Sunday, December 7, 2014

Unequal healthcare for men

I've been overdue for a rant relating to the oppression of men and I know I may have shocked many of my readers when I recently largely agreed with Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In".  Yes, I continue to believe that when all things are considered, men in America are victimized by gender discrimination as severely (but in different dimensions) than women.  One dimension where I believe men are trailing is in healthcare and I was shocked when I stumbled upon a blatant example of healthcare inequity while reviewing my annual insurance choices.

I am one of the rare individuals who are perhaps gluttons for punishment in taking time to read the details relating to the insurance coverage.  I first spotted this inequity when reading a competitor's offering where I was surprised to find that if you are a woman, you can opt for voluntary sterilization for free while if you are a man, voluntary sterilization will cost you 15%.  I was even more surprised when I took a closer look at my existing plan to learn that this injustice was not a fluke, but appeared in my policy as well  I have pasted the specifics below:

Benefit Description You Pay
Voluntary sterilization for men (e.g., Vasectomy) In-network: 15% of the Plan allowance
Out-of-network: 40% of the Plan allowance and any difference between our allowance and the billed amount
Voluntary sterilization for women (e.g., Tubal ligation) In-network: Nothing
Out-of-network: 40% of the Plan allowance and any difference between our allowance and the billed amount

Now I realize that there is probably not hordes of men lining up to get sterilized.  This is likely why this injustice does not receive the focus that it deserves, but you can count on MyTurnQuips to bring this to focus.

My first path of inquiry to attempt to understand this inequity was in line with that truism from Watergate - "follow the money."  I performed a quick Google search to eyeball the costs of Vasectomy versus the cost of Tubal ligation, thinking maybe it costs more to sterilize men.  This line of reasoning was quickly disproved; with Google results indicating a vasectomy would likely cost much less than the cost of tubal ligation.  Moreover, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals has already provided a thorough and academic analysis of the importance of including men in the solution of reproductive planning.

This rant represents much more than some guy whining about possibly having to pay 15% for a vasectomy.   Women should be equally outraged by this inequity.  Most obvious is that if you want men to shoulder equal responsibility for reproductive choices, then men should be afforded the same benefits.  The Affordable Care Act did much to mandate contraceptive options for women.  If our goal is equality, why are contraceptive options not mandated for men?  Why shouldn't there be some level of coverage for the purchase of condoms?

One of the conclusions that I have reached in regards to equality is that equality should not be about female versus male or male versus female; it is not about "women's rights" or "men's rights".  Equality should be focused on gender neutrality and fairness.  I believe this is why I am so closely aligned to Sandberg's "Lean In" precepts.  However, equality cannot be constrained to selective dimensions such as earned income or child care.  True equality must take a hard look at all instances of inequity including disparities in health care, insurance (yes, men pay more for auto and life insurance) and selective service.