ESSENCE REPORTS: Why Black Women Should Pay Attention To The Graham-Cassidy Repeal Bill

This new effort to repeal Obamacare could be catastrophic for women in America.
Like a zombie on The Walking Dead, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Repeal is back on the legislative floor and it’s more dangerous than ever. Sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Bill Cassidy, the Graham-Cassidy bill has been pieced together so quickly that it likely will not receive a full evaluation from the Congressional Budget Office on the potential impact it could have. At a press conference last week, Graham said, “If you believe repealing and replacing Obamacare is a good idea, this is your best and only chance to make it happen.” But this latest bill is undoubtedly the harshest version yet. Here is how the Graham Cassidy ACA affects women:   Essentially, the bill blocks women from receiving preventative care at Planned Parenthood like birth control, cancer screening and STD testing and treatment. It also classifies pregnancy as a pre-existing condition which guarantees higher premiums for women. Medicaid covers 25 million adult women in the United States. The bill would also effectively eliminate the system of federal Medicaid funding that provides care money for the disabled, senior citizens and poor women and children. This is important because 24 percent of Black women between the ages of 19 and 64 years old are on Medicaid. Twenty-five percent of Hispanic women within the same demographic are on Medicaid. Alencia Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s Director of Constituency Communications, explained to ESSENCE just how devastating the Medicaid cuts would be to the organization’s patients. “If this bill were to pass, it would be incredibly devastating to the patients who rely on Planned Parenthood for care. Everyone who relies on Medicaid — more than half of the 2.4 million patients we see — would be told they were no longer allowed to come to us for care,” Johnson said. “Medicaid patients already have a more difficult time accessing quality health care, especially reproductive health care. More than half of Planned Parenthood health centers are in rural or medically-underserved areas,” she continued. “That means that for many of these patients, without Planned Parenthood, they simply have no other place to go.” Beyond that, the bill would completely restructure how the federal government provides healthcare assistance to over 80 million Americans. It will also create a new system for distributing billions of dollars of government aid. This bill, in essence, punishes the 31 states that applied for Medicaid expansion funding under the Affordable Care Act. The money those states received would get rolled back and eventually cut off. Graham and Cassidy claim this plan would balance out Medicaid funding, but Democrats argue that Republicans are punishing blue states like California, Illinois and New York. Under the new plan, those states would struggle to provide coverage to their populations. Graham-Cassidy would also repeal two key components of Affordable Care Act: the individual and employer mandates. States would then be able to apply waives to change what can be considered an essential health benefit for insurance companies as they create potential plan options. It also gives insurance companies in states the opportunity to charge those with some pre-existing conditions more for several plans. Currently, this practice is strictly prohibited under the ACA.  Insurers would still offer people with pre-existing plans choices, but it is likely that they will limit coverage options. Dr. Jessica Grossman, CEO of the non-profit pharmaceutical company Medicines360, warns that this disastrous bill could lead to thousands of unplanned pregnancies among other problems. “This is so catastrophic in that it will hurt women not only who need access to contraception but also STI services and cancer screenings, etc. It affects women in so many ways. It’s not just about contraceptive services. It’s about all the services you can access in your community as a woman.” Last time the bill was on the floor, Senator John McCain surprised the world by voting no in grand fashion. He walked to the front of the Senate floor and gave the bill an enthuastic thumbs down. McCain cited the lack of committee and procedural hearings as the reason why he was hesitant to support any legislation that hasn’t been scrutinized in hearings. Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, there were 79 committee hearings and President Barack Obama personally had a town hall where he answered questions about the ACA. A handful of other Republican Senators, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Rob Portman of Ohio have not publicly stated if they’ll support the bill. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has publicly stated that he is opposed to the Graham-Cassidy bill.   However, Paul has a track record of flip-flopping and may be willing to side with Republicans if it means the repeal of Obamacare. Bill Cassidy, one of the authors of the bill, appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show this summer and assured the late night host that his bill would pass the ‘Jimmy Kimmel test.’ Kimmel’s son Billy was born with a heart ailment which required surgery immediately after his birth. Without insurance reforms put in place by the ACA, Kimmel’s son would like have been unable to ever receive health insurance because of his pre-existing condition. Cassidy said any bill in question would mandate that no family should be denied medical care because they can’t afford it. Last night, Kimmel said the Senator lied to him. The Graham-Cassidy bill does not offer any protections for children like Kimmel’s son Billy.
  Kimmel then encouraged his audience and the American people to fight this bill. On Wednesday, former President Barack Obama slammed repeal efforts in a speech to the Gates Foundation in New York. “When I see people trying to undo that hard-won progress, for the 50th or 60th time, with bills that will raise costs, reduce coverage and roll back protections for older Americans and people with pre-existing conditions, it is aggravating,” he said. He added that Americans must remain vigilant in the fight. “It may be frustrating that we have to mobilize every couple months to keep our leaders from inflicting real human suffering on their constituents. But typically, that’s how progress is won.” How can we stop this bill from passing? The Senate has until September 30, 2017 to bring this bill to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes he has the votes to repeal the ACA and plans to hold a vote next week. Like the bills before this one, Americans have to remain vigilant. Contact your local Senators. If you don’t currently live in Arizona, Maine, Kentucky or Ohio, don’t let that discourage you. Call 202-224-3121or 202-804-8210 to automatically get connected to any Senators office. You can also personally email the office of Senators through their official websites.