Women Need Health Care Reform, Stat!

This article was originally distributed by American Forum, a non-profit op-ed syndication service.

Despite the shouting and name-calling at the town hall meetings, I remain hopeful about health care reform. I have no other choice. As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I spent years learning how to keep women healthy. Too often, I find myself telling patients with easily treatable conditions that I can’t help them — they don’t have the money to get well. Denying women care and watching them suffer rips me apart. That’s why I’ve become an ardent advocate for health care reform.

I am not talking about withholding the latest, cutting-edge, exorbitantly priced medications or treatments. No — I’ve had patients whose health insurance doesn’t cover such basic health needs as Pap smears and birth control prescriptions. And forget about having a baby — many insurance policies don’t cover prenatal care or labor and delivery, or they treat pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.

As a country, we need to give women a better chance at staying healthy. Through health care reform, Washington could guarantee affordable reproductive health care to every woman and every girl in the nation, no matter who is insuring her.


Recently I had a patient, Celia, who made too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Her employer didn’t offer insurance. She had fibroids, a common condition of the uterus. But because Celia couldn’t afford to see a doctor, her fibroids grew unchecked to the point of interfering with her monthly cycles. She bled so heavily that she became severely anemic. I had to send her to the ER where she was hospitalized to receive a blood transfusion.
Celia’s hemorrhaging was an unnecessary risk to her health. Moreover, the hospital paid for her trip to the ER, the kind of expenditure that makes health care more expensive for everyone. If she had health coverage, her fibroids could have been managed by a solution as simple as birth control pills, sparing the toll her illness took on her family, her coworkers, and everyone else who depends on her.
As a physician, I could take some satisfaction in helping Celia get better — not so with Maureen, the mother of four I saw some years ago. I gave Maureen her first pelvic exam ever. She was 29. I found a large growth on her cervix that was almost certainly cancer, yet I could not do a biopsy or otherwise continue her treatment because she could not pay for it.


Maureen had no insurance and little money. Like many of my fellow doctors in situations like this, I tried desperately to find funding for her. I came up empty. I ended up feeling I had done something immoral by telling Maureen about a potentially deadly medical problem she could do nothing about.

For Celia, Maureen, and every other woman, reproductive health is at the core of their well-being. Yet insurance companies treat reproductive health care as a luxury and charge accordingly. Some make a woman pay as much as 45 percent more than a man for an individual policy, only because she happens to be female. Health care reform must treat women’s health as a rule, not as an exception. We must change American health insurance so that it covers women’s needs at prices they can afford.

As a nation, we can no longer dismiss Celia’s and Maureen’s situations as “woman problems.” Women make up half our population. Their reproductive health cannot be separated from their overall health, and their overall health impacts their families, their jobs, and our society as a whole. Congress must place reproductive health care at the center of reform. Women should have affordable access to pelvic exams, cancer and STD screenings, contraception, prenatal care, miscarriage treatment, maternity services, and abortion care. Helping women stay healthy will help us all.

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  • mikeoliphant

    “President Obama’s speech last week really moved me. Despite what my colleagues think of me. If what he says is what will EXACTLY happen, how can I not hope and work towards that cause”? Mike Oliphant runs a small Utah health insurance website http://www.benefitsmanager.net/SelectHealth.html and http://www.dentalinsuranceutah.net whom deals with hundreds of people on a day to day struggle to be approved for health insurance. “I get hopeful that I can finally tell people they can qualify for coverage REGARDLESS of their pre-existing medical condition”. Mike’s concern is that Obama’s people won’t deliver what he urges on areas within his speech. “I really have been moved by this guy and wish we could just talk so he could understand the frustration of a health insurance agent. I have been involved on a political level within the state of Utah and their struggle for health care reform. I have seen and regrettably been part of politics at work. I have learned lessons through baptism of fire with politics. For instance, I struggled against House Speaker Clark and H.B. 188 because that was what I was urged to do from our industry (that was all I knew). But after awhile and countless meetings with state and private carriers in Utah, I began asking myself if I was doing the right thing. I realized over time that House Speaker Clark really means what he says and is hard nose about getting reform done in Utah. I got that there wasn’t any behind the scene conspiracy scheme or personal objective of Mr. Clark. His bill makes allot of positive changes in the “health insurance reform” world of Utah. He claims that reform just doesn’t stop there, it must continue through “health care reform”. You see, there is a major difference between the two reforms. Clark “gets it” but I really worry that Obama’s administration doesn’t because if you have noticed the subtle language change of dropping “health care reform” and going to “health insurance reform”. See more about what Utah has accomplished here which utilizes private carrier involvement with true reform. If you can believe it, they reached it with an objective of $500,000. Perhaps the feds should take a look at Utah and House Speakers Clark’s bill 188. http://www.prweb.com/releases/utah_health_insurance/health_care_reform/prweb2614544.htm. Now I find myself on the “other side” of the fence furthering Utah’s cause. Let’s hope we don’t all have a mental breakdown nationally and just take a honest look at the proposals.