The AHCA Would Force The Health Care Gender Gap To A New Low

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A new study conducted on over 200,000 Chase checking accounts showed that women pay more than men for health care during a year in which an extraordinary medical expense takes place. Since women already experience having a whopping 20 percent gap in income, liquid assets, and expenses compared to compared to their male peers, they are much more likely to incur credit card debt in the face of a massive medical expense. In other words, health care is far from being an even field for women in the United States. But the Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act could make this uneven and volatile ground much worse.

You might be wondering how the American Health Care Act could exacerbate the present quagmire women face in America regarding their health care. The legislation — currently facing the Senate at this moment, pending a vote — provides states the power to decide what health care insurance companies ought to include in their coverage. This includes critical maternity care like pregnancy expenses, which could possibly see a surge in prices.

Diana Farrell, CEO of JPMorgan Chase Institute, explained, "Our data show that women stand on weaker financial footing than men to begin with. As such, it is critical for lawmakers to take into consideration the economic consequences that changes in healthcare policy can have for household finances. If healthcare reform efforts were to increase out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for women, this would only widen the gender gap in financial outcomes."

If a woman cannot afford to purchase such coverage, she could be denied maternal care altogether. This bleak future already has a past in the United States where, prior to the Affordable Care Act, health care for women was inadequate and unfair; health coverage companies frequently denied women services during pregnancy while postpartum depression was categorized as a "pre-existing condition." This hostile and cruel categorization can become reality again thanks to the MacArthur Amendment in the AHCA.

The study showed that credit card debt amounted to 0.8 months of income for women whereas it was 0.6 months for men. The important bit to remember here is that the both sides being studied had families and yet women's credit card debt came up to 0.9 months of income during a year of a big medical expense while men's debt remained at 0.6 month.

The study used "extraordinary" to mean at least $400 spent on a medical expense(s). What's even more interesting is how identifiers were removed. This meant that the researchers did not have the means to know the gender of the income holder. Still, women were hit the hardest by health care expenditures.

The paper highlighted the need to execute such research. "[E]xtraordinary medical payments have negative impacts on financial outcomes, and this is especially true for women," it said.

Without equity for both men and women, the latter — already known to be overworked and underpaid — remains exceptionally vulnerable. This lack of an egalitarian system carries consequences for society. When a system fails to nurture women and their needs, it leaves half of its population exposed to the whims of market conditions and for-profit greed — inevitably leaving this essential half lagging behind everyone else.