Health care—it’s a hot button issue that has been subject to heavy debate within recent months. There are many dynamic perspectives, and people tend to stand firmly by their individual viewpoints. Though passion and civic engagement are certainly to be appreciated, the current polarized state of politics in the United States has generated a friction that makes candid, thoughtful dialogue about health care more difficult. As asserted in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “future changes in health policy are related more to the extent of political polarization between the parties on health care issues than to the importance of the issue itself.” Thus, there seems to be a rush to both criticism and defense of proposed legislation along party lines, rather than a comprehensive, objective examination of the plan.
Politics aside, one notion that we should all be able to agree on is that healthy individuals lead to an overall healthier, happier, and more productive society and that all portions of the population are deserving of wellness. Having said that, let’s take a closer look at how the current proposed legislation—The American Health Care Act (AHCA)—affects women. The Be a Rose mission is to improve women’s access to health and hygiene resources and education. We seek not to exemplify partisan divides that hinder dialogue and disparage opposing viewpoints. Rather, Be a Rose aims to expand the conversation around women’s health. By challenging stigmas and shedding light on areas of inequity, we hope that people may feel empowered and encouraged to participate in a collaborative effort to address and resolve these issues, regardless of political affiliation.
Let’s first examine effects of pre-existing conditions. The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) denied states from charging higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions. The American Health Care Act removes that stipulation, and though the law maintains that coverage may not be denied entirely from those with pre-existing conditions, it allows states to deny coverage for many of the treatments required to manage these conditions while subjecting the premiums to unaffordable rate increases, essentially removing those high-risk individuals from the market. This means that many common medical conditions, experiences, and needs faced by millions of people could prevent them from receiving affordable, quality care. For women, these conditions include pregnancy, fertility treatments, Cesarean sections, breast cancer, uterine cancer, menstrual irregularities, and physical and mental care resulting from domestic or sexual abuse.
Next, let’s talk Planned Parenthood. With the understanding that this is an area of controversy, this fact is important to make clear: abortion is already excluded from federal funding, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger of the woman’s life. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood means denying Medicaid reimbursements, which places low-income women at risk of losing access to birth control, preventive care, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases. For these women, as well as their children, there may be devastating (and costly) effects on their long-term health.
In addition to the effects on individuals’ long-term health and quality of life, it’s important to consider the long-term effects on the United States workforce. Women comprise nearly half of the United States labor force and are projected to continue expanding in participation. However, with the restrictions the AHCA places on women, the impact on the workforce may be seen first within those statistics. A healthy and thriving economy depends on healthy individuals within the labor force, and this affects all portions of the population. While the AHCA might initially show economic expediency, those savings may be offset by losses in productivity and participation in the workforce.
Ultimately, what we at Be a Rose are asking for is a more open and thorough conversation around these (and other) important issues of the AHCA. If this is an approach to save federal dollars, are we considering the long-term effects of these changes on our economy? Are boundaries and barriers being placed disproportionately on different portions of the population? Is our government demonstrating the values we want to embrace and reflect as a country?
Let’s talk! Talk to each other. Talk to us. Talk to your senators.
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By: Aanee Kai