Freshman House Representative Underwood read Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Acosta for filth for pushing policies denying women access to birth control and other reproductive health care.
May 2, 2019

With all the attention on yesterday's Senate Judiciary hearing with Bozo Barr, it's understandable if this other Congressional business passed you by under the radar. It's worth your attention, though, because it stars Rep. Lauren Underwood absolutely shredding HHS Secretary Alex Acosta for his department's attempt to further restrict women's access to reproductive healthcare.

UNDERWOOD: Your department has issued rules that deny the science of women's health care and allow employers to deny workers health insurance that covers contraceptives. Despite the fact that the courts have repeatedly blocked these rules, you and this administration are continuing your efforts to deny women contraceptive coverage. I'm curious, do you know, on average, how much contraception costs if it's not covered by their insurance?

His answer was basically, "Um...a lot? Expensive? Beyond the ability of most individuals to pay?" That's right! So, why are you doing it, again? Then she nailed him by asking him if he knew that women use contraception for reasons other than preventing pregnancy. He said he wasn't a doctor. She took that as a "No," and then informed him of the conditions and diseases (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis, Anemia) many women endure which are made easier to live with and whose symptoms are controlled by taking birth control pills.

Rep. Underwood then had the NERVE to bring up the fact that Black maternal healthcare in this country is actually a thing that matters. Even with health insurance, medical treatment of Black mothers is abysmal compared to the care white mothers receive, and maternal mortality rates tragically bear that out. So, Rep. Underwood is speaking with tremendous urgency, here, and to a man who likely couldn't give a rat's ass about the lives of Black mothers and their babies. But she pressed on.

UNDERWOOD: I'm a nurse, and I'm a co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, and I can tell you that for far too many women in this country, pregnancy can be dangerous, or even deadly. One of the judges that blocked your rules wrote that they would cause over 70,000 women to lose contraceptive coverage. 70,000 women. 70,000 women whose lives and health depends on their ability to have access to contraceptives. Your actions, YOUR ACTIONS, SIR, are denying science, and putting American women at risk.

She then asked him a series of rapid-fire questions about "short-term limited-duration health insurance," or "junk insurance," which used to only be allowed for 3 months, maximum. HHS has lifted that limitation for insurance companies, and extended it from 3 months to 3 years. They're called "junk-insurance" because the coverage they provide patients is "trash." The questions Rep. Underwood asked were simple, and to which she specifically requested he give only a "Yes" or "No" answer:

Do you know if junk insurance covers pre-existing conditions?
Do you know that these plans are not required to cover prescription drug costs?
Are you aware that they are not required to provide maternity coverage?
Are you aware that they can retroactively cancel coverage after a patient files a claim?

Unsurprisingly, Acosta refused to answer these questions in any direct fashion, but in a typically slithering, slimy Republican way, such as, "Congresswoman, I'd be happy to provide you with a list," and "Congresswoman, on average these plans do not provide as much coverage as association health plans." Not only are these answers squirmy, they are also many syllables longer than "Yes" or "No."

With the little time she had left, Rep. Underwood summarized just how brutal the policies Acosta, Trump, and the Republicans in Congress would be perfectly happy to inflict on the women in their midst.

UNDERWOOD: Just for the American people to understand what we are outlining. Short-term limited-duration health insurance plans are NOT required to cover pre-existing conditions. They are NOT required to cover prescription drugs. They're not required to cover maternity coverage. And, no they are NOT required to cover in-patient hospitalizations.

She asked him if he knew that 98% of the comments from health care groups OPPOSED the rules he approved. He tried to talk about how the Orioles did against the White Sox. (Not really, but may as well have.) She reclaimed her time, and went in for...well, I'd say the kill, but she's a nurse, so that would be against whatever the nurse's version of the Hippocratic Oath is.

UNDERWOOD: This administration has been relentless in its attempt to undermine access to healthcare. In nursing school, we were taught how important it is to LISTEN to our patients, and instead of listening, this administration is IGNORING patients, AND nurses, AND doctors. The administration is not protecting moms or kids, or people with pre-existing conditions. It's attacking them. And let me tell you, sir, NOT on my watch.

DAMN. Not for nothing, but here is a mighty impressive freshman representative who has not gotten gobs of media attention like certain others have, but boy, would I love to have her on my side or on my committee. This woman does her homework and fights for her constituents. Bravo, Rep. Lauren Underwood. The people of Illinois are lucky to have you. Any chance you'd like to come hang out with me while I do my clinic escorting? Something tells me you'd have a knack for it.

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