartisan Action on Health Care in Ohio

COLUMBUS—State Representative John Patrick Carney (D-Columbus) released this statement following the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act:

 

“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act means Ohio must take immediate action to implement an Ohio-specific health insurance exchange before the deadline. If we do not have an exchange in place, the federal government will set up an exchange for us.

 

“For the past few months, State Representative Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and I have been working with great diligence on crafting a consensus Health Exchange Bill.   We now have a draft that all stakeholders including insurers, providers, businesses, and consumers agree upon. 

 

“We have a lot of work yet to do and I am calling upon my colleagues across the aisle to come together to work with us to ensure that Ohio maintains its robust insurance market and provides affordable, quality options to its citizens.”

Leader Budish Applauds Supreme Court Decision on Affordable Care Act

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) released the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

 

“This is a victory for all Ohioans: seniors, kids and young adults; entrepreneurs and working people; and middle class families. President Obama and Democrats have fought tirelessly to ensure quality, affordable healthcare for all regardless of health status and condition. 

 

“I am pleased that Chief Justice Roberts put aside partisan political pressures to uphold precedent and the rule of law. Now Gov. Kasich and Lt. Gov. and Director of the Department of Insurance Mary Taylor must do the same and stop playing politics with the health of Ohioans. They should stop dragging their feet and expeditiously and responsibly put in place the proper health insurance market place for the people of Ohio, before the deadline. Creating a Health Exchange will allow all Ohioans to obtain affordable health care coverage even if they have pre-existing conditions. Reps. Antonio and Carney have already introduced House Bill 412 which would establish the Ohio Health Benefit Exchange Agency.

State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio Continues to Develop State Exchange

COLUMBUS – State Representative Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 majority ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will continue to move forward with HB 412, to create the Ohio Health Benefit Exchange.  HB 412 will establish the Ohio Health Benefit Exchange Program and include an exchange for individual coverage and a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP Exchange).  The exchange program will provide affordable coverage options for individuals and for small business employers to provide health coverage for their employees throughout Ohio. 

 

“I have met with many stakeholders from Ohio who know that setting up a state exchange under the ACA ruling will bolster a competitive market place where all Ohioans will have access to affordable health care coverage,” said Rep. Antonio.

 

The Affordable Care Act has made a difference across the nation and most importantly here in Ohio.  The law made changes to the way insurance companies do business with consumers.  Today, because of the ACA 2,138,000 Ohioans received preventative services without co-pay.  “Our children have the chance to be healthier because 2,137 kids with pre-existing conditions now have health care coverage,” said Rep. Antonio. 

 

The Affordable Care Act helps people with pre-existing conditions buy health insurance after being denied for years along with banning lifetime and annual limits on coverage.  Under the ACA, approximately 97,000 young adults have gained health care coverage in Ohio because they can stay on their parent’s health plan up to age 26.  Before the Affordable Care Act became law, insurance companies selling individual policies could deny coverage to women due to pre-existing conditions, such as cancer and having been pregnant. With the ruling upholding the law, women will continue to benefit with new preventative coverage without cost sharing. 

 

According to Families USA, a national health care advocate, approximately 17 Ohioans died each week in 2010 due to lack of health insurance.  Many people put off seeing a doctor when they become ill because they feel they cannot afford it.  The report established a direct link between lack of coverage and premature death. 

 

“The Affordable Care Act brought fairness and security to a health insurance system that should have provided that from the beginning.  We must continue to develop policies under the ACA that will ensure middleclass families are healthy and safe with access to quality healthcare,” said Rep. Antonio.

 

In August of 2012, Ohioans will begin to see checks in the mail from insurance companies due from the ACA’s 80/20 rule requiring insurers to spend at least 80 percent of health care premiums on health care or improvements to care or they must refund the difference.  In Ohio, 143,000 residents will benefit from a total of $11.3 million in rebates this summer, or an average of $139 for each family covered by a policy. 

 

The Affordable Care Act set the stage for Ohio to create new policies to ensure access to health care coverage and affordability.  HB 412 will establish an Ohio based exchange and agency to continue to improve overall quality and access. 

