Keep Up the Resistance — Vital Health Coverage for Women Is at Stake!

Recent media reports characterize the latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Graham-Cassidy Proposal, as dead—especially given the public opposition of Sens. Collins, McCain, and Paul to the proposal. Republicans can only spare two votes from their party if they hope to pass the bill through the Senate by a slim margin through Budget Reconciliation by the September 30th deadline. Today, Senate Republicans announced that they will not have a vote on the Graham-Cassidy proposal this week. But, it’s not time to rest easy or let up the resistance against a proposal that would devastate women’s health.  Like other ACA repeal attempts, the Graham-Cassidy bill seems to keep coming back to life!

As welcome as news that the bill is dead would be, we certainly cannot let up on the resistance—this means that we must continue to highlight the harm that this proposal, if it became law, would wreak for women’s health and economic security.  Unable to do a full analysis of the bill due to the last-minute revisions, the CBO nevertheless estimates that, if enacted, the proposal would cause millions of people to lose health insurance coverage. As we pointed out in our testimony to the Senate Finance Committee for yesterday’s hearing on the Graham-Cassidy proposal, it jeopardizes women’s health, lives, and economic security.
The latest proposal puts women’s access to vital no-cost preventive health care coverage on the chopping block—permitting states to set new rules for plans funded under a federal block grant that would allow insurance companies to exclude coverage of women’s preventive services, like birth control, breast cancer screenings, and well-woman visits.
This jeopardizes vital preventive care coverage for the 62.4 million women who now have coverage for a set of evidence-based preventive services, identified and recently reaffirmed by a panel of experts. This coverage has helped to change the landscape for women’s health and eliminate cost barriers that made it difficult for many women to access the preventive care they needed. In fact, pre-ACA, women were more likely than men to avoid preventive care due to costs. This led to compromised health outcomes and higher costs down the line—which was bad both for women’s health and their economic security.
Coverage of birth control without cost-sharing in particular has been critical to women’s health and economic well-being. It’s popular, and it’s working. For example, one study found that women saved $1.4 billion on birth control pills alone in 2013 thanks to the birth control benefit.
By allowing states to simply set the rules around benefits under the women’s preventive services provision, it means women could be left without coverage of birth control or other critical preventive services.  This could return us to a time when a woman’s access to vital preventive care depended on her income or zip code.
We can’t go back on the ACA’s gains for women’s health! If passed, this latest ACA repeal proposal would be nothing short of devastating for women’s health and economic security and that of their families. It’s time to tell Congress to stop playing politics with women’s health and to get down to the business of strengthening our health system and our economy.