Thursday, October 1, 2009

Health Care and Women - Are they treated differently?

How are women treated differently in the health care system? What is the effect of this differential treatment? Have you ever had a negative experience based on gender?

Women are treated very differently both by physicians and insurance benefit companys. Let me give you just one example that took me less than five minutes to find on the internet. Medicare(which is a government benefit) covers routine mammograms each year for women over forty with a twenty percent copay(see However, Medicare covers PSA's, which is a prostate cancer screening test, at ONE HUNDRED PERCENT(see Prostate cancer is very slow growing type of cancer and most men diagnosed with prostate cancer die from something else long before they die of prostate cancer. Breast cancer however is the second leading cause of death of women. Why is our own government discriminating against women? Are testicles that much more important that breasts? I'm absolutely positive that is true because of another example that I have to give.

Back in 1997, I worked for a government contractor that processed medical claims and answered questions for Tricare beneficiaries. I took calls from providers(hospitals, doctors, labs, etc) and beneficiaries(people covered under Tricare). From the day that I started there, there was an issue with two types of claims. One was for mammograms and the other was for laboratory benefits for pregnant women. Neither of these claims would pay correctly. They were denied and we would have to override the system manually to make them pay. It was reported numerous times to the supervisors and we would always get the same response, that the government would have to give us the okay to update the system to make these claims pay correctly. We were told that it would take about two years for this to happen as it had to have Congressional approval. Okay, fine. Then in 1998, Viagra hit the market. In case you have had your head in the sand for the last fifteen years, Viagra is a drug that makes it possible to have and maintain an erection. Viagra was covered under the pharmacy benefit and was paid by Tricare. Within three days, there was an issue paying for these prescriptions at that pharmacy. They were denied as not covered. Within two more days of that, miraculously our system was fixed and there NEVER was another issue with Viagra being paid. Three days!!!! When I left Tricare in early 2000, the mammogram and pregnancy lab issue was still not fixed. That was three years later. Now you tell me what is more important? Women, their unborn children and their breasts or an erect penis? I think the answer is obvious, at least where the United States government stands.

As far as personal negative experiences, yes. I have. I have cared for others when it comes to medical issues for most of my adult life. My father suffered several heart attacks in 1991 and had five-way bypass surgery. I cared for him and went to the doctors with him too many times to count. My mother-in-law lived with my family for three years from 2000-2003 when she died. She suffered from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and many other issues. Since she also did not drive, I too went with her to her doctor visits. Plus I have had vast experience caring for my spouse. We have spent almost twenty years battling a blood clotting disorder that has caused him to have multiple strokes amongst other medical issues. He also suffers from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and now a type of vascular dementia. I particulary noticed the way that even physicians talk to women is very different than to men. This last hospitalization with my husband proved that to me. Even though my husband has dementia and it is well documented in his medical records that the doctors had access to, he was consulted regarding his treatment. I was told what the physician was going to do even though I had Power of Attorney. When I pointed out to the physician that my spouse was unable to make a competent decision due to his dementia, he questioned me as to whether or not this was valid. Look buddy, you have the records there in front of you. READ THEM!!!! I have been talked "down" to in too many ways to count over the years. I'm not sure if it is because I am fifteen years younger than my husband or that I am a woman. Either way, it should not have any bearing as to how I am treated by the medical community.

I am sorry that I am so angry when it comes to this opinion. I made the mistake of reading a few other opinions before writing mine and I just cannot see where, even now, people still don't see the blatant discrimination that occurs. I could go on and on here citing examples such as insurance companies trying to force drive through mastectomies, the willingness to pay for penis pumps for men, but not cover reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients, and many, many more but my anger is too great at this point to go on. Perhaps, it is because I worked for many years in a family practice office and then in the insurance industry that I have such a different outlook on this. I guess when you are surrounded by it you can't help but see the differences.

I have to end my opinion piece here. I currently have an "A" average in this class. I will post here if I have any of my classmates respond to this.


  1. I completely agree that there is gender discrimination in health care. Many insurances consider pregnancy a "pre-existing condition" and will not insure women who are currently pregnant. I could write a novel here, but it's late and I am tired. Insurance will pay for a man to get an erection, but will not pay to support the baby he may have created with said erection. It's wrong, 'nuff said!

    BTW, welcome to OHIH :)

  2. Thanks for blogging on this! I was searching for examples of how women are treated differently in the health care system for my Women's Studies class and I ran across you're blog! And then I see that you're daughter went/goes to Tidewater Community College, and I thought how odd because that's where I'm going too! Random! Thanks again for writing this, it was very helpful. :)