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Women and Health Care Reform: Another View

By Lisa Zamosky

Included in a new report released by the White House on the state of women in America’s economy is the impact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already had and will continue to have on the availability of quality health care for women.

However, not everyone sees the successes the White House is touting.

According to Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Washington, DC-based libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, the law is not a cure for what ails American women dissatisfied with today’s health care market.

In fact, Cannon reminds us that Obamacare is generally unpopular with the American public, including women, and takes issue with supporters’ tendency to pluck out popular pieces of the law and mistake them for signs of the law’s overall success.

“It’s completely meaningless to say this law will provide preventive care for people and the public likes that, and that this law will prevent insurers from denying care to people with pre-existing conditions and the public likes that, ergo Obamacare is good. No, that’s not it at all,” he says.

In fact, according to Cannon, Obamacare may actually be bad for women.  “When employers are required by the government to spend more money on health benefits, it’s going to increase the cost of hiring and it’s going to leave fewer women with jobs. In particular, low-skill, low-income women,” he says.

Even popular insurance reforms, such as making it illegal to charge women more for a health plan than men simply on the basis of their gender, are ultimately going to drive costs higher and stifle cost-saving innovations, Cannon says.

That’s because women generally use more medical services than men. Allowing women to pay less for coverage although they use more, is merely an act of cost-shifting.

“You’re not actually improving the situation by shifting costs to men or by hiding from women the cost of their own medical care,” Cannon says. By reducing their costs, he contends, women will be encouraged to purchase more health insurance and be less cost conscious about the care they receive.

Still, he acknowledges that the current system needs to change to better provide health care to all Americans, including women.  But Obamacare isn’t the answer.

“The government needs to start pulling back and doing less,” Cannon says.

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