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Giving Voice to Health Care Reform
by Sally E. Smith

When President Obama recently announced Dr. Regina Benjamin as his pick for Surgeon General, I have to admit that I did a little happy dance. I can't be assured that, simply because she's a plus-size woman, she understands the discrimination that our community faces in accessing the health care delivery system in this country, but I can be hopeful. In addition, her years of experience in providing health care to the uninsured and underinsured in rural areas has made her sensitive to the pressing need for health care reform.

Indeed, health care reform is dominating the domestic political agenda this summer, and the debate is heating up. As the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives put forth legislation that could mark the most sweeping change since Medicare was launched in 1965, it's time for us to speak up. It's been 15 years since NAAFA demonstrated at the White House in opposition to the Clinton health care reform plan, which would have disenfranchised people of size. This time around, it's imperative that our community has a voice at the table.

Why is this such a critical issue? Simply put, "obesity" is perceived by the insurance industry as a pre-existing condition. That leaves us with few options. If we work for the ever-shrinking number of employers that still offer health insurance, that's one possibility. Another is obtaining coverage through our spouses or partners. Otherwise, we're either denied coverage upfront or charged exorbitant rates for coverage. It doesn't matter what our health status is; we have three strikes against us simply because we're larger than average. As a result, plus- and supersize women account for a disproportionate number of the estimated 50 million uninsured Americans.

Granted, health insurance is only one part of the health care picture for the plus-size community. The other is discriminatory practices or ignorance on the part of the medical profession. Many of us have tales to tell about the bad attitudes we've encountered in medical offices, about medication dosages that were inappropriate for our weight, about misdiagnoses, or about incorrect treatment plans. While we're often forced to assert our right to be treated with dignity and respect by members of the medical profession, we won't even have the opportunity to do so if we don't have access to the health care delivery system.

Whatever your political persuasion, I hope you agree that when legislation is pushed through Congress and lands on the President's desk, it should include provisions for covering our plus-size community. I've called my Congressmember and U.S. Senators and urged them to support health care reform that enables all people, regardless of size or health status, to have access to health insurance. You can do the same, and let me know about it.

You can enter your ZIP code and look up your Representative by clicking here, and can use the state drop down menu to look up your U.S. Senators by clicking here. Most members of Congress have web forms you can use to urge their support, or you can call their Washington D.C. or district office.

Together, our voices can form a chorus that will ensure our community is heard.

I know countless other plus size women who feel as concerned about this issue as I do, but ask them why and they'll name a variety of reasons. I’d like to invite you to drop me a note and share the reasons why you're concerned about including provisions for our Plus Size Community in any future Health Care Reform. I’ll share your experiences and feedback in a future article.

Click HERE to see what your MiB Community had to say about one of my recent articles, "Fashion's Invisible Majority"!

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