ISU health care reform forum: Kendra Malone

Chelsea Davis

Women’s health and how it specifically will be affected by the passage of the new health care bill was examined at the health care reform forum.

“According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 17 million women are uninsured, which is 11 percent of all women in the U.S.,” said Kendra Malone, graduate student in anthropology. “And there are millions more who are underinsured.”

While many women are insured, these women also face barriers to care, delaying or sacrificing the care they need.

“One in six women with private coverage and one in three women with Medicaid stated they postponed or went without needed health care,” Malone said.

A positive outcome of the new bill is the elimination of pre-existing conditions.

“Insurance companies discriminated heavily against women in various markets by listing certain categories as pre-existing conditions,” Malone said. “Women were dropped from their insurance or not allowed to use their insurance if they were victims of domestic violence or sexual assault or if they had had Caesarean sections because these were listed as pre-existing conditions.”

Therefore women were less likely to report abuses or seek legal ramifications since they knew they could be dropped by their insurance.

Malone also discussed the partial elimination of gender rating, a practice where many insurance plans charged women more for insurance coverage than they did men of the same age and health status.

“Gender rating for individuals and small employers, up to 100 employees, will be prohibited,” Malone said. “It won’t apply to plans offered by employers with more than 100 employees unless the state allows large employers to enter the exchange after 2017.”

Free preventative care is also an important aspect of the new bill.

“The bill requires new private plans to cover preventative services with no co-payments and exempts preventative services from deductibles,” Malone said. “For example, women will no longer need referrals to seek out gynecological care, which was seen as secondary to primary health.”

A downfall of the bill is its “disproportionate impact on women whose incomes and savings are lower due to lifetime systematic wage discrimination and spending earned income on child costs,” Malone said

She also discussed the elimination of abortion care in the private insurance market.

“The majority of women now covered by private insurance have access to coverage for abortion care, which is a fundamental aspect of women’s health care,” Malone said. “Under the new act, women will now lose coverage for abortion care for policies paid for with private dollars.”

She detailed the consequences of eliminating abortion coverage.

“The new health care reform requires every enrollee, male or female, in their health plan that offers abortion coverage to write two separate checks for insurance coverage. One pays the bulk of the premium while the other pays a share that will potentially cover abortion care,” Malone said.