In November, Women Will Vote With Health Care in Mind

Women vote for health care, and with good reason.

Today, women across the country are being forced to make impossible choices in the name of health care; sacrificing life and limb so that they can get coverage for ... a broken limb, or prenatal care. They resign themselves to unhappy marriages in order to keep their husbands' health insurance, reports the New York Times. They step out of line at the pharmacy when they realize that they can't afford to pay the cost or even the co-pay on their prescriptions and fill up the tank. Indeed, in 2004, according to the Kaiser Women's Health Survey, one in five women did not fill a prescription because of the cost.

The nation's health care system is in crisis, and women are bearing the brunt of its failures. Throughout their lives, women have greater health care needs and responsibilities than men. Reproductive health needs require them to get regular check-ups, whether or not they have children, and women are more likely than men to suffer from a chronic condition or disability. Meanwhile, eight in ten mothers are primarily responsible for taking their child to doctors' appointments and organizing follow-up care.

In other words, health care is a woman's issue.

Yet 18 percent of all U.S. women are uninsured. Latina, African American, and Native American women are dramatically more likely than white women to be among these 17 million who lack coverage. And while women have greater health care needs than men, they also, on average, have lower incomes and are more likely than men to be underinsured: forced to spend more than 10 percent of their income on out-of-pocket health care costs. Women also face significant difficulties paying for their care, whether they have insurance or not. Nearly 40 percent of women report medical bill problems.

Women who do not have access to employer sponsored health insurance or are ineligible for public coverage like Medicaid or Medicare are left with no option other than to try to buy health insurance directly from insurers, known as the individual market. But women face unique challenges in this arena. They may be denied coverage based on a (so-called) pre-existing condition -- such as ever having had a Caesarean section, as reported recently in the New York Times. When women are offered insurance, they are often forced to pay higher premiums than men, as it is legal in 40 states and the District of Columbia to consider gender when setting insurance premiums. Furthermore, the benefit package a woman receives may be woefully inadequate; even something as fundamental as maternity care is often excluded from the basic plans available in the individual market.

The upcoming elections are providing a platform for policy makers and candidates alike to discuss their proposed solutions for the health care crisis. At the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), we have developed a list of questions to ask when looking at health reform proposals -- whether at the state or federal levels -- to determine whether the proposals help ensure that all women have access to health care that meets their needs:

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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