Monday, May 18, 2009

Tina Tchen, Small Businesses, and Why Women Everywhere Should Care About Health Care Reform

Overall awesome feminist, Tina Tchen (Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement) just posted on the White House blog about health care and small businesses as they pertain to women's realities.

I love this post. First, because Tina Tchen is totally one of my sheroes (term borrowed from Tania - thanks!), and I LOVE the fact that the post is based on a roundtable she hosted with Secretary Sebelius at one of my favorite DC small businesses, StitchDC.

Second, I think Ms. Tchen gives us something to really sink our teeth into as feminists. We hear about health care reform and the failures of our health care system on the news all the time. I'm guilty of rolling my eyes when yet ANOTHER talking head starts to drone on about the subject. But I shouldn't, and I'm publicly promising - here and now - to do better.

Why? Because while we hear the words "Health Care Reform" regularly, as a feminist it upsets me that we don't as frequently hear about the disproportionate impact that these failures have on women or the obstacles that small business-owning women face.

According to a report released last week by the Department of Health and Human Services:
  • less than half of women are able to obtain health insurance coverage through their work
  • women of reproductive age are subject to higher premiums than their male counterparts (up to 150% for 22 year olds!)
  • class and social status seem to have a lot to do with whether women are able to afford individual insurance plans or obtain insurance another way (e.g., through a spouse's plan)
Inequitable access to health care is a feminist issue, and health care reform should be, too. We should be seeking a fundamental change in our system of health care that encourages preventative care, makes health care accessible to all (regardless of gender, age, sexuality, marital status and/or socioeconomic class).

In her blog post, Ms. Tchen discusses the stories of some of the small women business owners she met with.
"We were joined by 7 women small business owners who explained firsthand how skyrocketing costs are making it nearly impossible for small businesses to provide health care benefits for employees and their families. Marie Connolly, who owns Stitch, discussed how difficult it was to lose employees because she was not able to offer them health care coverage. As is the case with many small business owners, Ms. Connolly was forced to choose between not providing health care insurance for her employees in order to remain competitive, or providing such benefits and risk going out of business altogether."
We can rail against corporate America all we want, but is it any surprise that in an economic crisis, people choose to work for big businesses if small, independent businesses are unable to provide benefits? Sure, we all love our indy coffee shops, but if I was an uninsured woman, or had a family to be responsible for, etc.. I can see how the benefits package at Starbucks might be more enticing. (Now, whether the coffee is tolerable or not is a completely different issue..)

The point is, for our sake and the sake of small businesses we love, we should all care about health care reform. Check out the Government's website here: to view reports and see updates. Contact your legislators and let them know you support reform, how it will alleviate difficulties for small business owners, and why equitable access to health care is important to YOU.

We hope to see movement on this in the near future, but the critical thing to remember is that such a fundamental shift in the way things are done will require a lot of work. It's incumbent upon us to keep an eye out for it, to speak up when we're concerned, and to take a stand.

As always, please comment below with your thoughts and responses!

Image source: Roadblocks to Health Care

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