Monday, June 26, 2017

Ohio pro-choice official says GOP health-care plan attacks women's health

By Mary Kuhlman
Ohio News Connection

After weeks of closed-door meetings, Senate Republicans released their legislation last week to repeal Obamacare. GOP leaders claim the plan will stabilize insurance markets, remove mandates and provide flexibility for states.

But Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio disagrees, saying the bill drastically cuts Medicaid and defunds Planned Parenthood, which would reduce access to health care for many women.

"It's devastating," she says. "Some people don't have anywhere else to turn. And what happens when you don't get the cancer screenings when you don't get the breast exams, when you are unable to prevent an unintended pregnancy? The impact is just alarming."

Copeland adds the plan also denies abortion coverage to those who get their insurance through the health exchanges, or who receive tax subsidies.

Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman has said he's reviewing the bill, which could be voted on this week.

Medicaid currently covers about half of all births and accounts for three-quarters of all public dollars spent on family planning.

Adam Sanfield, the senior policy manager with the Guttmacher Institute, says family-planning services are critical for long-term health by helping women plan for children and avoid unintended pregnancies.

"We know that's important from a health point of view because pregnancy spacing helps to avoid pre-term and low-birthweight births," he says. "It helps people to prepare for their pregnancies, so that they can become healthy before they get pregnant and get chronic conditions under control."

The concern of Janele George, director of federal reproductive health with the National Women's Law Center, is that the bill allows what is known as "13-32 waivers," under which states could make changes to the essential health benefits insurers now must cover.

"Including maternity services and preventive services," George says. "Not only is this bill stripping that away for folks who are covered under Medicaid expansion, but under the 1332 waivers, we could see other folks have their health care impacted as well."

Sanfield adds there would be massive cuts to private insurance subsidies that make coverage affordable for some people who have to buy insurance on their own, rather than through an employer.

"In ways that will make it a lot harder for particularly low-income people to be able to afford to buy that coverage, and then to be able to afford to use that coverage, because they'll have plans that include really high deductibles and really high co-payments," Sanfield laments.

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