Republican senators released a draft of their highly anticipated health care bill on Thursday afternoon after weeks of seclusion and planning — and the new health care bill has serious ramifications for millennial women. From steep cuts to Medicaid funding to rollbacks on women's health care, the new bill, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, could be detrimental for women across the country if implemented.
The bill was drafted by 13 men and no women. Amid heavy criticisms, a GOP aide defended the makeup of the group that wrote the bill, telling CNN in early May, "To reduce this to gender, race or geography misses the more important point of the diverse segments of the conference the group represents on policy — from members who support Medicaid expansion, to those opposed to it, to those who have called for long term full repeal."
The Senate measure, like the bill passed by the House last month, intends to phase out the extra funds that are provided to states by the federal government as an incentive to expand Medicaid eligibility. Instead, it would place the entire Medicaid program on a budget — essentially slashing the program by almost a trillion dollars, according to The Washington Post. These cuts would affect all aspects of health coverage, from children's basic health care to services for women's health.
From the Medicaid cuts to other services that would be negatively impacted if the Senate health care bill were to pass, here's what the legislation means for millennial women.
Mental Health Services
Medicaid is the largest payer of mental health services in the country, and if diminished, could potentially leave millions of millennial women without coverage for programs like therapy or substance use disorder services.
According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, prices could potentially even increase for mental health and substance use disorder treatments if the legislation went into effect.
Another barrier for millennial women is the bill's attempt to defund Planned Parenthood for a year, despite the organization providing a host of health services. According to the bill, groups that provide abortions, reproductive care, or are focused on family planning services will be excluded from receiving federal dollars if their receipts surpassed $350 million in 2014.
Essentially, a low-income woman on Medicaid would not be permitted to go to Planned Parenthood and seek health care services. "Slashing Medicaid and blocking millions of women from getting preventive care at Planned Parenthood is beyond heartless," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a statement. "One in five women in this country rely on Planned Parenthood for care. They will not stay silent as politicians vote to take away their care and their rights."
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have already said they refused to support the legislation if it cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
While the Senate bill does provide some protections for women with pre-existing conditions, by requiring insurers to offer coverage and provide the same premiums as everyone else, the plan would permit states to waive Obamacare regulations known as essential health benefits. As a result, states can set their own essential benefits, while insurance providers would be permitted to exclude certain benefits from their coverage.
In other words, and to drive down costs, insurance providers could abandon coverage of expensive treatments and choose to insure only healthier customers. Services or benefits likely to be excluded, according to a CBO prediction, include maternity care, mental health and substance abuse benefits, and rehabilitative and habilitative services.
Pregnancy & Related Health Services
Medicaid plays a critical role in financing health care services and providing access to various sexual and reproductive health services for low-income women of childbearing age. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, among the 19.4 million women aged 15 or older who received full Medicaid benefits in 2011, 70 percent of them were between the ages of 15 and 49, which are considered the "reproductive years."
The Foundation also reported that Medicaid was the largest source of public funding for family planning services, such as pregnancy-related care. Medicaid paid for half of all births for low-income women — including two-thirds of unplanned births, according to Vox.
Medicaid also provides services like birth control, cancer screenings, and prenatal care.
The bill would significantly lessen funding for drug and addiction treatment by discarding rules that require insurers to cover addiction treatment while the country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. While the bill would provide $2 billion in funding in 2018 to stymy the crisis, GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia had requested $45 billion over the next decade to curb the opioid crisis, which kills more people per year than gun violence or automobile accidents, Vice reported.
And while the $2 billion is intended to "provide grants to States to support substance use disorder treatment and recovery support services for individuals with mental or substance use disorders," former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in an op-ed for USA Today that senators might "earmark some funding specifically for addiction treatment but, realistically, it won't be enough to cover the vast numbers who would lose access to treatment."
"Even more important, such an approach ignores a fundamental reality that addiction is rarely an isolated condition," Murthy added. "Many people living with substance use disorders need comprehensive insurance to treat related health conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and depression."
In other efforts to hinder a women's access to abortions, the bill would ban women from using their tax credits to buy health plans that cover abortion and would dissuade employers from offering coverage that includes abortion services. It also slashes federal family funds for birth control, STD testing, and cancer screening for organizations that provide abortions.
Millennial women might be alarmed by how they could be affected by the Senate's unveiled health care bill. Those who want to speak out can take action by calling their senators.