Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act to the Senate on a vote of 217 vs 213.
I don’t remember much from yesterday, besides the sinking feeling in my stomach as I pulled up article after article about AHCA, denial and bewilderment making my stomach churn and my blood boil. This morning when I woke up, I was greeted with eighteen open tabs on my computer verifying that the nightmare was real, that now I find myself toeing the line between safety and danger and that I’m not alone.
Hi, my name is Arica, and to Republicans, I’m not just a person. Under the AHCA, I am a woman and therefore a pre-existing condition.
I have endometriosis, a chronic disease that plagues one in ten women. At the moment, I can technically count myself lucky on two fronts: one, that AHCA hasn’t been passed as a law yet, and two, that my diagnosis has not been recorded officially by my doctor.
It is not in my medical files as a condition that I have, only a note of the possibility. A year ago, my doctor essentially told me that we would wait and see if the condition worsened and if I need more than birth control to manage it. Well, it’s been a year, it has gotten worse, but now I’m afraid of having it officially on my records. If it is on my record, under the AHCA, insurance companies can charge me however much they wanted because I have a pre-existing condition. They can do that to me, and countless other women as well.
Under the AHCA, things such as endometriosis, pregnancy, and experiencing rape/sexual assault can be considered pre-existing conditions. Because of the fact that “Trumpcare” gives the states the ability to waive the requirement set in place by the Affordable Care Act, which required every state and its insurance plans to cover essential benefits, health insurers can offer any kind of coverage they want, at any price they want.
If they don’t want to cover the cost of birth control, maternity care or rape test kits, they don’t have to.
If they want to deny someone coverage because of a chronic illness or past trauma like rape or sexual assault (not seen since 2010, where it was legal in some states to do just that), they can.
If they want to deny mental health services (be it to deal with PTSD for sexual assault victims or postpartum depression for mothers, or just general services for women), if they want to hike up the price of birth control as part of an insurance plan, they can do that. And that’s terrifying–and so very real– for women.
Even more terrifying is the AHCA’s plan to defund Planned Parenthood, thus restricting people from receiving contraception, STD testing, maternity care/reproductive health care. This directly affects those in lower classes (be they Medicaid recipients or not) from receiving health services, thus restricting their ability to make their own choices in regards to their body and sexual health.
Overall, though, what does this mean for women? In short, it will force women to decide what they will vocalize. It may force women to remain silent about rape and reproductive conditions, which already is such a gigantic issue that plagues the United States. They will be forced to put a price-tag on their wellbeing, and then be forced to decide if they can even afford it.
What can we do to prevent that?
For one thing, we can call our government representatives. With there being an eleven-day recess between the House’s decision and the Senate’s vote, you have time to reach out to your state’s senators to tell them to vote no. It doesn’t matter if they’re Republican or Democrat– your representative is responsible for projecting your opinions and needs. Worried about not getting through to them, or that you don’t have time? The Stance app will call your representative again and again until it gets through, and once it does, it will play them the message that you recorded beforehand.
Raising awareness is important in this fight as well. Arm yourself with the facts, educate yourself on the AHCA, and begin talking about it. It can be via a protest, on social media (#iamapreexistingcondition is a good hashtag to use), a petition, and even just a conversation with the people around you. The more people who know, the more voices that can be added to the cause, and the more influence we have on the vote.
Today, I find it ironic that my endometriosis is flaring up as I huddle in bed, thinking about my options. My situation is a precarious one, not unlike the decision that many women now face. Do we come forward about our health, be it chronic conditions or past trauma related issues, and seek the treatment that we need–or do we suffer in silence, so as not to face financial hardship brought on by the AHCA and the available insurance policy prices?