Why The Senate Health Care Bill Will Devastate Single Women
Last week, Senate Republicans finally revealed a new version of their health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Like the previous Senate version of Trumpcare, the bill would raise family health care costs, gut Medicaid, and cut funding for Planned Parenthood. On Monday, former Vice President Joe Biden described the denial of basic health care access as enough "to make your blood boil."
However, the Senate health care bill has especially alarming repercussions for women — particularly single women.
Single women in America already face serious challenges, from higher unemployment rates to being more likely to experience poverty — despite making up one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in this country. In 2016, unmarried women were disproportionately represented in lower income categories, with 63 percent of women making less than $25,000, according to the Voter Participation Center's report on unmarried women in America.
The wealth gap is especially noticeable in the workplace: In 2015, full-time female employees made only 80 percent of their male counterparts, according to a 2017 study by the Roosevelt Institute. These wage disparities particularly impact minority women. Black women only made 76 percent of the earnings of white women, while Latina women made 70 percent of white women's wages.
"Single women are already in an economically worse-off condition than married women, and we know that fewer people are choosing to marry, so more and more women are single later in life, and more women are single parents," Andrea Flynn, a women's economic security policy expert and Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, tells Bustle. "So just the sheer economic conditions that single women experience puts them at a disproportionate risk by this health bill."
One of the biggest challenges facing single women if the Senate health care bill became law would be lack of access to services provided by Medicaid, a program the bill would cut deeply. More than 25 million women rely on Medicaid and it acts as the country's single largest provider of reproductive health care coverage. In an analysis of the original Senate bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would result in $772 billion in cuts to Medicaid spending by 2026.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who expressed opposition for the bill, described Medicaid as, "a safety net program on the books for more than 50 years, ensuring that some of our most vulnerable citizens, our disabled children, our low-income seniors, receive the health care they need," in an interview with ABC's "This Week." She said about eight to 10 Republican senators have deep concerns about the bill.
In total, one out of every five American women of reproductive age uses Medicaid to access basic care.
[Single women] will be devastated and, frankly, more of them will go without health care, and more of them will die."
Another detrimental aspect of the bill are the threats to Planned Parenthood. The updated bill intends to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding for an entire year. It would also block Medicaid patients from accessing critical Planned Parenthood services, like cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control. Worldwide, Planned Parenthood offers sexual and reproductive health care, education, and outreach to nearly 5 million people per year.
"With this latest version of Trumpcare, Americans will pay more and get less, but women will pay the biggest price of all," Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement. "This is, hands down, the worst bill for women in a generation, especially for low-income women and women of color."
Abbey Marr, a state policy analyst with the organization Advocates for Youth, tells Bustle she's particularly concerned about how the bill will impact single millennial mothers, by slashing their ability to access pregnancy care under Medicaid and other services offered by Planned Parenthood.
As a self-described single millennial woman, Marr describes the bill as blatantly disrespectful to her demographic.
In addition to cuts to Planned Parenthood, the bill would also allow states to opt out of the 10 mandatory essential health services — like access to mental health and substance use disorder services, pediatric services, and maternity care — designated by Obama's Affordable Care Act. Instead, individual insurers have the option to sell cheaper, less-comprehensive insurance packages.
"What is covered in our essential health benefits package is so important for women's health and economic wellbeing," Flynn says. "It covers prescription drugs, maternity care, mental healthcare, hospital visits, care for children. There's all of these really basic pieces of healthcare that are guaranteed in the Affordable Care Act and now we're seeing that states will be able to weaken those protections."
Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, the uninsured rate for unmarried women fell from 16.9 percent in 2013 to 11 percent in 2015, according to the Voter Participation Center's report. If the Senate's version of the ACA replacement bill went into effect, millions of these women could lose their health insurance.
Page Gardner, president and founder of the Voter Participation Center, put it bluntly: "[Single women] will be devastated and, frankly, more of them will go without health care, and more of them will die."
Flynn adds that even women with employer-based insurance will be hurt by the bill.
"There are many women who, even though they've known that this is a scary time and that are rights are being threatened, have assumed that their access would be protected and they'd continue to be OK," she says. "And that is just no longer the case. None of our care is safe right now, none of our access to reproductive health care is safe, every component of our care is under attack and we should all be fighting, no matter where we live, how much money we make, and whether or not we used Planned Parenthood."
Flynn, Gardner, and Marr all agree that in today's tumultuous political climate, it is more crucial than ever for single women to call their elected officials and relay their concerns about the bill.
"They are the majority of women," Gardner says about single American women. "Their voices need to be heard loudly and clearly and they need to exercise their power. And, when you exercise your power about policies that you care about and exercise your power in terms of voting, things do begin to change."