A new bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a rising conservative star and leading contender for the Republican vice-presidential nomination in 2012, could cut off birth control coverage for millions of women who receive it through their health plans.
Rubio has sold his proposal—introduced January 31 as the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," or S. 2043—as a way to counter President Barack Obama's controversial rule requiring even religiously-affiliated schools and universities to offer copay-free birth control to their employees. But health care experts say that its implications could be far broader.
If passed, the bill would allow any institution or corporation to cut off birth control coverage simply by citing religious grounds. (You can read the bill here or in the DocumentCloud embed below.) It has 26 cosponsors in the Senate; a similar proposal sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has 148 cosponsors in the House. On Wednesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) vowed to repeal Obama's rule, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pointed to Rubio's bill as a potential model for doing so. Here's the key section of Rubio's proposal:
In English, this means that no entity has to cover birth control in a health plan if it can point to a religious reason for not doing so. And the entity itself is not required to have any religious affiliation. It could just be a plain old corporation. That means that if the middle-aged white guy who runs your company is religiously opposed to birth control, he can have it stripped out of your insurance plan—even if his Viagra is still covered. You could wake up the next morning and find you're paying full price for drugs that you once got for free or at much-reduced prices.
"This could be huge," says Judy Waxman, the vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women's Law Center (NWLC). "It's clearly more than a million women who'd be affected if it were just hospitals and universities [that were affected], but under the Rubio bill it could be any employer. It could be millions."
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The scope of Rubio's plan could put him in political hot water. Nearly 90 percent of fertile, sexually active American women who do not want to become pregnant are currently using some form of contraception, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That's 43 million people. And nearly every American woman who has had sex—99 percent—has used contraception at least once. Many forms of contraception can cost hundreds of dollars a year—and jumping from zero or a low copay to full prescription prices would hit many cash-strapped female voters where it hurts: in the wallet.
Several factors could blunt the impact of Rubio's bill. Some companies wouldn't want to be seen publicly as acting for religious reasons. And if they are paying close attention to their bottom lines and their employees' health, corporations would think twice before ending birth control coverage for their employees—even for religious reasons. Birth control helps women space their pregnancies, but it's not just about sex and reproduction. It can also reduce, treat, or prevent unpleasant and sometimes expensive and dangerous problems like ovarian cysts, endometriosis, cramps, and very heavy or irregular periods. The National Business Group on Health, a consortium of large companies, has found that failing to provide birth control actually increases health costs for companies by an estimated 15 to 17 percent.
Waxman, the NWLC, and other reproductive rights advocates also fear that the Rubio bill could harm Medicaid, a federal program that provides family planning and many other health care services to poor people. Obama's health care bill included a massive expansion of Medicaid, but Rubio's bill could allow governors who are opposed to birth control to deny it to Medicaid patients who were added to the program under Obama's bill. All state Medicaid plans currently cover family planning, although the state is allowed to decide what that means. The Rubio bill would override that.
Rubio's spokesman did not respond to multiple calls and emails seeking comment. I'll update this story if I receive a response.
Read the whole bill and link to the original article can be read on Mother Jones
Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) effort to save his state’s Medicaid program money on the backs of the poor just backfired.
In 2012, the Scott administration lobbied the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow it to limit the number of times that Medicaid beneficiaries can frequent emergency rooms to six visits. The Obama administration rejected that request, arguing that it constitutes a violation of the Social Security Act by placing “an arbitrary limit” on a legally mandated benefit, and that it has the potential to harm poor patients,...
Sy Mukherjee | Think Progress 04 Mar 2014 Hits:457 Florida
Late on a Tuesday evening, at a Dupont Circle bistro that serves $11 mojitos, the congressman and the undercover officer talked about cocaine.
They talked about how much the congressman would have to pay for it. They talked about the quality of the drug for sale. Finally, they made a deal: $250 for 3.5 grams, an amount generally bought for personal use.
Outside, in a car, the drug and money changed hands. And then, suddenly, there were feds outside the vehicle.
Before that moment, Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) had built a remarkable double...
David A. Fahrenthold, Keith L. Alexander and Sari Horwitz | The Washington Post 21 Nov 2013 Hits:379 Florida
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) faced hecklers angry with his leadership on immigration reform at a Friday Tea Party summit in his home state.
According to reports, Rubio was met with cries of "No amnesty!" as he gave an address during the opening session of the Americans for Prosperity's Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando.
The Florida senator joined a handful of other potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, at the summit on Friday. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will keynote Saturday's closing session.
Alexandra Jaffe | The Hill 01 Sep 2013 Hits:678 Florida
(Photo: Phil Sears/ AP; Thumb: Dream Defenders/ Twitter)
Civil rights icon Harry Belafonte joins mass rally against discrimination
"I’m here because you called. I’m here because I am a part of your history," notable civil rights activist and musical icon Harry Belafonte declared Friday to a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators inside the main rotunda of the Florida capitol building.
