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GOP Health Plan Faces Criticism for Family-Planning Cuts

Family planning services could face big changes under the Republican health-care proposal in the U.S. Senate. (Pixabay)
Family planning services could face big changes under the Republican health-care proposal in the U.S. Senate. (Pixabay)
June 26, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. – After weeks of closed-door meetings, Senate Republicans released their legislation last week to repeal Obamacare.

Republicans claim the plan will stabilize insurance markets, remove mandates and provide flexibility for states.

But Janele George, director of federal reproductive health for the National Women's Law Center disagrees.

She argues 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, it would put affordable health care out of reach for many individuals and families," she explains.

George adds 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.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been an outspoken opponent of the bill, although his view is that it doesn't go far enough to cut federal health-care spending. It could be voted on this week.

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 with the Guttmacher Institute, says 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 says. "It helps people to prepare for their pregnancies so that they can become healthy before they get pregnant and get chronic conditions under control."

George notes she's also concerned because the bill allows what is 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<' George adds. "Not only is this bill stripping that away for folks who are covered under Medicaid expansion, but under the 1332 waivers, we could see other folks have their health care impacted as well."

On the private insurance side, Sonfield adds 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.

"In ways that will make it a lot harder for particularly low-income people to be able to afford to buy that coverage, and then to be able to afford to use that coverage, because they'll have plans that include really high deductibles and really high co-payments," Sonfield laments.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY