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Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

His health care plan would penalize women

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Presidential candidate John McCain’s health care reform plan would have a devastating impact on women, according to a new analysis.

“Tens of millions of women would be at risk of losing their current insurance coverage even though they use health care services more frequently than men, suffer chronic illness more often than men, and require maternity care and other reproductive health services,” concludes a report by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The aim of McCain’s health care plan is to break up the existing employer based health care coverage system and replace it with a market-oriented system funded in part by the government.

Employers that currently offer health care coverage would find fewer incentives to continue doing so under the McCain plan. Instead, individuals would be given a tax credit of $2,500 (families would receive $5,000) so that they could shop around on the open market for the best plan for them, whether that insurer is based in the same state or not. The catch, though, is that the private insurance market doesn’t treat women that well.

The study reports that if McCain’s plan is implemented, “more than 30 million women with employer-sponsored health insurance who suffer from a chronic condition could lose their coverage, find it harder to obtain coverage, or have to purchase supplemental insurance to cover their chronic condition.”

Insurance Companies Would Benefit, Not Individuals

The McCain plan may help healthy people who don’t need frequent health care services or prescription medication. These people are more likely to be men. Women, on the other hand, are more likely than men to need health care. Women also have higher out-of-pocket medical expenses and are more likely to need prescription medication than men.

So when women—especially those with a chronic condition such as high blood pressure—shop for new insurance coverage with McCain’s tax credit, “they are more likely to be charged higher-than-average premiums—even if they have had continuous insurance coverage—and more likely to face significant limits on their health benefits,” the study found.

Women are further penalized by increased out-of-pocket costs because women have less disposable income than men; even in 2008, a woman only earns 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And remember, too, that McCain didn’t support a pay equity proposal in the Senate this past spring, because it “opens us up to lawsuits.”

Under McCain’s plan women could also lose some important consumer protections that are mandated in certain states because insurers could be located in a state with fewer consumer protections and still sell to individuals in other states.

“With these changes, the McCain plan would enable insurance companies to cut essential benefits such as contraceptives, Pap smears, and maternity care from their health plans; to charge more for access to these types of essential services; and to deny individuals coverage that will meet their needs,” the report states.

But is this free-market, fend-for-yourself approach to health care all that surprising? After all, when McCain’s hand-picked running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was mayor of tiny Wasilla, rape victims were forced to pay up to $1,200 for their own rape exam kits used to gather evidence. The practice was found to be so offensive that the Alaska legislature passed a bill outlawing it in 2000.

So who would be the big winner if McCain’s plan is adopted? “In short, Sen. McCain’s plan seeks to maximize the profits of health insurance companies, not maximize health insurance coverage for Americans— especially women,” the study concluded.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

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