Insurance Companies Should Reimburse the Women They’ve Been Screwing for Years

Checks for every female in America!

I shouldn’t be surprised—after the myriad stories of terminally ill patients who were refused coverage for life-saving surgeries; after the friend I have here in Philadelphia who’s been denied health insurance twice now because once, two years ago, she was treated in a hospital for what someone thought was maybe a concussion (but turned out to be a headache). At this point, I really shouldn’t be surprised by any news of our health-care industry’s rampant injustices.

Then comes this tidbit from the NPR health blog, and my head starts to explode all over again. First, with joy: Hooray for the Affordable Care Act! Hooray for this one tiny step toward reforming a national industry that has bloated itself for 100-some years on human suffering! Hooray for non-discrimination policies in health-care coverage to ensure that women aren’t, yet again, quietly given the über-shaft!

But after this initial surge of gratitude, the blinding anger starts to set in: Because, I mean, seriously?! Women pay ONE BILLION more annually for our health-care premiums, and no one figured this was a problem until NOW? This practice of insurance companies systematically charging women more for their health-care coverage, this “gender rating,” has been carrying on undisturbed and unquestioned: How?!

It seems to me we’ve been allowing the insurance industry to punish our mothers, wives, friends and (in my case) ourselves for having babies, breasts and uteruses with needs. As if female bodies weren’t already under constant attack—from GOP proclamations about abortion rights; from endless advertising campaigns created to devalue and then prop up a woman’s sense of her own beauty—now it seems they’ve been exploited for years by the very corporations meant to ensure their health and well-being.

When, I wonder, will our society wake up? Sure, I am infinitely grateful for the new reforms in health care; but it’s a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. (Or maybe, in this case, it would be more appropriate to say a birthing wound—a prolapsed uterus or C-section scar.) I don’t think it’s enough just to pass an act ensuring that I won’t have to shell out twice as much as any man to get the same access to basic health care. No, personally I’d like a check in the mail reimbursing me for all the bloated expenses I (or, let’s be honest here, my parents) have had to cover in my 24 years of life. Hell, I’d like a check to go out to every woman in America.

And if my wild dream of reparation is already coming true, then why not, I’d like to add a few zeros to the end of whatever number that reimbursement ends up being. Call it a social tax; a nod to the collective debt our society owes its women—a debt racked up by centuries of disenfranchisement, exploitation, intellectual and emotional devaluing and shameful sexual discrimination.