Spreading False Fears | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Spreading False Fears

Women are stupid. At least that's what the National Independent Women's Forum seems to believe. This week the Republican-leaning non-profit advocacy group aired a television ad with inaccurate information about health-care reform specifically targeting women.

Airing Sept. 4 through Sept. 9 on national cable stations, the ad features breast-cancer survivor Tracy Walsh, who peppers her concerns about H.R. 3200 with misleading information and inaccurate statistics. Walsh claims, "300,000 women with breast cancer might have died if our health-care system were government run like England's." According to http://factcheck.org, this statistic was based on faulty and outdated logic.

This isn't an uncommon tactic. We've recently seen lies and fear-mongering permeate the media and town-hall meetings. Perhaps it's the lack of women speaking out for health-care reform or my waning tolerance for these lies that makes this particular piece of propaganda intolerable.

There are many different factors that play a role in survival statistics. The NIWF figures were taken from women who were diagnosed 30 years ago. Since then, early detection and treatment have changed. The group got their figure from applying the difference between the U.S. and England's five-year survival rates to the 2.5 million survivors in the U.S.¬óreasoning the American Cancer Society rejects.

The survival rate in England has actually caught up to the United States in recent years. Data from the UK's Office of National Statistics shows that women diagnosed with breast cancer from 2001 to 2003 had a 80.3 percent five-year survival rate, and in the United States the National Cancer Institute reports that in 2001 the five-year survival rate was 89.8 percent. While the survival rate is higher in the United States, experts are quick to point out that this comparison is an over-simplified implication and a misuse of cancer statistics. It is too simple to point to the health-care system as the reason for survival rates. Even in our own country survival rates vary from state to state.

The ad is also wrong to compare the proposed U.S. legislation to a system exactly like England's. In England the government is both the provider and the insurer. In H.R. 3200 private companies would still exist but would compete with a public option.

My favorite part of the ad is Walsh's last line: "My odds were high because my health care was the best. What are your odds if the government takes over your health care?"

I'm glad that Ms. Walsh's odds were high because she could afford the best treatment possible. What are the odds for survival for the 17 million women who cannot afford the "luxury" of health care?

This $750,000 ad series gives this group a megaphone while drowning out voices for important women's health care issues that need to be addressed.

A study (PDF) by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 18,000 deaths could be averted each year if everyone had health insurance. The report also finds that women who are young, single or working part-time have the highest risk for being uninsured.

A study (PDF) by the Women's Law Center finds that women who do have insurance coverage are charged more in their childbearing years. Insurance companies will charge a healthy 25-year-old woman up to 48 percent more than a healthy 25-year-old man.

While it makes sense that women in their child-bearing years would cost more, it's important to remember that a 25-year-old woman, much like myself, is just starting out in her career and more than likely making no more than 78 cents for every dollar her male counterpart makes.

While improvements have been made to end pregnancy discrimination over the last several decades, the system is still flawed. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 makes it mandatory for health insurance provided by employers to cover pregnancy and childbirth¬ójust like any other medical condition.

Women seeking insurance as a single payer, however, can still be denied coverage because insurance companies consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition or will impose a waiting period for maternity services.

Raising Women's Voices, an advocacy group for health-care reform, has identified key components of women's health care that need to change. These include: providing affordable and continuous health care; preventive and supportive health care; and closing the gap in coverage between minorities, women and men. The group has put women's health issues at the forefront of the health-care debate and promotes solutions to health care instead of fear mongering.

All women should be able to receive affordable health care and be able to catch diseases like breast cancer at its earliest stages instead of putting off routine check-ups because of the cost.

I'm tired of people like Ms. Walsh who can afford the best care possible, yet can't put themselves in someone else's shoes and realize that not every woman has the same advantages. I don't want to discredit Walsh's battle with cancer, but she embodies the inexcusable logic that has superseded rationality in this debate.

I was privileged to have access to the best facilities and doctors when I was growing up, especially when it was discovered that I had a tumor a few years ago. I remember how risky the surgery was and the fact that my parents did extensive research to make sure I had the best doctor possible.

It took me a while to realize that my parents were willing to spend their retirement fund, sell their belongings and borrow from relatives to make sure I had the best chance at survival, but this isn't a position every patient has access to. I also had a great insurance plan, so the least of my worries was the cost.

The difference between the "haves" and the "have-nots" makes it difficult for me to understand just how others can be content as long as they can afford the best health care. More specifically, woman and minorities continue to be the ones who are more often uninsured and left out of the debate. I'd like to challenge more women to take an active role in seeking good information and speaking out against tactics from the opposition that include lies, fear, and distorting the facts.

Previous Comments


I too was privileged when I grew up to have good health care. The country - which means to me all citizens - helped with that. Oh yes, we paid for it through taxes but if you earn a decent living wage to start with this is not a hardship and in retrospect, it cost MUCH less than private insurance. Charging different rates for women because we can become pregnant is ridiculous. Men are involved in the process just as much as we are. Agreed, women need to educate ourselves and get involved.


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