The rally, billed as #theTakeover, was one of a number of demonstrations staged by the Dream Defenders since the group took residence in the capitol on July 16 in an ongoing sit-in to...
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams 31 Jul 2013 Hits:501 Florida
When Florida lawmakers recently voted to ban all Internet cafes, they worded the bill so poorly that they effectively outlawed every computer in the state, according to a recent lawsuit.
In April Florida Governor Rick Scott approved a ban on slot machines and Internet cafes after a charity tied to Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll was shut down on suspicion of being an Internet gambling front -- forcing Carroll, who had consulted with the charity, to resign.
Florida's 1,000 Internet cafes were shut down immediately, including Miami-Dade's Incredible Investments, LLC, a café that provides online services to migrant workers,...
Huffington Post 08 Jul 2013 Hits:798 Florida
Members of the Florida state Legislature rarely agree on anything. It's unusual for a bill to get unanimous support from the body. But as it turns out, there is one thing that both Republicans and Democrats really love: wildflowers. Florida lawmakers in both houses of the Legislature voted a collective 157 to 0 this spring to increase the fee for a special Florida wildflower license plate from $15 to $25 starting in July. The proceeds would have gone to the Florida Wildflower Foundation, which for 13 years has been using...
Stephanie Mencimer | Mother Jones 18 Jun 2013 Hits:760 Florida
Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillian didn't threaten police. He didn't attack them. He wasn't armed. All the black teenager did was appear threatening by shooting Miami-Dade police officers a few "dehumanizing stares," and that was apparently enough for the officers to decide to slam him against the ground and put him in a chokehold.
During Memorial Day weekend, McMillian was rough-housing with another teenager on the sand. Police approached the teen on an ATV and told him that wasn't acceptable behavior. They asked him where his parents were, but MicMillian attempted to walk...
Kyle Munzenrieder | Miami NewTimes 30 May 2013 Hits:742 Florida
The Florida teenager who was arrested two weeks ago for causing a small explosion on the campus of her high school will not be charged with a crime. Kiera Wilmot, 16, was arrested by police in Bartow, Florida, after conducting an unauthorized science experiment which lightly damaged an eight ounce plastic water bottle.
At the time, Wilmot faced possible charges for “possessing or discharging weapons or firearms at a school sponsored event or on school property.” If she had been convicted, she could have faced up to five years in prison.
Ned Resnikoff | MSNBC.com 16 May 2013 Hits:829 Florida
Two top Democratic fundraisers in Florida have committed to providing the money and know-how to get the question of legalizing medical marijuana on the state ballot in 2014.
"I'm prepared to keep raising money and writing checks until I get the signatures to put it on the ballot," attorney John Morgan said late on Tuesday.
Morgan, who routinely hosts presidents and national political figures at his Orlando-area home, recently signed on as chairman of People United for Medical Marijuana-Florida, a grassroots campaign that operated on a shoestring until now.
Morgan was recruited by...
Barbara Liston | Reuter's 22 Apr 2013 Hits:719 Florida
On September 17, 2011 Occupy Wall Street coalesced into sudden view, built from long work by many organizers, the promptings of Adbusters magazine, and the accumulated frustration, anger and desperation of decades of escalating class warfare by financial and corporate elites against ordinary people. A small group of young people near Lake Worth, Florida recognized themselves in the actions of the mostly young people in New York, and began to plan their own Occupation.
People on local union, Democratic Party, progressive and other e-mail lists were invited to a rally at...
Mike Budd | Palm Beach Progressive Post 22 Jan 2013 Hits:632 Florida
Internal email messages uncovered by Health News Florida reveal that Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) is knowingly citing inaccurate cost estimates to justify his refusal to expand Florida’s Medicaid program. Though the governor’s office is fully aware that the numbers are wrong, Scott continues to use them anyway, the documents show.
Florida, which has one of the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation, could extend health coverage to about one million low-income residents by accepting Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion. But the governor — an ardent Obamacare opponent — has...
Tara Culp-Ressler | Think Progress 08 Jan 2013 Hits:950 Florida
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who was elected as the state's chief executive as a Republican and then ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate as an independent, announced on Twitter on Friday night that he's switching to the Democratic Party.
The announcement fanned speculation that Crist was gearing up to seek to regain his old job from Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.
Crist sent out a Tweet that said, "Proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President (at)Barack Obama!"
The Tweet included a...
Gary Fineout | Associated Press 08 Dec 2012 Hits:986 Florida
As the St. John Progressive Missionary Baptist Church vans pulled up to the C. Blythe Andrews library polling place to let congregants out to vote, a line already snaked out the voting entrance. A table was set up on one end of the library’s parking lot where volunteers served fried fish and hush puppies. A DJ blared gospel music that could be heard blocks away. It was after-church Sunday, the first and only Sunday of “Souls to the Polls” in most of Florida, and the second...
