Risk to women’s health benefits seen in health law repeal

Risk to women's health benefits seen in health law repeal

WASHINGTON — From a return to higher premiums for women to gaps in coverage for birth control and breast pumps, the Republican push to repeal the Obama-era health care law already is raising concerns that women could be hit hard.

The 2010 law ended a common industry practice of charging women more than men for policies purchased directly from an insurer. It made maternity and newborn care a required benefit for individual market health plans. And it set a list of preventive services to be provided at no extra cost to women, including birth control and breast pumps used by nursing mothers. That preventive care requirement also applies to most employer plans, which serve a majority of U.S. adults.

Nearly half of pregnancies are unplanned, and prior to “Obamacare” some women would get pregnant only to learn that their insurance did not cover maternity and delivery, said Dr. John Meigs, a longtime family practitioner in the small town of Centerville, Ala.

“A lot of women were delaying their prenatal care until they could figure out what to do,” said Meigs, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Pregnancy “is one of those things that ought to be covered, because it happens.”

Democrats are keying in on the issue. “We don’t want our country going backward when it comes to women’s health,” said Sen. Patty Murray, ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Women are widely seen as having benefited from the health law. In a recent AP-NORC poll, 44 per cent said they thought women were better off as a result of the Affordable Care Act, while only 24 per cent said women were worse off.

“The ACA set minimum levels of benefits that health plans have to cover and many are highly used, or exclusively used by women,” said Usha Ranji, a health policy expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “Repeal and replace could take away that minimum level of benefits, which includes really commonly used services like contraception and maternity care.”

Nashville-based singer Rachel Potter worries about what it could mean for her. In the past, she’s been uninsured, but she says she was lucky to be covered under the ACA when she unexpectedly became pregnant last year.

Bleeding early on and other complications sent her to the doctor’s office frequently.

“We were able to monitor the pregnancy really closely,” said Potter. “I was able to go to an amazing OB-GYN and I wouldn’t have had access to that care if I had not been on this insurance.” Her son Jude was born in December and is already on the road with her.

Potter’s medical bill came to more than $40,000 but she only paid about $2,000 of that.

She’s now thinking about getting a long lasting form of birth control while her insurer is still required to cover it at no charge to her. “I don’t know the future of the health insurance situation,” said Potter.

A Trump administration spokesman says speculation about components of an “Obamacare” replacement is premature.

Recently introduced legislation that seeks a middle path on health care would keep some of the Obama-era requirements, but make others a state option.

The bill co-authored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would allow states to keep the ACA or substitute an alternative with fewer federal requirements.

Under that approach, insurance plans in states that pick the alternative would not be required to cover maternity and newborn care. However, plans in all states would have to cover the ACA’s preventive benefits, including birth control. Collins staff said the draft bill is a starting point.

Any changes are most likely to affect the estimated 18 million people who buy policies directly from an insurer, a group in which women tend to outnumber men. Most people covered by employers have broader benefits and are less likely to be affected.

“Obamacare” critics argue that required benefits aren’t the only basis for judging the value of a policy. Strip away costly federal requirements, and premiums will come down, they maintain. Women as well as men would benefit from lower-cost options.

Ranji says the health law made significant improvements on women’s health. Before the law:

— Pregnancy, a prior cesarean-section, a history of domestic violence, or problems with depression could be deemed a pre-existing condition, triggering restrictions on coverage or higher premiums.

— About one-third of plans on the individual insurance market charged women between the age of 25-40 premiums at least 30 per cent higher than men of the same age.

—Only about 12 per cent of plans were available directly to individuals, included maternity care.

— About 20 per cent of women of childbearing age covered by large employers spent some of their own money on birth control pills. Currently it’s fewer than 4 per cent.

___

Kennedy reported from Miami.

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar And Kelli Kennedy, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Kelowna hit and run caught on camera

A dash-cam caught an image a local resident wants everyone to see

Deaf, senior dog gets home after five days lost in the forest

Willow, a Kelowna dog that went missing five days ago, is home.

5 Kelowna photographers you need to follow on Instagram

Check out this week’s list of great local photographers.

B.C.’s devastating 2017 wildfire season revisited in new book

British Columbia Burning written by CBC journalist Bethany Lindsay

Evacuation orders and alerts issued for North Thompson

Some properties in Electoral Area ‘E’ and ‘J’ are asked to leave immediately

Trans Mountain pipeline: How we got here

A look at the Kinder Morgan expansion, decades in the making

MICHAELS: Three hour nightmare on local roads highlights need for change

Bridge travelling folk deserve a decent commute

Writing hits on the pages of the Capital News

This Capital News letter writer has found a recipe to success with Leonard Cohen.

MICHAELS: It’s a different world, enjoy it

The Central Okanagan School District is moving in the right direction with SOGI.

HODGE: Living life and watching hockey tube free again

Charlie Hodge offers his thoughts on recent events once a week in the Capital News.

Suspected scammer attempts to use Black Press newspaper to dupe woman

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre offers tips after Langley resident received suspicious call

Vote points to abortion being legalized in Ireland

Voters asked whether to keep or repeal Eighth Amendment to Roman Catholic Ireland’s Constitution

Canadian soccer officials talk up World Cup bid at Champions League final

Current bid calls for 2026 World Cup games to be staged in the U.S., Canada and Mexico

Most Read