Ever since Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2011, they have voted tirelessly to repeal the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). And according to Julie Davis at the New York Times, one of President Trump’s first executive orders was to give federal agencies the power and latitude to change, waive, or delay parts of the law that may be deemed costly to insurers, drug-makers, doctors, patients, or states.
With the Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House, an ACA repeal seems likely. While the repeal may affect a large portion of the U.S. population, it has the ability to disproportionately affect women.
One of the major components of the Affordable Care Act was the Birth Control Mandate. This piece of the law made preventative birth control, such as IUDs and the Pill, available for insured persons with no co-pay required. If a repeal and replace were to occur, I fear this would be one of the first pieces of the landmark legislation to go.
The Department of Health and Human Services may not even have to wait for a full repeal to take place. As mentioned above, Trump’s executive order could allow the department, and its Secretary, Tom Price, to change how it defines preventative healthcare for women thus allowing insurers to start charging co-pays on birth control drugs.
Olga Khazan quotes Price in The Atlantic as saying, “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one. The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country,” in response to the Birth Control Mandate in 2012. And now, this man will be leading the Department of Health and Human Services and have almost unilateral control over how this part of the law is executed.
Women will face other issues if an ACA repeal takes place. Due to the healthcare law, insurers were not allowed to charge women more for their coverage simply because they are women, according the New York Times, this was common practice before the ACA took effect.
Furthermore, the ACA provided that women had to be covered for preventative care like cancer screenings as well as maternity care. Before the ACA, maternity care was not a standard part of most insurance plans and it could cause insurance premiums to double if a patient wanted that coverage added. Women can expect to pay more for the health services that they now participate in if a repeal were to take place.
President Trump has made it clear that he plans on repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with another plan. As of now, details of that plan have not been made available.
As someone with no specialized knowledge in insurance, legalese, or medicine, I would offer this free advice to whoever drafts the new law: Remember those in need and that the true cost of most things is not money.