Policy news continues to dominate. The new administration's efforts to repeal the ACA (Affordable care Act) continue. However, Republican leaders are scrambling to resolve the internal GOP divisions which have developed over healthcare policy particulars.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has again gone on record opposing any changes that will limit women's reproductive coverage in this country. However OB/GYNs in this country also concerned about the so-called"Global Gag Rule”. The global gag rule is a policy that states that advising about or providing abortion disqualifies an international health care agency from receiving funds from the United States. It has been in and out of effect depending on the administration in office over the last 20 years. Dr. Daniel Grossman at the University of California San Francisco has recently published an editorial which sites research indicating that the “Global Gag Rule” actually increases the number of abortions in sub-Saharan African countries, due to reduced access to contraception. This is not a surprise since these international healthcare organizations use their funds for the spectrum of healthcare needs, including contraception. When they lose funds, they lose it for everything across-the-board.
Dr. Grossman has also published about research on this country indicating that restricting access to abortion though administrative hoops or clinic closures does not reduce the number of abortions. It merely causes the percentage of later second trimester abortions to increase. In case this is not clear, later procedures have higher risks of complications of all kinds. This is what we call an unintended consequence.
Again it has come to light that if tax credits replace subsidies to pay for healthcare, the wealthy will benefit the most. That is because they have the most taxes against which to apply deductions. Younger people will also benefit disproportionately, since their premiums are low and the GOP proposal includes giving the same dollar amount of credit to each person regardless of the amount of their premium. In contrast to these benefits for the young and wealthy, such GOP replacement plans as currently drawn will in increased costs for the majority of middle income and middle aged Americans.
The new administration has made it clear that it does not favor retaining the penalty for those who do not buy health insurance, the so-called “ individual mandate”. Generally people with chronic health conditions make arrangements to have some form of health insurance coverage, since they know they will need it. It is the young andthe healthy who tend to skip purchasing health insurance since they think they can get away with it. I have two thoughts about this. Number one, They may not realize that if they have anything as simple as a car accident with a broken leg, they may end up with a bill that is tens of thousands of dollars. When they cannot pay this bill, it damages their credit, and the costs are absorbed by the rest of us who have taken the trouble to obtain insurance. Systemwide, their failure to get insurance also has effects. In particular, if the young and healthy tend to go without insurance, they are not contributing to the pool, and this drives up the insurance prices for the elderly and the unwell.
Utah has joined the league of States who now legally require abortion providers to counsel women about a procedure that does not exist, the “abortion reversal” procedure. Members of that House have dissented, saying the procedure is not backed science, and is medically inaccurate.
A controversial proposal to require Medicaid recipients to work is on the table. A number of Republican Governors are promoting, this, ostensibly hoping people will work themselves right out of their Medicaid eligibility. Medicaid currently ensures one in five Americans.
The CDC(Centers for Disease Control) has confirmed that American women who were pregnant with Zika have a 20 fold increase in certain birth defects. The CDC continues to recommend restriction of travel to Zika affected areas for pregnant women.
In the good news department, policymakers of various kids are working to secure women’s health care despite the repeal of the ACA. State based bills to preserve services of contraception, prenatal care, STI ( sexually transmitted infection) screening, sterilization and counseling are being introduced around the nation.
The Virginia General assembly has recently outlawed FMG-female genital mutiliation. FMG is removal of the external female genitalia, including the labia and clitoris. It is carried out between infancy and the age of 15. It has no health benefits and commonly causes chronic pain, and urinary tract issues. At this time, 200 million women in 30 countries around the world have been “cut”. It is widely practiced in Africa, the Middle East and Asia and is considered an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is intended to render women less sexual, less “unclean", less likely to stray, and more marriageable. No religious scripts prescribe it, though practitioners believe the practice has religious support. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers it a violation of human rights. International human rights groups have applauded the Virginia decision.
In more good news, Colorado has passed laws allowing pharmacists to prescribe oral contraceptives. Medical screening by the pharmacist will be required. ACOG has applauded the measure, citing the safety of the medications, and the improved access to contraception.
Stay tuned next week for more interesting news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology.