Health care is a fundamental human right, and ensuring access to quality, affordable and comprehensive health care within the United States is a moral imperative confronting our legislators today. Since 1993, the National Organization for Women has been a leader in the campaign for single-payer health care in the U.S. It is, as President Obama noted last week, the only way to ensure coverage for everyone.
Single-payer health care is particularly important for women. Women bear the brunt of this nation’s broken health care system, and it’s coming at us from multiple directions. Women are disproportionately under-insured in the U.S. because we tend to be clustered in part-time, non-union and other jobs that do not provide health care. When we do seek coverage on the open market, we are often charged more than men, even while many of us are denied maternity care. And because statistics show that women remain paid between 78 and 58 cents on the dollar compared to men, even those of us who are fortunate enough to receive employer-sponsored insurance are less likely to be able to pay premiums.
Moreover, the burden of caring for the sick has increasingly shifted from health care professionals to family caregivers. As insurance companies force hospitals to turn out patients shortly after major surgery, patients are sent home to be cared for by unpaid family members, predominantly women.
The best way to correct these problems is to enact single-payer health care, covering all women regardless of their employment status, immigration status or ability to pay. And while covering everyone, single-payer health care would also be significantly more cost-effective than the system we have now, because removing the profit-seeking insurance companies from the equation eliminates a huge portion of health care costs.
Despite what some of our elected officials might think, any public plan must cover all reproductive health services. Women have a right to full access to the complete range of reproductive health care services. This includes HIV/STD testing, maternity care, pre- and post-natal care, contraception and abortion.
The greed and dominance of the private health insurance industry is both a symptom of and a major contributor to the massive inequality that is entrenched in our society. Single-payer health care promotes health and economic justice for all.