Why Medicare For All Is A Win For Women In The U.S.

By Magnolia Potter

Although its primary goal is to promote wellbeing, the healthcare industry is rife with differing opinions. The COVID-19 pandemic has further increased the tensions within all corners of the healthcare industry, from patients to providers and insurance companies. What’s more, prolonged unemployment has left millions of Americans unexpectedly without health coverage, and leaders within the healthcare industry are scrambling for ways to fix such a large-scale societal problem.

In the wake of rising healthcare costs and an increased need for widespread preventative care, Medicare for All is among the proposed solutions. In layman’s terms, M4A (officially known as HR 1384) would provide comprehensive health coverage to U.S. citizens via a publicly funded healthcare system. Under HR 1384, delivery of care would remain mostly private. 

According to the bill’s proponents, which include Senator Elizabeth Warren, the passage of Medicare for All would greatly benefit America’s marginalized and overlooked populations, including women. For starters, a national insurance coverage option would give women more autonomy than insurance that’s tied to one’s employer or spouse’s policy. Further, M4A would allow women to be fully in charge of their reproductive rights, which have been undermined in recent years.

Medicare for All: Proposals and Pitfalls

As long as Medicare for All remains a proposal rather than a reality, the bill wears several different hats. Various lawmakers tout the long-term positives of Medicare for All on the patient level, including comprehensive benefits, no premiums, and enrollment that lasts a lifetime, regardless of your age. Others believe that a smaller expansion of Medicare is more appropriate in this climate, and have proposed limiting the bill to only cover Americans between the ages of 50 and 64. 

As it stands, the most far-reaching M4A proposals strongly resemble Medicaid, the federal healthcare program offered to qualified low-income Americans. There are substantial differences between Medicaid and Medicare, although the two policies are commonly confused. 

Medicare, which was signed into law in 1965, provides coverage for those aged 65 and older, as well as younger individuals living with certain disabilities. Conversely, Medicaid helps offset medical costs for low-income Americans, regardless of age, race, or gender. In general, Medicaid patients do not have deductibles, and nor do they pay premiums.

Interestingly, freedom from the burden of healthcare costs has been shown to promote greater life satisfaction and wellbeing. There’s ample evidence indicating that health insurance can indeed make us happier, a much-needed feature for modern women who may not have had positive experiences in healthcare settings.

Women Versus the U.S. Healthcare System

The sad reality in 2020 is that gender bias in healthcare is still a widespread problem, even in the world’s richest countries. Legal professionals report that women pay more for their healthcare, and are less likely to be believed by doctors. Female patients’ complaints of pain are often passed off as stress, anxiety, or “nerves.” 

As a result, finding a healthcare provider who is attentive, respectful, and caters to patient needs can be a difficult task for the vast majority of women. And then there’s birth control and sexual rights to consider: Much like Medicare for All, reproductive rights have long been a matter of contention in both the U.S. and around the world. 

In recent years, the progress we’ve made since Roe v. Wade was passed has been continuously undermined, primarily at the state level. Today, access to safe, legal abortion is rapidly dwindling for residents of right-leaning states including Alabama and Missouri. Under Gov. Kay Ivey, performing an abortion is now considered a felony in Alabama, even if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest. 

It seems that we’re sliding backward, rather than progressing, in the realm of reproductive rights. And the overall health of women is being compromised as a result. 

Healthcare and the Trump Administration

Of course, abortion and Medicare for All are vastly different issues, yet they both strongly impact marginalized populations. And both remain hotbed issues in a cantankerous political climate, where healthcare access almost seems like an afterthought. 

As the 2020 presidential election looms, the White House is working to paint a picture of President Trump as an advocate of comprehensive healthcare. For instance, he signed an Executive Order in August for the expansion of telehealth services. The expansion aims to help rural communities better navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, via upgrades in communications infrastructure.

However, that’s not the whole story where Trump and healthcare access are concerned. And, while expanding access to telehealth services will indeed benefit disenfranchised populations, we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to gloss over Trump’s previous record. The president is openly critical of Medicare for All, for example, and has referred to M4A proposals as “harmful.” 

Specifically, Trump claims that expanding Medicare to include all eligible Americans, regardless of age, will leave seniors behind. However, there’s no apparent correlation between expanding health coverage and the reduction in care for seniors. Instead, M4A offers an opportunity for women (as well as low-income and other marginalized populations) from all walks of life to take charge of their healthcare, often for the first time. 

Feminism, Health Care, and Human Rights

The passing of Medicare for All could, in many ways, be construed as a feminist act. At the very least, it is a decidedly humanitarian one: Article 25 of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in fact, includes medical care as one of its primary tenets. Unfortunately, the U.S. government doesn’t share the same opinion on health care. 

Medicare for All has opponents on every side, even among female lawmakers and storied feminist institutions. In a disappointing move, Planned Parenthood of California failed to endorse a statewide single-payer system in June 2017 that could have potentially bettered the lives of millions of women. But the battle isn’t over, and the bones of M4A remain alive in the political arena, as well as within progressive communities across the nation. 

Key Takeaways

Long touted as a solution to our overburdened and exorbitantly expensive healthcare system, Medicare for All has made headlines ever since it first came onto the scene. As we face an uncertain future, it remains to be seen whether the U.S. will finally take a step towards implementing single-payer healthcare. When the day comes, American women can finally breathe a sigh of relief and take full control of our bodies and our health. 

Magnolia Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book 

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