Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why health care is a feminist issue

This is why health care in general, and a move towards universal health care, is a feminist issue.

U.S. women with health insurance are more likely than men to go without needed care because of higher premiums and related costs, a study said. A larger percentage of women also have trouble paying their medical bills.

More women didn't fill prescriptions, skipped recommended visits with specialists, failed to get tests, or just didn't seek treatment when they had a medical problem, according to a national survey by the Commonwealth Fund, a private, New York- based group that supports research on health and social issues.

Other studies have suggested that women often pay more for care because they need more routine exams, such as those related to pregnancy. These issues should be part of the national debate as employers switch to plans with higher deductibles and policy makers seek flexible, lower-cost options for 44 million uninsured and 16 million ``underinsured'' adults, the report said.

So, due to the fact that health care is more expensive for women, they are less likely to be insured. Combine this with the fact that women are less likely to have a job which includes health care than men, and we have a real problem.

Of course, there is also the problem that women earn less than men.

More than 4,000 adults ages 19 and older participated in the survey, researchers said. Of that number, 33 percent of insured women and 68 percent of uninsured didn't get the health care they needed because they couldn't afford it, compared with 23 percent of insured men and 49 percent of uninsured men who went without care.

Among full-time workers, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the most recent Labor Department figures.

``The combination of lower incomes and higher out-of-pocket spending means that many women are more likely to spend greater than 10 percent of their income on health-care expenditures and premiums,'' Patchias and Waxman wrote in the report.

Almost 38 percent of all women surveyed reported difficulty paying medical bills, compared with 29 percent of men, the report said. Among the insured, 31 percent of women had trouble with bills compared with 22 percent of men. About a quarter of the women said they weren't able to pay their bills at all, and about the same percentage said they're paying them off over time.

Some people might argue that the real wage difference between men and women is lower than the article indicates. This is correct, but it is still lower, even if we take other factors into account. And it's really irrelevant since we are talking about medical costs compared to total income, which is higher (medical costs) and lower (total income) for women compared to men.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The US health care system is broken, and needs to be fixed. One good solution would be to introduce universal health care of some kind in the US.

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