My name is Barbara Colt. I am on the board of directors for The Womxn Project. The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
I am thrilled to submit testimony to very strongly support H5787, which would eliminate state bans on health coverage for state employees and the Medicaid program, as well as H6075, which ensures 12 months post-partum coverage in Medicaid. We would also like to express our support for H5790, which expands eligibility for healthcare for elderly and disabled people by increasing the eligibility from 100% FPL (federal poverty line) to 133% FPL.
No matter where we live, what we look like or how much money we have, all Rhode Islanders want the best for their families and they should have the resources and fair opportunities to ensure that we can thrive as individuals and communities. The fact is that we can and we must do better! The United States has the worst maternal mortality rate among comparable developed nations. Black women in the US are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts. Black women are also more likely to be uninsured, to make low wages and to lack basic supports like paid family leave and affordable child care even though they are more likely to be raising children alone and be the main breadwinner of the family.
Medicaid is critical for people of all ages in Rhode Island, particularly non-white Rhode Islanders and new mothers. The program covers 37 percent of all births in Rhode Island and provides everything from vitamins and ultrasounds to amniocentesis screenings and delivery services. But Medicaid coverage for pregnant women ends after 60 days, leaving many new mothers without the treatment and services they need. Over half of pregnancy-associated deaths happen in the first year after birth, a time when mothers need affordable access to care more than ever. Now, they may finally get it.
The federal American Rescue Plan provides states with more funding to extend postpartum care to a full year. Rhode Island lawmakers are taking this opportunity to help new moms and expand maternal Medicaid coverage with H6075. This bill is an important start to addressing higher risks for Black women who are pregnant. But we can still do more. Access to safe, affordable abortion is also critical to promoting better maternal health and outcomes for the entire family. Landmark research shows that delaying or denying women abortion services has long-term health and economic consequences for families.
We know that over half of women seeking abortions have already had at least one child or birth. They are best equipped to decide for themselves when and how to expand their families. Proactive measures like the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (H5787) would support the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders by providing everyone with the options they need to manage their health and plan and support their families. We should each be able to decide when to become parents or add to our families and we should have affordable access to care to ensure safe abortion, health pregnancies and that we can all raise our families with dignity. This not only helps individuals, but also creates stronger, healthier communities.
These bills are about making sure that it is not just people with means who are able to get the healthcare they need. This is more important than ever with so many in our state continuing to struggle as a result of the global health crisis and long-standing inequities in our medical systems. We urge you to vote yes on this important package of bills – H5787, H6075, and H5790. This is about making sure that no one is left behind in our efforts to advance economic recovery, racial justice and health equity. Thank you.
Contact: Barbara Colt ([email protected] or 401-400-0061)