Today, Terry L. Fromson, Managing Attorney at the Women’s Law Project, testified before Philadelphia City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services regarding the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act on the residents of Philadelphia.
“Healthcare is a critical issue for all of us,” said Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass (8th District), who called for the hearings as Chair of the Committee on Public Health and Human Services. “Just the mention of repealing health coverage and protections is causing real insecurity among my constituents. I am particularly concerned about the strain such repeal will place on our City Health Centers, which must provide care to anyone regardless of insurance coverage. With the ACA our Health Centers were able to be reimbursed for many of the patients coming through its doors.”
The Women’s Law Project has a significant track record advocating for equal access to health care for women, including insurance coverage of women’s health and the elimination of discriminatory insurance practices.
Here is Fromson’s testimony, in full:
The Women’s Law Project (WLP) is a legal advocacy organization that engages in high impact litigation, advocacy and education to advance the rights and status of women.
Addressing women’s access to health care has been a high priority for WLP. We have long advocated for insurance coverage for contraception, abortion and pregnancy and the elimination of gender-based rating of insurance. We also led the effort to stop insurers from denying coverage to domestic violence victims, protection against which was ultimately incorporated into the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In a 2012 report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, the Women’s Law Project documented the ways in which Pennsyvlania’s pre-ACA insurance policies and practices discriminated against women.
- Insurers charged women more than men for the same coverage, a practice that prevented employers and individuals from purchasing insurance coverage for women.
- Many insurance policies excluded pregnancy-related care and women were forced to either purchase expensive supplemental maternity coverage or pay all costs out of pocket.
- Many policies excluded pre-existing conditions; in addition to pregnancy generally, women who had prior cesarean sections, breast or cervical cancer, or medical treatment for domestic or sexual violence were denied coverage for those conditions or coverage generally.
- Many insurers did not provide comprehensive coverage for the full range of contraceptives or the medical treatment accompanying contraceptive devices.
The ACA significantly expanded affordable health care coverage for women, eliminating these discriminatory practices and ensuring access to quality, affordable care for millions of women.
The ACA prohibits women being charged more than men for their health insurance.
It prohibits denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
It allows young women to stay on their parent’s insurance plans until age 26.
It made maternity and newborn care a required benefit for individual market health plans.
It required a list of preventive services to be provided women at no extra cost, including contraception, annual well-woman exams; breast-feeding support and supplies for new moms; screening and counseling for domestic and intimate partner violence; and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
These services provide essential health care for women who had struggled to meet these needs in the past due to cost and lack of access.
The ACA also made it illegal for government agencies and federally funded health insurers and hospitals to discriminate based on sex, race, color, national origin, disability or age. This is the first time federal civil rights law has prohibited discrimination based on sex in federally funded health programs.
The threatened repeal of the ACA places women at risk of losing insurance altogether, being unfairly charged more than men for care, and losing specific coverages guaranteed by the ACA that are essential to women’s health. Increased health care costs will make health care out of reach, particularly for low income women. This loss of insurance coverage will have many adverse health consequences for women and their families.
- They will have to make choices on basic necessities. Pay the rent or get health care; put food on the table or get a prescription filled.
- There will under-utilize health services and adverse health outcomes for women with chronic illnesses.
- They will be unlikely to receive preventive care and screenings.
- Individuals requiring costly medical services will be unable to afford them.
As a result, women may experience unhealthy pregnancies, putting them at risk of maternal illness, low birth weight babies, and infant mortality. Or they may be at risk of premature death.
Repeal of the ACA and accompanying Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania will take us back to a time when some women and families were forced to go without health insurance and were unable to afford the most essential health care. Women of color and low-income women will experience the most dire consequences—contributing to health inequity and health disparities.
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.
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