After a failed first attempt, Republicans' health care bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has narrowly passed in the House of Representatives with a vote of 217 – 213.
Well, ladies — we had a good run. We had seven whole years of Obamacare, where things like pregnancy and sexual assault weren't considered preexisting conditions and birth control was more accessible than ever. But women don't fare as well in the American Health Care Act. If passed in the Senate, here's what this disastrous bill would mean for women:
Guaranteeing coverage for people with preexisting conditions was one of the most humane — yet revolutionary — aspects of the ACA. Now, states can decide whether or not to exclude people from insurance coverage who suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes and epilepsy. Which brings us to...
Women are disproportionately affected by the new health care bill's take on preexisting conditions. As an article on CNN describes, women who have been the victims of rape, sexual assault or domestic violence could potentially be denied insurance coverage or "priced out of the market" based on injuries or conditions resulting from their attack.
There is a reason Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards called it “the worst bill for women and women’s health in a generation." Although the organization isn't specifically named in the bill, it does mention "prohibited entities" — which includes groups that are primarily engaged in family planning services, reproductive health and providing abortions — and bars them from receiving federal dollars through several health programs, most important, Medicaid.
So what that means is that if Medicaid is a woman's health insurance plan, she will no longer be able to receive any health services — including preventative screenings or well-woman visits — at Planned Parenthood, as they will no longer be reimbursed for providing care.
As Vox reported, this would make it very difficult for Planned Parenthood clinics to remain open, as three-quarters of the public dollars spent on family planning in this country are from Medicaid, and 2.5 million people rely on Planned Parenthood for many health care services.
This is huge. Yes, a drastic slashing of Medicaid affects people of all genders, sexes and identities, but the fact that it is instrumental in delivering half of all the children born in the U.S. makes it particularly important for women. This is an especially cruel blow given the fact that under the proposed bill, contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancies would be much less accessible and affordable.
The 10 "essential health benefits" — basic services guaranteed under all insurance plans under Obamacare — was something Republicans have been itching to get rid of since it came into existence.
These benefits include doctors’ services, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, prescription drug coverage, pregnancy and childbirth, mental health services, rehabilitative services and devices, lab work and more —which are disproportionately relied upon by women.
Now, it's up to the states to decide whether the 10 essential health benefits would be required. And it doesn't look good. Before the ACA, 88 percent of plans in the individual market did not cover maternity care.
If a woman would like to purchase private insurance coverage that includes abortion services, under this bill, she would not be permitted to pay for it using tax credits. This would make it extremely expensive to purchase any plans that include abortion, putting it out of reach for so many.
This is technically separate from the health care bill, but just before it passed in the House, the president signed a "religious freedom" executive order creating the possibility that increasing numbers of employers and organizations could opt out of covering contraception on religious grounds.
So start calling your senator ahead of the next vote on this health care bill and schedule that OB-GYN appointment, stat. Things aren't looking great for women right now.
The bill still has a ways to go, but we'll keep this post updated as news becomes available.
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