or, “Contrary to popular belief, my vagina isn’t a black hole in which you throw insurance dollars”

Recently, my father’s company switched over from United Healthcare to Blue Cross Blue Shield.  Now, my old health insurance stopped covering the cost of the birth control pill when I was nineteen because it claimed I was no longer a full-time student, and wouldn’t restart coverage even after I proved I was a full-time student in college.  It wouldn’t cover a penny of the cost of a Mirena IUD, and it wouldn’t cover the cost of a Gardasil vaccination.

I wasn’t expecting any different with the new health insurance.  However, I recently got a bill in the mail from my doctor for the full cost of a pap smear.  My insurance will not cover a pap smear, something that a woman is supposed to do annually.  Like getting your glasses prescription renewed or getting your teeth cleaned.  My most basic funding for my most basic feminine health upkeep has been taken from me.

Now, before you point your finger at Obama,  hear this: I am lucky enough to be pretty healthy, and the only impact that the new Obamacare system has really had on me is that I can remain on my parents’ health insurance a little longer, which is nice.  The fault I suppose lies with BCBS of AZ* (which, the home state being the home of Jan Brewer, is no real surprise).

But a lot of people wholeheartedly hate Obamacare, to the point where they will not only challenge it, but defy it.  Such is the recent case in Missouri, when lawmakers proposed SB 749, a bill that would allow businesses to not include contraception in their healthcare plans for employees based on religious reasons.  When Governer Jan Nixon vetoed the bill (for reasons I can assume such as 1. it violates Obamacare, 2. it makes the life of women a lot more costly and inconvenient), the same lawmakers actually overrode the veto.  It had just enough override votes for Senate to allow it.  So, employers in Missouri can deny birth control coverage to their employees if they want.

The reality of insurance and healthcare coverage for women is that it is not as complete or inexpensive as a man’s, usually followed with the excuse that a woman’s plumbing makes for an insurance nightmare if something goes wrong.  An article that hit the internet back in April of this year explains that single, unmarried, working women searching for health insurance coverage are met with a great deal of discrimination; they are charged more for coverage, denied coverage for gender-specific conditions, and sold plans that inadequately cover their health needs.

“Are recent report from the National Women’s Law Center shows that health insurance companies frequently charge women more purely based on their gender, a practice known as gender rating…Moreover, even when women can afford the high premiums, they are often denied coverage in whole or in part for gender-specific, so-called “pre-existing conditions” such as breast cancer, Cesarean sections, domestic violence, and rape.”  Arons, Jessica, and Linsday Rosenthal.  “The Health Insurance Compensation Gap.”  Center for American Progress.  Oct. 1 2012. Web.  April 16, 2012.

The truth is, that in spite of whatever inconveniences Obamacare may cause people by making it so they have to have health insurance, it does help shrink the health insurance compensation gap.  Conservatives and lawmakers of the XY chromosomes are arguing this mostly on the platform of “religious freedom.”  Allegedly, it takes away someone’s religious freedom if they are forced to provide contraception to their employees when their religion does not condone the use of contraception.  My argument is this; your religious freedom is not being threatened unless someone forces the pill down your throat.  You do not have to take contraception if you feel it is immoral.  There is an extreme and very important difference between A. “This is against my religion, therefore I chose not to partake in it” versus B. “This is against my religion, therefore I will not allow anyone to partake in it.”  To me, it is equivalent to a devout Jewish person entering a grocery store and wanting to sue because the store was selling pork.  Why not just simply refrain from buying pork?**

The other culprit to people attempting to conserve the health insurance compensation gap stems from a lack of exposure to people affected by their actions.  Either they are men who are not affected by the problem, or they are women who have never had the financial struggle that resulted in depending on insurance coverage.  The truth is, the majority of women impacted by the health insurance compensation gap are people who are counting on their coverage for basic medical care as well as their prescriptions.  These women are also exposed to a great deal of discrimination at the hands of doctors who drop the rouse of bedside manner, simply because the patient is a woman and potentially sexually active.

“I had been having bleeding problems and suspected endometriosis. I went to a doctor’s office, and was ready to pay for everything with cash since I had no insurance. The woman who saw me was a nurse practitioner who also worked for the county. She belittled me for seeking a doctor’s opinion when I ‘obviously couldn’t pay for a doctor’s services,’ she ignored me when I tried telling her my problem, she told me it was probably an STD since I was ‘young and active’ even though I had been with one man for a year at that point, was very rough, very rude the whole time, and wouldn’t test me for STDs (because I ‘obviously couldn’t afford it). I had to go to the County, and come back to her with ‘You are: Squeaky-Clean’ results, and she dismissed me.”

“The first male gyno I ever saw was incredibly rough with me.  He also was giving me the third degree, demanding to know if I could be pregnant and if I always use condoms.  He then started going on about how boys will always use excuses not to use a condom.  He just assumed that I was sleeping around, I guess.  He made me sound like a slut.”

“I had a doctor force me to get a pap/vaginal exam under the “justification” of looking for cervical cancer… which was known to be solely caused by human papillomavirus (an STD). I was a virgin. Pretty sure the doctor thought I was lying about being a virgin…I needed a referral from her to a dermatologist for a rash I got in Costa Rica and she wouldn’t do it unless I got a pap. I was young, so I didn’t throw a fit, like I would now.”

“I formerly saw a male Dr. that said after a exam “Don’t you think your a little too old to be wearing that color nail polish?” a small comment but I wanted to slap him!”

“I recently went to the county clinic for a regular check-up, and was told I couldn’t come back since I now have insurance. They would only see me once, and I would have to find a regular OBGYN. Well excuse me for being used to clinics! I have no idea how/why this insurance thing works. It’s exhausting.”

“My health care center at my University is notorious for always asking a female patient if she is sexually active/pregnant, no matter what your symptoms are.  I went in once with a stomach bug and they nearly forced me to take a pregnancy test, even after I told them there was no way I could be pregnant.  They didn’t believe me until I told them that I have a girlfriend and only have sex with other women.”

“I went on the Nuva Ring and my insurance covered a tiny tiny tiny bit of it. I forget the exact numbers but without insurance at the time it was $97/ month with my insurance it was like $90. The county health department sells them for cost at $35.”

These are the real voices of real women, whom I know personally, affected by discrimination and unequal coverage (Iike myself) in the world of women’s healthcare and insurance.  Missouri, why do you want to allow this kind of thing to continue?  Aren’t we tax-paying citizens who contribute to the economy, who vote, who serve our country, who benefit society?  The reality is that women are treated like second-class citizens and have been for some time in the world of healthcare.  I, for one, would like to see if the progression of Obamacare couldn’t potentially solve that problem for me.

Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Clinton, I’m talking to you.  Don’t let me down.

*I am not actually trying to convince my readers that BCBS in particular is a poor choice for an insurance company.  I think all insurance companies are a bad choice for an insurance company and have yet to be shown otherwise.

**This argument also applies to anyone seeking to pass legislation making abortion and gay marriage illegal because it goes against their personal religious beliefs – don’t like abortion?  Fine, don’t get one.  Think gay marriage is bad?  Then don’t marry another guy.  Problem solved.  #freedomofandfromreligion, #mindyourownbusiness, #you’llhaveheavenalltoyourselvessoshutup

“When I’m naked I lie down on the examining table, on the sheet of chilly crackling disposable paper. I pull the second sheet, the cloth one, up over my body. At neck level there’s another sheet, suspended from the ceiling. It intersects me so the doctor will never see my face. He deals with a torso only.”

-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

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