Women and Health Care Reform

President Barack Obama’s speech to Congress Wednesday night addressing health care may have been a reminder to some of how the progress of the Obama Administration’s “women-friendly initiatives,” highly visible in the first six months of President Obama’s presidency, has been bogged down by the turbulent storm of health care reform.  But in fact, the current discussion of health care is a great time to address and solve some of the most crucial issues that affect women in the area of health coverage and gender gap in the professions that impact governmental policy-making.

In recent months, the battle for health care reform has been raging, but wrapped up in it is a battlefront for women’s rights as well.  Sharon Johnson reveals in “Reformers Say Maternity Benefits Make Dollar Sense” and  “Push Is On to Cover Prenatal Care in Health Plan” just how much it matters to women:

Twenty-one million American women and girls lack health care insurance; another 14 million rely upon individual policies, which are more expensive and less likely to provide maternal care than employee-provided insurance.

And this is not to speak of the women who do have health insurance but are denied maternity coverage, because pregnancy is deemed a “pre-existing condition” under many policies.  This gender discrimination results not only in devastating economic burden for families, but creates excess health costs for the future.

Dr. Linda Brodsky’s opinion piece provides a good explanation of the dire situation we are in:

As a group, U.S. women are among the most educated and privileged in the world. But our gender gap in national political representation remains wider than 26 other countries. … [Women are] at a disadvantage in the most heated domestic policy debate of these days: health care reform.

This explains why it is legal in most states for pregnancy to be considered a “pre-existing condition,” for women to pay more than men on their insurance premiums, for women with Cesarean section history to often be denied coverage.  The gender inequality in medical academia determines the number of women who have the professional expertise to advise our elected leaders, Brodsky says, and ultimately affects women’s representation in policy-making.  Therefore, “as we monitor and participate in this debate, women should push for changes in national health policy that rectify women’s inequalities as medical professionals and patients.”


About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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