GOP Health Care Bill Disinvests In Women's Health

Skimping on preventative care and family planning would cost taxpayers a lot more for unplanned births.

The Senate health care bill would leave millions of women uninsured, cause a spike in unintended pregnancies, and increase Medicaid spending on births, the Congressional Budget Office projects.

The bill blocks Medicaid patients from going to Planned Parenthood for contraceptives and other preventative health services, which the CBO estimates would cause 15 percent of women in rural areas to lose access to family-planning care. This would lead to more unplanned births, especially among poor women who rely on Medicaid. Medicaid pays for roughly 45 percent of all births in the United States, and well above half of births in many states, so the reduced investments in family planning will force the program to increase federal spending on births by $79 million over 10 years, the CBO estimated.

“The policy is confusing and it doesn’t make sense because family planning has always been a smart economic investment,” said Andrea Flynn, a women’s economic security expert at the Roosevelt Institute. “A dollar invested saves upwards of $7 in federal expenditures.”

“For a long time, the economic sense of family planning was an incentive for conservatives to invest in it, but over the past five years that economic justification hasn’t worked,” Flynn continued.

The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world, costing the public more than $9 billion per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, especially among low-income women and women of color. Federal investments in family planning have been shown to save taxpayers billions of dollars a year ― roughly $13.6 billion in 2010, according to a 2014 study by the Guttmacher Institute. It was for this reason that President Richard Nixon, a Republican, established the Title X federal family planning program in 1970.

The Senate health care bill, written by 13 Republican men, takes the opposite approach and disinvests in women’s preventative health. In addition to defunding Planned Parenthood, the legislation would cause an additional 22 million people to lose insurance, drop 15 million people from Medicaid coverage, and roll back an Obama-era rule that requires insurance companies to cover maternity care and contraception, according to the CBO analysis.

Republicans in Congress have argued that men should not have to help shoulder the cost of pregnancies.

“Get rid of some of these crazy regulations that Obamacare puts in,” Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) shouted at a town hall meeting in May, “such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.”

Of course, insurance plans cover many things that only afflict men, such as prostate cancer. Most births in the U.S. cost more than $10,000 out of pocket, which would leave many uninsured women without options.

“Having a birth can cost astronomical amounts of money,” said Flynn. “It’s not hard to imagine how, if you needed a C-section and no longer had insurance or qualified for Medicaid, that cost would put many families into extreme debt.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), lacking votes to push the legislation ahead, on Tuesday postponed action on the bill until after the July 4 recess. Some moderate Republicans have expressed misgivings over Medicaid and family-planning cuts. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have expressed opposition to the legislation, which can only lose two Republican votes and still pass.

“It makes absolutely no sense to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” Collins said this week.

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