Get health-care reform right for women

“WOMEN constitute more than half the population in the United States. Yet our health-care system treats women’s health needs as if they are something outside the normal realm of services.”

In an OpEd article published in the Seattle Times, Tuesday, August 18, Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood VOTES! Washington, stated,” Women are penalized in the U.S. health-care system because of their anatomy, paying 68 percent more out-of-pocket for care than men.”

In her article, “Get health-care reform right for women” Elaine Rose argues that health-care reform should carefully consider how to best meet women’s needs.

WOMEN constitute more than half the population in the United States. Yet our health-care system treats women’s health needs as if they are something outside the normal realm of services.

Women’s health care is in fact basic health care: annual gynecological exams; pap smears to screen for cervical cancer; breast-cancer screening, and birth control. Unfortunately, in our current health-care system, women are penalized simply because of their anatomy. On average, women of childbearing age pay 68 percent more out-of-pocket for their health care largely because of reproductive-health needs.

As our nation continues debating health-care reform, we need to make sure that we get it right for women. This generation of women — and our daughters and granddaughters — depends on it. Reproductive health care should not be separated out as something unusual. It is simply basic health care for women.

Internationally, it has long been established that offering reproductive-health services and information improves the health and well-being of women, families and entire communities. Why is it that here our elected officials still struggle to recognize the tremendous value of these services?

The public gets it. Polls have shown that 75 percent of all voters favor making it easier for women at all income levels to obtain contraceptives. Yet elected officials like Washington’s U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert, Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted this July in favor of an amendment that would have defunded Planned Parenthood and denied reproductive-health services to thousands of women in their districts and millions of women across the U.S. The funding at stake was federal Title X money, which provides essential, basic health services like contraception and cancer screening to the poorest women in our country.

While reproductive-health services are basic, like many health services, they deal with personal and private matters. Women depend on reproductive-health-care providers who are confidential, nonjudgmental and qualified to handle their specific concerns. For many women, a community reproductive-health-care clinic is their only contact with the health-care system. It’s where they get their birth control and also many primary-health-care needs met.

Research has shown that six out of 10 women who visit a reproductive-health-care clinic consider it their primary source of health care. Reproductive-health-care clinics — like Planned Parenthood — are essential community providers for millions of American women. Low-income women in particular rely on community clinics because they offer low-cost services using a sliding-fee scale.

Some extremists try to paint Planned Parenthood as strictly an abortion provider. While we are proud that we offer women needed access to safe, legal abortion services, it may surprise some people that abortion services make up only 3 percent of our services in Washington. Basic preventive health care like cancer screenings, contraceptives and annual exams make up 97 percent of the services we provide. We are a trusted, essential community provider to millions of Americans and more than 177,000 individuals in Washington.

It’s clear our health-care system is broken. Millions of Americans don’t have access to the health care they need. People are forced to use emergency rooms in desperation. Health-care costs are rising at an unsustainable rate for families and businesses alike. The U.S. is ranked 41st in the world for its maternal-mortality rates.

Congress and the Obama administration are engaged in a battle to change an entrenched American system. Let’s make sure that in the process of crafting a new way of getting health care to Americans, we don’t lose sight of the health-care needs of half our population. Women deserve direct and confidential access to their provider of choice. They deserve to have all their basic health-care needs met. Let’s get health-care reform right for women.

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Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.