Why should Asian American women vote?
As the November 2012 elections draw near, I would like to examine why Asian American women should vote. Your vote in this year’s critical election could help shape two big issues – healthcare for the aging population and your reproductive rights. This post lays out each candidate’s position on these two issues, side by side, so that you can use this information to make up your own mind.
Like many other countries, the US faces an aging population. In year 2009, people 65 years old and above represented 12.9% of the US population. By year 2030, they are expected to grow to 19% of the population.
Many Asian cultures emphasize the importance of caring for one’s aging parents. Accordingly, many Asian American women are caregivers for their parents or in-laws. They may need to take time off work to care for a parent who just underwent knee surgery.
Or they may even find themselves facing the hard choice of hiring an expensive healthcare worker to care for a parent with Alzheimer’s, or leaving their careers to do so themselves – perhaps because they could not afford the costs.
Medicare is a national health insurance program administered by the US government that provides healthcare coverage for Americans aged 65 and above. In 2010, Medicare provided health insurance benefits to 48 million people. However, current estimates project that Medicare and Medicaid could become insolvent by 2015. Therefore, the two presidential candidates’ positions on Medicare would affect many families.
For Asian American women, especially those with elderly parents, here is how the outcome of this year’s election could affect them.
If Obama wins office, he will likely continue the Medicare program, albeit with major changes. Key changes that he has proposed include:
- Higher deductibles and/or copayments, such as a $25 increase in annual outpatient deductible for new retirees for the first few years, and a new home health copayment in certain cases.
- Higher premiums for high-earning retirees making over $85,000 (or $170,000 for married couples).
- Cuts of $600-700 billion through reducing provider costs.
- Higher Medicare payroll tax for individuals earning over $200,000 (in fact, this is already part of Obama’s health care law).
If Romney wins office, he will likely revamp the current Medicare program significantly for new retirees. Key changes that he has proposed include:
- A “voucher” program whereby a fixed amount is given to each senior to purchase a private insurance plan.
- Private insurance plans must provide comparable coverage to what Medicare offers now.
- Premiums will be set by market costs. Expects increased competition to help lower costs.
- Traditional fee-for-service Medicare will still be offered by the government as an option, but premiums will depend on costs.
- No changes for current Medicare beneficiaries or those nearing retirement.
Which position you support will likely depend on when you expect to retire and your expected income when you do. It also depends on which scenario you think is more likely to happen. Under the Obama scenario, rich retirees will end up paying more for Medicare. However, general healthcare costs could decrease, and the long-term viability of Medicare under Obama will likely improve. Whether this will actually happen or not is an unknown, of course. Under the Romney scenario, leaving Medicare to market forces could drive prices down, but this is also an unknown. As we have already seen, private health insurance has not been very good at keeping a lid on healthcare costs. It is in countries with national health insurance, like Europe and Canada, that healthcare costs have been kept down. If Romney’s bet fails, we could see exploding healthcare costs for everyone – rich and poor retirees alike.
Another important issue that Asian American women should consider during this election is that of reproductive rights. These typically refer to access to reproductive healthcare, reproductive education, birth control, and abortion. On the issue of abortion, Obama and Romney stand starkly apart. As evidenced in the vice-presidential debate on October 11th, the Romney position is more extremist. Paul Ryan, the vice-presidential candidate in the Romney camp stated that, “the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.” That is, unless they decide that there is a difference between ‘rape’ and ‘forcible rape’, as Paul Ryan had tried to argue in the past.
If Romney wins office, he will likely continue his support for pro-life programs and policies. Key recommendations include:
1. Potentially reversing established abortion rights laws and allowing states to ban abortion.
2. End federal aid to Planned Parenthood.
3. Allow workplace health plans to opt out of paying for contraceptives.
If Obama wins office, he will likely continue his support for pro-choice programs and policies. Key recommendations include:
- Obama’s healthcare law requires workplace health plans to pay for contraceptives.
- Continue federal aid to Planned Parenthood.
Which position you support depends on your views on abortion rights, religion, and rights of yourself and your daughters to have access to reproduction education and healthcare. In general, women’s rights supporters agree that banning abortion would send female liberties back several decades – back to the days of back alley abortions, shady practitioners, and lost lives over botched procedures.
At the end of the day, political affiliations are deeply personal and colored by multi-faceted issues. These two issues may or may not be the most important to you in this election. But they will undoubtedly affect the lives of many Asian American women. No matter which side you support, the important thing is to vote this November. Every vote counts.