Fox News medical contributor Dr. David Samadi falsely claimed that he had only been "complimenting" women on their higher use of preventive health services than men when responding to criticism of his earlier call for higher health insurance premiums for women.
In an August 27 appearance on Fox & Friends, Samadi argued that women should pay more than men for health insurance because "they are using the [health care] system a lot more than we are, so they go through a lot of preventive screening, they give birth, they have the whole mammogram, pap smears." He also cited the fact that "women live longer" and that "women have the breasts, they have the ovaries, they have the uterus," while men "only have the prostate," as evidence for why women should pay more for insurance. After his appearance, Samadi was intensely criticized for his comments.
A week later, on the September 3 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade invited Samadi "to clear up" his previous statements about the difference in medical costs between men and women. Samadi misleadingly characterized his earlier comments as a "compliment" to women:
SAMADI: One of the things I said is women are excellent -- and this was a compliment to them. Is that they are very proactive and they go get screened. In my practice it's the women that bring men to our practice because they just -- men don't go get checked. So just like the mammogram, when U.S. task force said women, we don't want you to get mammograms, they went after, they fought for it, and they went ahead with mammograms. With men, when they said no PSAs, everybody said OK. Sound good to me, I'm gonna go watch my sports.
Samadi's explanation of his August 27 comments whitewashes his more outlandish points. Marie Claire blogger Maura Brannigan noted the ridiculousness of Samadi's decision to count the number of diagnosable body parts in determining appropriate health coverage costs, and Slate's Amanda Marcotte highlighted Samadi's evidence-free defense of his claim that women deserve to pay more for childbirth:
As Gretchen Carlson couldn't help but point out in reference to childbirth costs, starting a pregnancy takes two people, but bringing it to fruition only takes one. Samadi didn't really have a good rejoinder to that. "Not always," he said, creating one of those situations where you really wish a follow-up question was asked. Was he suggesting that the ridiculously small number of pregnancies created in single or lesbian women by sperm donors was justification enough to spare men the responsibility of sharing childbirth costs?
Experts have previously noted that women face discrimination in purchasing health insurance, and will continue to until the Affordable Care Act's provision banning the practice known as "gender rating" comes into effect in January, 2014. As the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) has noted, women "are charged more for health coverage simply because they are women." According to the NWLC, in the individual market, 92 percent of the best-selling healthcare plans charge different rates for men and women of the same age, and as a result, women pay an overall $1 billion more per year. This difference holds true even of plans that do not cover gender-specific care for women, like maternity care. From the NWLC:
Furthermore, our research shows a wide variation in the differences women are charged both within and across states--even with maternity care excluded. For example, one plan examined in Arkansas charges 25-year-old women 81% more than men for coverage while a similar plan in the same state only charges women 10% more for coverage than men. Neither plan covers maternity care. It's hard to justify or explain that variation.