A Woman’s Perspective on Health Care Reform
Submitted by Jacqueline Kozin, WFLC Board Member
Outrage. That is what I felt the second time I learned about “the birds and the bees.” My mom taught me the first time around, and it was, well, a rather loving, technical instruction that simultaneously created visions of my parents doing it. I was just grossed out.
But as a fifth grader in Catholic school, Sr. Donna provided instruction that was a bit more fleshed out. Pun intended. She explained to us girls that on our wedding night, our bodies were a gift that we would give to our husbands. And we must save that gift for when we get married. WHAT??!!! I remember my face getting flushed with anger and outrage. I went home to my parents that day, and asked my mom about it. God bless my mother–God bless all mothers. She tried to reassure me that as I got older, I would understand better. Ten-year old me responded, “I understand just fine. My body is mine and not a gift for anyone.”
I remembered this experience recently when I felt the same level of outrage about how women are treated in the health insurance industry. On Saturday, March 6, I attended a panel discussion on women’s health with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Congressman John Larson and Dr. Carolyn Mazure from Women’s Health Research at Yale.
The discussion focused on the current state of American women’s health and health insurance coverage. Congresswoman DeLauro shared the stories of a number of local women who were in the audience and whose lives have been affected by their health insurance or lack of it. It almost appears that women’s healthcare is viewed as a “gift” for the insurance companies.
Some interesting facts about the discrimination women face in the individual insurance market:
– Women pay up to 48% more in premium costs than men. An insurance industry practice known as “gender rating,” insurance companies are able to charge different premiums to men and women for the same coverage in all but 12 states. In Connecticut, this practice is allowed.
–In some states, women are denied coverage or charged more for “pre-existing conditions” such as pregnancy or domestic violence. What!!?? When this was discussed, it literally drew gasps. Fortunately, Connecticut is not one of these states.
–Often, even women and children with insurance do not receive key preventative care — mammograms to well-baby and well-child care– because they are unable to afford the co-pays.
Speaker Pelosi touted the federal health insurance reform legislation as a way to reverse this discrimination for women. According to a hand-out distributed by her office, the legislation does a number of things including, make it illegal for insurance companies to use “gender rating” and deny coverage or charge higher premiums based on “pre-existing conditions.” It would also eliminate all co-pays and deductibles for recommended preventative services.
Before last night’s vote on the Health Care Bill, I received a number of emails from friends asking me to call my Congressional Representatives to ask them to support this bill.
As I read the emails and felt the urgency of their authors, I already knew my Representative, Congresswoman DeLauro, an ovarian cancer survivor, would vote in support of women’s health. Throughout the panel discussion, I felt fortunate to have this woman in DC to fighting for me. And I further thought, the more women we have in elected positions, the more women’s issues, which are everyone’s issues, will get the attention and solutions they deserve.
Of course, I have been fired up about everything I learned and I am even more hopeful about the future with last night’s passage of the Health Care Bill.
After the panel discussion, I talked about all of this with my mother, who had to battle insurance companies throughout her breast cancer treatment and is also represented by Congresswoman DeLauro. And not surprisingly, this time, the outrage was shared.
Go here to find your Congressional Representative and his/her contact info.
Read coverage of the panel discussion, here.
Read about how women in Connecticut need health reform here.
Read about Sustinet, Connecticut’s version of the public option, here.