Senator Kyl Thinks Insurance Companies Should Profit From Discrimination. Do You?

When Senator Jon Kyl (R, AZ) declared “I don’t need maternity care” as support for his amendment which would prohibit the government from setting a floor for certain insurance coverage he may have perfectly and succinctly summed up the Republican approach to the health insurance crisis: I’ve got mine, too bad for you.  Or, to elaborate a bit more, Kyl’s argument was essentially because I’m a man and will not get pregnant I don’t need maternity care and requiring maternity care to be a basic benefit in a policy will drive up costs.  So, to keep health care costs down, insurer’s should not be required to, as a matter of course, cover basic prenatal and maternity care.  By not paying for pregnancies we can save money. 

Thankfully Senator Debbie Stabenow (D, MI) reminded Kyl that, at one point, he did need maternity care when she interrupted “I think your mom probably did.”  While the response might sound a bit flip, it cuts right to the quick: women do not get pregnant all on their own, nor can they count on a man to cover the costs of prenatal care and delivery.  So even a man, at one point in his life, was the beneficiary of maternity care. 

The exchange came in the context of an amendment proposed by Kyl to the version of the health care bill currently being debated in the Senate Finance Committee.  Kyl’s amendment struck language that would define which benefits employers are required to cover, benefits such as basic maternity care.  Most indiviudal health insurance plans don’t cover maternity care, and those that do charge a steep price for such coverage.  According the the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 14 states have a requirement of such coverage, and the number of plans without maternity coverage rises dramatically year after year.

One insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, explained their decision not to cover maternity costs this way: pregnancy is optional.  The point of insurance is to insure against catastrophic care costs.  Diabetes and heart disease are not choices, but having a child is a matter of choice.  If a woman wants her pregnancy covered by insurance, she can purchase a “rider”– a supplemental policy just for that purpose.

Putting aside the fact that Kyl and his donors routinely invoke the language of “choice” when referring to pregnancy while working to systematically undo women’s reproductive freedoms, refusing to cover maternity care as a matter of course is not only a moral failing by the health insurance industry, it is a discriminatory practice that must end.  Unfortunately, it is just one discriminatory practice employed by the health insurance industry when it comes to covering women.  When women buy insurance on the private market, they are not protected by federal laws that prohibit insurers for charging them more, simply because they are women.  The practice, known as gender rating, means that women almost always pay higher premiums than men for the same exact coverage- at a rate of as much as 45% more in some areas.

Thankfully Kyl’s amendment was defeated, but the fight is far from over.  Congress is entering a crucial stage in the health insurance reform debate and there will no doubt be additional efforts to eradicate all efforts at reform.  We don’t often think of the health insurance debate as a matter of civil rights, but we should.  Not only do the practices of these companies have a discriminatory intent, they profit obscenely from discriminatory practices.  It’s time for that to end.

photo courtesy of daniel.baker via Flickr


Autumn Summers
Autumn Summers8 years ago

Ron S.:
I have to respectfully disagree with you. The whole "illegal immigrant" argument is just a straw man that the Repube's are putting in front of everyone's face, just like they always do when something comes up that they don't want reform on. The "illegal immigrant/welfare queen" arguments are just a way to try to scare the average American into not wanting help and reform for our own citizens.
Illegal aliens visiting emergency rooms are not the reason that medical costs are increasing for everyone in this country. American citizens with no insurance and no way to pay for routine medical care are visiting our ER's because they have nowhere else to turn for care that has become critically needed.
We all need to quit being distracted by the shiny objects that Kyl and his ilk are flashing in front of our faces. Look at the facts, people. In addition, the Repube's had a chance to "put up or shut up" about the government-run health care that they are so desperately trying to scare us away from... watch and learn, doubters.

Leo L.
Leo L8 years ago

Jennifer, I think you are, sadly, probably right on the mark. I always believed there was a good reason that we insist on providing at very least free obstetric and child well-care for our poorest in our nation (medicaid and WIC). I would also worry that this sort of condoned discriminatory practice might lead to further abhorrent practice, such as illnesses that are not a white man's, but not a choice either (like sickle cell etc).

Jennifer MacVean
Jennifer MacVean8 years ago

Let's put it this way. Being female isn't "optional." Getting pregnant isn't always "optional," and the people fighting coverage for maternity care are the same ones who fight against sex education, birth control AND abortion; AND they're the ones fighting against child care, welfare and quality public education. They won't admit it but their actions are all directed at systematically punishing women and children just for existing and grinding them under their feet any time we do anything besides thank them for raping and molesting us. They miss the days when women and children were the property of men and they could dispose of us, use and abuse us, however they saw fit, without repercussions. My words are extreme, I know. Just consider: If that weren't the case; if they valued women and children as human beings, partners and the hope for the future, we wouldn't be having this discussion. If you ignore the rhetoric and watch what they do, you can see that think we are just fleshy roadblocks to the profits of corporations and the wealthy. I was born and raised in Arizona and moved back here to get help from my parents with my son. I still don't understand how Jon Kyl and John McCain remain U.S. senators after the S&L scandal, let alone all of the anti-Christian, anti-citizen things they've done since. It sure must be nice controlling the media by continually accusing it of being leftist, to the point that it has leaned so far to the right it has fallen in their l

Lisa Tyree
Lisa Tyree8 years ago

That man should not even be in politics if he's going to make matters worse instead of better.
He's for what he shouldn't be. He's also for the right thing the wrong way. So, he can't get it straight.

