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Newsflash, GOP: Women's Health is Human Health

women's healthThis post should probably start with the following disclosure: I am currently uninsured, and have been since I divorced in 2009. I have yet to look at the Obamacare website and the insurance options available to me in New York State, though I hear our exchange is offering great plans at great prices. (It should be noted that not every New Yorker is happy with the changes Obamacare has ushered in; most that are upset about them were previously insured.) Others nationwide who are upset include many in the GOP who believe that the cost of insurance for everyone should not be spread evenly amongst all people, since not everyone uses the same medical services. These ignorant whiners believe that women should pay more for women’s health services. Some of these whiners are – astonishingly – women.

Joan Walsh points out in a post on Salon that Republicans want women to pay more for healthcare, not just because – as John Stossel recently suggested – we use doctors’ services more, but because men don’t give birth. Walsh writes:

Conservatives continue to be outraged by the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that basic insurance policies cover maternity and newborn care. When Rep. Renee Ellmers, the chairwoman of the House GOP Women’s Policy Committee, asked Kathleen Sebelius “Has a man ever delivered a baby?” she was introducing her party’s best new argument against Obamacare. Forget “death panels”; now we have “birth panels,” which force Americans to pay for the continuation of the human species whether they want to or not.

But men do have babies, even if they don’t gestate and give birth to them, and so should be every bit as invested a woman’s maternity care. Walsh says, “Clearly the far right’s antipathy to maternity care coverage comes from its determination to restore the husband-headed nuclear family: If a woman wants a man to share the cost of her maternity care, well, she ought to marry one. Otherwise, she’s on her own.” I have no doubt that assessment of Republican values is accurate. But in addition to whatever single mother/feminist-shaming is going on here, it goes hand-in-hand with poverty-shaming (as usual). Walsh singles out a quote from Harvard economist and George W. Bush Council of Economic Advisors chair Greg Mankiw, who wrote in a post on his blog,”… having children is more a choice than a random act of nature. People who drive a new Porsche pay more for car insurance than those who drive an old Chevy. We consider that fair because which car you drive is a choice. Why isn’t having children viewed in the same way?” But you can’t compare cars and kids. In choosing between a Porsche and an old Chevy, either way you’ve got something to drive. What Mankiw is really saying is, “If you can’t afford children, don’t have them.” So if you can’t afford the Porsche, you don’t deserve a car, and you certainly don’t deserve the rest of us helping you pay for an old Chevy, because what’s the point? It’s junk.

Without healthy women, there are no healthy babies, and without healthy babies, there is no future. The math here is pretty simple. The argument that women “go to the doctor more” than men or for more reasons or that women should solely bare the cost of reproduction (as long as they’re rich and will produce worthy offspring) is ridiculous and offensive. Young women in their childbearing years may visit the doctor more frequently than young men (and really only because men over 18 refuse to visit the doctor, not because they’re immune to needing regular checkups), but older men are often burdened with high cholesterol or heart-related issues (that to this day are better-treated than women’s heart-related issues). Women over 40 need to be examined for breast health, but men over 50 need to be screened for colon and prostate cancer. It all evens out in the wash. And that’s the whole point of Obamacare’s cost-sharing methodology. Walsh writes, “At its base, “insurance” represents a private-sector approach to social risk-sharing and cost-sharing. Private companies have …. figured out how to game that system to pay out as little as possible to the insured while maximizing their premiums. The Affordable Care Act has tried to work with that existing private system, but make it a little bit less like high-stakes gambling and more like, well, insurance: in which you’re insured that you’ll get what you need, and what you’re paying for, when you need it.”

Photo credit: iStock

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