The Senate is expected to vote this week on the Blunt Amendment – an amendment to the Highway Transportation Bill that would strip away women’s access to health care as promised through the health care law.
Chiseling Away Access to Critical Preventive Services
The barriers women face to obtaining affordable health care jeopardize their health. To help address cost barriers that keep individuals from seeking critical preventive health care and ensure all women and their families have access to that care, the health care law established that certain evidence-based preventive services and screenings be covered with no cost-sharing.
But, if the Blunt Amendment becomes law, employers and health insurance companies can deny access to lifesaving preventive care, including:
- Pap Smears
- Annual Wellness Visits
- HPV immunizations
- Childhood Immunizations
- Diabetes Screening
- Cholesterol Screening
- Breast Feeding Support
- Screening for Gestational Diabetes
- Screening for Sexually Transmitted Illnesses, Including HIV and HPV
- Blood Pressure Screening
- Depression Screening
- Screening and Counseling for Domestic Violence
Disassembling the Essential Health Benefits Package
The health care law sought to fix gaps in critical health care coverage by guaranteeing that all plans offered in the individual market or to small businesses cover a minimum set of Essential Health Benefits. The essential health benefits package is one of the most important components of the health care law because it intends to correct longstanding discriminatory practices in the individual and small group markets, where women would go without coverage for critical services, including maternity care. But the Blunt Amendment would allow insurance companies and small employers to refuse covering any essential health benefit. Such benefits could include:
- Prenatal Testing and Sonograms
- Cesarean Sections
- Blood transfusions
- Medications to treat HIV/AIDS
- Pain medications
- Substance Abuse Treatment
- Mental health counseling
- Psychiatric medications
- Emergency room care
Maybe it doesn’t seem likely that an employer or insurance company would have a religious or moral objection to many of these services. But what is a moral objection? Is it an objection to the research methods used to discover a treatment? Is it an objection to actions that can result in transmission of a disease? Could it be a cover-up for discrimination? How about an excuse to save money?
These services are guaranteed by the health law to end discriminatory practices that left women without real coverage when they needed it most. The Blunt Amendment takes that guarantee away in a very blunt way.