Behind the Right’s Crazy Crusade to Make Women Pay More for Health Insurance
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
In a sane world, when Rep. Renee Ellmers asked rhetorically last week “Has a man ever delivered a baby?” she would have been arguing not against, but for the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that men and women pay the same insurance premiums. After all, the special physical burdens borne solely by women to ensure the life and health of the next generation obviously benefit both genders, right? Healthy men today can thank their mothers for eating well and getting good prenatal care; likewise fathers are grateful to the mothers of their children for the same. (Michael Hiltzik runs down the case for sharing those costs publicly here.)
But no, Ellmers asked that question of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in order to rail against the ACA’s equal premium requirement. She thought it was a clever “gotcha” moment, designed to show the craziness of requiring all insurance policies to cover maternity care and contraception without a co-pay. (The doofuses at Breitbart agreed, declaring “Ellmers brings her A game.”) Amazingly, Ellmers chairs the House GOP’s “women’s policy committee” – so how could she be so tone-deaf in attacking the way the ACA helps that increasingly elusive GOP constituency, female voters?
Because the right-wing base of the modern Republican Party is dedicated to restoring men as the head of the household, and the nuclear, husband-headed family as the principle social unit. From Rick Santorum railing against contraception and preaching the nuclear family as the answer to poverty in last year’s GOP presidential primary, to Rafael Cruz Sr. telling an audience that “God commands us men to teach your wife, to teach your children—to be the spiritual leader of your family,” today’s right-wing Republicans are increasingly comfortable with open displays of old-time crackpot patriarchy. This week Sen. Ted Cruz Jr. courts the right-wing preachers of the South Carolina Renewal Project, which is thought to be a key stop on his way to the GOP nomination in that early-primary state.
Let’s face it: The only way charging women more for health insurance and healthcare makes sense is if they have a partner who either shares that burden or shoulders it entirely. As in … a husband. Then it’s clear that the male of the species is doing his part to keep the species healthy and reproducing itself. A woman who doesn’t have a husband to play that role? Well, there shouldn’t be women like that – and certainly if there are, they shouldn’t be having children anyway, or even having sex, so they don’t need maternity care or contraception.
That’s the only way I can explain the GOP’s willingness to openly endorse an enormous transfer of wealth from women back to men by not only advocating the repeal of the ACA but specifically railing against its equal-premium provisions. But don’t worry, gals: You’ll get that wealth back once you get yourself a man!
I got a glimpse of this mind-set from an otherwise open-minded Republican, former RNC chair Michael Steele, last year, when he argued against the ACA’s contraception without a co-pay provision on “Hardball.” As Steele told me:
The problem is that you have effectively absolved the male of any responsibility in the relationship with this woman, whether it’s a sexual nature or beyond that. It’s not just about giving women access to contraception. It’s about the responsible behavior that goes with that access. It’s nice for Barack Obama to tell women, ‘I got your back. Here, have a pill.’ Men have a responsibility here … It’s this other piece that doesn’t get talked about in terms of the responsibility of fathers, or potential fathers, in this relationship.