Friday, January 6, 2017

How Healthcare Security of American Families—especially breastfeeding moms—Is At Risk


My husband and I recently purchased a new house and had a handyman came over to remodel our bathroom. The handy man asked me, “Now, To-wen, you’re a health journalist. You know what’s gonna happen to Obamacare?”

To us, this handyman is not just a handyman. He is also a family friend. We had him remodel our kitchen seven years ago when we bought our first house. Through the years he’s done several floor and other works for us. I knew he never had any health insurance before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as Obamacare.

“Don’t worry, I doubt that Obamacare will really be overhauled,” I told him, “Just pay attention to the political climate in case there’s more conversation surrounding the overhaul of Obamacare later, okay?”

“But I wouldn’t know,” he said.

I know what he meant. He is an immigrant from China and doesn’t speak English very well.

“You know, if there’s anything going to happen, it’s gonna take a while, at least a year. So do nothing different now and pay attention to the legislative process, okay? And I’ll let you know if I hear anything. It’s definitely going to be a very high profile, highly publicized process.”

“Okay.”

I said that. But I was actually very concerned. Representative Tom Price, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and his allies in Congress could make things difficult for American families, as they want to roll back advances in healthcare coverage and cut current healthcare programs.

Trump has said he would repeal the Obamacare during his campaign. It could pose challenges to many Americans, and I’m especially worried about pregnant women and nursing moms.

Obamacare includes pregnancy, maternal and newborn care in its list of 10 essential health benefits insurance companies must provide for consumers. It states on its site, “Health insurance plans must provide breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment for the duration of breastfeeding. These services may be provided before and after birth.” It amended the Fair Labor Standards Act so employers with more than 50 workers have to give new mothers, for up to one year after a child’s birth, with reasonable time to take unpaid breaks to express breast milk for their nursing children. Under this standard, employers also need to provide mothers a private room that is not a restroom to fulfill her breastfeeding and/or pumping responsibilities.

Now, because Trump has threatened to overhaul Obamacare, these services are at stake.

Personally I’ve never used Obamacare, Medicaid, CHIP, or Medicare. My family is insured through my husband’s employer. But I know Obamacare is credited with many American families’ health. Like our handyman’s family. And I’ve been blogging about breastfeeding rights for years; I’ve received messages from my readers with stories about how Obamacare helped them with nursing.

Some experts have expressed doubt that Obamacare will really be overhauled. I hope they are right. But we cannot count on that. If Obamacare is repealed in its entirety, women would incur serious costs. Without changes in the law and the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare, women will continue to face unfair and discrimination practices in the health insurance system.

A group of MomsRising volunteers will be dropping by their members of Congress’s office between January 9th and 12th to deliver a collection of personal healthcare experiences of moms and dads around the country to educate leaders about how programs like Obamacare are critical to families. It’s not too late to join the action. On January 9th, the USBC will be welcoming the 115th Congress by delivering a welcome kit to every Senator and Representative with the message breastfeeding saves dollars and makes sense. There is still time to add your voice. The more of us do it together, the stronger message we send.

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