By Jan Erickson, Director of Programs, NOW Foundation
If you haven’t had a chance to read up on all the crazy statements being made by opponents of health care reform, here’s one sure to jolt your brain.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl in Senate Finance Committee negotiations on their health care reform bill argued against specifying certain mandated benefits. He said, “First of all, I don’t need maternity care, and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) quickly interjected, “I think your mom probably did.”
Kyl replied, “Over 60 years ago my mom did.” (!!)
Other women’s organizations — also quite stunned over this statement — urged their supporters to send baby pictures to Sen. Kyl. We hope his office was inundated with darling baby photos.
Whether Sen. Kyl is sensitive enough to realize that this comment was shockingly crass is not apparent. Or that singling out maternity care to question as a mandated benefit was perhaps not the best choice as an example of how to restrict coverage and reduce costs.
As it happens, in the private insurance market women are currently charged much more because of maternity care they may need. Some policies even exclude maternity care completely. Gender-rating, as it is called, is supposed to be prohibited in health care reform legislation and because insurance companies would lose income from having to pay for prenatal and delivery services, companies have figured out another way to compensate.
They are just going to charge middle-age women and men much more for coverage because — they say — middle-age people have more health care needs. Premium rates for persons 40 to 64 years of age could be anywhere from twice as much to five times as much. What this will mean is that many middle-agers, mostly women, will not be able to afford these exorbitant premium rates and will have to rely on government subsidies. Tens of billions of dollars in subsidies from taxpayer dollars will go straight to the profit-driven insurers — those same folks who have made hundreds of millions denying medical payments for customers who became ill and thought they had insurance to pay their medical bills.
So is Sen. Kyl really out of touch with the lives of women and the needs of a healthy society that should provide universal health care families? Or is he just arguing to keep maternity coverage out of the list of mandated benefits and to further inflate insurance company profits? One thing is certain: the Senate Finance Committee version of health care reform will be costly for women — and for taxpayers.