These low health insurance rates and the persistent wage gap limit women’s ability to move out of poverty. Women continue to sacrifice almost a quarter of their earning power every year to gender inequalities in the labor market. We need strong legal protections against discrimination and public policies that reduce poverty, increase wages, and extend health benefits to the uninsured. ~ Heidi Hartmann
One of the themes covered in my History of Social and Welfare Policy class last fall was the ongoing issue of gender inequality that creeps up in policy analysis. This is especially becoming more evident in health care policy. Women outlive men, that’s a statistical reality. Another reality is the fact that on average, women earn less income than men. So it should come as no great surprise that it is women who often find themselves either without health insurance at some point in their lives or struggling to get by with public assistance. Even with a college degree, men continue to earn more:
“By 2004, college-educated women aged 45-49 earn $36,842 (or 38%) less per year than their college-educated male counterparts. In their 20s, the gap was $11,001 or 25%.”
Many women are also at a greater risk for losing their health insurance coverage when they rely on the benefits of their spouse. We’ve already established that females outlive males; what happens to their medical benefits if/when the spouse dies? Other circumstances such as divorce or a spouse’s unexpected unemployment place women in an increasingly susceptible position.
“Women are more vulnerable to becoming uninsured because they are often covered as dependants under a spouse’s plan. Divorce, death of a spouse, spouse’s job loss, or the loss family coverage can cause women to lose coverage.”
With women already bringing home a lower wage than their male counterparts, imagine how this is compounded by those who work part-time or at a low wage full time position and need to obtain health insurance benefits for their children/family. Even when an employer provides medical benefits, the costs of family health care insurance premimums are absurd.
“The cost of family health insurance is rapidly approaching the gross earnings of a full-time minimum wage worker,” said Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “If these trends continue, workers and employers will find it increasingly difficult to pay for family health coverage and every year the share of Americans who have employer-sponsored health coverage will fall.”
And here is what California is proposing in an attempt to increase accessibility to health insurance for all.
The health care debate is not a new one and is certainly receiving more attention these days, especially with the upcoming release of the latest “controversial” expose offered by filmmaker Michael Moore. Is a form of universal health insurance truly the answer? Initially, I tend to support a movement towards a more socialized version of medicine, but at the same time, I don’t really believe that government mandated health insurance is going to solve anything…in fact, I fear once the government does become directly involved in the service, delivery and accessibility of medical care coverage, we might just find ourselves in a worse predicament than already is the case.
This becomes something of a philosophical debate. Do we have the “right” to good health in America? Or is this a privilege? The US Constitution talks about the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…can these objectives be achieved if some people are just not fortunate enough to receive optimal health care?
Yeah, that’s pretty much a rhetorical question.