New health care act would wreak havoc on women, children, older adults

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The latest healthcare plan to emerge from the U.S. House of Representatives is not merely cynical or short-sighted; it is downright draconian. And, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) will wreak havoc – in many cases irreversible – on millions of people in our state. Women, children and older adults – who make up two-thirds of the state’s population – will be harmed the most by this proposal.

But here’s where Connecticut has a chance to lead by example. Because the proposed AHCA gives individual states more power, our state lawmakers have an opportunity to show leadership and mettle by rejecting the dangerous precedents set in this plan, should it manage to get Senate approval.

According to several news sources, some of the House members voting “yay” had not even read it before the roll call. Here are some of the facts they may have missed.

For starters, it punishes women for 1) having been a victim of rape; 2) suffering abuse at the hands of an intimate partner; and 3) needing a Cesarean Section to give birth.

Each of these “conditions” – which affect millions of women nationally – would, under this plan, be classified as “pre-existing.” While the plan does not technically eliminate coverage for these and other pre-existing conditions (including cancer, diabetes and mental health issues), it gives individual states the option of applying for a waiver which would make accessibility so difficult and premiums so expensive that coverage would, effectively, be eliminated.

And forget women’s preventive care. The AHCA calls for defunding Planned Parenthood, whose Southern New England chapter’s 18 health centers serve 70,000 women and men each year in Connecticut (and Rhode Island) by providing Pap tests and breast exams, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV counseling and testing, pregnancy testing and counseling, work and school physical exams, hormone therapy, and vaccinations, including those that guard against HPV and Hepatitis B.

Secondly, children will suffer. As pregnancy will be considered a pre-existing condition, pre-natal care will be reduced, causing more babies to get a rough start in life. And most significantly, the new plan would allow, after the year 2020, state Medicaid plans to drop newborn care and pediatric services, including for disabled children. And changes to Medicaid will devastate families with small children; according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 35 percent of Connecticut’s children rely on Medicaid for their health insurance.

And finally, older adults, who inevitably experience the slings and arrows of aging and tend to have many pre-existing conditions, will get hammered with an “age tax.” According to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums for older adults could increase a whopping five times and tax credits would disappear, two moves which together could cost seniors up to $13,000 more in annual premiums.

And poor older adults fare even worse, as federal reimbursements for Medicaid are phased down over time. Currently, 61 percent of Medicaid spending is for elderly or disabled people, according to The Center for Medicare Advocacy. Why should we all be worried? Because Connecticut is the seventh oldest state in the nation; by 2025, 20% or more of the populations of almost every town in the state will be over the age of 65.

Just about the only good provision in this proposal is one leftover from the Affordable Care Act: young people will be allowed to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26. Which is a good thing, because these Millennials will end up paying astronomical costs for their parents, not to mention grandparents, any children of their own, and, the minute they turn 27, themselves.

Connecticut lawmakers can protect not only the next generation from burdensome medical costs, but can tell the rest of the country we in Connecticut care about women, children and the elderly, who will be the hardest hit should this plan, inexplicably, become law.

Christine Palm is Communications and Women’s Policy Analyst for the General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children and Seniors.

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