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7 Ways the Senate Health Care Bill Hurts Women

by Joelle Rosenberg

Last week, after convening in secret for weeks on end, the Senate Republicans finally publicly released their Affordable Care Act repeal legislation — a bill slashing funding for Medicaid and Planned Parenthood in order to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. Trumpcare will leave millions uninsured — and furthers the Trump administration’s war on women’s health.

Senate Healthcare Bill Hurts Women
Image: Molly Adams

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a draft of the Senate’s healthcare bill that shamelessly targets women,” Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said in a statement on Thursday. She continued, listing the women particularly impacted by the legislation: “pregnant women trying to access maternal and pre-natal healthcare; elderly women who make up two-thirds of all Medicaid recipients; and young women trying to access reproductive healthcare.” Without sugarcoating it, Smeal continues: “What can we expect when this bill was drafted by 13 white male Republican Senators who have no understanding, do not seem to care, about what women need to survive?”

These are just seven ways the Senate healthcare bill will hurt women.

1. It defunds Planned Parenthood

Currently, 2.4 million people use Planned Parenthood every year for various health care needs such as cancer screenings, birth control, sex education, STI testing, pregnancy check-ups and more. The BCRA temporarily bans funding for Planned Parenthood for one year. If this bill passes, the 20 percent of women in the U.S. who rely on Planned Parenthood as their main health care provider could find themselves without access to critical sexual and reproductive health services.

2. It cuts Medicaid

The 74 million people who rely on Medicaid are in danger of losing their coverage under the BCRA — and nearly 17 million of them are non-elderly women. Medicaid covers 1 in 5 women who are of reproductive age and gives them access to safe and affordable reproductive care, from pap smears to birth control to mammograms. According to a previous study, Medicaid covers 45 percent of the nearly 40 million births in the U.S. each year. By stopping the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program and cutting Medicaid funding, the BCRA leaves low-income women without access to the essential health care they need.

3. …and Medicaid is no longer required to cover mental health services

In the last year, 23.8 percent of women in the U.S have experienced a diagnosable mental health issue. Mental illness is a problem that disproportionately affects women and ranges from issues like depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and trauma or PTSD. Low-income women with mental illness will no longer be able to receive the proper medication needed to keep them stable through their insurance, and instead will be forced to pay out of pocket, where a month’s prescription could cost upward of $200 per month.

4. States can now let insurers opt out of covering “pre-existing conditions”

Under the ACA, patients could only be given premium calculations based on general factors such as income, age and location — but under the Senate bill, it would be up to the states to decide whether or not insurance providers choose to provide this coverage. Many so-called pre-existing conditions are tied to gender, and ruling them out disproportionately targets women. Others have no way of being prevented without putting a woman’s life in danger, such as a medically necessary C-section. Others still — like sexual assault and domestic violence — can force women to choose between seeking justice for abuse and sexual violence through the legal system or finding health care.

5. …and states can waive essential health benefit requirements

Basic benefits such as hospital visits and maternity care would not necessarily be covered by insurers under the BCRA. Without basic health care coverage, a pregnancy can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. An emergency room visit could cost up to $1,200, even if it is just three stitches. Under the BCRA, states will have the power to decide whether insurers can deny care to individuals who pursue certain types of essential care — including maternity coverage.

6. It eliminates the ACA’s employer mandate

Many women rely on employer-provided insurance for basic health care needs as well as reproductive and maternal care. Under the BCRA, employers would be able to decide whether or not they want to provide coverage to their employees at all, with the possibility of a woman not even being able to get birth control coverage if her employer disagrees with it.

7. It cuts off some of the support systems that helped Americans afford coverage

The ACA set into motion a system in which middle- and low-income people could be eligible for purchasing tax credits from private health insurers. These credits acted as subsidies, which helped poorer Americans make ends meet while also finding a plan that fit their needs. More than 18 million women live in poverty in the U.S. — at rates higher than those of their male counterparts. Most of them are women of color, working low-wage jobs and raising families. Of the 14.7 percent of women living below the poverty line, most will no longer be eligible for tax credits — and thusly will struggle to obtain full health coverage and insurance.

Eighty-three percent of voters have said that they do not support the GOP health care plan and do not want Obamacare to be repealed. Research indicates there there is not one single U.S. state in which a majority of residents support the House repeal legislation, which overlaps considerably with the BCRA.

This is not the Trump administration’s first attempt to repeal the ACA, and people across the U.S. have been rallying and protesting in support of the law since his election. Now, they’re ramping up their efforts. Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood held rallies nationwide in protest of attacks on women’s health care. This morning, ADAPT, a disability advocacy organization, held a die-in protest outside of the White House. The Feminist Majority Foundation has launched a Feminists Fight Back campaign currently focused on pushing back against Trumpcare and saving Medicaid.

The resistance has only just begun — and we have a long way to go. This is a marathon, not a sprint. As Smeal said in her statement today, “Feminists have to fight back, we have no other choice.”

Originally published on Ms. Magazine.

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