Oregon House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson may have connected the dots that could terminate the viability of the Republican plan in Congress to replace Obamacare for political conservatives who oppose abortion and abhor teen pregnancies.
Citing statistics from the Guttmacher Institute, Williamson says the uninsured rate for American women of reproductive age dropped by a third from 2013 to 2015. At the same time, the US abortion rate fell to a historic low and teen pregnancy rates reached their lowest level in four decades. She claims there is a connection.
"The repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” Williamson says, "means more than 13 million women of reproductive age on Medicaid are in danger of losing access to family planning services and maternity care.’
"Medicaid is indispensable for ensuring that low-income people have coverage for family planning, pregnancy-related care, STI testing and treatment and other reproductive health services,” writes Adam Sonfield in the Guttmacher Policy Review.
Critics will point out the Guttmacher Institute’s former connection to Planned Parenthood, which is also on the GOP chopping block. According to the Institute’s website, Guttmacher hasn’t received funding from Planned Parenthood since 2010, when it received a contribution of $75,000, which accounted for less than 1 percent of the Institute’s total budget.
The Institute was founded in 1968 as the Center for Family Planning Program Development to address the issue of unplanned and unwanted childbearing in the United States and across the globe. The Center’s mission, which the Institute says it still follows, was to integrate nonpartisan social science research, policy analysis and public education to create “a factual basis for the development of sound governmental policies and for public consideration of the sensitive issues involved in the promotion of reproductive health and rights.”
Just about everything involving reproductive health and rights is sensitive – and politically explosive. Those sensitivities were in full display during the 2016 presidential election as many on the religious right looked the other way on Donald Trump’s moral failings because of his pro-life stances against abortion and promise to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices.
Some may dismiss the Guttmacher findings as merely a cover story to oppose the GOP health plan’s proposed funding cut for Planned Parenthood, but rising levels of health care coverage and declining numbers of abortions and teen pregnancies seem more than purely coincidental.
In its report about Medicaid, Guttmacher makes these points:
- One out of five women of reproductive age are covered by Medicaid. Almost 50 percent of poor reproductive-age women are under Medicaid. In states such as Oregon and Washington that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the proportion of uninsured reproductive-age women dropped by 45 percent between 2013 and 2015.
- The expansion of Medicaid has increased access to primary care, expanded use of prescriptions medications and increased rates of diagnosis of chronic conditions for new enrollees.
- Medicaid accounts for 75 percent of all public dollars spent on family planning in the United States. It is estimated family planning efforts helped avoid nearly 2 million unintended pregnancies in 2014, which prevented thousands of abortions, unplanned births and miscarriages.
- Under federal law, Medicaid must cover maternity care, including prenatal care, labor and delivery and 60 days of postpartum care. Copayments for pregnancy-related care are strictly limited.
- Medicaid covered 51 percent of all births in the United States – and 68 percent of unplanned births.
- Medicaid enables patients to address serious health conditions such as HIVs, STIs and breast and cervical cancer
- Massive federal spending reductions on Medicaid would shift costs to states and, in all likelihood because of their budget distress, to patients and health care providers – and, ultimately, to private insurance premiums.