Despite their failure to gain enough votes this week to bring it to a vote, GOP leaders in the Senate are continuing to rush revisions to their disastrous health bill in the hope of voting it through quickly.
Crafted in secret by 13 white male senators, the health repeal bill is just as cruel as we expected. However its Republican supporters try to spin it, there's no denying that this bill, at its core, robs the health care of low-income people, women, people of color and people with disabilities to pay for huge tax cuts for the super-wealthy.
If passed, this legislation would continue the process of rolling back birth control coverage, create yet more bans on insurance coverage for abortion, and end Medicaid as we know it. And instead of listening to the outpouring of concerns from constituents or the advice of doctors, nurses and health care experts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump are continuing to try to jam this bill through Congress.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made groundbreaking improvements to health coverage across the board. Perhaps none were greater -- and have more public support -- than the health care provisions and protections for women. Yet, the Senate's ACA repeal proposal would roll back this progress and then drag us further backward, banning reimbursements to Planned Parenthood, decimating Medicaid insurance coverage and vastly expanding restrictions on abortion coverage.
The bill rips Medicaid coverage from low-income people. It allows states to use per capita caps or block grants, which would threaten health care coverage and benefits for tens of millions of people, ends Medicaid expansion in 2023, and in the meantime, takes away coverage for necessary services for those who are currently enrolled. By ending coverage of essential health benefits for those enrolled in the Medicaid expansion, the bill eliminates the nationwide guarantee of women's health services, including maternity coverage.
As an added insult to mothers, the bill would penalize a woman who isn't back at work 60 days after giving birth -- regardless of her health or her infant's needs.
In an attempt to justify the bill's passage, the Trump-Pence administration and anti-abortion members of Congress have returned to a well-worn misinformation campaign about Planned Parenthood. At the root of this deception is the myth that the reimbursements Planned Parenthood receives for providing birth control services are the same thing as insurance coverage for abortion.
While anti-abortion politicians claim their support for the ACA repeal bill is contingent on inclusion of restrictions on abortion coverage and Planned Parenthood reimbursements, the public opposes restrictions on both. Further, the claim that one equals the other is flatly untrue.
Congress has already enacted bans on nearly all public health coverage for abortion within the federal budget, so also ending Planned Parenthood reimbursements for other services would have no bearing on abortion coverage. Cutting reimbursements to Planned Parenthood or other community providers really means politicians are ending insurance reimbursements for birth control, STI screenings and prevention, cancer screenings and other care.
Preventive care and diagnosing illnesses like cancer early on is not only good medicine, it also saves lives and cuts costs. Taking reimbursement funds away from Planned Parenthood means taking this necessary care away from women who need it. Anti-abortion politicians already did this in Texas, and the effects on women's health have been grave: an increase in rates of unintended pregnancy and maternal deaths.
Make no mistake: The ACA repeal bill also takes away abortion coverage. The bill would expand abortion coverage bans, which could affect virtually all women, including those enrolled in private insurance, and penalize private health insurance companies that offer a full range of reproductive health services, including abortion.
In the end, low-income people and communities of color will bear the brunt of these cruel political games. Abortion coverage restrictions are intended to push abortion out of reach for those struggling to make ends meet. Medicaid insurance is a particularly important health program for low-income people and women of color, providing access to the types of services that combat pervasive health disparities. And Planned Parenthood is the sole local provider of affordable contraception for many.
So, let's review: A baker's dozen of extreme, out-of-touch male politicians created a scheme to take away health coverage and affordable reproductive care from millions of women. If you are reading this, you or someone you love will be hurt by this bill. And it's our job to stop them.
We need a health care system that ensures that each of us can get the care we need -- not one that makes birth control unaffordable, abortion coverage unavailable, penalizes women for having children by capping critically needed Medicaid services, and forces new moms back to work before they're ready. We have to fight back -- or one day you or someone you care about will wake up, need health care and have nowhere to turn.
We also need to fight for the world women and families need to thrive, and that includes health coverage -- including abortion coverage -- for all, whatever our income, employment, immigration status, or zip code.