On Tuesday, voters turned out in record numbers for the midterm elections — and there is good evidence that health care motivated many of them to head to the polls. They voted to expand Medicaid in several states and elected more women than ever before to represent them in Congress.
But less than 24 hours after ballots were cast, the Trump administration moved to undermine access to women’s health care, releasing a series of rules, one proposed and two final, attacking insurance coverage for both abortion and contraception.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposed rule that would create burdensome and unnecessary regulations designed to cause insurance companies in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace to stop covering abortion care. The proposed rule could push abortion care out of reach for many of the 1.3 million people who purchase plans through the government marketplaces, and possibly more if insurers opt to drop coverage in additional plans.
Without coverage, some may be forced to delay care or may be unable to access care altogether. Low-income women and families, for whom denial of abortion care can mean being pushed deeper into poverty, will bear the greatest burden if the rule takes effect.
Another set of rules released Wednesday would allow virtually any employer or university to deny people birth control coverage on the basis of religious or moral objections. These rules are the administration’s latest attack on the ACA’s popular birth control benefit, which requires insurance plans to cover birth control without a co-pay. In short, they mean that you could lose birth control coverage — a benefit that is guaranteed by law — simply because your boss objects to it.
The timing of these rules, just a day after the election, was a calculated move. It illustrates that the Trump administration is well aware that pushing health care out of peoples’ reach doesn’t do well at the ballot box. And that’s exactly what these rules will do if they take effect.
The rules on birth control coverage are set to take effect in 60 days, but earlier versions of the rules proposed last year have been blocked by courts in Pennsylvania and California. Courts could, and should, block this week’s final rules as well.
The proposed rule on abortion coverage cannot take effect until after a public comment period, so stay tuned for ways to make your voice heard in the coming months. The administration may have waited until after you cast your ballot to levy its latest attack, but you can still make sure that they know you are watching and that you won’t stand for it.