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Short End of the Stick for Women Under GOP Health Care Bill

Millions of women wouldn't be able to access medical services under the new GOP health-care plan. (cdc.gov)
Millions of women wouldn't be able to access medical services under the new GOP health-care plan. (cdc.gov)
June 28, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS - After weeks of closed-door meetings, Senate Republicans last week released their version of legislation to repeal Obamacare. According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office, it would leave 22 million people without insurance by 2026.

GOP leaders have claimed the plan will stabilize insurance markets, remove mandates and provide flexibility for states. However, Janele George, director of federal reproductive health for the National Women's Law Center, disagreed, arguing that the plan drastically cuts Medicaid, defunds women's health centers and denies abortion coverage to those who get their insurance through the health exchanges or who receive tax subsidies.

"By devastating the Medicaid program, taking away the ability of folks to access services at Planned Parenthood, making the essential health benefits optional," she said, "it would put affordable health care out of reach for many individuals and families."

George added that millions of Medicaid enrollees would not be able to access critical services including birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., called the GOP plan "disgraceful" and Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., used the word "shameful."

Medicaid currently covers about half of all births and accounts for three-quarters of all public dollars spent on family planning. Adam Sonfield, senior policy manager for the Guttmacher Institute, said family-planning services are critical for long-term health by helping women plan for children and avoid unintended pregnancies.

"We know that's important from a health point of view, because pregnancy spacing helps to avoid pre-term and low-birthweight births," he said. "It helps people to prepare for their pregnancies, so that they can become healthy before they get pregnant and to get chronic conditions under control."

George noted that she also is concerned because the bill allows what are known as "13-32 waivers," under which states could make changes to the essential health benefits insurers now must cover, "including maternity services and preventive services.

"Not only is this bill stripping that away for folks who are covered under Medicaid expansion," she said, "but under the 13-32 waivers, we could see other folks have their health care impacted as well."

On the private-insurance side, Sonfield said, there would be massive cuts to subsidies that make coverage affordable for some people who have to buy insurance on their own rather than through an employer.

The bill's text is online at budget.senate.gov.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN