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« New Trump rule an ideological attack on women’s health! | Main | ACA sabotage is going to hike our premiums! »

It’s National Women’s Health Week!

We celebrate women’s health, while the House GOP works to undermine it
This week, May 13-19, is National Women’s Health Week! It’s a great time to remind women to take charge of our health and discuss well-woman visits and other preventive care that women need. Many women’s health organizations, including Raising Women’s Voices, are taking part in social media and other outreach activities throughout the week to promote women’s health and topics.

But we also have an eye on Congress, where the U.S. House of Representatives is preparing to vote Friday on a farm bill that will hurt women and our families by raising health insurance premiums and denying food aid to low-income families.  Below, we describe what harm the farm bill would cause.

So what is RWV doing to celebrate women’s health? On Tuesday, May 15th, we hosted a Twitter Chat using the hashtag #HerHealth to share information on a range of women’s health topics, such as what to expect at a well-woman visit, why we need to address black maternal health disparities, how to take advantage of cost-free preventive services and how to navigate the health care system.

The Twitter Chat was a success, reaching nearly 1.2 million people and garnering almost 4 million impressions! Special thanks go out to our co-sponsors who helped make this happen: the National Partnership for Women and Families, People for the American Way, National Institute for Reproductive Health, Young Invincibles, Positive Women’s Network USA, Out 2 Enroll, The Afiya Center, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, Women with a Vision, and Ever Thrive Illinois.

We’re also spreading the word about the “Mothers and Offspring Mortality and Morbidity Awareness Act (MOMMA)” announced by Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois and other members of Congress at a press conference on Capitol Hill last week. The MOMMA Act is federal legislation that will address our nation’s rising maternal mortality and morbidity crisis. TheBlack Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) – a co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices – endorsed the bill and BWHI’s Tammy Boyd (shown at right in photo) was present at the press conference.

The legislation ensures sharing of best practices between practitioners and hospital systems, appoints an expert federal review committee to establish and enforce a national obstetric emergency protocol, improves access to culturally-competent care training and workforce practices throughout the care continuum, standardizes data collection, empowers a designated federal agency to collect uniform data and expands Medicaid coverage to the full postpartum period.

Farm bill would drive up health insurance costs
The push to remake our health system into Trumpcare continues in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, when the chamber is set to vote on a farm bill that would drive up health insurance costs for millions of people while denying food aid to 2 million more.
Though little attention has been given to the provision, the farm bill crafted by House Republicans without Democratic input would create a $65 million slush fund for the Secretary of Agriculture to promote association health plans (AHPs). As we wrote last year when the Trump administration first proposed dramatically expanding AHPs, the move is intended to gut consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act and drive up premiums for anyone seeking comprehensive health coverage.
Pre-ACA, national trade associations like the Farm Bureau could pick a state with the worst coverage and use those rules to offer insurance nationwide. So, for example, they could offer coverage that complies with Mississippi’s consumer protections to small businesses in Massachusetts, regardless of Massachusetts state law. Under current rules, small businesses can still band together to form AHPs for their members, but they have to operate within states, not across state lines. Most importantly, they have to abide by ACA coverage requirements for small businesses. For example, they have to cover essential health benefits like maternity care. 
Under the changes Trump is proposing and that the farm bill would fund, AHPs would be exempt from a host of ACA consumer protections and would once again be able to operate under the rules of any state they choose. The small businesses with the youngest, healthiest people would face strong incentives to exit the ACA’s small business marketplaces and buy a cheaper, skimpier association plan, raising prices for all of the small businesses that remained.
In fact, the Society of Actuaries has concluded that Trump’s AHP proposal would cause ACA enrollment to decline by up to 10 percent as the youngest and healthiest dropped out. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has been even more blunt, warning that “AHPs would fragment and destabilize the small group market, resulting in higher premiums for many small businesses.”
The impact on women could be significant. A small business looking at a highly qualified female candidate and a less qualified male candidate would face a strong financial incentive to pick the male candidate, simply because it would mean lower insurance premiums. There is every reason to think that the Trump proposal would reinstate barriers to hiring women, particularly older women or those with pre-existing conditions.
And, of course, those premium hikes in comprehensive insurance would come on top of other Trumpcare components already impacting enrollment, including the administration’s promotion of year-long individual “junk” plans exempt from ACA protections (expected to be finalized later this year) and last year’s repeal of the individual mandate.
Fortunately, this week it became even easier for the public to track GOP efforts to sabotage the ACA and impose Trumpcare. The national Protect Our Care Coalition, of which Raising Women’s Voices is a member, rolled out a new website to highlight how the GOP is driving up health care premiums around the country. Check out their interactive map to see predicted rate hikes in your state.
The farm bill would also slash food stamps
Attacks on health insurance aren’t the only part of the farm bill we’re tracking. The farm bill cuts $23 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called the food stamp program). As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes“women are especially likely to receive SNAP benefits due to their higher poverty rates and their role as mothers and as caregivers for other family members.”
While SNAP already imposes strict work requirements, the House GOP farm bill would go much further for the explicit purpose of taking away assistance. Much like the Trump administration’s push to take away Medicaid coverage under the guise of “supporting work,” the farm bill proposal is all about denying food assistance to the poor to help pay for the GOP’s deficit-busting tax bill for the ultra-wealthy.
Under the bill, low-income adults—including those with children 6 and older—who don’t meet an arbitrary number of work hours per month, or who can’t jump through bureaucratic hoops proving that they met the requirement or qualify for an exemption, will lose their food assistance. The first time a mother raising young children, a woman with a serious health condition, or a part-time worker fails to meet the work requirements or to properly fill out her paperwork for an exemption, she could be locked out of the program for a full year under the bill. The next time she could be locked out of food support for three years. 
All told, more than 2 million people—including women, parents of young children, children, people with disabilities and serious health conditions, including veterans with PTSD—will lose their food aid under the program if the bill becomes law. This is the dystopian future the GOP also has planned for Medicaid, where an inability to meet monthly requirements, or even making minor paperwork mistakes, can mean the difference between life and death.


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