GOP Targets Women In Health Care Debate

November 03, 2009 12:35 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Despite what they say, Republicans aren't serious about making America's health care system work for women.

Yesterday, House Republicans signaled a new focus in the health care debate going forward.  After months of framing their argument around seniors -- ranting against imaginary death panels, switching positions on Medicare, etc. -- the party plans to start reaching out to women.  As House GOP conference chair Mike Pence (R-IN) told reporters, "Our women leaders will take the premiere role."

The new strategy has already begun to manifest itself.  On the House floor last night, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) led a discussion on how the Affordable Health Care for America Act would affect women.  Citing the blog, Blackburn claimed that only a small percentage of women believe Democratic reform efforts reflect their concerns, adding that Republicans "have ways to solve this issue."   

BLACKBURN: What we are hearing all across our nation is, this is not a bill that women want.  Indeed, the blog spot ran a survey and it said only 7 percent of the American women think the health care proposals that have been brought by the leadership -- the Democrat [sic] leadership -- are proposals that reflect their concerns.  We know that, we are listening, we hear them, and we have ways to solve this issue so it puts patients and families in charge of those decisions. 

In all, 8 Republican women spoke out against the reform bill, mostly on the grounds that it would take decisions away from women.  Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) argued that "the women of America don't get to make the choices anymore" under reform, "it's the government."

But, despite what they say, Republicans aren't serious about making America's health care system work for women. Health insurance companies currently discriminate against women in a variety of ways.  For instance, Caesarian-section pregnancies, domestic violence, and previous sexual abuse are just a few of the so-called "pre-existing conditions" that have been used to deny women care. 

Nonetheless, as the GOP prepares to finally release a bill of its own, the party seems bent on allowing the insurance industry to continue its discriminatory practices.  As Roll Call reported yesterday, "Under the GOP plan, insurance companies would still be allowed to exclude anyone with a pre-existing medical condition from coverage." Indeed, the descriptions of the forthcoming GOP bill so far indicate that their plan is little more than a bad joke -- on women and the rest of the American people. 

We've seen this act before: a transparent effort, with no substance at all, to win over women.  Don't be fooled.