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Senator Baucus to Get Extra Attention from the Ladies?

September 21, 2009

HELENA, Mont. - First Lady Michelle Obama has challenged women to speak up about health care reform as the Senate Finance Committee takes up Montana Senator Max Baucus' proposal Tuesday. She points out that women are the primary decision-makers about health care, and they carry the heavier economic burden, too.

Researcher and department director Susan Wood at George Washington University has studied women's health care issues extensively, and lays out the facts: about 20 percent of women under the age of 65 have no insurance. In some states they're denied coverage if they've experienced domestic violence, and when women do have coverage, they're charged higher premiums and often see a long list of pre-existing conditions that are excluded from the coverage, with pregnancy sometimes on that list.

"Women pay more out-of-pocket than men do, particularly during their reproductive years. It not only is a cost burden to the woman and her family, but it keeps women from getting the care that they need."

Wood likes the idea of "well woman" visits for primary and reproductive care for all women through all stages of life, but she says that right now, that kind of care is rarely available, and rarely covered by private insurance.

"In such visits, blood pressure's taken, blood sugar can be monitored, screening for depression and domestic violence, counseling about smoking - issues that can have serious consequences either right then, or later in life."

Wood says a lack of stable, quality and affordable health care during the reproductive years can be connected to chronic diseases later in life, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Her research shows those two conditions in women, together, cost more than 200 billion dollars a year in direct medical expenses.

Susan Wood's latest report, "The Economic Burden of Disease in Women," is at
www.wellwoman.09.org

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT