Thursday, May 14, 2009

HHS Secretary Sebelius: Women and Small Businesses Pay 'Particularly High Price' Under Current Health Care System

Health and Human Services [HHS] Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Tina Tchen, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, hosted a roundtable discussion yesterday with women small-business owners and discussed the urgent need for health care reform.

At the meeting, Sebelius also released a new report, "Roadblocks to Health Care: Why the Current Health Care System Does Not Work For Women." The report shows how our current system is leaving millions of women without the affordable, quality care they need and can be read at The new report and roundtable came as America celebrates National Women’s Health Week.

"All Americans are suffering under the current system, but women and small businesses are paying a particularly heavy price," said Secretary Sebelius. "Millions of women are uninsured, and small businesses are struggling to give their workers the care they need and deserve. We can’t wait to pass comprehensive health care reform and give women -- and all Americans – the health care system we need."

According to the just-released "Roadblocks to Health Care" report:

* 21 million women and girls are uninsured;

* In the individual insurance market, women are often charged higher premiums than men during their reproductive years. Holding other factors constant, a 22-year-old woman can be charged one and-a-half times the premium of a 22-year-old man; and

* In a recent national survey, more than half of women [52 percent] reported delaying or avoiding needed care because of cost, compared with 39 percent of men.

"Across the country, women and girls are going without care or paying too much for inadequate coverage," added Director Tchen. "President Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls are committed to improving the health of all women, and we know that health care reform is essential to achieving our goal."

At the roundtable, Sebelius and Tchen also discussed the difficulties that small businesses face when attempting to provide health benefits to their employees. Nearly three-quarters of small businesses that do not offer benefits cite high premiums as the reason. Small businesses that do offer health benefits are suffering. Forty percent of businesses that provide health care coverage say health costs have had a negative impact on other parts of their business.

"Skyrocketing costs are making it difficult, if not impossible, for businesses to give their employees the benefits they deserve," added Sebelius. "Real reform will ease the burden on small business and help businesses stay competitive."

The roundtable discussion was held at Stitch DC, a knitting store owned by Nora and Marie Connolly, who participated in the discussion. Other participants included: Denise D’Amour, co-owner, Capitol Hill Bikes; Laurie Morin, co-owner, Capitol Hill Bikes; Erin Mara, co-owner, Homebody; Leah Daniels, co-owner, Hill’s Kitchen; and Angela Bradley, owner, BTI Security.

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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