There's No Her in HEalthcare


            Healthcare is going through a major makeover, and it’s not a good look. No, I’m not talking about the Graham Cassidy Healthcare Plan that failed, or the Sanders proposal that hasn’t even made it to a vote. Those were just proposed changes that are part of a continued effort to reform our healthcare system. This week alone, there were other big decisions made that will immediately impact the healthcare that the average individual has access to. And with so much other political chaos, its not easy to follow what exactly has been happening. So let me break it down here. There are three major healthcare reforms that have happened recently. And guess what they all have in common? Spoiler Alert: They all disproportionately affect women.

            The first was that Congress missed the deadline for CHIP, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This wasn’t some petty partisan struggle either. The bill actually had pretty consistent support across the aisle, because c’mon who doesn’t want to fund a program that gives children medical care when they need it. So what happened? Legislators simply missed the deadline. They were busy focusing on trying to roll back the ACA (which has failed three different times now). That’s bad because CHIP covers healthcare for 9 million children and it also covers 370,000 pregnant women a year. Those are women from middle or lower income families who would otherwise go without maternity services that can be critical for their health and the health of their children. According to NPR the United States had the worst rate of maternal mortality when comparing all developed countries. And that was before this program was defunded. Legislators say this was a mistake, and that they will write legislation to fund CHIP before the funding actually runs out, but so far they haven’t. So a major loss for pregnant women. No maternity care means greater risk for both mother an newborn. You would think things couldn’t get worse, right?

            Wrong. On Tuesday the House passed a bill to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Yes there were exceptions for victims of rape and incest and it only passed through the House, not the Senate. But, with a Republican majority in Senate odds are high that it will pass. Once it does access to abortions goes down astronomically. Again, this mostly hurts women from middle and lower classes who don’t have the money or flexibility to travel to or pay for an abortion immediately. If they do eventually earn the money and get time off from work, it could be much later than that 20 week mark. And, remember, those thousands of women who were being provided maternity care through CHIP don’t get that either now. For those of you keeping score that’s Healthcare Cutbacks: 2, Pregnant Women zero.

            Then Friday came around and the Trump Administration decided to take away the Obama era birth control requirement. Remember the Hobby Lobby controversy? Yea, this is that issue, all over again. That rule required employers to provide contraceptives to all employees, for free. Trump’s Administration said the rule was to ensure that organizations do not face religious discrimination. Regardless of the intention, this policy leaves a huge number of American women without reliable birth control. Not surprisingly, middle and lower class women are hit hardest by this. To sum it all up: women aren’t provided with reliable birth control. If they do get pregnant on accident, they could miss the time limit to terminate that pregnancy. And if they do, some of those women won’t get the proper maternity care.

            So nationally for women things aren’t looking great. The good news is that for female students at UC Berkeley, we have some resources that make these cutbacks a little less painful. I talked to a student who has worked with Tang before to find out what students can get out of campus healthcare. She told me that for those with SHIP(the student health insurance plan), get birth control for free or almost free depending on the type you choose. That includes emergency birth control, for after the fact. And for those already pregnant SHIP provides maternity and prenatal care or abortion services, depending on the student’s plan. While she did admit the services aren’t flawless, it seems that UC Berkeley has got our back where our country is letting us down.