There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
We are told this is truth. But is there neither male nor female when it comes to health care? No!
Forty-five percent of all women were underinsured or uninsured for a period of time in the past year. Single women pay more for health care than men, unless they live in one of ten states where gender rating is illegal. This is an extra burden for women of color, who are disproportionately single.
A recent Women’s Funding Network webinar shared that poor and low-income women spend a higher proportion of their income on health care and are more likely to report delaying or forgoing care and treatment due to financial concerns.
According to a recent report by Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 30 percent of all women of color have no access to health care, with Hispanic and Asian Americans least likely to be insured. Women of color live in underserved and under-resourced communities, lack appropriate access to primary health care, and endure more chronic illnesses and diseases that go undiagnosed or under-treated, resulting in shortened lives and avoidable deaths.
Fifty-two percent of all women report problems accessing health care due to cost. Three out of five women under 65 report having problems paying medical bills. Fifty-five percent of women making less than $20,000 a year spend 10% more on health expenses and women are more likely than men to have health coverage as a dependent.
Rural residents are four times more likely to live in a medically underserved area, since health care facilities in rural parts of the country have more trouble attracting and retaining doctors, nurses, and other health providers.
Health care reform is needed to increase access to affordable and available comprehensive health care independent of employment status, race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality or pre-existing conditions. An investment in preventive health care could reduce the high rate of chronic disease and disability that affect a growing number of women of color and their children.
When this whole health care debate started, the mantra was “we can’t afford not to reform the health care system.” When did it switch to “we can’t afford to reform the health care system”? If 45,000 people die each year (study published in the American Journal of Public Health) because they do not have health care, and additional studies reveal that the people who die are mostly women, people of color, children, and people living in poverty, how can we claim to be a Christian nation on one hand but refuse comprehensive health care for all of our citizens on the other? Health care reform could bring to life (pun intended) the hope of Galatians 3:28. Am I missing something?
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice, Women of the ELCA