by Kate Harveston
It seems as if the Trump administration will get their wish on tax reform. Republican lawmakers reached an agreement on a final tax bill. The question on many people’s mind is, how will this bill affect healthcare, and women’s healthcare in particular?
The short answer: It is likely to be a disaster.
Repealing the Individual Mandate
It is almost certain the reconciled plan will repeal the individual mandate requiring taxpayers to pay a penalty for failing to purchase health insurance. On its face, this move saves taxpayers money. However, in reality, the higher insurance premiums lower-to-middle income taxpayers will pay will cost them far more than it will save them in tax dollars.
Estimates show the average family will pay at least $2,000 more in healthcare premium costs per year. Those with chronic, pre-existing conditions are projected to pay far more. The increase in premium costs is projected to mean 13 million fewer Americans will have healthcare coverage by 2025.
Furthermore, the removal of the individual mandate means insurance companies would have less incentive to expand the marketplace in states where few insurance options exist. States such as Arizona—where many major insurers like Aetna have already pulled out—could see their insurance options narrow even further.
Extreme Anti-Choice Agenda and a Blow to Birth Control, Maternity Care
In addition to forcing struggling families to pay more for insurance, the reconciled bill is likely to contain language intended to advance fetal personhood. The bill would extend personhood to include a fetus for purposes of setting up a Section 529 College Savings Plan.
The problem? Existing law already allows individual taxpayers to begin establishing Section 529 plans during pregnancy. The purpose of the language is not to allow prospective parents to save for their unborn child’s college expenses. Rather, it lays the groundwork for fetal personhood, which could lead to a ban on abortion.
Repealing Roe vs. Wade goes directly against the will of the majority, seven out of 10 of whom believe women should have access to safe, legal abortions.
In a further effort to control women’s health, the reconciled bill will likely strike a blow to women’s access to both birth control and maternity care. The bill will further Trump’s agenda of allowing some employers to opt out of coverage for birth control, which was mandated to be covered at no cost under the ACA.
The result of this will mean far fewer women having access to reliable birth control methods such as the IUD, which work well long-term, but whose high up-front cost renders them out of reach for many women.
This has the makings of a potential dramatic rise in unwanted pregnancies.
In addition, pregnant women won’t necessarily have access to the care they need to have a safe, healthy pregnancy under the reconciled plan. Rising premium costs will result in more uninsured women, especially when they are in desperate need of prenatal care. Given that the U.S. already has the highest maternal death rate among developed nations, this seems unnecessarily cruel, as even more mothers and babies may be at risk.
A Further Blow to Working Women
While the original House bill increased the child tax credit to $2,000, and the Senate bill increased it to $1,600, the reconciled bill shows a large chance of this valuable credit remaining at the same $1,000 rate. The increase would have helped working women, particularly single mothers, most, as they often experience high child care costs to be able to work outside of the home.
In addition, the reconciled bill is likely to repeal the personal exemption, currently $4,150 per household member. While the standard deduction will increase, this only applies to taxpayers who are wage earners, not to children. The result is that women with larger families will pay more in federal income taxes.
Finally, while Trump promised on the campaign trail to do more to expand paid family leave, the reconciled bill is set to do nothing to expand this. While employers are likely to receive a small tax credit for expanding access to paid family leave, the credit is nowhere near enough to fully compensate employers for the cost. Therefore, there is little incentive for employers to expand their paid family leave policies.
It Is Not Too Late to Demand Better for Women
There are ways to make your voice heard if you disapprove of the war on women’s rights that the GOP seems to have been waging since Trump took office. Concerned citizens can contact their legislators by navigating to USA.gov. While sending emails and signing petitions is helpful, the best way to contact your representatives is by calling. It takes only minutes. With millions of women’s lives at stake, the time to take action is now.
image via neonbrand
Kate Harveston is an online journalist who enjoys writing about women’s issues. If you like her work, you can find more of it here on Cycledork or on her blog, Only Slightly Biased, where she writes about culture and politics.