What Are EHBs? Cutting This ACA Mandate Hurts Pregnant Women

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Conservative lawmakers who have bashed the Republicans' recently released health care bill as "Obamacare lite" are making progress in reshaping the bill. To pacify the most right-wing members of the House of Representatives who are opposed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) because they believe it doesn't go far enough to cut health insurance costs, President Trump agreed Thursday to slash coverage for 10 "essential health benefits" (EHBs) from the proposed legislation. The last-minute concession, he hoped, would help the GOP's bill pass in House in a vote scheduled for the same day, but many of his constituents are now learning what EHBs are for the first time. And with that knowledge comes the realization of how much this could hurt pregnant women, among other vulnerable Americans.

With the implementation of President Obama's signature 2010 health care law, the Affordable Care Act, insurers participating in the marketplace were mandated to cover these 10 benefits, which include preventive services, emergency room visits, prescription drugs, and, yes, maternity care. But as GOP efforts to repeal and replace the bill loom, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus announced they had the "no" votes to kill the Republicans' AHCA, which retained the EHBs in their original form.

Alas, no more: The White House revealed Thursday that the EHBs had gotten the boot after Trump met with House Freedom Caucus members, The New York Times reported. However, those key lawmakers announced later in the day that they still would not support the bill, prompting Trump and House Speaker (and major AHCA architect) Paul Ryan to postpone the vote as the struggle to ensure its passage, according to the Associated Press. For now, that fight rages on.

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This is hardly good news for those who need the EHBs to stay healthy, though. The Trump administration has demonstrated that it's willing to play ball with conservatives who believe that the government should not play a role in making sure health care is accessible to as many Americans as possible — and this callous stance will take a toll on many, many pregnant women.

Essentially, abolishing the part of the law that makes EHBs a right to all people who purchase health insurance plans on the individual market invites discrimination and all but guarantees that plans that offer more coverage will be incredibly expensive. As Business Insider reports, allowing people to pick and choose which benefits to purchase would mean that people who don't need maternity coverage, for example, wouldn't buy it. As a result, insurers would charge women who do opt for the coverage higher rates, as they would assume that she intends to use it. In short, women who may have children would likely wind up paying anywhere from $1,000 to several thousands more annually for coverage.

And that, of course, would be cost-prohibitive for some. Combine that with the GOP's laser-focus on depriving Planned Parenthood of federal funds, as well as dramatically reducing Medicaid spending, and countless wouldn't be able to get the prenatal and postpartum care they need. If that's the best that the authors of this bill can do, then they should head back to the drawing board to produce another draft.