Obamacare: Progress for Women’s Health; What about Abortion Coverage?


health-care-reform-cartoonI  scored 6/10 on the Health Reform quiz, which seems to be the average for the class. A few weeks ago I attended an informational session on the Afforable Care Act, where I learned the basics of what the act does (presented by Brandn Green and Carl Milofsky). The presentation didn’t have a political agenda; the speakers wanted to spread knowledge about what the act does and how to sign up for insurance.

I was surprised to see that the Kaiser Family summary of the PPACA specifically addressed abortion, so I did research on how the act confronts the issue of abortion. Viewpoints on abortion tend to be polarized along party lines, therefore I expected “Obamacare” to increase access to abortion and decrease the cost of abortion. Though abortion is a controversial piece of the act, I found that the PPACA doesn’t address it in a radical way.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows for federal subsides to be used for abortion services permitted under the Hyde Amendment. This amendment was passed in 1977 in response to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. The Hyde Amendment particularly affects Medicare; it prevents federal funds from paying for abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger, or she is a victim of rape or incest. The Hyde Amendment applies to the new health insurance exchanges. Those who wish to purchase abortion coverage can choose a specific plan (if their state allows) where their payments will go into two different accounts: one for abortion coverage and one for the remainder of the premium. The abortion coverage payment must be at least one dollar per month per enrollee.

As I searched for reliable information on PPACA and abortion, I found that pro-life activists and conservatives have attacked the act on the basis that pro-life tax payers may unknowingly be paying for others to have abortions. In my opinion, the abortion clauses of the act are “Mandingos,” rather than “Brunhildes.”  The states have control over their marketplace’s ability to allow insurance providers to insure abortion coverage. At this point, five states have banned their exchange’s insurance providers from covering abortions. In addition, plans also need to disclose if they cover abortions. Each marketplace is required to have at least one insurance option that does not include abortion coverage.

Bill Maher explains to Piers Morgan why women will ensure that Obamacare works:

My research on Obamacare and abortion opened my eyes to a broader set of issues concerning women’s health (this could be considered a “Brunhilde” of the act; more vulnerable Americans receiving care).  I think PPACA is going to make major strides in providing affordable, widespread access to preventative care. Under Obamacare, women will have increased access to maternity coverage, and no-copay STD testing, relationship counseling, breast feeding services, contraceptives, mammograms, HPV testing, and more. Women make up a disproportionate percentage of the world’s poor, which directly affects their ability to obtain essential services for themselves and their children. The National Partnership for Women and Families explains how the PPACA will have  benefits for women of color, “By making private insurance more affordable, expanding Medicaid, creating partnerships with communities of color, and supporting important care-delivery and system reforms, the ACA will improve access to more affordable health coverage for all women and decrease health disparities that disproportionately impact women of color.” This act has the potential to support women’s health in an unprecedented way, which will result in better quality of life for people neglected by the current health care system.

If you’re curious whether your state restricts access to abortions through the marketplace, click here.

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4 comments on “Obamacare: Progress for Women’s Health; What about Abortion Coverage?

  1. This was a great post! Very informed and taught me a lot. I really like your comparison to Mandingo and Broomhilda and I think you really hit the nail on the head. The abortion clause has little to do with abortion. It truly provides women more right to be healthy and make choices for themselves about their bodies. Abortion is a very controversial topic and I think people need to realize that pro-choice is just that – supporting a women’s right to make a choice for herself, not support for abortions.

  2. Although the Hyde Amendment will most likely continue to be controversial, I think it is a great addition to the PPACA. Additionally, the PPACA benefits women in many ways, ie free access to birth control.

  3. “Viewpoints on abortion tend to be polarized along party lines, therefore I expected “Obamacare””

    Tend to may be the UNDERSTATEMENT of the class, semester, year….

  4. I am interested in why Bill Maher is brought onto these shows. He is smart, and he deals in public opinions, but he is ultimately a comedian. His explanation is interesting, but still, why do we look to comedians for incisive policy analysis?

    The complications introduced by the Hyde amendment and the reproductive rights and health compromises just seem like bad policy. Some states won’t let anyone have coverage that covers elective abortion? There is the total mess over employer waivers for abortion and even contraception (I am looking as you Catholic and Protestant conservatives). Insurance by definition pools risk and resources. Once you introduce “a la carte” approaches, like I won’t pay for your reproductive health, you turn good care and good policy into a political minefield. It is like the worst Friedman described in companies when personal agendas supercede the purpose of profit-making: here it is personal agendas superceding fair coverage, effective policy, and personal privacy of medical choices.

    Can I have my tax dollars not go to Viagra? Why do men over a certain, reasonable child-bearing age have any “need” for this kind of, um, uplift… 🙂

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