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Michelle Obama Addresses Health Reform as a Women’s Issue

First lady Michelle Obama described health care reform as a women’s issue last week while speaking before an audience of 140 leading women’s rights and health care advocates. Obama’s speech at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC outlined ways in which the current health care system is disadvantageous to women, reports the Washington Post.

Obama referenced studies showing that women are more likely than men to hold part-time or small business jobs that do not provide health insurance and that women who do have health insurance are often charged more than men. “A recent study showed that 25-year-old women are charged up to 45 percent more for insurance than 25-year-old men for the exact same coverage. And as the age goes up, you get to 40, that disparity increases to 48 percent,” Obama stated, according to the White House transcript. She noted that this disparity is especially troublesome considering that women still earn less than men on average.

Obama also pointed out that many insurance plans do not cover maternity care or preventative care such as mammograms and pap smears for women, and that some insurance companies include undergoing a Caesarian section or experiencing domestic violence on their lists of disqualifying preexisting conditions. “If we want to achieve true equality for women, if that is our goal; if we want to ensure that women have opportunities that they deserve…if we want women to be able to care for their families…then we have to reform the system,” she said.

Obama argued that the President’s plan will improve the status quo by offering coverage through an insurance exchange, preventing insurance companies from disqualifying applicants because of preexisting conditions, and requiring that insurance cover basic preventative care.

The conference also featured opening remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and testimony from three women detailing their struggles with insurance, according to the Boston Globe.

Sources:

Washington Post 9/19/09; White House 9/18/09; Boston Globe 9/18/09

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