Building on what we can get to get to what we really want
by Cindy Pearson
I hope you enjoy the cover article of this issue as much as I did. “Fat is a Feminist Issue and a Health Issue” by Ninia Baehr treats a complicated subject – weight and fitness – in the way we wish most health issues were treated. Baehr starts with an emphasis on fitness as broad health issue, not a narrow medical concern, and looks at what kind of policy changes could help all of us maintain our health and avoid unnecessary weight gain. As part of her reporting on the issue, Baehr looks at the influence of class and race on weight and evaluates individual’s fitness not just in terms of their personal choices, but also takes into account the resources groups of people have to enable to them to stay fit (access to nourishing food and safe places to be active, for example. And all with a feminist perspective! This is the kind of approach to health care that the Network is working to support.
So if that’s what we want in health care, and we’re working to “reform” health care, that must be what we’re going to get from health care reform legislation, right? Not quite! Although there are a few quality improvement elements included in the current health reform bills, none of the proposals truly challenge the current high-tech, product-marketing approach to medical care.
In my opinion, the failure of health care reform legislation to tackle the gap between the health care we need and today’s medical system is one of the reasons why some supporters of health care reform have lost their enthusiasm. Another reason is probably the decision to expand coverage by maintaining and expanding the private insurance model – it’s definitely not heart-warming to think of insurance companies getting even more money in the future.
But NWHN hasn’t lost its enthusiasm for change. We’re very clear that, even though the current proposals are far too limited in their scope, they offer real access to real services to real people who don’t have them now. And we believe that is worth fighting for. Here are just a few examples drawn from the bills passed by the House and the Senate in late 2009. Millions of uninsured adults will be eligible for Medicaid, including many who live in states that currently exclude adults no matter how poor. Millions of young adults who can’t find coverage on their own will be able to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26, instead of being excluded at age 19 or 21 as is the case in most states right now. Millions of uninsured and underinsured adults will be able to buy comprehensive policies at an affordable price through government-regulated insurances exchanges. Millions of adults who’ve been told that they can’t buy insurance because of a pre-existing condition will be able to buy policies.
When Medicare passed 40 years ago, it didn’t do anything to change the sexism and ageism many older women experienced when they went to the doctor. It did keep those older women from going broke when they needed to go to the hospital, though. In the years since Medicare was established, the health of adults over 65 has improved dramatically. And we’ve built a movement to challenge sexism and ageism and improve the quality of care received by women on Medicare. Now is our chance to make that same process work for millions more – if we work together and insist that policy makers hear our voices – Women Need Health Reform Now!