Health care is a feminist issue

Doctor’s office waiting room, uploaded by Flickr user TheConsumerist

I’ll admit it: I find the debate over health care in America incredibly confusing at times. What I do know is pretty simple. I know that people don’t have a right to health care in this country, which is appalling. I know that navigating our current system and getting quality care is a huge headache, even for the privileged and knowledgeable. I know that low-income people, those with nontraditional work situations, immigrants, and people of color have an even tougher time finding and paying for care.

And I know that health care is a feminist issue. Because women are more likely than men to go without needed care. Because nearly twice as many women as men access health care as a dependent — in other words, they’re not covered under their own name. Because low-income women and immigrant women and women of color have a disproportionately difficult time accessing regular care. Because women are more likely to have patchwork-style careers, dropping in and out of the workforce because of family care obligations, which makes dependence on employer-provided health care exceptionally hard. Because a larger percentage of women than men have a hard time paying their medical bills.

But sometimes I have a tough time understanding the debate about what it’s gonna take to remedy this situation. When talk turns to mandates and single-payer and group plans, my eyes start glazing over. Which is why I’m grateful to Bob Herbert for breaking down this new study on the McCain/Palin proposed health care plan:

Under the McCain plan (now the McCain-Palin plan) employees who continue to receive employer-paid health benefits would look at their pay stubs each week or each month and find that additional money had been withheld to cover the taxes on the value of their benefits.

While there might be less money in the paycheck, that would not be
anything to worry about, according to Senator McCain. That’s because the government would be offering all taxpayers a refundable tax credit — $2,500 for a single worker and $5,000 per family — to be used “to help pay for your health care.”

The whole idea of the McCain plan is to get families out of employer-paid health coverage and into the health insurance marketplace, where naked competition is supposed to take care of all ills. (We’re seeing in the Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch fiascos just how well the unfettered marketplace has been working.)

Taxing employer-paid health
benefits is the first step in this transition, the equivalent of
injecting poison into the system. It’s the beginning of the end.

In other words, YIKES. Read Herbert’s whole column. Also see Lauren’s take, Ezra’s take, and this powerful article by Jonathan Cohn about women attempting to get non-employer-based insurance.

And if you want to contrast that with the Obama/Biden plan, read this op-ed.

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