October
30th 2008
Another reason to back single-payer UHC: gender equality

Posted under: American history, European history, Gender, the body, unhappy endings, women's history

Anglachel has a great post up called “Girls Have Cooties,” in which she slices and dices the recent New York Times cover story revealing that women pay much higher rates for private health insurance coverage, even including policies that don’t cover pregnancy and childbirth!  Yes, friends–apparently, if you’re a menstruating woman, you are defined merely as an empty vessel at risk of becoming pregnant, and that determines the price you pay no matter what your policy actually covers.  You are defined solely by what may or may not emerge from your uterus–no matter what your actual plans or reproductive possibilities are.  Says Anglachel:

So, women and men engage in sex, but women get pregnant and might have complications. That men, statistically more likely to have more partners, are at a higher level of risk for STDs and (since they are less likely to seek treatment) are more likely to suffer the long term effects of a disease like herpes and to spread that disease to other partners doesn’t come up. Can we also talk about the propensity for male “young adults” to engage in risky behavior and end up requiring extremely expensive treatment for injuries? A friend of mine is recently out of ICU because of bashing in his own skull in a fall while trying to skateboard while drunk, for example. Are these accidents being factored in to male insurance premiums? Is it really the case that a woman is 48% more expensive to insure, or is it that the insurers know that men don’t use medical services enough to make any money off them?

It’s striking to be faced once again with these deeply-rooted cultural stereotypes and primitive fears about the permeable, undisciplined female body:  leaky, smelly, requiring constant and vigilant maintenance, full of holes that might be used or misused, and who knows what (or who!) might eventually pop out or prolapse?  This is from the NYT article, by way of an explanation for why all women simply must pay higher rates than men:

“Bearing children increases other health risks later in life, such as urinary incontinence, which may require treatment with medication or surgery.”

Why do these bitchez think they can make these messes and expect health insurance to pay for them, just because they bought health insurance?  Stupid, stupid women–why didn’t they ask for the XY chromosome instead?  It’s all their own fault!  Aristotle’s Masterpiece (1755), a popular book on “family planning” in eighteenth-century Britain and colonial British America, offers a trenchant analysis of the cause of “monstrous births,” p. 90:

Monsters are sometimes produced by other means; to wit:  by the undue Coition of a Man and his Wife, when her monthly Flowings are upon her; which being a Thing against Nature, no Wonder that it should produce an unnatural Issue.  If therefore a Man’s Desire be never so great, for Coition (as sometimes it is after long Absence) yet if a Woman knows that the Custom of Woman is upon her, she ought not to admit of any Embraces, which at that Time are both unclean and unnatural.  The Issue of those unclean Embraces proving often monstrous, as a Just Punishment for such turpidinous Action.

These ideas long predate the eighteenth century, of course–this edition of Aristotle’s Masterpiece was the twenty-sixth printing, but some of the ideas it contains, like the theory above of one of the causes of birth defects, were centuries old already.  (The two lower images are illustrations of “monstrous births” from Aristotle’s Masterpiece, pages 95 and 92 respectively.)  Why do I get the feeling that private insurance companies are more about “Just Punishment” for having bodies, especially women’s bodies, and not about health care?  Single-payer universal health care would be a significant step toward gender equality.

7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Another reason to back single-payer UHC: gender equality”

  1. nicole on 30 Oct 2008 at 8:54 am #

    Yes, I was incredibly annoyed when my employer explained that our insurance rates went through the roof due to the young women they had added to the staff because we *could* become pregnant and are of “child bearing age”. I’m easily the healthiest person on my staff and go to the doctor once a year for the yearly exam. My partner however didn’t cause his employer’s insurance premiums to go up although it is likely that if we did have children they would go under his plan…
    Further, when I was a student and paying for an individual health plan (to the tune of $120 per month) not only was my birth control not covered, my plan also didn’t cover pregnancy. WTF sense does that make? It frankly wasn’t worth the money to me.

  2. Indyanna on 30 Oct 2008 at 8:55 am #

    Wow, that’s no *recent* Times article; it’s on the still unread front page of my paper today. This blog’s so fast the analysis is available before the text is read!

    Anybody who goes to a gym and sees a thousand Flomax (r) ads on the flatscreen monitors–showing pained ol’ boyz jumping out of jalopies, golf carts, and even bass boats, and hip-hopping across the fields in search of the nearest, um, latrine–knows that urinary complications that WILL require treatment with medication or, my god, surgery?, are a one hundred percent probable outcome of being a guy and not getting run over by a bus by the age of 55 at the latest. I wonder who comes up with the variables that they factor into these actuarial tables, anyway?

  3. Historiann on 30 Oct 2008 at 10:04 am #

    Clearly, they’re just working from the “cooties” variables, Indyanna and nicole! Don’tcha love it that most insurance companies will cover Viagra for men, but not birth control devices and pills for women?

  4. Notorious Ph.D. on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:08 am #

    I went to the article, and this quote got to me:

    “In general, insurers say, they charge women more than men of the same age because claims experience shows that women use more health care services. They are more likely to visit doctors, to get regular checkups, to take prescription medications and to have certain chronic illnesses.”

    Except for the last, these things that women do are preventative care. Which *saves* money.

    Capitalist running dogs.

  5. Sisyphus on 30 Oct 2008 at 6:33 pm #

    Ugh! Reminds me of back when Bush (may he get boils between his toes) released some health thing that defined all women of childbearing age as “pre-pregnant”! I forget which document it was, but it had me pissed off for weeks.

    OTOH, I Loooove teaching about the abject female body and freaking all my students out! I don’t know why I find it so fun. One of my novelists on the syllabus quotes Odo of Cluny, so I got to have fun explaining all that, heh.

  6. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » Women Pay A Lot More Than Men For Health Insurance, Even When Childbirth Isn’t Covered. on 31 Oct 2008 at 10:18 am #

    [...] has a post addressing this here, and she in turn links to this post at Anglachel’s [...]

  7. HCR, the Stupak amendment, and the complex reality of abortion : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 10 Nov 2009 at 10:06 am #

    [...] kinds of women, whether or not they’re happy, sad, or ambivalent about their pregnancies.  Women’s bodies are apparently just too complicated, disgusting, and leaky, with all of their alluring and yet disturbing apertures that blur the boundaries between the self [...]

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