A2Z Homeschool – Ann's Blog

Homeschooling From Ann's Perspective

Health Care Reform for Homeschool Moms


Originally by Ashley Roybal. Edited by Ann Zeise for the homeschool community.
DAWN Newsletter October 2009.

Over the last few months, everyone has heard a lot about health care reform: why we need it, why we don’t, and how it should be done. It seems everyone has an opinion.

Most Democrats, such as myself, believe that health care ought to be accessible for all, and that the government ought to take measures to ensure affordability, and to eliminate fraud and abuse. We homeschool moms don’t all agree what form health care reform should take, but we do believe it is necessary.

There is another aspect of health care reform, however, that many of us often forget: the effects that reform will have on women have often been forgotten or brushed aside in this debate, in favor of “the Big Picture.” As women, we can provide an important perspective in this debate, for in many ways health care reform is more important to us than it is to men. Women face many unique health challenges, and are often more vulnerable to rising health costs or insurance company abuses than men or children may be.

Over the last few years, everyone’s health care costs have gone up. Since 1987, the cost of the average family health insurance policy has risen from 7% of the median family income to 17%. For women, this can leave very few options. Only 48% of women get coverage through our employers, compared with 57% of men. This is often because women are less likely to e employed full time than men (52% of women compared to 73% of men). Women who aren’t covered by their jobs are left with few options: they are forced to seek out coverage in the individual market (5%) or through public programs (10%). They end up dependent on their spouse (41%), or they are left uninsured without health options (38%).

Even when we have the same financial resources that many men have, our health insurance is still harder to afford, because policies for women are often far more expensive than those for men. A 22 year-old woman can be charged one and a half times the premium charged to a man the same age, and these disparities can increase as women age. Because of discrimination based on age, gender, and health status, and a lack of access to group rates, older women who purchase health insurance for themselves directly pay about four times more than those with employer-sponsored coverage.

Women also require more preventative care than men including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Because of high costs, and lack of access to insurance, one in five women aged 50 or above has not received a mammogram in the past two years. Because of the cost of preventative care and making regular doctor visits, many women do not even learn they have become more expensive and difficult to treat.

In addition, some of the other hazards women face make health insurance even harder to afford. It is unbelievable that, in 2009, there are still 8 states where insurance companies can, and do, list domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, and refuse to cover victims’ treatment. In addition, many insurance companies list pregnancy and caesarian sections as pre-exisiting conditions, effectively excluding coverage for millions of women.

These factors, and many others, can clearly make it impossible for women to access affordable care under the current system. In the last few years, over half of all women reported problems paying medical bills, compared with 36% of men.

The House health care reform bill, H.R. 3200 will address these issues, and increase health care access for millions of American women. The bill will end discrimination based on health status and gender, and would limit the amount that premiums can vary by age to no more than 2:1. In addition, the bill will make it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, eliminating almost all of the excuses commonly used to deny care to women. The bill would also allow all Americans not insured through their employers to access the group insurance rates currently only available to large employers, making care more affordable for stay-at-home parents, the self-employed. and many others who currently have a hard time affording insurance.

Health care’s affects on women are rarely discussed, but will have a dramatic effect on our lives. Health care reform is a women’s issue, and without reform we will never achieve gender eqality. By enacting health care reform, we can ensure that American women do not fall further behind, and we can make sure that no American, regardless of gender, is denied access to care.