Time to Write Your Senators for Health Care

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed last week by the Republicans in the House, will, if passed by the Senate in the same form, return Americans to a broken health-care system that ignores the basic health-care needs of women and their families.

The bill allows insurance companies, once again, to eliminate coverage for birth control and prenatal and maternity care, and coerces insurance companies not to cover abortion services. In other words, women who struggle each month to pay their bills will pay more to prevent pregnancy, pay more for prenatal medical care, and pay more for labor and delivery. New parents, supported by Medicaid, will be required to find work within 60 days of delivery or lose their health coverage.

Members of Congress and their families, whose insurance coverage is exempted from provisions of the AHCA and who in any event earn salaries sufficient to pay for such services, will be untouched by these restrictions.

To compound the potential harm, the AHCA “defunds” Planned Parenthood, singling the health-care nonprofit out from all the Medicaid providers and hospitals that provide reproductive care. Planned Parenthood is reimbursed with federal funds for the basic preventive reproductive services it provides. To be clear, there is not a line item for Planned Parenthood in the federal budget, and it does not receive federal funding for abortion services.

Fifty-four percent of Planned Parenthood health centers are in health professional shortage areas, rural or medically underserved areas. Planned Parenthood health centers provide preventive health care to many who otherwise would have nowhere to turn for care. Although Planned Parenthood health centers comprised 10 percent of the country’s safety-net centers that offered family planning care in 2010, they served 36 percent of patients served by such centers.

The AHCA puts life-saving medical care out of reach for our most vulnerable communities by making health insurance unaffordable for an estimated 24 million Americans and cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood. The effects will be felt not just by women struggling to make ends meet but also by their families and their communities. States like Texas and Indiana have suffered serious public health consequences when communities lost access to Planned Parenthood.

The Senate must reject this terrible bill in order to keep the protections of the Affordable Care Act and to make sure that Planned Parenthood health centers continue to serve all the clients who depend on them. Urge Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris to stand firm for reproductive health care.

Barbara Lindemann chairs the Board of the Planned Parenthood Central Coast Action Fund.

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