While the debate over the future of Medicare rages on, one critical aspect is being overlooked: the direct connection between the GOP's 'war on women' and the future of the social safety net. The end of Medicare will impact women the most.
“Women live on average 7 years longer than men,” Morehouse School of Medicine’s Dean and Executive Vice President, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice told EBONY. That means that “there will be a disproportionate share of women who will be impacted by the changes in Medicare over time. Women outlive men.”
While media focuses on the GOP's attack on contraception, abortion, and pay equity, the risk for the elimination of the program and it's impact on older women should not be ignored. “[Republicans] want to raise the eligibility age for Medicare up to 67 and more women will need to be in the work force longer because they won’t be eligible for these benefits.” While the face of the 'war on women' is usually White and young, the reality is that the attack is on all women, especially those who are older and brown.
With most seniors on a fixed income, the Ryan plan for Medicare (which moves seniors to a voucher system by 2023) will put many women in a very tight spot–unable to pay the additional healthcare costs that are not covered by the voucher. Combine that with the repeal of Obamacare, which will mean prescription drug costs and the infamous donut hole will return making healthcare costs high for retirees yet again, and disaster is imminent. According to a study conducted by the AARP, women are more likely than men to have chronic illnesses as seniors that require them to take prescription medication on a regular basis.
“We never really had [the benefits included in Obamacare] in any significant way before. Women [of all ages] are being provided options," notes Dr. Montgomery Rice.
One of the reasons Medicare is such a popular program is that most Americans do not want seniors to have to struggle to pay for healthcare at the twilight of their lives. “We need to provide resources for people where they need it and that is everywhere. It makes a difference long term in their health and their quality of life.”
The benefits of Obamacare in addition to the savings that allow for the extension of the Medicare program are critical for seniors and to women. The debate generally frames the discussion around White retirees in Florida, but people of color are impacted tremendously. We must remember this as Election Day approaches.