Congress is set to review a new plan to replace and repeal Obamacare—a move that could have far-reaching effects on women's health care coverage. Here's what you need to know.
The Trump Administration is moving forward with a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a new health care plan set to be presented to Congress this week. President Trump, who promised throughout his campaign to abolish Obamacare, is openly pumped, calling it "our wonderful new Healthcare Bill" in a recent tweet.
So what exactly does this new plan look like?
While the bill does keep some of its predecessor's points, including allowing children to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26, unsurprisingly, it will be different from Obamacare in many ways. For one, it eliminates the mandate that every individual must have health insurance as well as the tax on people who refuse to get it. For women, who benefited in a variety of ways from the ACA's expanded coverage, it could be a serious blow to the health care system they're used to. The details:
1. Some maternity services may not be covered.
A major focus of the ACA was expanding coverage of women's health services. It demanded that insurers cover 26 essential health benefits for women, including crucial maternity services like folic acid supplements and screening for gestational diabetes. Before Obamacare, private insurers often didn't cover these services. Without a mandate, they can cut them from a benefits package without being penalized by the government. For pregnant women, especially those who can't afford "preventive" visits to the doctor, this is not only disheartening but dangerous.
2. Underprivileged women may lose access to care.
One of the biggest changes in the bill is a reduction in the amount of support going to Medicaid—which covers more than 70 million people, including women, children, and elderly who cannot afford health care otherwise. Expanding Medicaid was one of President Obama's main priorities with the ACA, offering billions of dollars of additional funding. The change helped more than 16 million uninsured individuals get health care in the 32 states that adopted this expanded coverage. Now, these same states risk losing billions of dollars, leaving the most vulnerable Americans without a safety net.
3. "Pre-existing conditions" such as pregnancy are still not an acceptable reason to refuse coverage.
One vital regulation in Obamacare that was saved in this new replacement plan is a mandate that says insurance companies cannot turn away people because of pre-existing conditions—a wide-ranging list that includes Crohn's disease, pregnancy, transsexualism, obesity, and mental disorders. Considering the Department of Health and Human Services previously estimated that 129 million Americans under the age of 65 have conditions that could qualify as "pre-existing," this is an important provision that affects households nationwide.
4. Birth control will no longer be free.
In the wake of Trump's election, the number of women requesting IUDs skyrocketed, with Planned Parenthood reporting a staggering 900 percent increased interest in this method of birth control. The move was inspired by Trump's promise to repeal Obamacare, which would eliminate one of the most popular facets of the plan: free contraception for women. Sixty-two percent of women 15 to 44 use birth control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—which is to say, this could affect a massive chunk of the population. Those opting to get IUDs ahead of the repeal were looking to avoid the anywhere from $500 to $900 cost of the device and implant procedure.
5. Planned Parenthood may be forced to close.
For women living below the poverty line, Planned Parenthood provides the most viable option for free or low-cost life-saving screenings such as pap smears, BRCA testing, and mammograms. With its 650 health centers, Planned Parenthood serves more than 2.5 million people across the United States. Trump's plan cuts off federal funds—including a whopping $530 million in Medicaid reimbursements that it relies on as its main source of income. President Trump privately offered to protect Planned Parenthood's Medicaid reimbursements if it stopped performing abortions—which make up just 3 percent of the services the organization provides—but the organization declined. Due to the Hyde Amendment, abortions that the organization performs are already not covered by federal funds.