Many commentators have written about the current round of negotiations about the federal budget and how budget cuts will affect the poor. Women’s organizations and women columnists (see here and here, for example) have noted the disproportionate focus on cutting programs affecting women’s reproductive health and rights.
Few have paid attention, however, to the potential overall effects of changes in Medicare and Medicaid on women – both young and old.
It is time to take a gender lens to these programs. Reducing the reach and coverage of Medicare and Medicaid – through any means – will affect millions of women, particularly low-income women.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation:
- Medicaid provided 20 million low-income women with basic health and long-term care coverage in 2007.
- Women make up the majority of adult Medicaid recipients (69 percent of the total – even higher among the oldest recipients).
- If this percentage holds true in our area, any changes to Medicaid will affect nearly 1 million women in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
The same holds true for Medicare. Again, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation:
- The majority (56 percent) of Medicare beneficiaries are women.
- Any changes to Medicare will affect more than 1 million women in the District, Maryland and Virginia.
- As we learned from our 2010 Portrait of Women & Girls in the Washington Metropolitan Area, this number is likely to grow dramatically in the next decade. Between 2000 and 2008, the population of women over 65 grew by 18 percent in the region, compared to an overall 5 percent increase in the total population of women.
Isn’t it time we started talking about this?
Gwen Rubinstein is Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Program Officer.