Equality in Ohio Starts with Passing HB 335

OP-ED, By Nickie J. Antonio

State Representative (Lakewood, Cleveland’s Westside) HD13

Equality among all citizens is a cornerstone of our democratic society.  Throughout our history individuals have fought hard to achieve equal rights and pave a path towards freedom which has not been without struggle and sacrifice.  Members of the LGBT (lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender) community are all too familiar with the struggle for equality.  As we enter the LGBT “Pride Festival” season we take pride in the progress derived from the commitment and tireless efforts of those who stood up and stand up for equality, however, many obstacles remain.

                      

As lawmakers we are called to adhere to and hold true to the principles that govern our society; principles of freedom, justice, and equality for all people.  These ideals cannot be realized in isolation, but rather we must acknowledge that each principle relies on the other.  We must make a commitment to the fundamental virtues that embody our constitution, our state, and our nation. 

 

In September of 2011, I along with my colleague State Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield) introduced House Bill 335, the Equal Housing Equal Employment Act.  This bill takes a meaningful step toward greater equality for Ohio’s citizens.  It explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment.  State law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, ancestry, military status and disability under Ohio’s Civil Rights Law.  H.B.335 will simply add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected by the current law.  This legislation has bi-partisan support because both Democrats and Republicans recognize that all citizens deserve equality under the law. H.B. 335 is nearly identical to legislation passed by the House in the 128th General Assembly in 2010, with a bipartisan vote as House Bill 176; unfortunately it stalled in the Ohio Senate.

 

Hard working Ohioans who are also members of the LGBT community contribute every day to the success and well-being of our state. We work, worship, pay taxes, volunteer, send our children to school, attend school, and are civically engaged in our communities. We represent our communities on city councils, school boards, county council boards, and in the Ohio State Legislature.  All Ohioans deserve our respect and the full scope of rights that full citizenship brings.  Now is the time for Ohio to join with the 21 states and over 650 Fortune 500 companies to become as job friendly as possible to grow our economy.  This past February, in Utah, eBay, 1-800-Contacts, and Ancestry.com came together and told state legislators that unless they pass legislation ensuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender employment protection rights, they would not only refrain from bringing more jobs to Utah, but they will move their companies to other states who embrace equality. These corporate leaders noted that unless this legislation was passed, it would be very difficult for them to recruit industry experts to the state, thus not allowing them to grow and advance their companies. Ohio needs to be able to send the message that we are indeed a business friendly state, that we are open for business, and that companies can move here, be successful and that their employees will be welcomed and protected from discrimination. Now is the time to be proud of an Ohio that will not tolerate discrimination of any of her citizens. That would be something to celebrate.

 

 

Members of Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus Urges Congress to Pass Paycheck Fairness Act

State Rep. Nancy Garland, Chair of the Women’s Caucus and other members of The Ohio House Women’s Democratic Caucus announced they will soon be introducing a resolution to urge Congress to take immediate action on the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“Throughout our history women have fought hard to achieve equality in education, voting rights and employment.  Our progress has not come easy and although we have made substantial gains, discrimination persists,” said Rep. Garland.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was originally introduced by Democratic Senator Barbra Mikulski of Maryland along with several other co-sponsors.  The legislation seeks to strengthen enforcement of regulations against sexual discrimination with regards to pay.  The bill amends sections of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and requires employers to use qualifications such as education, training, and work experience to determine pay grades.

Rep. Garland added, “The facts are clear, women are disproportionately paid less than their male counterparts and this discrepancy is unfair.  Equality among all citizens is a fundamental aspect of a strong democratic society.  This is pure common sense; we must act now and do what we can to end discrimination in all forms.”

Women in the United States currently make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job.  This legislation, if enacted by Congress, would allow women to seek punitive damages if evidence is found of broad differences between the compensation of male and female workers at a company.  This bill would also bar companies from retaliation against women who seek to find out if there is pay disparities between them and their male counterparts.

The legislation was blocked along party lines from passing the Senate on June 5th.  It is possible that the bill could be reintroduced at a later time.

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