Critics on GOP Health Care Bill: What about Women?

Critics of the now-delayed GOP health care bill say it would restrict many women's access to medical services.

The plan by Senate Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act is on hold for now. 

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote on the GOP’s overhaul plan of the ACA, or Obamacare, amid dwindling support from rank-and-file Republicans. 

GOP leaders maintain the plan will stabilize insurance markets, remove mandates and provide flexibility for states. 

But Janele George, director of federal reproductive rights and 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 states.

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.

“Disgraceful” 

Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland calls the GOP plan “disgraceful,” and Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland uses the word “shameful.” Both are Democrats.

Medicaid currently covers about half of all births and accounts for 75 percent of all public dollars spent on family planning. 

Adam Sonfield, senior policy manager for 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 birth-weight births,” he states. “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 notes she’s also concerned because the bill allows what are known as 1332 waivers, under which states could make changes to the essential health benefits insurers now must cover.

“Including maternity services and preventive services,” she points out. “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,” he explains.

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