News | September 23, 2009

First Lady Says Health Reform to Help Women, Equality in Coverage

September 23, 2009 - First lady Michelle Obama urged women to push for health reform, saying that President Obama's plan would help achieve "true equality" for women, in a speech at a private event last Friday.

Speaking to about 140 healthcare industry and women's group representatives, Obama called the current health system "a status quo that is just unacceptable" and tied efforts to change it with the battle for women's rights, according to the Post.

Obama, a former vice president in the University of Chicago hospital system, said, "In many states, insurance companies can still discriminate because of gender. And this is still shocking to me." She added that women in this country have been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Women often pay more than men of the same age for the same level of insurance coverage under individual policy plans. One study found the disparity can be as high as 48 percent.1 A similar study in 2008 by the National Women's Law Center found that only 10 states prohibit gender rating.

Using personal stories to illustrate her point, Obama said that women are "disproportionately affected by this issue because of the roles we play in our families." She said, "Women are affected because of the jobs we do in this economy. ... Women are more likely to work part-time, or work in small businesses, jobs that don't always provide health insurance," adding, "Women are affected because in many states, insurance companies can still discriminate because of gender."

She pledged that under the Obama administration's health plan, "insurance companies will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get too sick, or refuse to pay for the care you need, or set a cap on the amount of coverage you can get."

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