The Senate Health Care Bill Would Punish Women For Getting Pregnant

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UPDATE: The Washington Examiner clarifies that the health care bill would not cut pregnant women from Medicaid. The bill distinguishes between pregnant women, who were already covered, and the new expansion population. Pregnant women are not included in the expansion population because they are already eligible for Medicaid. The Senate health care bill, however, would not require insurance companies to cover maternity care.

EARLIER: Republican senators released a draft of the much-awaited health care bill on Thursday after weeks of planning. One of the most disturbing elements of the Senate health care bill is that it punishes pregnant women, since the drastic cuts to Medicaid funding in the bill includes terms that disqualify pregnant women from enrolling in the program.

The legislation is known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. Key components of the bill also include scaling down on Obamacare as well as chopping down funding for covering the health care of lower-income Americans.

The stipulation in the bill concerning pregnant women specifically notes that "the term 'expansion-enrollee' means an individual ... who is not pregnant" in point B. Such a denial of health care coverage could be devastating for millions upon millions of American women. To be more precise, a whopping 40 million women rely on Medicaid for various reasons but the primary reasons for utilizing Medicaid centers on maternal health care.

Eligibility expansions are key to note in order to understand why such a cut would be dangerous for women in the United States. There was a time when most adult women could not apply for Medicaid as it was mostly reserved for children, seniors, and disabled people. Around the 1980s and 1990s, eligibility was expanded to adult women leading to more accessible health care benefits, especially for women from the lower-income bracket of society.

About 53 percent of those covered by Medicaid are women, and nearly half of this 53 percent has long-term conditions which Medicaid takes care of. Most importantly, millions of these women in America require Medicaid for fundamental coverage concerning reproductive health care as well as family planning and medical assistance surrounding pregnancies. Maternity care offers mothers a helping hand in giving their newborns a wholesome and secure beginning to life.

Family planning, in particular, is an incredibly significant element of Medicaid health coverage as it frequently helps women going through unplanned pregnancies. By helping such women who often come from low-income backgrounds, Medicaid provides an undeniably vital form of assistance and hope for millions. Without it, lives — of both mothers and children — will become endangered.

At this moment, the bill awaits an uncertain future ahead of itself. That is because it is likely to face resistance from both conservative lawmakers as well as moderates. Conservative lawmakers take issue with the bill and seek to have it repeal Obamacare entirely. For moderates, the issue with the bill pertains to the cuts to Medicaid expenditure. Hopefully, valid criticism against the bill’s attack on pregnant women will yield a desperately-needed change in the legislation.