Around 1 o'clock this morning, the U.S. Senate passed on a 51-48 vote a tenative budget that paves the way toward gutting the Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare, for those of you who like and support one but not the other. They're the same thing.) And despite an impressive show from Democrats, who ignored floor rules by stating their opposition along with their "nay" votes, roughly 20 million Americans who have healthcare through the government exchanges are now vulnerable.
Including a whole lot of moms and their kids—even those who have insurance through work and don't have to worry that there has yet to be a replacement plan offered in the Republicans' "repeal and replace" promise to voters.
Under the ACA, employers must "provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk."
On the chopping block, too, are breast pumps, which had become a right—not a privilege, not a personal expense—under the ACA: "Your health insurance plan must cover the cost of a breast pump. It may be either a rental unit or a new one you’ll keep. Your plan may have guidelines on whether the covered pump is manual or electric, the length of the rental, and when you’ll receive it (before or after birth)."
On the other hand, it's pretty obvious that nursing moms who work need more than just a toilet stall and coffee break to express their milk ...
Expanded therapy for children with autism, and people with degenerative diseases, will also likely go away or be severely cut back. This means people who had lost or never had certain functions, including the ability to walk or talk, will no longer be guaranteed the "habilitative" care that the ACA previously deemed essential.
Other now-standard aspects of care are likely to vanish, including prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating against women who've been treated for sexual abuse or violence; STI counseling and screenings; depression screenings; regular mammograms and well-women visits; folic acid supplements for women trying to get pregnant; preventative hearing and visions screenings for babies; and IUD coverage for women.
It's doubtful most of the the 83 men in the U.S. Senate spent much time thinking about how their rush to give President Barack Obama the middle finger before he leaves office next week would affect mothers and children. On the other hand, it's pretty obvious that nursing moms who work need more than just a toilet stall and coffee break to express their milk—and that moms-to-be, moms and their babies should be treated like it's 2017 and not 1817.
Which it is. It's 2017.
Citizens whose lives have become more manageable by having their basic health needs acknowledged and accommodated via government mandate have been made more vulnerable in favor of lawmakers' who have become more consumed with a reconciliation bill that will roll back health care laws to before the ACA.
In his first press conference Wednesday since what feels like the dark ages, President-elect Donald Trump said his plan is to repeal and replace the ACA "essentially simultaneously," "maybe within hours." The clock is ticking.
Unclear is whether getting rid of the ACA will help women and children more than it already stands to apparently make things harder for them.
Republicans justified their votes, saying the 2016 election "gave them a mandate to roll back health care, according to the New York Times.
“The Obamacare bridge is collapsing, and we’re sending in a rescue team,” Republican Senator Michael B. Enzi said. “Then we’ll build new bridges to better health care, and finally, when these new bridges are finished, we’ll close the old bridge.”
Republican Senator Johnny Isakson at least acknowledged the two-step plan is missing a crucial element. "Repealing it without a replacement is an unacceptable solution," he said.
His colleagues, though, have a different set of priorities, which are namely helping Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence "keep their campaign promises and show to the American people that elections have consequences," Republican Senator Roger Wicker said.
It's widely known that the people who stand to lose if the ACA is dissolved include those with preexisting conditions and young adults aged 26 and under who have been allowed to stay on their parents' plans. Unclear is whether getting rid of the ACA will help women and children more than it already stands to apparently make things harder for them.
While that gets figured out, new and working moms may want to hook up the breast pump and start stockpiling milk on weekends.
Photograph by: Alice Proujansky