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Pandemic Exacerbates Disadvantages for Women; Expanding Medicaid Would Help

Governor Kristi Noem is casting her latest attention grab as a fight for fairness for women. If she were serious about defending women, she’d have taken coronavirus seriously and fought to prevent the pandemic from undoing decades of economic progress for women:

The beginning of the pandemic saw swaths of job losses among low-income women, the report notes, but the second wave cemented the longer-term economic impacts, especially on young women. This is in part due to the large proportion of young women working in pandemic-devastated industries such as food services, culture, and accommodation. These sectors won’t return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. (Many women have also left the labour market entirely, pulled home to take care of family amid school closures, according to a recent RBC report.)

“Unless recovery efforts focus on women experiencing the greatest risks and barriers, women’s progress will be rolled back by decades and recovery will be prolonged, with massively damaging consequences for the whole of society,” the report states [Rosa Saba, “Women’s Progress ‘Will Be Rolled Back by Decades’ Unless Pandemic’s Impact Is Undone, New Report Finds,” Toronto Star, 2021.03.08].

Among the multifarious and disproportionate impacts of the pandemic that our Governor has just let run its course, women are getting sicker during the pandemic because they are more likely to go without health services:

Women are more likely than men to forgo health care services during the pandemic, particularly women with health and economic challenges prior to the pandemic. Subsequently, these women reported experiencing worsening health conditions.

When asked about COVID-19 testing, women with private insurance (45%) and Medicaid (41%) were almost twice as likely to get a COVID-19 test than uninsured women (28%), which could reflect uncertainty about out-of-pocket costs for tests [“From Accessing Health Care to Work, Childcare, and Caregiving, the Covid-19 Pandemic Continues to Disproportionately Impact Women,” Kaiser Family Foundation, 2021.03.22].

Governor Noem could perhaps improve women’s access to health care by expanding Medicaid, as some Republicans in Wyoming would like to do:

A House bill to expand Medicaid in Wyoming and give an estimated 25,000 additional residents health insurance passed an initial vote Monday after lawmakers in the Senate killed a similar proposal a few hours earlier.

As the evening wore on, it seemed the House would act as the Senate had and defeat the proposal by burying it under a procedural deadline. But leaders agreed to hear House Bill 162 as the last bill of the evening.

“It gives health care to people who don’t have it,” the bill’s sponsor, John Romero-Martinez, R-Cheyenne, said of the bill when introducing it to his fellow lawmakers.

Wyoming lawmakers have attempted to expand health insurance for low-income residents through Medicaid expansion for nearly a decade, and each attempt thus far has been defeated, often early in the legislative process.

House Bill 162 still requires two additional readings in the House before heading to the Senate. But several staunch opponents to expansion over the years are now in support of the effort. Those who have found themselves advocating for legislation they previously opposed include Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper.

“I’ve had kind of a change of heart, frankly,” he explained to his colleagues when presenting an amendment to rewrite Romero-Martinez’s bill to make it identical to the Senate file defeated earlier in the day [Morgan Hughes and Camille Erickson, “Medicaid Expansion Bill Gains Approval in Wyoming House,” Casper Star Tribune, 2021.03.22].

Expanding Medicaid would address just one problem, access to health care, that is just one symptom of the real misogyny that has set women back for generations, even without the pandemic. A real problem-solving Governor would look the pandemic and the systemic misogyny it as exacerbated in the eye and propose real policy solutions.


  1. mike from iowa 2021-03-24 09:08

    Happy to report Tuesday, March 23rd was the first Tuesday in months where ncovid deaths in America failed to reach 1000. We are making steady progress with most of the credit going to the adults Biden placed in charge.

  2. John Dale 2021-03-24 12:44

    Wow, so you found another reason to want to expand medicaid. Shocker.

  3. Richard Schriever 2021-03-24 13:37

    John – another reason? Then ONLY reason is to assure ALL Americans have health care coverage – to assure their LIFE. BTW – how many reasons do you have for opposing that?

  4. jake 2021-03-25 10:02

    Crawl back into your hoe, John.

  5. Ryan 2021-03-25 12:14

    Funny enough, buried in here somewhere is a good analogy regarding equality of opportunity and “equity” as people like to say nowadays, or equality in outcome.

    “Our whole world is so misogynistic and women have it so bad and everything benefits men, including healthcare yadda yadda yadda. ” But, somehow, female life expectancy is more than 6% higher than male life expectancy. 5 years of life. That’s a lot.

    Now, where are all the equity demanders? Shouldn’t they be doing something to increase the life expectancy of men specifically? Or decrease that of women? Or both? Such a large difference in livable years obviously proves “inequity” that is harmful to men, right?

    Or is equality sometimes nuanced…? Hmmm…

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-03-25 12:18

    Yes, John, it is shocking that after laying out the myriad other good reasons to expand Medicaid, reality keeps throwing us more.

    What’s more shocking is that South Dakota leaders have been too stupid and selfish to take this action, insure more people, save more lives, and bring a truckload of federal dollars into our economy to create 29,000 jobs.

  7. mike from iowa 2021-03-26 09:33

    Magats in Missouri come up with a novel way to overturn the will of voters who approved Medicaid expansion with 53% majority.

    from above link…
    The expanded eligibility would allow estimated 230,000 additional low-income Missourians to be covered. It is set to go into effect in July after voters approved a ballot question last August with a 53% majority,” the newspaper noted.

    Although the measure was was popular with voters, one Republican legislator argued that the voters should be ignored because it received support from urban and suburban voters, whose voices are apparently less important than those from rural areas. …

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