COLUMBUS – Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies often paid for Viagra but not birth control pills, and some insurers added extra fees for maternity care. But the myriad of benefits the ACA provides to women would be lost under a Republican plan to replace it with one that experts say is unfair and unhealthy.
“When women lose access to reproductive care, maternal health declines and infant mortality rises,’’ Dr. Elinor Brown said during a teach-in today at Capital University. “The Republican repeal plan is dangerous and downright mean.’’
Echoing her criticism was Rev. Susan Smith, a founder of Crazy Faith Ministries, who said she has personally counseled women who credit the ACA with dramatic improvements in their health and the health of their families.
“I heard (House Speaker) Paul Ryan said this new thing they are doing is an act of mercy, and that means that his definition of mercy is different than mine,’’ Rev. Smith said. “There is no mercy in what they are trying to do….. What they want to do is hurt women.’’
Using a report from the Women’s Public Policy Network, Rev. Smith listed many of the ACA’s benefits for women:
- Increasing access to care for women of color, which helps to reduce health disparities;
- Banning women from being charged more for health coverage simply because they are women;
- Guaranteeing coverage for preventive services such as birth control, cervical cancer screenings, and annual well-women exams without copays, deductibles, or other out-of-pocket costs.
Dr. Brown, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, took special aim at a provision in the replacement states that Medicaid cannot directly or indirectly fund any health-care organization that “provides for abortions” (a swipe at Planned Parenthood). Low-income women would be most affected by the proposal because Medicaid recipients typically earn far below the federal poverty line.
“The term ‘defunding’ Planned Parenthood is a misnomer,’’ Dr. Brown said. “There is no blank check that Planned Parenthood gets from the federal government, and it’s not a line item in the federal budget. Instead, this type of legislation would prevent millions of women who rely on Medicaid and/or other federal programs from accessing the health care provider that’s been there for them for decades…. In 2015, 78 percent of Planned Parenthood’s patients had incomes of 150 percent or less of the federal poverty level. Losing even a significant fraction of these low-income patients would be devastating.’’
She also noted that many ACA benefits are aimed at lowering infant mortality rates. Ohio has one of the nation’s highest rates, and the rate for black babies continues to outpace the rate for whites.
The state’s 2015 infant mortality rate, calculated as the number of deaths of a live-born baby before age one per 1,000 live births, is 7.2. That’s about 21 percent higher than the most recently reported national rate and up from 6.8 the year before. Black babies continue to fare the worst in Ohio, dying at a rate of 15.1 per 1,000 births in 2015, compared with 14.3 in 2014. It marked the second year in a row that the rate rose, after two years of declines.
One proven way to lower the rate is to give women access to long-acting, reversible contraception and proper prenatal care – services that Planned Parenthood provides in abundance.
“The replacement continues the Republican Party’s obsession with Planned Parenthood and any other provider of abortion services,’’ said ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis, who joined the teach-in. “The same people who are promoting this market themselves as ‘pro-life’ even though the promote policies that hurt the living.’’
Supporters of the repeal want to ignore the millions who marched in the streets, called members of Congress and flooded town halls,’’ Theis said. “Don’t let them ignore you. We pay their salaries and we pay their health care. Let’s keep up the fight.’’
Theis urged those who want to preserve the ACA benefits to visit www.progressohio.org for advice on how to contact members of Congress, write Letters to the Editor or find community events of like-minded activists.
International Women’s Day includes a nationwide general strike called “A Day Without A Woman.” The event is being hosted in solidarity with International Women’s Strike USA events taking place today across the country. The Women’s Strike aims to highlight the universal struggles that women face and encourage citizens to work together for equality.