Jon Kyl and Insurance Company Discrimination Against Women.

I've been wanting to say a little more about the touching "your mom" moment shared by Senators Debbie Stabenow and John Kyl last week. To refresh our memories:

As a number of people have noted, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and EMILY's List are using this video as a fundraising tool. And Kyl's ignorant comments sure do get at the cold heart of anti-health reform ideology: A refusal to accept shared responsibility for basic health care, and a misunderstanding of what insurance is supposed to do -- pool risk, so that the fortunate subsidize the care of the unfortunate. That's how the private insurance market already works. By expanding the system and regulating it, the goal is to get the market to work more efficiently, cheaply, and humanely.

But there's something deeper going on here. Stabenow and Kyl's exchange occurred as the Senate Finance Committee debated a Kyl amendment to the Baucus bill that would have prevented the federal government from defining a minimum health benefit package after reform. This minimum benefit package is especially important for women: it includes maternity care and preventive care, which means insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage for routine gynecological and prenatal visits. And by mandating such coverage, the Baucus bill ensures an end to gender rating, the practice of insurers charging women -- particularly young women -- more for coverage than they charge men, because women use more health care during their reproductive years.

It is only by mandating reproductive health coverage -- getting everyone to pay into the pool -- that we can do away with gender rating, which is a clear form of discrimination. Thankfully, the Kyl amendment was defeated 14-9.

--Dana Goldstein

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