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Republicare cuts women’s health care benefits

Updated: 
March 18, 2017 - 12:05am

Conservatives across the United States pinned a target on the back of Planned Parenthood long before a doctored videotape circulated in 2015 purporting to show the organization’s abortion providers talking about harvesting fetal tissue for research.

They didn’t care that the truth is only a fraction of procedures Planned Parenthood performs are abortions and that the video-makers were indicted. None of the $500 million in federal money the organization receives annually can be used for abortions. Most of Planned Parenthood’s procedures — and federal funds — are routine health care for men and women, such as mammograms, Pap smears, birth control, cancer and diabetes screenings.

Ignoring the needs of about 2.5 million mostly low-income patients who visit Planned Parenthood annually, the Republican health care plan essentially defunds the organization by restricting funds to groups that provide abortions except for rape, incest or the mother’s health. The result will be less access to birth control, prenatal care and other preventive services.

The Congressional Budget Office says it also will cause “thousands” more unintended pregnancies. Those will cost the public in the form of more children with families who cannot afford their care.

Republicare strips Planned Parenthood of Medicaid reimbursements that account for 40 percent of its overall annual budget and 75 percent of federal funding. And even though federal law gives Medicaid recipients freedom to choose a health care provider, the GOP plan excludes Planned Parenthood.

Women can buy separate abortion coverage under the plan, which withholds a small-business tax credit from employers who offer policies with abortion coverage. Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., says he is concerned tax-credit prohibitions may be extended to hospitals that perform abortions.

Critics also contend the bill jeopardizes domestic abuse victims by requiring couples to file jointly to receive a tax credit, meaning that an abused spouse would be required to disclose a new phone number or address. The Affordable Care Act exempted domestic abuse victims from filing jointly.

Ann M. Starrs, head of the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, says the percentage of uninsured women ages 15 to 44 dropped a third the first two years the ACA was in place. She said about 55 million women using the plan’s birth control benefit have been able to choose the method they want without steep out-of-pocket costs, saving them $1.4 billion in 2013.

Over-the-counter birth control pills would be an inadequate replacement for the ACA’s birth control benefit, and likely would take years to get through the regulatory process, Starrs says. Women need access to the full range of birth control available to choose the method most suitable for them.

On the plus side, the plan maintains maternity care coverage and forbids insurers from charging women more for coverage. With Republicare’s many other negatives, the benefits don’t add up.

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