Michelle Obama got it right this past week. She paused for a moment to advocate for health care reform for women. Women make up a disproportionate number of those who are without health care insurance. Many are the primary breadwinner, sole breadwinner, work part time and work in jobs with no health benefits. Employer paid health insurance is quite different than buying coverage on the open market. On the open market, it’s outright war. Many legal obstacles exist for women in securing non-employer paid insurance. Plus, there’s a bias against women in the health care insurance industry. The insurance gods deliberately make it difficult for many women to obtain insurance.
It is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia for insurance companies to reject applicants for health coverage in areas related to women. Victims of domestic abuse can be denied coverage. Pregnant applicants can be denied coverage due to what they call a pre-existing condition. Yet, even a past C-section is a reason for denial. Even if not already pregnant, many private insurers will not insure for maternity. In some instances, women can obtain a “rider” for maternity coverage. This means she can pay additional fees on top of the already high fees to include maternity coverage. So many women go without maternity coverage. Kuwait, Canada and 31 other countries have lower maternity mortality rates than the U.S. according to the World Health Organization. Yes, it’s sad but true.
Studies show between 1999-2008, health insurance premiums increased by a whopping 119 percent. I don’t know of anyone whose salary increased by anywhere near that much. And then there’s the issue of gender bias in charging for premiums. Gender bias means insurance companies often charge women anywhere from 4% to 48% more than men for identical health plans. Does that seem fair to anyone? Yet, only ten states have outlawed gender bias in premium charging. Toppled with the fact that women earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man further complicates this issue.
Women make up over 50% of this country. Yet, somehow many are denied the fundamentals of basic health insurance. What is wrong with this picture? We should be yelling from the rafters and everywhere to support President Obama’s public health care reform. If we do not, we have only ourselves to blame if it fails. We are now the New Moral Majority. It is morally right that women should not be denied health care due to pregnancy, past C-section, domestic abuse or overcharged due to their sex. There should be a united front between our insured and our ininsured sisters. This is a fight that should unite us and not divide us.
I urge everyone to take action for health care reform. Overall 46 million Americans lacked health insurance in 2008. A recent Harvard study shows Americans are more likely to die due to lack of health insurance and its ramifications than drunk driving and homicide rates combined.
Let’s fight for what’s right. Give a Sista a health care break!