Women urgently need health care reformAny discussion we have on health care reform must include a real commitment to improving the lives of American women.
By: Al Franken, DFL-Minn., The Republican Eagle
Any discussion we have on health care reform must include a real commitment to improving the lives of American women.
Women’s health is fundamental to our country’s health because women are small business owners and entrepreneurs; they are educators and doctors and CEOs. And as mothers and grandmothers, women are often also the health care decision makers for our families.
It’s of utmost importance that national health reform legislation makes a real difference in the lives of American women.
Women are among those most severely disadvantaged in our current health system. Right now, health insurance companies discriminate against women solely on the basis of their gender.
And right now, it’s legal in many states for health insurance companies to charge women higher premiums — or deny coverage all together — if they have a history of domestic violence. So instead of providing the care and support that victims need in order to get out of abusive situations and stay healthy, health insurance companies punish them.
This is simply immoral and unacceptable.
It’s also unbelievable to me that, in this day and age, we allow insurance companies to charge women more for health insurance simply because of the fact that they may become pregnant. I heard recently from a woman named Jessica in Minneapolis. Jessica’s 35 years old and works as an independent contractor.
When she started up her business, she knew that it was important to have health insurance. She wanted to do the responsible thing so she looked into buying an individual health plan. She found two main options, both of which had all of the same benefits except for one thing: maternity care.
The plan that included maternity services cost about twice as much and was unaffordable.
Right now, she doesn’t have any children but she thinks she might like to become pregnant sometime in the next few years. But as she was considering these individual health coverage options, Jessica also found out that to get the pregnancy coverage, she would also need to be enrolled in the maternity coverage for 18 months before becoming pregnant. Otherwise, her pregnancy would be considered a pre-existing condition and would not be covered.
Health insurance companies consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition. And we permit this discrimination under current law.
Jessica is a young entrepreneur — exactly the type of smart and innovative businessperson that we want to encourage in Minnesota. But this ridiculous practice of charging women more for health insurance sends the message that we don’t want women to receive prenatal services and high-quality maternity care. As if we don’t all benefit from healthy mothers and babies.
The reality is that if my wife or your sister doesn’t have access to high-quality, affordable health care, that’s bad for all of us — bad for our economy, our country and our future.
Fortunately, when we pass national health reform, we will begin a new era in women’s health. For the first time ever, women will have access to comprehensive health benefits, including maternity care without having to pay more than their male counterparts.
This is a huge step forward for justice in our country, and it’s one of the most important reasons why we must pass health reform this year.
Al Franken, DFL-Minn., can be reached at (202) 224-5641, (651) 645-0323 or www.