The health care system is failing women.
August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, granting women the right to vote. It was a hard won battle, begun at the very first women’s rights convention in 1848.
The Suffragettes faced heated opposition, but would not be swayed from the cause they believed in. As our collective memory fades, we give little thought to the sacrifices and victories of the great women who came before us.
We’ve come a long way, but find ourselves in the midst of another super-charged fight, this time for comprehensive health care reform. The health care system is failing women, and it is women who must lead the charge for real reform that makes a difference for ourselves and our families.
Insurers in most states are allowed to consider gender when setting premium rates in both the individual and group markets. As a result of “gender rating,” women, and businesses with predominantly female workforces, are often charged more than men for the exact same coverage.
In eight states and D.C., it is still legal for insurers to reject a woman’s health insurance application if she is a victim of domestic violence.
Insurers may exclude coverage for certain “pre-existing” conditions; if a woman has previously had a Cesarean section, for instance, insurers may refuse to pay for future C-sections or reject her application altogether.
Women need coverage for a full range of reproductive health services, yet it is very difficult—and sometimes impossible—for women to find coverage for maternity care in the individual health insurance market.
As part of its Online Series on Health Reform, HealthReform.gov reports these disturbing facts about women’s health care:
Less than 50% of women can get employer-based health insurance and even when they work for an employee that offers coverage, one in six is not eligible to take it, often because they are part-time workers.
A 22 year-old woman can be changed one and a half times more than a 22 year-old man in the individual insurance market.
More than 50 percent of women have delayed care due to cost.
State and federal laws that protect individuals with employer-sponsored insurance do not apply to health insurance sold in the individual market. These include anti-discrimination protections in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, as well as 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.
Women still take on the lion’s share of responsibility for the health care of their families. Overwhelmingly, women are the ones who must leave paying jobs to become caregivers to elderly parents or other relatives. Woman bear the physical burden of childbirth and need ongoing care throughout our reproductive lives. Reproductive care for women is basic care that affects the whole family.
Eighty-nine years after winning the right to vote, another issue vital in the lives of women has hit the fan. Health care reform is a fight that women cannot afford to lose. We can take our cue and our strength from those suffragettes of long ago, who stood firm for our rights.
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