So, the White House and Congressional Republicans finally released their long-awaited healthcare plan last week. This first part of the GOP’s American Health Care Act could have major repercussions when it comes to access to healthcare in this country— and for women’s health, it’s not good. One of the biggest areas of care that stands to be greatly affected? Reproductive healthcare, from beginning to end. Essentially, what this new plan does is decrease access to contraception while increasing childbearing costs.
Here are three ways the plan would affect reproductive health.
1. Abortions will be harder to get and afford.
Currently, health care plans can cover abortions, but plans being paid for with subsidies have to follow certain administrative requirements to ensure that no federal funds go toward abortion, in line with the Hyde Amendment. The GOP bill goes even further: according to NPR, the bill “says that the tax credits at the center of the plan cannot be spent at all on any health care plan that covers abortion (aside from the Hyde Amendment’s exceptions).” What this means is that even though insurance plans can technically cover abortion, very few people will be able to afford to purchase those plans. So most people will have to pay for abortions (which are costly, even early on) out of pocket, making abortion care completely out of reach for many and increasing the likelihood that women will put themselves in danger.
2. Prenatal care will be harder to access, particularly for poor women.
The most devastating part of the AHCA is the slashing of Medicaid. Based on this plan, 4 to 6 million women stand to lose their Medicaid. Given that nearly 1 in 5 women under 64 are insured through Medicaid, this is a significant blow. “Half of all births in this country are covered by Medicaid, including two-thirds of all unplanned births,” Adam Sonfield, a senior policy manager of the Guttmacher Institute, told Salon in an interview. The majority of these women are poor women of color.
But even for women who manage to stay on private insurance, the plan could result in astronomical costs for prenatal care, due in part to the thinking of people like the GOP lawmaker who asked why men should have to pay for maternity coverage, since they don’t have babies. The answer is that insurance works by pooling risks, which means that everyone pays for things they may not necessarily need coverage for. Obamacare mandated coverage for services like prenatal exams, breast pumps, and more—and without some of these provisions, costs even for the most well-insured moms will go up.
3. Planned Parenthood will be defunded, making access to contraception and other necessary services more difficult.
The Republican plan partially defunds Planned Parenthood by cutting the federal money that goes to the healthcare provider. This move will disproportionately impact low-income women. Planned Parenthood provides contraception to many people who otherwise can’t access or afford it. Planned Parenthood clinics also provide necessary reproductive healthcare to many trans folks, who could be denied reproductive healthcare like pap smears and prostate exams. Not only that, by undermining those with pre-existing conditions, trans folks may have a harder time securing coverage because, under the Affordable Care Act, being transgender was seen as a pre-existing condition which meant coverage for trans health services like hormones and gender affirming surgery could not be denied.
And while contraception is still considered a “mandatory benefit” under this new plan, again, if people lose their insurance they won’t be able to access contraception at Planned Parenthood—or anywhere.
For more on the new plan, check out John Oliver’s (NSFW) segment breaking it down.