After the House of Representatives passed a bill that would repeal and replace several parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Thursday, Republican lawmakers got one step closer to dismantling the Obama administration's healthcare policy. The House bill still has to make its way through the Senate, but the legislation leaves women with some troubling news. For instance, the GOP healthcare plan could make your period a preexisting condition — which means that insurance coverage for women with certain menstrual symptoms could get very expensive.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), pre-ACA insurance underwriting practices could have driven up the price of insurance for individuals with "menstrual irregularities." Last December, KFF published a report that revealed the ways that medical insurance underwriters evaluated individuals before the ACA. The ACA mandated that insurance companies could not deny coverage or charge more because of such preexisting conditions as cancer, paralysis, or even being transgender. If GOP lawmakers successfully remove that condition of the ACA, then insurance underwriting practices could be back on the table.
The KFF report identified "menstrual irregularities" as an "adverse underwriting action." In other words, insurance companies couldn't deny coverage because of an abnormal menstrual cycle, but they could take actions such as charging more for coverage, excluding coverage for that particular condition from an overall policy, or increasing a policyholder's deductible.
It's not clear exactly what symptoms an insurance underwriter would consider to be "menstrual irregularities." The KFF report does not offer a definition, but other sources provide some suggestions. According to the National Institutes of Health, for example, the most common menstrual irregularities include heavy periods, prolonged bleeding, spotting, and frequent periods. In other words, if your period bleeding lasts more than eight days or occurs fewer than 21 days apart on a regular basis, your symptoms could be deemed "irregular" by your insurance provider.
Before the ACA went into effect, women reportedly paid up to 1.5 times more for health insurance than men. In fact, according to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, higher insurance prices cost U.S. women up to $1 billion annually before Obamacare made charging for preexisting conditions illegal. Even with the ACA on the books, healthcare costs may have been higher for women. Healthcare company Vitals reported last year that women pay 69 percent more than men in out-of-pocket healthcare costs, thanks to services like mammograms, tubal ligation (aka "getting your tubes tied"), and even knee replacements.
If the GOP healthcare bill passed on Thursday makes its way to the books, then being a woman could again become more expensive. All it could take for insurance companies to charge more for a woman's coverage is a heavy period or irregular spotting. It's as if being a woman weren't hard enough already.