by Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President
National Women’s Law Center
Since 1972, the National Women’s Law Center has advocated on behalf of women and their families on many issues, including health care. Health care is critically important to women in a number of ways: in their roles as patients, as family health care decision makers, and as caregivers — both paid and unpaid. Throughout their lives, women use more health care services than men. Women also represent the majority of the health care work force.
Yet, our current health care system fails to meet the needs of far too many women — especially low-income women and women of color. Overall, 18 percent of women are uninsured. Almost a quarter of African American women (22.7 percent) are uninsured. More than one-third of Latinas (37.8 percent) are uninsured, over twice the rate of white women (16.9 percent).
But the system is also failing women who have health insurance. Women are more likely than men to have health coverage which has too many gaps and leaves them at great financial risk — 1 in 4 women says that she is unable to pay her medical bills. The high cost of care means women are more likely than men to delay or go without needed health care. And then there was the recent press coverage about women who find themselves being denied health insurance because they had the audacity to have a Caesarean section!
As troubling as these facts are, they cannot possibly begin to convey the personal stories of the too many women who, in these challenging economic times, are forced to make impossible choices: between buying their prescription drugs or putting food on their family’s table, between staying in a troubled marriage or losing health insurance, between losing their home or losing their battle with cancer. No one should have to make such choices.
Simply put, something has to change. And while a few states are bravely starting to take incremental steps toward reform, those changes are neither fast enough nor big enough. Real comprehensive reform — reform that addresses the many challenges of our health care system and guarantees comprehensive, affordable, quality health care — will greatly impact women’s health, work, and financial well-being.
Once again, we are faced with an election that presents a historic opportunity for all of us to ensure that our next President and our next Congress make health care reform a top priority.
But we have been down this road before. And our opponents who support the status quo and our dysfunctional health care system are stronger than ever.
To succeed we must be ready and join together — to seize this opportunity and demand change from all our elected leaders. We are certainly doing our part to help women be active participants in the fight for health reform through our project, Reform Matters: Making Real Progress for Women and Health Care, but we know that we can’t do it alone.
That is why the National Women’s Law Center has joined Health Care for America Now! This growing coalition presents the opportunity for many different organizations with diverse agendas to come together and combine our collective efforts in the fight to make health reform a top priority. And as a coalition, Health Care for America Now! will fight for health reform that meets the needs of women and their families.
We know this time has to be different. We can’t wait any longer.
For more, read Marcia Greenberger’s statement on the Health Care for America Now coalition.