Blog by Jonathan Kantrowitz



The U.S. House of Representatives last night voted to move forward with a package of health care reforms that will bring needed relief to millions of Americans struggling with the high cost of prescription drugs and discriminatory insurance company practices. By passing this legislative package, Members voted to protect and improve the guaranteed benefits that people in Medicare rely on and make progress toward ending the rampant discrimination used by insurers to deny coverage to those who need it most.

Permanent Commission on the Status of Women:

The bill recognizes that healthcare reform is very much a women’s issue, and we’re pleased it remedies several discriminatory practices while advancing women’s economic security, health and safety. It must be said, however, that in using access to abortion as a bargaining chip, Congress held hostage women’s full healthcare benefits. Predictably, the only medical procedure vehemently debated was one unique to women, and the fact that abortion is still legal in the United States was, apparently, considered irrelevant.

We do applaud Congress for advancing women’s equality in several concrete ways, including:

1. Anti-Discrimination:

For too long, many insurers have charged women more (up to 48%) for their premiums simply on the basis of anatomy, and so by getting rid of gender rating disparities in premiums, the bill acknowledges that being a woman is not a pre-existing condition.

2. Economic Security:

More than half (56%) of people filing for bankruptcy brought on by medical debt are women. Under the new law, low- and middle-income earners will get some help from the federal government in paying for coverage. Since women hold the bulk of low-paying jobs, this will help more women avert financial ruin aggravated by exorbitant medical costs.

According to the PCSW’s Elder Economic Security Standard Index of 2009, almost half (40%) of elderly women in Connecticut rely exclusively on Social Security for their total income, which averages $12,600 annually. In Connecticut, older adults in good health pay combined healthcare costs of about $385 a month, which is more than a third of that Social Security income. As women tend to live longer than men — making up 70% of Connecticut’s population over the age of 85, for example – it’s easy to see how, over time, healthcare costs can severely erode a woman’s financial security.

3. Health and Safety:

In abolishing the highly discriminatory “pre-existing condition” exemption, Congress is preventing insurers from denying coverage for medical events such as pregnancy, C-section birth and domestic abuse partner. From both a preventative standpoint and a direct service standpoint, this change enhances a woman’s safety.

Greater access to preventive healthcare is critical to women’s wellbeing. More than half of women (as compared with 39% of men) say they delay needed medical care because of prohibitive costs. Here in Connecticut, nearly 8 percent (7.9%) of working adults spend 20% or more of their income on out-of-pocket medical expenses,[1] and this is especially harmful to low-income pregnant women, who are forced to skip pre-natal care because of high costs.

[1] State Health Access Data Assistance Center, December 2007

Original Article