Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Notes on Politics: Women & the Health Insurance Reform Debate

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid attempts to muster enough votes to back a public option in a Senate health insurance reform bill (as White House officials cast doubt on the likelihood of a bill including a public health insurance option passing), one group of constituents is amping up its public relations efforts to make sure their needs are represented in whatever health insurance reform bill becomes a law: Women.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column on Mommy Tracked urging women to pay close attention to this debate because issues that go to the heart of health care for women are at stake. Women who've had C-sections or can still get pregnant or plan to utilize maternity care services in the future, I wrote, are denied health insurance in some states or are forced to pay higher premiums than men, unless they get sterilized.

But the discrimination against women goes further than that. According to CNN and the National Women's Law Center, women who have been victims of rape or domestic abuse can and are denied health insurance in some parts of the country.

One woman told her story this week to CNN. She was raped by two men, took anti-HIV meds as her doctor recommended, then her health insurance company dropped her. The woman, ironically, works in the health insurance industry.

The advocacy group National Women's Law Center is currently running a pro-health insurance reform ad entitled, "A Woman is Not a Pre-Existing Condition." It's pretty powerful stuff.

Remember in September when Arizona Senator Jon Kyl said during a debate about the Senate Finance Committee's insurance reform package that he didn't want to mandate that health insurance policies include maternity care because he didn't need it and it would make health insurance policies too expensive? (Maternity care, by the way, was utilized by his mother, his wife and his daughter.) That, that attitude right there, is treating women like a "pre-existing condition." It's no wonder women are peeved.

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