As we close National Women’s Health Week, we recognize the tireless contributions women have made in the overall health and well-being of our country. These contributions not only are reflective in the local community-based health programs and services that our Affiliate Network of community-based organizations and community health centers lead, but also in the leadership roles that they represent both regionally and nationally.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we have seen major gains in access to affordable, quality, and equitable health care for women and children. Prior to the ACA, 36 percent of Latinas ages 15–44 were uninsured. In two years, that rate dropped to 25 percent. The ACA has provided millions of previously uninsured Latinas access to essential health care services and coverage. Key preventive and sexual health services include breast and cervical cancer screenings, immunizations, breastfeeding counseling and support, domestic violence screening and support, and prenatal screenings, including gestational diabetes screening for women at high risk and folic acid supplements, that are offered at no additional cost.
Teen birth rates are falling, but the United States still has the highest rate in the industrialized world. In a recent NCLR report, we saw a significant decrease in unintended pregnancies among teens, however, Latinas continue to have higher pregnancy rates than White women and are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. Fortunately, the ACA requires all health plans to cover maternity and newborn care. While we still have a ways to go to close inequities in health care, the ACA has put us on the right track.
Unfortunately, these gains are at risk. This year’s National Women’s Health Week comes at a time when Republican members of Congress continue to debate significant changes to our health care system, including a health care bill, the “American Health Care Act” (AHCA), that would repeal the ACA, enact drastic cuts to Medicaid, and would gut health coverage for millions of women. Under this plan, essential health benefits like doctor’s visits, maternity and newborn care, and prescription drugs would no longer be covered.
The AHCA would also unravel protections for women with pre-existing conditions, and revert back to a time where insurance companies could charge women more for health coverage just for being a woman. States could choose which public health services can be covered to save a penny, without realizing the detrimental impact it will have on women and children.
The Affordable Care Act shows that, as a nation, we care about women’s health, and are serious about improving health equity. The “American Health Care Act” represents a clear reversal of these values.
We cannot let this bill become law.
We must raise up our voices and continue our resolve to ensure that all women and families have equitable access to health care. Join us and let’s stand together to protect and defend the health coverage gains available for our women and children. Your collective voice matters.
Call, tweet, and email your senators today.