Why Women Want Health Care Reform

Some believe women are more likely to support reform because the current system tilts against them

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The health care debate has been sliced a dozen different ways, but one angle that has been remarkably neglected is how reform relates to women. Women support health care reform in starkly greater numbers than men, with one recent Gallup poll reporting that 40 percent of women favor passing a bill, while 44 percent of men oppose it. This lends some support to First Lady Michelle Obama's claim that women are "crushed by the current structure of our health care."

While this side of health care is seldom covered in the daily scrum, this week, a small chorus of female pundits have begun explaining why health care reform could or should become a women's issue.

  • Pink-Collar Jobs Don't Come With Benefits At The Daily Beast, Dana Goldstein says the good news that women may make up over 50 percent of the workforce, but argues that they are less likely to have jobs with fair pay and benefits. "With the exception of nursing, the fastest-growing professions for women workers--retail sales, customer service, food service, and home health aides--are not only poorly paid with irregular hours, but also typically lack health-insurance coverage." Goldstein has serious concerns about the way the Baucus bill because it doesn't include an employer mandate. But she says the proposed reforms are still an improvement. "The reform plans kicking around Congress would represent some real improvement for women, forcing insurance companies to cover pre-natal care and ending the practice of 'gender rating,' in which women are charged more than double what men pay for the same insurance."
  • Women Pay More for Health Care DoubleX's Emily Bazelon says women have a lot to gain from a health care overhaul. Women, Bazelon writes, are more likely to spend money on routine care then men, but less likely to be insured.

    Women who have just about any kind of insurance typically have higher out-of-pocket costs than men. They are also more likely to be considered 'underinsured,' meaning they have to spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care costs. Often that's because women are more likely to suffer from a chronic condition, but it's also because they have more routine health care needs, like an annual gynecological exam or a monthly co-pay for birth control. Indeed, during their reproductive years, women spend 68 percent more on health care than men.

    But because women generally are paid less than men, they are less able to afford these extra payments. Unsurprisingly, women are more likely to delay seeking medical care because of cost concerns and also more likely to experience a medical bankruptcy.

  • Gender Shouldn't Be a Pre-Existing Condition At the Feministe blog, Jill says insurance companies are discriminating against women. Some of her more disturbing examples? "Only 14 states require insurance companies to cover maternity care," "Insurance companies can consider prior cesarean sections as a 'pre-existing condition' and deny a woman coverage for childbirth," and "pregnancy itself is often considered a "pre-existing condition" by insurance company, therefore a reason to deny coverage."
  • Rape Also a Pre-Existing Condition?  Mcjoan of Daily Kos furiously recounts the story of a woman denied coverage because the insurance company considered rape a pre-existing condition. She said reading "a story like this" leads her to believe it's time to get rid of insurance companies altogether. "Pregnancy. C-Sections. Rape. Apparently being female is a pre-existing condition in and of itself."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.