Throughout our history, OWL has consistently advocated for quality, accessible healthcare for all Americans. We have further emphasized the unique health concerns of women and the specific financial and social challenges women encounter in accessing care.
From the beginning, OWL actively campaigned for the elimination of age and gender ratings in insurance premiums. Before the prohibition of gender ratings by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), a woman purchasing insurance coverage in the individual market could end up paying nearly twice as much as a man of the same age for the same policy.
Promoting Women’s Health
OWL recognizes that women over 40 have unique health concerns. We support publicly and privately funded research to further the understanding of these conditions and to reduce associated risks. From the health and economic costs of the obesity epidemic to the alarming rate of heart disease in women to the importance of adult vaccinations, OWL is taking the lead on promoting women’s health. One such example:
In 2012, OWL released the results of a survey measuring the American public’s understanding of menopause. The research, which was sponsored by Pfizer, identified startling gaps in both public awareness and educational resources. In fact, nearly a quarter of female respondents between the ages of 30 and 44 reported having more information about the symptoms and treatments for erectile dysfunction than menopause. OWL used these survey results in urging members of Congress to make menopause education a priority in health policy agendas.
In 2011, OWL joined American Bone Health and the Global Healthy Living Foundation in supporting Emmy® and Tony® award-winning actress Blythe Danner and Amgen Pharmaceuticals in the Act 2 Reduce Fractures campaign to raise awareness of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
Long-term term care in the United States is provided through a complex, informal network of services and supports that individuals and their families cobble together. More than 10 million Americans need long-term care services. About 40% of long-term care consumers are younger than 65 years of age. And, although the need for long-term services is highest among the older population, there are many children and young adults who need these services as well.
America’s piecemeal system of long-term care continues to be one of the biggest threats to Americans’ financial security, independence and quality of life. Absent a sound national policy, the true costs of long-term care are being shifted into the future for families who are the default “system” for millions of Americans.
Among its recommendations for long-term care, OWL supports:
* The establishment of a social insurance program for long-term care that requires full participation of all Americans.
* The passage of federal legislation to provide paid family and medical leave.
* Requiring living wages and benefits for direct care workers.
* Increasing the federal funding available for long-term care services and supports as well as improving access to LTSS for those who do not qualify for Medicaid.
* The passage of a federal tax credit for family caregivers.
In 2015, Medicare will celebrate 50 years of providing health coverage to individuals age 65 and older, to persons with disabilities who received Social Security Disability Insurance, to persons with end-stage renal disease, and to those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
In 2012, the total number of persons receiving benefits under Medicare was almost 50 million , and that number is expected to grow to 70 million by 2030.
Women have an important stake in the long-term health of Medicare. More than half (56%) of Medicare beneficiaries are women, and they rely heavily on Medicare programs to help pay for hospital stays, doctor visits, medical screenings, and more. Medicare coverage is important because, as a whole, women tend to have lower incomes than men and therefore are less able to pay out-of-pocket expenses for their needs. The median annual income for women 65 and older was $34,613 in 2012, much lower than their male counterparts’ median income of $45,398. In addition, women live longer on average than men, have more chronic medical conditions, and pay greater out-of-pocket costs for medical care.
The future of Medicare is part of an ongoing debate by policy makers because the prognosis for its solvency over the long term has been precarious. Its short-term financial health has improved modestly, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act. This improvement should allow time for thoughtful consideration of how to ensure that Medicare continues to provide health care to those it covers.
OWL supports policies that preserve Medicare for the future and that address the needs of the growing numbers of Medicare beneficiaries, both men and women.