Never mind disease. Guess who wants to talk gender as a preexisting condition?

“Is rape considered a preexisting condition under your amendment? Yes or no?” Cheers erupt in response to the question, which is directed by a seventeen-year-old girl named Daisy to Republican House Representative Tom MacArthur.[1] The two are standing in the center of a town hall meeting, surrounded by a crowd of seated onlookers and a ring of video cameras. The amendment Daisy refers to had been added by MacArthur to the Republican Obamacare replacement bill, helping it secure enough votes to pass in the House of Representatives days before.

As Representative MacArthur begins his answer, Daisy interrupts, “Yes or no! Yes or no! One word! One word!”

Unwilling to accept the “one word” rule, MacArthur explains, “Folks, you get to ask the questions, and I get to answer them.”

“Yes or no!” Daisy interrupts again, bringing echoes from the crowd. “Yes or no! Yes or no!”

Minutes pass as MacArthur endures the outburst before he is finally able to answer without interruption. “You cannot be denied [health coverage] or charged more because of having been raped,” he says.

Daisy won viral acclaim for the encounter, the video of which was circulated widely on Facebook and Twitter. In an article on, Katherine Speller gushed: “in a time when we so desperately need heroes to stand firm with politicians, act up, and speak truth to power, Daisy’s promise to MacArthur might be the most inspiring part of this story: She told him that she’ll absolutely be at the polls next year, as a voter at 18, to cast a ballot against him.  Performing civic duties has never been more bad-ass.” [2] The website also lauded Daisy, and took umbrage on her behalf that MacArthur called focusing on the law’s affect on rape survivors overblown “hysteria,” noting that the word derives from the Greek term for womb and “was once used as bogus medical disorder levied at women.” How triggering.

But is it hysteria? Apparently so. The fact-checking website evaluated the issue and came out in agreement with MacArthur’s answer, stating that under the bill’s provisions, “Rape and sexual assault are legally not allowed to be used as pre‐existing conditions for health insurance.”[3] Even’s Speller admits that the “answer to [Daisy’s] question is broadly ‘no’—as most states already ban providers from factoring a history of abuse into premium costs and there’s no explicit mention of assault survivors in the bill’s language.”[4]

Daisy seems to be a child of her times, raised to expect female victimization around every corner, and taught that every Rorschach ink blot depicts a rape. National Public Radio, which also covered the Daisy confrontation, explained that she is far from alone, noting that “the idea that a rape victim could be denied health care,” whether truthful or not, is “a notion that has caught fire nationwide through social media.”[5]

Health care policy is a perverse place to try line-skipping to the head of the victim queue. The list of ways a person could suffer is as numerous as the entries in a medical encyclopedia. To barely scratch the surface, the condition could be cancer, or a heart or brain defect, or a crippling infectious disease. The person could have been born with it, or had it emerge in childhood. Daisy’s outburst pulled attention away from legitimate debate. 

Instead of talking about cancer survivors who might be denied coverage, the media talked about rape survivors who would not be. The liberal think tank Center for American Progress lists the most common preexisting conditions as, “high blood pressure, behavioral health disorders, high cholesterol, asthma and chronic lung disease, and osteoarthritis and other joint disorders.”[6] Gender is not where focus belongs in this debate.

Disproportionate attention to women’s health is a habit constantly reinforced by a society that elevates women to the point of holiness. Placing women first is ingrained in our etiquette, and goes far beyond Emily Post trivialities like holding a door or pulling out a chair. In this case, it includes ignoring men’s health to prioritize women. In his February 2017 address to a joint session of Congress, President Trump promised “to invest in women’s health,”[7] with no similar mention of men.  Obamacare had already created “at least 7 new agencies and departments devoted solely to women while there is not one office for men or male specific ailments.”[8]

This disparity of concern is illustrated perfectly by cancers of the breast (a female condition) and prostate (male). As Warren Farrell has pointed out, both diseases have “almost the same level of death,” yet “prostate cancer is funded at one seventh the level of breast cancer.”[9] The Obamacare statute contained “over 40 mentions of [the word] ‘breast,’” but “not one mention of ‘prostate.’”[8]  October has been popularly dubbed, “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” with tremendous social, corporate, and media promotion, while nothing similar exists for men.[10] All of this is happening while women are already significantly healthier and better cared for than men. Women live an average of over 5 years longer, are more likely to have health insurance, and are more likely to receive regular medical care.[8]

It remains unclear whether the Republican health-care proposal will ever become law, and my purpose here is not to take a position on the bill. The proposal would relax Obamacare’s prohibition against insurance companies charging higher rates to individuals with preexisting medical conditions.  Consequently, people with challenging medical histories could be priced out of health care through no fault of their own. Supporters and opponents of the bill agree on this point, even though they may disagree over what role government should play in healthcare.

Anyone who would be charged more for coverage due to a preexisting condition deserves sympathy. But to many people, women matter more; their suffering matters more. They shamelessly insist on placing women first, while the list of other innocent victims is so tragically long. Women are half the story, not all of it. They do have important and differentiated health care concerns, such as pregnancy and more involved reproductive health. Men do also, including generally poorer health and early death. The healthcare debate should not center on either gender, but on a much more relevant and disadvantaged demographic: the sick.






[6] (quoting the CAP)


[8], quoting, with link, “The Daily Caller”



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