Another day, another attempt by the Trump team to strip health benefits from Obamacare.
Hey, remember that time in 2010 when Congress and the Obama White House were drafting legislation that would regulate health insurance? And one of the top priorities was creating a list of so-called "Essential Health Benefits" that all health insurance plans would have to include? And the non-partisan Institute of Medicine recommended that a broad range of contraceptives be included as covered benefits under the heading of “Preventative Health Benefits for Women?"* So everyone with health insurance could start getting birth control with no copay at the pharmacy counter (or the doctor’s office, in the case of implantable contraceptives or IUDs)?
Yeah, that was cool.
Ever since then, different types of employers have wanted to duck out of covering birth control through the the insurance plans they offer for employees. The Obama Administration foresaw all of this and created work-arounds for religious entities like churches and church-managed hospitals and universities. That wasn’t good enough, apparently, so Hobby Lobby sued to be able to get out of providing contraceptive coverage because the owners of Hobby Lobby think Jesus hates sluts or something. The Supreme Court agreed with Hobby Lobby so that certain private non-church entities could get out of covering birth control.
Now the Trump administration wants to broaden the exemptions even further. According to documents that Vox got a hold of, the new regulations would let any employer with a moral or religious objection to covering birth control apply for one. They could cite any reason for their objections.
Does the regulation apply to any other essential health benefits? No. Just the birth control portion of the section on Preventative Health Benefits for Women.
Does this mean the Trump administration is being sexist as fuck? Yes. But it also probably means the Trump administration is using this as a test to see how people respond to undermining the Essential Health Benefits coverage mandates. There are many in government and the insurance industry who would be perfectly happy to scale back the list of Essential Health Benefits so that insurers can cover fewer services. The result of that might be decreased premiums, which would be more than offset by increased out-of-pocket costs for services no longer covered.
In other words, cheaper for them, but more expensive for us.
Now, this is a leaked document and we don’t know yet if it will be approved as a new regulation. But we have an opportunity to make some noise about it. If you don’t already have your representative and senators on speed dial, now is a good time to save their numbers after you call to let them know how you feel about this. Oh, and I bet your employer would like to know how strongly you feel about contraceptive coverage. You don’t need to be combative about it at work or anything. But if you happen to have a chance to talk to someone in HR, feel free to say something like, “Did you see that employers might be able to stop covering birth control? I sure hope that doesn’t happen here. So many people need it.” Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean every employer has to do it. So encourage them not to, as long as you feel secure doing so.
It sucks that this is happening. But at least we already have a lot of practice resisting, right? Resist and persist, friends. We’re in this together.
*We at Ravishly know that women are not the only people who use prescription contraceptives. However, the language in the laws and regulations we’re discussing is not as inclusive as we usually try to be. I am making the choice to use the official language to remain true to the regulations in question. I apologize heartily to anyone who feels ignored by the U.S. legal code’s wording. I know they left you out.