Getting to Well: Women and the Health Care Battles

Part: 5

Health Reformers Say Women Win, No Matter What

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Democrats are making expanded access to health care coverage for women a large part of the final push for health care overhaul legislation before the end of the year.

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When asked why men's policies should include services that only women can receive, Stabenow said it is a critical way to ensure women do not have to bear a higher financial burden than men.

Other health conditions that are mostly or completely gender-specific, such as prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women, are generally included in all individual insurance policies regardless of the policyholder's sex, according to insurance experts.

All versions of health care reform would require insurers to allow children to remain on parental policies through age 26.

This would enable young women to retain needed care between the time when they leave college and establish a career for themselves. Research finds that younger women tend to use more health care for annual exams compared to young men, who often go years without even annual checkups.

"I know this is a great concern for the women that I talk to," Stabenow said.

The advocates hope these changes will both expand access for many currently uninsured women, as well as offer new protections to women who already have insurance.

Female-Friendly Provisions

The bills also contain provisions that prohibit insurers from charging women more than men for coverage and eliminate co-payments on "recommended preventative services," such as breast cancer screening and well-baby visits. All insurance policies would also be required to cover critical primary care services, such as prenatal and maternity care.

Other aspects of health care reform will also have a greater impact on women, such as bans on insurers denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, since more women have conditions that are categorized in this way.

An October poll by the Associated Press found that women, like the general public, are generally split on their support for the health care bills advancing in Congress. However, it also found that women younger than 55 slightly favor the legislation.

A recent Zogby International poll found positions on health care reform falling along sharp partisan lines, with Democrats 10 times more likely than Republicans to rate the nation's health care system as poor, and eight times more likely to say health care is a right, not a privilege.

Rich Daly is a writer in Washington, D.C.

For more information:

Zogby health care poll

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