Judith S.
Judith S8 years ago

Kimberly, I understand what you mean. I spent a considerable amount of time in Arizona too. Unfortunately, it isn't just Arizona. I now live in Georgia, and the senators and representatives here are just as bad. They vote against EVERYTHING that is good for their constituents and vote for EVERYTHING that is bad for their constituents. I sign many petitions, and the many responses from them about their reasoning behind voting so badly would almost be funny if it weren't so sad. Without fail, they ALWAYS get it wrong!

Rebecca S.
Rebecca S8 years ago

And one more thing -

If having a child is "optional", then so is sex. Therefore, we need to immediately demand an end to coverage of Viagra, Cialis, etc, etc as well as penile implants and all other erectile dysfunction pills or devices.

Gee, and following that line of thinking even further, we may as well eliminate treatment for STDs since those result from "voluntary" actions, too.

Oh, wait...and then we have to eliminate caring for those injured in sports, driving a car, walking down the street, etc because all those activities are "optional", aren't they?

Don't you see how this type of thinking is ridiculous? Don't you see how it harms people, especially women??

One solution solves it all: HR 676 - Medicare for all.


Forget the horrid "public option" of over 1000 pages.
Forget keeping insurance companies as the status quo.

PASS HR 676 - Medicare for all - a less than 40 page bill that works.

If you think Medicare is so awful, just ask any senior who is on it to give it up. They'll give you a resounding NO!!! That should tell you it works.

Rebecca S.
Rebecca S8 years ago

How about if you truly want to reduce costs, give coverage to all citizens for all health related issues or needs without bankrupting them, remove a huge burden from employers, provide huge relief to individuals and families, maintain choice in doctors and hospitals while providing outstanding care, create a huge risk pool that will lower costs all around while negotiating drug prices to a realistic profit level, the ASK FOR PASSAGE OF HR. 676!

Forget the scaremongering of "rationed care" - what the hell do you think insurance companies do now? They say whether you receive treatment or not....ergo....rationing!

The difference is that under HR 676, YOU and your DOCTOR would decide the appropriate care, NOT some bureaucrat at an insurance company that offers bonuses to those who deny the most care.

If you're so concerned about the continuation of health insurance companies, let them issue policies for truly optional treatments like breast or penile implants, liposuction and botox.

If pharmacists don't agree with a legal prescription - GET OUT OF THE BUSINESS!

Individually tailored plans won't work and will only cost more money.

LEARN THE TRUE FACTS and quit listening to all the false, scary hype that is paid for by the insurance companies.

And just for the record.... Kyl IS a misogynistic jerk who only cares about HIS pocket, HIS life, HIS health and screw you and yours! You're fools if you think otherwise.

Gene W.
Gene W8 years ago

Jessica, as you well know the gov. determines what an insurance company must offer in its policies. Sen. Kyl was only noting that a person purchasing insurance should have the right to tailor a policy to ones needs and not have to purchase "one size fits all". I don't believe that the Sen was making a sexist comment as you allude. Linda H. simply because an ins. co is labeled "Non Profit" only means all income is distributed within the company and there are no share holders not that it is cheaper, BC/BS is the largest health care insurance company in the US and it is non profit. I am not sure why Jessica is opposed to women being able to purchase their own insurance for maternity care and wants men to have such coverage but she often does not make logical progression in her arguments.

Ron S.
Ron S8 years ago

(comment completed)
need for more troops in Afghanistan & other hot spots around the world!

Ron S.
Ron S8 years ago

I am a very proud 3rd party Independent who is NOT enamored by either the dems OR the repubs. There IS at least one issue in which Sen. Kyl & I agree (that is, IF he was referring to "restricted" pregnancies) & that is Legal American citizens should in NO way have to pay for the myriads of illegal aliens sneaking into the USA & having a plethora of babies at U.S. taxpayer expense. I am now--due to the present administration wanting to take 1/2 trillion dollars from medicare/HMO's over the next decade--in favor of relocating illegal alien mothers to facilities PAID IN FULL by their home countries. No more free-bees in ER's causing many hospitals & clinics to fail here in the good old USA! (Instead of sending money to other countries, the U.S. should be sending BILLING statements & the taxpayers should be demanding prompt remittance!

With regard to Legal American citizen mothers, of course we all need to share in responsible health care plans which equitize payment options. Any privileges &/or rights need to be EARNED, either by being native born of LEGAL American citizen parentage, arrived in the U.S. LEGALLY (waiting one's turn in line) or if, after "swimming the proverbial river," illegal aliens were to put themselves in harm"s way & serve in the military (similar to the Irish immigrants arriving at N.Y. harbor & being immediately conscripted into the Union Army), citizenship for those honorable people should be assured!

There's still a