Women's health care services are now up for debate in the Senate in the form of the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The House's Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) has long since passed, a bill that cuts birth control funding in a number of ways. But birth control costs could rise under the BCRA more than under the AHCA, by employing some of the AHCA's mandates and adding a new one. It's pretty upsetting to see birth control care stripped away; Most women, after all, had almost gotten used to minimal copays each month.
Like the AHCA, the BCRA defunds Planned Parenthood for at least one year, diverting Medicaid funds for birth control (as well as STI and cancer screenings, for that matter). In cutting 75 percent of the organization's funding, access to affordable birth control would drop dramatically as a consequence. For low-income women, birth control may no longer be in their budgets, or even in their region.
"The bill released today threatens to send women back to a time when they had to choose between putting food on the table for their kids, paying for childcare, or paying for their birth control," Andrea Flynn, a women's economic security policy expert and Fellow at The Roosevelt Institute, told Elite Daily on Thursday. Many women will have to shoulder high out-of-pocket birth control costs, or forgo them altogether.
Under Obamacare, which these new bills are working to replace, "plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace must cover contraceptive methods and counseling for all women, as prescribed by a health care provider," according to Healthcare.gov. Additionally, "plans must cover these services without charging a copayment or coinsurance when provided by an in-network provider — even if you haven’t met your deductible."
Under the BCRA, states could decide if birth control is covered or not. So, Time explains, "It's possible that all women in the individual market could lose those protections. The bill allows states broad waiver authority in what services are covered by insurance plans ... allow[ing] them to redefine the Essential Health Benefits." Thus, the BCRA makes birth control even less accessible than it might be under the AHCA.
Still unconvinced? Look at the numbers: Under the AHCA, women could pay $1,000 for an IUD and $4,000 for tubal ligation. Birth control pills would likely cost $20 to $50 per month. Estimates showed that, annually, women saved $269 on birth control on average thanks to Obamacare, but those days of saving could soon be over. When combined with the Congressional Budget Office's BCRA estimates — approximately 22 million people will be uninsured by the year 2026, according to the report, which was released officially on Monday — it's a grim picture, to say the least.
"As today’s CBO score makes painfully clear, the Republican Senate bill to repeal health care will be devastating for millions of Americans," Flynn said, in an email statement to Romper on Monday. "What’s more, it’s a direct assault on the health and financial security of women and their families – and the long-term ramifications will be astronomical." She added,
This bill will make it much harder for women to plan the timing and size of their families and to have healthy pregnancies, and to make the medical decisions that are best for their own health and lives. We can't expect that women will be able to be economically secure if they can't access health care to take care of themselves and their families.
The BCRA cuts birth control funding and access while allowing states to give insurers the go-ahead to opt out of covering birth control. Though it didn't seem like it could get much worse than the AHCA as far as women's care is concerned, it looks like the BCRA managed to one-up the House.