After seven years of grandstanding and hand-wringing, this is the best Republicans could come up with?
The GOP answer to the Affordable Care Act was unveiled only yesterday, and it’s already about as big a hit as New Coke. Nobody seems to like it or even see it as an improvement over what we already have, save Paul Ryan and the underlings whose job it is to convince the public that they agree with Paul Ryan. Liberals hate it. Conservatives hate it. And low-income Americans will definitely hate it, once they realize what’s in it.
As policy analysts wade their way through the 123-page bill in an attempt to glean its exact ins and outs, one thing is clear: this bill is not kind to women. In fact, portions of it read as though Republican lawmakers deliberately set out to make having female reproductive parts even more of an expensive headache than it already is. The AHCA contains several ways in which low-income women could be further encumbered with higher healthcare costs and fewer choices.
The GOP’s plan guts the Medicaid expansion, defunds Planned Parenthood, and sunsets a federal rule that requires that qualified insurance plans cover things like mental health care, maternity care, and pediatric dental and vision care, among other things. That means that states could individually choose not to require insurance plans to cover maternity care, and that women who are planning on having a child would need to purchase special insurance riders, which would likely be prohibitively expensive. Further, the fate of the ACA’s birth control mandate—which allowed women to obtain contraception at no out-of-pocket cost, ostensibly because making it extremely easy for a woman to not get pregnant is more cost effective than dealing with a woman who is pregnant and does not want to be—is also up in the air.
In short, if the House GOP plan were signed into law as-is, women could face financial repercussions for being poor, or for using birth control, or for not using birth control, or for giving birth, or for having children who need medical care. How many iPhones does an out-of-pocket Cesarean Section cost?
Stephanie Glover, senior policy analyst at the National Partnership for Women and Families, lays out the AHCA’s one-two-three-four punch to women’s health thusly: “One by one this would be really bad for women’s health. Packaged in a single bill is pretty alarming.”
Glover believes that the bill, if enacted, would harm the financial health of families and make it more difficult for women to choose their own health care providers.
NARAL, unsurprisingly, isn’t too keen on the proposal, either. A prepared statement from the pro-choice organization called the proposal a “dangerous” collection of “greatest hits of failed Republican proposals.”
It’s also not clear who will be paying for health care for poor women and their families under this new plan, if not insurance or government assistance. Money does not simply materialize because Paul Ryan thinks freedom is the ability to buy things. Prior to the passage of the ACA, the poor and uninsured waited to seek health care until it was serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. Then, because they had no way to pay the bill, they’d skip out on it. Which drove the price of other people’s health care up. One way or another, unless doctors are suddenly supposed to turn a blind eye to women who can’t afford reproductive health care giving birth in the streets, somebody is going to pay for their health care.
The GOP bill is, at best, a less-good version of the flawed bill it was supposed to replace. Liberals, moderates, and conservative Senators alike are balking at the notion of passing it through as-is. But the architects behind the House bill clearly aren’t totally stupid; they must have had an inkling that some of the legislation’s wackier aspects would be cut.
Why, then, would House Republicans include so much language in their bill that specifically targeted the poor and/or female, unless it was to throw red meat to a base that wanted to see those groups punished? And what does that say about the moral character of their base?
For all of its flaws, at least the Affordable Care Act gave women relief from the nightmare of the unfettered insurance market, from politicians’ short-sighted attempts to charge men and women different prices for health care. As though having female body parts is a choice. As though men don’t owe their lives and existence to the bodies of women.
Maybe it’s time for a second opinion.