Thursday, October 23, 2008

Health Care Reform and Women

Today I'm going a bit off topic to talk about how the proposed health care reforms might help or hurt women in the next administration in my column over at RH Reality Check. It gets pretty wonkariffic, but it really gets into the nuts and bolts of how women -- who tend to use health care very differently than men -- may see changes in their heath care if there are future reforms:

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain's plan promotes the individual health care market. Currently, Americans pay for employer-sponsored health care premiums with pre-tax income. McCain's plan would require workers to pay for insurance out of post-tax income; his plan would offset this by extending a tax credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families. This tax credit can either be applied to a person's employer-sponsored plan or to one on the individual market. Additionally, McCain calls for opening up options by allowing people to purchase health care plans from providers in other states.

But this push to the individual market isn't optimal for women. According to a report recently released by the National Women's Law Center, women have a hard time finding equitable coverage on the individual market, often paying more and getting less. Right now about two-thirds of women get coverage though an employer, 16 percent of women get coverage through public programs like Medicaid, and just 7 percent of women currently get coverage through the individual market.

Of women who bought insurance on the individual market, the NWLC report found that they pay more in monthly premiums at almost every age than men--6 to 45 percent more for women aged 25 and 4 to 48 percent more at age 40. How can this be legal in the individual market and not in employer-sponsored coverage? Courts have ruled that Title VII of Civil Rights Act applies to employer insurance coverage. Only ten states prohibit such discrepancies in individual market premiums, and two states limit it.

Read the whole thing here.

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