– Nancy Duff Campbell is a founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, one of the nation’s pre-eminent women’s rights organizations. A recognized expert on women’s law and public policy issues, for over thirty-five years Ms. Campbell has participated in the development and implementation of key legislative initiatives and litigation protecting women’s rights, with a particular emphasis on issues affecting low income women and their families. The views expressed are her own. —
Insurance companies and others who profit from our broken health care system are mobilizing to defeat comprehensive reform by using misinformation and scare tactics. A prime example is the allegation that healthcare legislation – specifically the plan being considered by the House of Representatives – will hurt small businesses.
The fact is that small business owners, especially women, are already hurting under our current healthcare system. Leah Daniels, 29, is the owner of Hill’s Kitchen – a gourmet kitchenware store that opened last May not far from the U.S. Capitol. Daniels can’t afford to offer health insurance to her three employees. She purchased her own bare-bones plan on the individual market for protection “in case I get hit by a car,” but not much else. It costs her just under $200 a month and doesn’t cover such services as routine doctor’s visits or maternity care. Daniels, who often works 7 days a week, says that she is constantly worried about getting sick.
Daniels’ problems are, unfortunately, all too typical. A new report by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found that small businesses pay up to 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance policy. These higher costs mean that small businesses are considerably less likely than larger businesses to provide health insurance to their employees, and those that do tend to have less comprehensive plans. And Census data show that women-owned businesses are generally smaller than male-owned businesses.
Small business owners and employees who don’t get coverage at work or through a spouse’s plan may shop for insurance individually. But if they are women – and small businesses that don’t offer health coverage tend to have large proportions of female workers – they are likely to face discrimination in the individual health insurance market. A study by the National Women’s Law Center found that insurance companies routinely charge women higher rates than men for individual policies and offer policies that exclude health needs specific to women, such as maternity care.