Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Conservatives Come Between Me & My Doctor

I guess we women should be used to crap like this by now:
Approximately 40 House Democrats are prepared to block healthcare reform legislation from coming to the floor should the bill include federal subsidies for abortions, said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) Friday.

Abortion has been the elephant in the room on the healthcare debate: the Right has been desperate to trot out its most favorite wedge issue; knowing this, the Left won’t touch the topic with a 10-foot pole. But it was inevitable that abortion would come up as part of the debate over the public option, so here ya go, folks.

Let the games begin!

Nothing demonstrates women’s inequality better than the use of abortion as a wedge issue to derail healthcare reform. The reality is, abortion is legal; most private insurance policies cover the procedure to some degree, just as they would cover any medical procedure involving lady parts. And it’s ludicrous to think a public health insurance option shouldn’t cover the same medical procedures as any private health insurance policy. We’re talking about insurance here, people; insurance is not healthcare, as I’ve said ad nauseum.

And trying to equate a public health insurance plan that covers abortion as anything close to “government funded abortions” is wildly off the mark and incredibly dishonest, preying on people’s ignorance and their fear. Insurance is not healthcare! Oh wait, I already said that.

I don’t get why this is so hard for people to understand or even controversial. Even more ironic is that it’s usually the same people harping about how “Obamacare will put a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor” who are trying to insert themselves between me and my doctor.

You don’t see me sticking my nose into their healthcare decisions, do you?

But this just highlights the vast inequality between men’s and women’s healthcare. I love it when pharmacists with a “conscience” think it’s okay to deny women birth control pills but have no qualms about filling Cialis and Viagra prescriptions for men.

Here’s a news flash: private health insurance is a discriminatory system! Insurance companies routinely treat women differently from men; “gender rating” (charging same-aged women and men different premiums for the same coverage), is widespread.

The National Women’s Law Center first looked at the issue in 2008; one year later, they’ve found little has changed:

• Gender rating remains rampant in the individual health insurance market and among bestselling health plans. NWLC examined the best-selling plans (generally the top 10) in each state capital and found that 95% practice gender rating, compared to 93% of such plans in 2008.

• Using the same random sampling methods as in 2008, NWLC found even more egregious examples of gender rating among 25-year-olds in 2009. At this age, women are charged up to 84% more than men for individual health plans that exclude maternity coverage.

• Despite the bleak landscape, two states made improvements since the Center issued its Nowhere to Turn report in 2008. In April 2009, Arkansas passed a law expressly prohibiting health insurance companies from using a woman’s status as a domestic violence survivor to deny coverage, and in October 2009, California became the eleventh state to ban gender rating in the individual health insurance market.

• New research revealed that, in most states, it is common for a female non-smoker to be charged more than a male smoker in the individual insurance market simply because she is a woman. [...]

• Maternity coverage remains largely unavailable in the individual market, with virtually no improvement in access. In 2009, 13% of the health plans available to a 30-year-old woman across the country provide maternity coverage, compared to 12% in 2008.

It seems some people are so accustomed to this kind of inequality that they think it's okay (and it takes folks like Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow to point out the obvious to troglodytes like Republican Sen. John Kyl.)

So now we have an interesting case where we have an unfair private insurance system that penalizes women because of their gender, charging them more for no reason and not covering certain services. And a group of conservatives want to build that same inequality into the public insurance system by having just some procedures covered for women, whereas all procedures will be covered for men.

Umm, no. The main point of the public option is to rein in the unfair and abusive practices of the private insurance industry (NOTE: On reflection that was a huge brain fart. The main point of the public option is to lower costs. But reigning in abusive insurance industry practices would be a nice ancillary effect.) You just can’t do that if your corrective element is going to be just as unfair and abusive and discriminatory.

The reality is, no one involved in this debate gives a crap about abortion or gender discrimination. They’re trying to kill healthcare reform. They’re using their favorite wedge issue to do it, and conservative Democrats are playing along.