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Health-care reform and women

Michelle Goldberg makes the feminist case for health-care reform:

The simple fact is that health-care reform, even with its awful provisions on abortion, will hugely improve the health of American women. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 17 million women are uninsured, and millions more are underinsured. "In 2008, one in seven privately insured women reported she postponed or went without needed care because she couldn't afford it," Kaiser reports. Women are more likely to rely on their spouse's insurance coverage, leaving them vulnerable if they're divorced or widowed, if their husband becomes old enough to qualify for Medicare, or if their partner's employer decides to drop dependent coverage, which is happening with increasing frequency. As a study by the National Women's Law Center found, "Overall, women are more likely than men to have difficulty obtaining needed health care (43% vs. 30%) -- a difference more pronounced for uninsured women (68% vs. 49%)."

The inequities of our health-insurance system are a major reason that the United States has higher maternal mortality than almost any other industrialized country. A new Amnesty International report on America's maternal health crisis suggests that things are only getting worse: "More than two women die every day in the USA from pregnancy-related causes. Maternal deaths are only the tip of the iceberg. Severe complications that result in a woman nearly dying, known as a 'near miss', increased by 25 per cent between 1998 and 2005. During 2004 and 2005, 68,433 women nearly died in childbirth in the USA." Amnesty points out that health-care reform, as currently constituted, will not solve this problem -- among other things, it will still leave too many uninsured. But it will almost certainly ameliorate the problem. And that's reason enough to back it.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 18, 2010; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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More than two women die each day from LOTS of different causes. Not to mention all the female babies killed who otherwise would grow up to be feminists.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 18, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand why the abortion restrictions are presented as mostly affecting the "middle class." It's not like the Medicaid expansion is going to cover the "lower middle class" or the "working class." A lot of people without a lot of money are going to be buying insurance in the exchanges with subsidies. You seem to want exchanges to expand - which will push more and more women into a very restrictive situation when it comes to reproductive health care.

The picture painted by some seems to be that the only women this will affect are women stepping out of gigantic SUVs and throwing out of pocket money at an abortion. The abortion rules in the Senate bill are a huge problem. Natasha Chart (

"Under the Senate system which makes abortion part of the initial purchasing decision, a woman's employer, male partner or parents can all potentially prevent her getting insurance coverage for it, whereas now, it usually doesn't come up because most private plans just cover it. Now, of the one in three women likely to need an abortion in her life, millions of women never have to have that conversation. Under the current wording of the health bill, that second check is the federal spousal and parental notification law that never managed to pass.

Then if the administrative expenses and familial approval weren't enough, the second check creates a stigmatizing paper trail for anyone worried about public pressure or vulnerable to retribution by disapproving superiors. Even people who might support abortion might be pressured into dropping plans that cover it and one way or another, abortion coverage will end. That's always been the point of both the Stupak amendment and Nelson's Senate compromise, which will simply work more slowly to eradicate insurance coverage of abortion."

The whole point of the insurance reform is that people who could not previously afford insurance (read: POOR) now can, in the exchanges. So how exactly is this mostly affecting middle-class women who can pay out of pocket?

Posted by: rns8 | March 18, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

how can anyone read this post, and still, at this eleventh hour, not support this bill?
do we have leaders, or wooden puppets without hearts?

i have enormous respect for nancy pelosi.
she looks very fragile, but she must have nerves of steel to contend with this day after day.
i really wonder how she has managed this.
as a woman, if she ever writes a book, i would certainly like to read it.
i think she is the most remarkable woman in american politics.

Posted by: jkaren | March 18, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Coverage does not equal care, and it does not make care affordable. And if we continue to stigmatize and make abortion more difficult, we will encourage riskier abortions that will endanger the lives of thousands of women every year. But, hey, ladies, take one (well, another one, and another one) for the team so that "progressives" like Ezra and Matt Y. can do their fanboy shtick.

Posted by: redscott | March 18, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse


I have a heart, but also realize that there are approximately 3,700 abortions per day in this country, so if roughly half of those are of female babies, we are comparing two (2) women dying vs. 1,650 female babies being killed.

Posted by: JakeD2 | March 18, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for mentioning the National Women’s Law Center, Ezra. We are aware of the health reform bill’s flaws—including onerous restrictions on abortion coverage—and we will not rest until the abortion coverage restrictions are fixed. Nevertheless, the bill represents vitally important advances for women’s health. We are therefore strongly encouraging Congress to pass health reform by highlighting all that the bill would do for women, such as:

Eliminating gender rating for individuals and small businesses with up to 100 employees; imposing guaranteed issue and renewal requirements, to ensure that women are never again denied coverage for having survived a sexual assault or domestic violence, or because they’ve had a C-section; extending Medicaid to 133% FPL, which would make up to 4.5 million uninsured women newly eligible for Medicaid coverage (NWLC calculations based on 2008 CPS data); providing health insurance subsidies to approximately 11 million women (NWLC calculations based on 2008 CPS data); and requiring all new health insurance plans offered in the Exchange, and all new individual and small employer plans offered outside of the Exchange, to cover (at a minimum) a broad range of medical services—including maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health services, and preventive care.

Certainly, that list can go on.

The bill will end harmful insurance industry practices, help make health coverage more affordable, and expand access to many of the health services women need. Congress must pass health reform.

-Julia Kaye, National Women’s Law Center

Posted by: JulKaye | March 18, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

The vast majority of the American public do not want their tax dollars to go to abortion. Let's respect that. Abortion is a $350 procedure. Compare that to the cost of most other medical procedures. Why would any woman want insurance coverage for abortion anyway? By the time she pays the extra premium for abortion coverage, its more expensive than paying out of pocket. Woman need health insurance coverage for major health issues, not for abortion.

Posted by: marra1 | March 18, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Fox news is complaining that health care is "one sixth of our economy" and that's why we shouldn't have reform. Does that make any sense? Isn't that the problem? It's one sixth of our economy and in about 2 years it will be one fifth of our economy, and then one fourth. It is out of control. CNBC complains that "this bill will hurt small businesses" How so? Isn't the current situation the reason many small businesses cannot stay in business? When premiums go up 30 percent a year as they are now, isn't that killing small businesses? It seems to me that the reform will help small businesses. And why do you not hear Republicans talking about the 30 million uninsured, except for a token mention here or there, and the 45 thousand who die every year due to lack of health insurance. I think they think they should be invisible. They talk about "death panels" Isn't that a "death panel"? When that many people die due to lack of health care? I guess the Republicans aren't including those people, they only include the people they think should count. And I am a Republican, but soon to be former Republican.

Posted by: marra1 | March 18, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

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