This week on “Fox & Friends:” a brilliant new counterargument to bring up when people defend gender parity in insurance billing! You are definitely going to want to whip out a napkin and take some notes, because this is some good stuff, people.
As you probably know, women currently pay more than men for health insurance, and under the new guidelines, this will no longer be permitted: insurance firms must legally provide quotes at the same rate regardless of gender. Thanks to the crackdown on preexisting condition exclusions, we're also going to hopefully see less discrimination on the basis of conditions than tend to affect women more, like breast cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Our friends over at Fox, though, have a problem with this. You see, they think this is unfair: the system up until now, you know, has been a paragon of fairness, especially when it comes to billing. Women should be paying more, because they use the health system more.
They even brought on a doctor, David Samadi, to argue their case for them. In an appearance on Tuesday, he claimed that women have higher health costs and live longer on average (81 years to men's 76), so therefore they should bear a bigger responsibility of the share of health expenses. Otherwise, it's like taking money right out of men's pockets, something he illustrated by suggesting that the male host had paid for the female host's recent visit to the doctor for Lyme's disease.
Dr. Samadi trotted out a whole list of reasons why ladies should pay more: they get those pesky preventative screenings, they give birth, they get mammograms and Pap smears. One of the most amazing lines was one in which he began listing off anatomy: “We only have the prostate. Women have the breasts, the ovaries, the uterus...”
“Women use the system a whole lot more,” he said, and then suggested, “Guys, we don't like to go to doctors, right?”
The female host did her best in the face of this onslaught, where she was basically told that she should pay more for health care because she has breasts. She pointed out that preventative health care saves money (which costs the system more over time? Annual Paps for low-income women, or emergency surgery for a 65-year-old man with a heart attack? I can give you a hint, because I've seen the bills for both these things.) and that in fact women should be actively rewarded for taking a proactive role in their health care.
His response? “Our bodies are completely different. You're more susceptible to stress fractures, and, uh, other things.”
Oh, well then. OTHER THINGS. That has me convinced. Setting aside the gender essentialism in his claims (which is pretty substantial -- he's assigning gender on the basis of sexual organs) because I suspect his poor brain might explode if he was introduced to the trans community, what the hell? People with breasts should pay more for their health insurance Because Breasts? That's basically what his argument amounted to?
He couldn't even get up there with some statistics to compare and contrast actual health system costs, preventative versus emergency medicine, and so forth? The female host, Gretchen, had to point out that it takes two people to make a baby and maybe that should be taken into account when talking about who bears the responsibility for paying for labor and delivery costs? (And let's talk about why labor and delivery costs in the US are so expensive right now, for that matter.)
It gets better, though. Oh I know. You didn't think it was possible, but it was. You see, Doctor Samadi has a real solution to the health care crisis. Something that will get us past all these roadblocks, stop the waste, and change the way we think about medicine. He says that the real long-term solution here is to just have us pay for everything. Oh don't worry, you don't have to use cash, you can pay by credit card. And it's probably a good idea to carry catastrophic insurance (wow, I guess emergencies really do cost more than routine preventative care).
Speaking as a cash patient, can I just say what a horrible idea this is? Fixing cost overruns and lack of access to care in the medical system by telling people to pay cash is going to make the situation even worse, not better. Because the number of people who can't access care is going to skyrocket, and society in general is going to suffer as a result.
Who's bound to suffer most? Women, who experience a significant wealth gap when compared to men. That gap only increases for women of color and disabled women, who are even more poor than their counterparts. Women and children tend to take the brunt of cuts to social services, and proposals like Dr. Samadi's would devastate communities across the United States.
The only way you think his approach makes any kind of sense is if you think health care is an optional privilege, not a right.
While I don't support Obamacare because I feel it's not progressive enough, includes a lot of clauses caving to the insurance industry, and is rife with problems, it does have one core function that remains true: the only way to fix the health care system is to get everyone invested in it. Which means that care needs to be provided equally to everyone at an equal cost, with equal access to benefits.
The claim that men would be paying for women and therefore the system is unfair is absurd; I pay into programs that support women and children in my community right now and that's only fair, because I benefit from other programs the government provides, like CalTrans and its intermittent maintenance of roads and highways. I pay for services I will never use and I don't resent that, because it's part of the collective social bargain here: I pay now because it's cheaper this way than it would be otherwise.
Because educating children is cheaper than the alternative, and because we need a new generation of educated people to be active in society doing things like practicing medicine. Because paying for preventative health exams is way less expensive than paying for emergency cancer treatment. Because a healthy society tends to be more politically, economically, and socially free, so it's to my advantage to be surrounded by healthy people.
Because while women overall may live longer, you can't look at one simple number and decide you've figured the whole system out. A huge number of factors are involved in life expectancy and that number hasn't been corrected by race, educational achievement, disability status, and other factors (one might as well say that people with PhDs should pay more because they're a bigger drain on the system). A number of factors are involved in costs associated with the health care system, and they are a lot more complicated than what a patient is packing under the hood.
But sure, Fox and Doctor Samadi. Let's make this about finding yet another way to shame cis women for having bodies and daring to exist in the world.