If you are an American woman, be afraid of the Trump administration’s latest attempts to repeal Obamacare.
If you are an American woman living in poverty, be very afraid.
Connecticut has taken note. During the legislative session that just ended, the Connecticut Senate unanimously voted to protect 21 health benefits (such as contraceptives and mammograms) that Trumpcare would obliterate.
Sadly, that bill died in the House.
We are left with a blighted piece of legislation—which the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed last month—that has poor women in the crosshairs. Alternately known as the American Health Care Act or Trumpcare, this iteration follows a failed attempt that was withdrawn earlier for lack of Congressional support. This most recent effort now rests in the Senate, though that body is not being terribly transparent about what they are planning.
This much is obvious: Trumpcare is an attack on women’s healthcare, particularly preventive care, prenatal care, and contraceptives. This attempt again attacks one of the country’s leading healthcare providers to women living in poverty, Planned Parenthood, with a proposed federal ban on Medicaid funding to the organization to the tune of about $500 million a year.
A reminder: Abortion is legal in this country, and just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s efforts are devoted to abortion services, according to a 2015 Government Accounting Office report. Because of the Hyde Amendment, federal funds can’t go toward abortion services, anyway.
As for the rest of the organization’s services, 41 percent of their work goes to testing for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, while 34 percent went to contraceptive services, among other medical care, according to that same report, which said that 79 percent of the people who visit a local Planned Parenthood office “had incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.”
This administration has also suggested employers could file for exemptions if providing contraceptive coverage violated their religious beliefs. This suggestion has been roundly criticized by Connecticut’s Washington delegation, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who suggested Republicans “stop their attacks on the Affordable Care Act [ACA] and women’s health once and for all.”
That’s not likely to happen. Trumpcare would eliminate the ACA’s 10 Essential Health Benefits, which besides birth control include, for women, maternity and newborn care, and preventive care, including cervical cancer screenings and mammograms. Thanks to Obamacare, according to the National Women’s Law Center, in 2011 an estimated 361,000 Connecticut women received preventive services without a co-payment.
The newest Trumpcare also allows states to waive community rating by insurers, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. That would hit hardest people living with pre-existing conditions—particularly the kind of pre-existing conditions that affect women. Insurers have historically included in that list sexual assault, domestic violence, postpartum depression, pregnancy, and Caesarean sections. That leaves affected women with higher premiums—or no coverage at all.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and President Trump insist that preexisting conditions won’t be a barrier to coverage, but under Trumpcare, that’s only if the person seeking insurance has had continuous coverage. Anyone who has been without insurance for 63 days or more will face a penalty higher than the penalty for not having insurance under the ACA, according to The Commonwealth Fund. In 2015, roughly 27.4 million people experienced a gap in coverage of more than a few months, according to National Health Interview Survey.
A recent Institute for Women’s Policy Research study said that Connecticut is among the 10 top best states for women’s health, based largely on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s under the ACA. The Center for American Progress’ TalkPoverty.org says the state has a poverty rate of 10.5 percent, with a poverty rate among working-age women of 11.2 percent. These women are uniquely vulnerable to the vagaries of bad healthcare legislation like Trumpcare.
Susan Campbell is a distinguished lecturer at the University of New Haven. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.