Brentin Mock and Voting Rights Watch | the Nation 30 Oct 2012 Hits:879 Florida
On the last day to register for the 2012 election, new Democratic voters outnumber the GOP by six-to-one or more.
Don’t get depressed by the latest polls with Mitt Romney pulling ahead in Florida or by reports of the GOP’s plans to steal the election there by falsifying Democratic voter registration files. Tuesday is the final day to register to vote for the presidential election in Florida and Democrats have trounced the GOP’s efforts to register voters.
Consider these numbers from the Florida Secretary of State’s...
Steven Rosenfeld | AlterNet 09 Oct 2012 Hits:1455 Florida
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Seeking to capitalize on his commanding debate performance last week, Mitt Romney tried to turn the enthusiasm of large crowds during a three-day visit to Florida into momentum to carry a state that, by all accounts, is crucial to his path to the White House.
His effort to capture a state that President Obama won in 2008 came on a day when the usual pattern of the race was reversed: while Mr. Romney has been criticized by some Republicans for spending too...
Trip Gabriel | The New York Times 08 Oct 2012 Hits:804 Florida
Despite the heat and threat of thunderstorms, about 500 African-Americans are gathered in Rowlett Park for an end-of-summer day of barbecuing, dancing and playing cards. It’s the fifth annual Old School Picnic, a community park jam that brings together two black neighborhoods that were torn apart when the College Hill and Ponce de Leon public housing projects were razed in 2000. Earlier that morning, President Barack Obama held a massive campaign rally in nearby St. Petersburg, trying to turn out every last...
Brentin Mock | The Nation 29 Sep 2012 Hits:1008 Florida
Florida elections officials said Friday that at least 10 counties have identified suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms turned in by a firm working for the Republican Party of Florida, which has filed an election fraud complaint with the state Division of Elections against its one-time consultant.
The controversy in Florida -- which began with possibly fraudulent forms that first cropped up in Palm Beach County -- has engulfed the Republican National Committee, which admitted Thursday that it urged state parties in seven swing states...
By Matea Gold, Joseph Tanfani and Melanie Mason | LosAngeles Times Politics 29 Sep 2012 Hits:1149 Florida
In a partial victory for voter rights and immigrant groups, Florida residents who were mistakenly removed from the voter rolls this year because the state classified them as noncitizens will be returned to the rolls and allowed to vote in November.
The Florida Department of State, which initiated the review of noncitizens on the voter rolls, also agreed Wednesday to inform the 2,625 people on the list who are eligible to vote that their voting rights had been fully restored. Still unresolved is whether Florida...
Lizette Alvarez | The New York Times 13 Sep 2012 Hits:970 Florida
Florida's Republican governor Rick Scott loathes Obamacare so much that he turned down $40 million in federal health care funds that would keep hundreds of disabled kids at home with their parents, rather than warehoused in nursing homes. So says the Department of Justice, whose civil rights division recently investigated the situation in Florida.
ABC News reported this weekend that, in a letter to Florida's attorney general, the Justice Department cited the case of a "5-year-old child, a quadriplegic after a car accident, who had been...
Stephanie Mencimer | Mother Jones 11 Sep 2012 Hits:4139 Florida
On September 12, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and partner organizations will host a coalition of individuals impacted by restrictive voting regulations in Florida sharing their stories about combating disenfranchisement and informing voters about their rights at “Let Me Vote: The Faces of Voter Suppression Become the Voices of Voter Empowerment.” The event marks the launch of the ACLU of Florida’s “Let Me Vote” campaign, part of a nationwide ACLU program of the same name aiming to get accessible,...
ACLU Florida 10 Sep 2012 Hits:799 Florida
They were classic buttoned-up conservatives, but I couldn’t believe my ears. “Are you guys performance artists?” "No," Stevens snorted.
Just a few minutes earlier, two men who identified themselves as Robert Stevens and John Nelson had handed me a flyer. It explained that they wanted the state of Florida to pass a “Protect the Polls law” under which “anyone suspected of committing voter fraud can be fired upon – provided the weapon is registered and operated by its licensed owner.”
The two 28-year-olds, who said...
Arun Gupta | AlterNet 30 Aug 2012 Hits:1165 Florida
Activist group Code Pink, protesting this week at the Republican National Convention, marched through the streets of Tampa on Monday dressed as a group of giant vaginas to speak out…
Thousands of Republicans from around the country will descend upon Tampa, Florida next week for the Republican National Convention, and if recent history is any guide, so too…
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday flatly rejected any talk of expanding the number of early-voting days in the state prior to this year's presidential election despite a…
Florida's disgraced former GOP chairman says the party had meetings about "keeping blacks from voting"
Former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer in 2008(Credit: AP/Reinhold Matay)
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