A Womens eNews article via AlterNet asks whether the Clinton, Obama or Edwards health plan is best for women. Before reading the story, I have to say that I was excited. I was hoping for a detailed breakdown of the three plans from a women’s issues perspective with some kind of grading system telling voters which proposals they should support and why.
Well, the article is actually about how they all suck and Dennis Kucinich’s plan is the only acceptable option. That was the first let down. I’m willing to admit that in a better world, the Kucinich plan for true universal health care would be the plan that I would support. But I also honestly believe that there is not enough political will in America for such a plan, nor will there be for at least 10, maybe even 20, years. The insurance companies still have too much sway, the rich are still too powerful, the middle-class still has delusions that one day they will be rich, and the Republicans are still successfully scaring the crap out of people over having their taxes raised. And I would greatly prefer a decent health care plan instead of none in the vain pursuit of a great one. That’s just me, and feel free to disagree.
But while the main crux of the article was disappointing, this part both confused me and pissed me off:
The three private insurer-based plans are also identically stingy toward caretakers.
Some plans — Hillary’s and Edwards’ — would cover respite care to help caregivers. Edwards offers up flextime, longer leave periods and paid leaves to help “parents” balance work and family.
Although well intentioned these policies reinforce the social expectation that women will be able to meet the daily needs of those who cannot help themselves.
If, for example, federal legislation required employers to grant flextime to help care for the elderly, our social expectations of women would mean that any one of them who didn’t use this option — who didn’t toss aside her paying job to assume this role — would be subject to criticism.
And the news media wouldn’t shy from broadcasting every report — however marginal or questionable its methodology — that showed how much better it is for the elderly to be in the care of a daughter than a professional attendant.
Okay . . . so what, exactly, do you suggest?
Well, Feiner suggests no alternative to this particular problem in the article, so if someone else can, I’d love to hear it. Personally, I think that this is a matter of facts. Many people are caregivers for ill or elderly family members. Caregiving is hard work. Working while caregiving can be very difficult. Sometimes, caregivers need a break, but they can’t afford to take the time off, or taking time off would result in a possible loss of their job. These plans would help to solve those problems and ease the burden for those individuals.
So what the hell is the problem? Feiner seems to take issue with the fact that caregivers are overwhelmingly women. I think that this is unfair, too, but also think that it creates even more reason to support such a plan. If women are primarily the ones getting screwed, let’s do what we can through legal means to un-screw them.
The proposal is gender neutral. If more pressure is placed on women to quit their jobs and become caregivers, that’s not the fault of the proposal, it’s the fault of our shitty society. Health care proposals are designed to fix health care, not to fix the world’s overabundance of sexist assholes. If mandatory paid parental leave was ever actually established, women who would otherwise rather go back to work quickly might face social pressure to stay home longer, and would face far more pressure than men would. And I think that we all know that. But we still support it because we know that the benefits of paid parental leave greatly outweigh the social drawbacks. The ridiculously media-hyped “mommy wars” don’t prevent us from supporting the right for all women to make a choice about how they parent. The fact that working women are criticized doesn’t stop us from supporting policies that would help women stay at home and vice versa.
If extra pressure is exerted on women to be caregivers when they would prefer to not be, we’ll tackle that. We can promote the benefits specifically to men, and make sure to keep sexist language out of the law and all explanations of the law. It sure as hell won’t be perfect, but I think that most people who act as caregivers can say that it would be a big improvement.
The idea that we need to fix sexism before implementing commonsense health care policy, to me, seems absurd. Though Feiner has located a genuine kink in the plan, she seems to prefer throwing out otherwise good policy to actually suggesting a solution. It is also highly worth noting that the Edwards plan doesn’t only provide for caregiving, it also provides for medical homes for those with chronic illnesses and drastic nursing home improvements, while still promoting independent living, which is a very good thing for the disabled. We want independent living to be the goal for most people.
So am I missing something here? What are your thoughts, both on the health care plans and on benefits for caregivers?