What Women Need To Know About The Great Healthcare Debate

With a full fledged debate raging over Obama’s health care plan, we’ve started to get pretty confused about what’s what. Everyone has an opinion and facts are flying everywhere. Meanwhile, myths, half-truths and complete lies (hello, “death panels“) are making the rounds, too. So we’re going to break it down for all of you out there who’ve got better things to do than listen to a bunch of white dudes talk politics.
Okay, so I’ll start by giving you a rundown of the overall health care reform bill. Then I’ll break down the parts that are most important to women’s health.

The main goals of the plan are to reduce health care costs, make sure everyone has insurance, reform Medicare and prevent insurance companies from discriminating based on gender and prior conditions. [NY Times]

But, in reality, pretty much all we’ve got are goals. There isn’t much of a concrete bill yet. Some semblance of a health care reform bill was passed by a key House of Representatives panel and went on to the Senate, where it’s been inspected, torn apart and debated. By the time anything squeaks through, it won’t look anything like the original. A lot of stuff is already gone or on its way out, including the hotly debated “public option,” which gives people the option of getting insured by the government which would have fostered competition amongst insurance companies.

But there are still a few pieces of proposed health care legislation floating around. So let’s examine those and figure out what the heck they mean for women.

The Issue: Abortion
The Deal: Obama is all about a “conscience clause” which allows docs and nurses to refuse to offer abortions or sterilization, so long as they tell women where they can go to get the job done. Also it’s not like the Hyde Amendment of 1976, which keeps Medicaid from funding abortions, is going anywhere fast. As it stands right now, abortion coverage for federal employees, women in the military, Peace Corps volunteers, and female prisoners is banned. That is not likely to change, either.
The Bottom Line: The new health care bill isn’t doing much for our reproductive rights. Obama said he may embrace the “tradition” of “not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.”

The Issue: Birth Control
The Deal: The new health care bill will allow states to use federal money to give certain women contraceptives. To qualify, the gal in question must be too “rich” for Medicaid and too poor to afford prescriptions on her own.
The Bottom Line: It’s a good step, but officials in states that want to provide this service had to go through a whole lot of red tape. Since the process is such a pain, only about half of states have done it.

The Issue: Coverage For Female 20-Somethings
The Deal: If the health care reform bill passes, everyone under 26 can stay on their parents’ insurance plans and those sleezy insurance companies won’t be able to engage in “gender rating,” a practice where women are charged higher premiums because we go to the doc more.
The Bottom Line: Gals need to go to the gyno regularly and many of us are on birth control, too. Also, as a student that’s always getting kicked off my parent’s insurance plan for no reason, I’m all about this.

[Double X]