What is at stake for women in health care reform? Plenty.
Should being born female be considered a pre-existing condition that translates into higher health insurance premiums… or a C-section be classified as a pre-existing condition… or basic maternity care require a special rider on a woman’s insurance policy? Does it seem even remotely fair that a victim of domestic violence be denied health insurance coverage? The insurance industry certainly thinks so.
1) Less than half of women have the option of obtaining employer-based coverage on their own. Even when they work for an employer that offers coverage, one in six is not eligible to take it, often because they are part-time workers. They end up either covered through a spouse (41%), purchasing insurance directly through the individual market (5%), on public programs (10%), or uninsured (38%).
2) Married women in the 55 to 64 age group are particularly vulnerable to a discontinuity of coverage as their spouses go on Medicare. Among this age group, there is a drop in dependent employer-sponsored coverage from 39% to 34%.
3) More than 50 percent of women have delayed care due to cost!
4) State and federal laws that protect individuals with employer-sponsored insurance do not apply to the individual market. These include anti-discrimination protections in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), which prohibits covered employers from charging different premiums or denying coverage based on age or health status.
The National Women’s Law Center looked at premiums charged 40-year-old female non-smokers versus 40-year-old male smokers. In most states, it often costs more to be a woman than to be a male smoker; more than 60% of best-selling plans charged 40-year-old female non-smokers more than 40-year-old male smokers.
5) The vast majority of individual market health insurance policies do not cover maternity care. Even so, in some states, women still pay 50 percent more in premiums for policies that require a supplemental plan for maternity care.
6) It legal in eight states, plus the District of Columbia, for insurers to reject applicants who are survivors of domestic violence.
If you are a woman, comfortable in a group policy, some of these items may have escaped your notice, but as unemployment rises, and fewer employers offer group insurance to their employees, more women are falling through the cracks.
Women are not a foreign species — reproductive care is basic care for women. Women take on the lion’s share of responsibility for a family’s health care, and it is women who must take the lead in the fight for reform. But that doesn’t let men off the hook — the health and well-being, as well as the financial impact of women’s health, affects the entire family.
Democrats in Congress who are pushing for reform need to speak up about the blatant discrimination against women by the health care industry, and how reform can no longer wait.
What can you do to help? Sign the petition and tell Congress: Being a Woman is NOT a Pre-Existing Condition.
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Photo: Centers for Disease Control
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