Discrimination, Women, and Health Care
Health Care is a hot topic in the government, media, and minds of the American people as of late. In a culture where politics and pop culture are constantly intertwined, debates rage over the quality and state of the current health care system, as well as the Affordable Care Act aimed at improving it. This is not an easy subject – health care is a large industry with a lot of facets and details to examine. Often, it appears people form conclusions quickly before exploring the issue in depth. This is in part due to a culture that thrives on polarizing people depending on their political ideology. Among the many current issues in the Health Care industry, one deserves attention: women and the increased financial burden of health insurance placed upon them, as opposed to males. Nearly 17 million women ages 18-64 are currently uninsured in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office. ("General Facts on Women and Job Based Health" 1) This is due in part to a sagging economy, which has added nearly 6 million people to the uninsured population since 2007. (kff.org) However, women may feel the effects greater than men. According to research, women statistically pay higher insurance premiums than men do by as much as 50%. (healthreform.gov) As this paper will explore, there may be valid explanations for this. However, such a difference in premium costs raises the question: Does discrimination play a role in the fact that health insurance costs more for women? Also, whether or not discrimination is an issue, in what ways is the issue of higher health care costs for women being addressed? In approaching this question, one fundamental fact arises that must be understood. It is the fact that women statistically require health care more than men. (healthreform.gov) This is due to a few reasons: first, women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Second, women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% of women versus 9% of men). Third, while rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. (healthreform.gov) Unfortunately, these chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. According to one study, women tend to visit their primary care physician 50% more than men do. (healthreform.gov) Considering this, the fact stated earlier that deductibles cost 50% more for women than for men seems to be explainable. Basic economics state that when the demand for a product is greater, the price of that product is greater. Insurance companies must account for the statistical fact that women will utilize health insurance more than men. So at first glance, it seems explainable (while perhaps not reasonable), that health insurance companies charge more for women in both deductibles and annual insurance rates than they do for men. However, the issue goes deeper than this. Discrimination still exists, according to some. A study conducted by one woman was revealing: fed up with the high rates she was paying for insurance, this woman submitted applications for coverage to multiple insurance companies, marking everything in the forms exactly identical, all except for the gender. As stated, the results were revealing. Mrs. Rice found that 33% more of the companies accepted the “male” applicants, while denying the applications marked “female.” (womenshealth.gov) This “gender rating” system is a hot topic, and is something health care reform advocates are trying to have overturned. (nwlc.org) It seems that in some instances some companies have gone too far, and perhaps have read too much into the statistical “higher risk” of covering a...
Cited: 1. United States. Department of Labor. General Facts on Women and Job Based Health.
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