In this week’s policy news, focus is on The Contraceptive Mandate. This is the part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which requires all insurance companies to cover birth control at no cost to the insured. The New York Times has reported that the Trump administration is working on broadening the criteria through which employers and insurers may refuse to provide contraception as a benefit within their health insurance.
Initially, one company, Hobby Lobby, went all the way to the Supreme Court to argue that based on their religious principles, they had a right to decline to provide insurance which covered contraception for their employees . They argued that contraception is against their religious principles. The Trump administration would like to expand the criteria for which companies can claim a moral or religious objection to the provision of contraception.
The President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has spoken out in multiple ways against this trend and has added his objection to discussions pertaining to the elimination of the necessity to cover maternity care. Can you believe it? Attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union have begun to elucidate a very powerful argument that these policy trends violates the separation of church and state. Moreover they constitute discrimination based on sex.
At the present time approximately 55,000,000 women receive contraception through this no cost benefit. The scientific data supports the Democratic assertion that there is a clear and evidence-based correlation between The Contraceptive Mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the historically low unintended pregnancy rates, teen pregnancy rates, and abortion rates.
Women are not the only target in the latest round of discussions on healthcare policy. A certain group of GOP senators I'm working on a revision of the Affordable Care Act which will no longer classify employer purchased health insurance as a tax deductible expense. This appalling antibusiness and anti-healthcare piece of legislation threatens the 177 million Americans who have their health care coverage through their employers. Additionally anybody who has a pre-existing condition or who has to watch their health care expenses is at risk if any of these GOP draft revisions to the health care bill are enacted.
On to the medical news. Did you know that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption pregnancy? People widely assumes that the rule of moderation applies to alcohol and pregnancy but this is not at all the case according to the CDC, (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the National Institute of health, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. No alcohol should be consumed in pregnancy. Not a popular message.
An increasing number of states have legalized the use of marijuana. Accordingly pregnant women have gotten the skewed message that this sends and have been using marijuana in record numbers. No one seems to be listening to the repeated messages coming out of scientific circles such as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology indicating that marijuana use in pregnancy is associated with brain development problems in the fetus. A whopping 14% of pregnant teenagers ages 12-17 use marijuana. Dumb and Dumber. That is my fear. Also not a popular message.
It is Zika virus season again in North America. To date 64 babies have been born in the US with Zika related birth defects. Diagnosing infections and tracking the spread of the virus is of paramount importance, together with enacting virus prevention measures such as spraying and education. All this costs money, and funding is tighter than ever this year, pursuant to the policies of the current administration. Zika virus, when contracted by pregnant women, produces a high risk of severe brain damage in the baby. Zika virus is spread by certain species of mosquitoes which live in the southern portion of the United States and points further south, most notably Central and South America. Florida already has 43 documented cases of Zika virus infection in pregnant women.
Finally, in the good news department, women who breast feed their children for at least six months reduce their risk of endometrial cancer by over 10%. Of course they do their babies an infinite number of goods from improving their teeth to improving their brain development, but who knew there could be such tangible and profound effects on the health of the mother.
Stay tuned next week for more sensational news from the world Obstetrics and Gynecology, right here on Medical Mondays.