Saturday, September 22, 2012

Menopausal Moments in Obamacare

This week a consultant stood up in the California Health Benefit Exchange Board (the governance structure charged with implementing a key piece of Obamacare in California) and joked about her hot flashes before a crowded room of health care policy professionals.   This instance set off Dr. Bob Ross one of the board members who revealed that his wife had chastised him for joking about such moments in the past.  He said that if the consultant could educate him, he'd be open to it.

Then the Executive Director Peter Lee lit up his own mike as if to add to the commentary and the 3 women over 60 on the board glared at him, with chair Diana Dooley saying, "don't you dare." This set off gales of laughter in the room packed with middle-aged women.   Lee blushed, stammered and said something else entirely.  When the chair took the mike again, she informed the consultant that it does get better later on and moved the agenda along.

I was struck by how rare a moment in public proceedings this might be.  Health care is one policy area which is heavily dominated by women.   California is a state where we appoint a lot of women to statewide boards.  With baby boomers mostly in their 60s, the number of post menopausal women is on the rise.  This is a demographic that in previous generations was consigned to cackle in kitchens and neighborhood stoops, not on a public dias, less still being in charge of what is or is not okay to say.

Perhaps this is really the nightmare Republicans envision playing out: women being women in public without apology.

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