Burlington County Times

Health Reform Must Correct Gender Inequalities

Burlington County Times — Monday, June 29, 2009

Letters to the Editor

While the national debate over health care reform has typically been focused on the growing number of uninsured and the increased costs that threaten our economy, a crucial aspect has been ignored: gender disparity in access to and quality of medical treatment.

Women do not enjoy equal access to health insurance. As women are less likely to work full time, they often cannot obtain health benefits through their employers. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that less than half of all women have access to employer-based coverage on their own. At least 41 percent of women must receive coverage through their spouse's plan, limiting their own independence and mobility. Another 5 percent buy insurance through the individual market, where, if they are of reproductive age, they face higher premiums than men.

The quality of care that women receive is also lacking. A study appearing in the journal Health Affairs noted that preventable deaths in the United States disproportionately affect women. Between 1996–1997 and 2002–2003, 32 percent of all female mortalities could be attributed to preventable causes, in contrast to 23 percent of all male mortalities. In 2004, the Department of Health and Human Services found that women receive worse care than men on 22 percent of procedures.

A public health care option must be put in place to diminish and ultimately close the gender gap in health care access and treatment. Such an option would be structured around existing anti-discrimination laws to which insurance companies are not subject on the individual market. These reforms must be enacted to ensure that our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters receive equal treatment at fair rates.

Cathi Rendfrey, director
YMCA of Burlington County
Mount Laurel

Top Top | NJCA Homepage | NJCA in the News