There’s a story behind Ellen Newcomb’s job. Fresh out of college, with no idea what she wanted to do with her life, the government major moved to Washington, D.C., to intern for California Congresswoman Lois Capps. Capps was the cochair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. At the same time, Newcomb ’07 lost her health insurance and was tapping into her parents’ policy. The stars were aligned. Newcomb found her calling.
Today, after working as an advocate at the National Women’s Law Center until last August, Newcomb can rattle off facts about women’s health and reproductive rights: women have less health insurance coverage than men even though women on average need medical attention more often; from 1999 to 2008 health insurance premiums increased 119 percent, 3.5 times the increase in wages over the same period; 18 percent of women have no health insurance, and among minorities the percentage is even higher.
“This will really upset you,” she said. “Ten states, including D.C., don’t force insurance companies to cover domestic violence victims.” The policy, Newcomb says, leaves many women in one of the most vulnerable populations uninsured.
It’s an exciting time to be working on health-care reform, and Newcomb knows it. Her animated gestures show a passion that many yearn for in their work. “I’ve really grown up a lot in the last two years,” she said. “At Colby, there was always the disconnect between work and the outside world. I used to be more passive about comments that offended me.” It’s a different story now,” she said, laughing.
The job has been good for her in other ways, too, she said. Newcomb always planned to go to law school, but it was her coworkers at the center who gave her the encouragement and information that she needed—advocating like they do best. This fall she entered law school full time at American University, where she’s active in the Women’s Law Association and the Equal Justice Foundation. But she isn’t leaving the field she loves. “I definitely want to go back,” she said.
—Jenny Chen ’12