Women's Lives: The Misogynist Football In The Healthcare Debate

One of the very real dangers in the debate on how to fix American
healthcare is that women's health will become a bargaining chip, with
the GOP and anti-abortion forces trying to frame healthcare reform as
an endrun to government 'interference' in our lives by 'mandating'
abortion and gasp, contraception. Amanda Marcotte has an excellent post here
that deconstructs the root of why they are using this tactic and looks

One of the very real dangers in the debate on how to fix American
healthcare is that women's health will become a bargaining chip, with
the GOP and anti-abortion forces trying to frame healthcare reform as
an endrun to government 'interference' in our lives by 'mandating'
abortion and gasp, contraception. Amanda Marcotte has an excellent post here
that deconstructs the root of why they are using this tactic and looks
at media complicity in fomenting these blatantly misogynist attempts to
derail healthcare reform.

But I suspect that anti-choicers latched onto
taxpayer-funded abortions, because they can count on a lot of the
public to imagine the government funding female licentiousness.

Planned Parenthood has
also issued an excellent press release (that should be read in its
entirety) debunking the myths about abortion and healthcare reform
proposals that are being circulated,

Singling out abortion for exclusion from plans in a
health insurance exchange is both discriminatory and harmful to women's
health. With the majority of private insurance plans covering abortion
today, any attempt to restrict this coverage in the health insurance
exchange would constitute an unprecedented restriction on women -
taking benefits away that they currently have today.

The unfortunate truth is that women's health is not a priority in
the national discussion about the critically ill state of our national
healthcare. As Jodi Jacobson writes,

(Obama's) support for a woman's right to choose and for
access to the services needed to prevent unintended pregnancy, stem the
spread of infections and ensure all women have primary reproductive
health care won't be enough to secure passage of a health reform bill
that includes these essential health services.

In fact, both Republicans and conservative Democrats are pushing for
restrictions in health reform legislation that could result in the loss
of current benefits to millions of women.

Jacobson goes on to explain how Republicans may use abortion and
contraception denial as a bargaining chip for their support of
legislation and the devastating effect this could have on women's

In order to ensure all Americans are covered, most
health reform proposals include options for "insurance exchanges" and
other methods through which the federal government might partially
subsidize the costs of insurance coverage for those without
employer-based insurance, or those who can not afford to pay
out-of-pocket for an insurance policy. What the Republicans and the
Democrats opposed to continuing current coverage (including current
abortion coverage) for women want to do is to eliminate the possibility
of coverage from either subsidized or private plans whether or not the
federal government is subsidizing a particular person.

This is sort of like applying the "global gag rule" to private
insurance plans because even if you are paying for 90 percent of your
policy, the restrictions apply both to the federally funded portion (10
percent) as well as to the 90 percent of the policy you pay for.
Moreover, some analysts believe the implication is that even in cases
where you pay for 100 percent of the policy you choose, if the federal
government is involved in any way in that insurance plan by subsidizing
others, your coverage would still be restricted.

Martha Burk
also points out that age-rating is also a potential bargaining point
that would discriminate against people between the ages of 50-65, and
" would particularly affect older single women, already lower on the
income scale and less likely to have employer coverage. And as we have
noted before, there is a gross inequity in the current system that forces many women to pay far more for health insurance than men do.

During the next few weeks, if not the next few days, the U.S.
Congress and President Obama will be making decisions that will impact
the health of every person in this country. The bottom line is that
while a single-payer plan
is undoubtedly the best thing that could happen to our collective
health, the political chances of that happening are close to nil. And
it is entirely possible that the compromises that will be made to
placate Republican and anti-reproductive rights votes as well as the
insurance and pharmacy companies that give so generously to politicians
on both sides of the aisle will leave us with a healthcare situation
that is only marginally better and could even become worse for some,
including many women.

The time to take action is now. Call or write to your
elected representatives. Or better yet, drop by and visit. Tell them
that you want meaningful reform that provides for the health of every
American. Tell them how much you spend on health care and health
insurance. Tell them about coverage and care that was denied. Make it
clear to them that the last election really was a mandate for change
and that the American public will not abide by the business as usual
that is continually selling us down the river. Our lives depend on it.


Addenda: The Urban Institute Health Policy Center
has published an excellent analysis of the real financial impact of
health care reform which should be read in its entirety. Among the

  • $1.6 trillion is an estimate recently put forth by the
    Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the cost of the Senate Finance
    Committee's health plan.
  • While these numbers are indeed somewhat alarming initially, they
    need to be put in context. One source of confusion is that the $1.6
    trillion is a 10-year number. Between 2010 and 2019, the total amount
    of gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to be $187 trillion,
    according to CBO.1 Thus, the estimated gross costs of health reform are
    less than 1 percent of the GDP over that period. And, importantly, the
    $1.6 trillion is a total or gross estimate. Other government costs
    would be reduced as a result of expanding coverage so significantly.
  • The government costs also ignore the private savings to employers and individuals resulting from reform.
  • Absent reform, total health care expenditures, public and private,
    will total $33.0 trillion, over the ten years 2010-2019.3 The $1.2
    trillion that we estimate in net new spending will therefore increase
    expected health costs by only 3.5 percent. The problem that the nation
    faces is not the small increment necessary to expand coverage to the
    uninsured, but the high and growing baseline costs of the system. The
    high system costs must be addressed through payment and delivery system
  • (F)ailing to enact comprehensive reform carries substantial costs
    as well. We recently analyzed changes in coverage and expenditures for
    a 10-year period, if reform was not enacted, using different
    assumptions about economic growth and health care cost increases. We
    showed that, absent reform, there would be considerable loss of
    employer coverage, particularly among the middle class, and a
    substantial increase in the number of uninsured, from an estimated 49
    million in 2009 to over 60 million in 2019. The number of nonelderly
    people enrolled in Medicaid would increase substantially, from 44
    million in 2009 to well over 50 million by 2019, increasing state and
    federal government costs appreciably. Because of the greater number of
    uninsured, the amount of uncompensated care that hospitals and clinics
    would provide would also increase dramatically, putting further
    pressure on government budgets. We estimate that Medicaid spending
    would increase over the 10 years by about $800 billion without reform
    and that the costs of uncompensated care by about $250 billion.
  • Without health reform, employer costs would also increase
    substantially, as would costs to individuals and families from higher
    premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

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