What To Know If You Rely On The ACA For Birth Control

Photographed by Megan Madden.
Changes to our healthcare system will undoubtedly be one of the most pressing issues to come following the outcome of this week's election. Currently, more than 20 million people are estimated to rely on the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) to access health insurance. But if the act is repealed or significantly scaled back (as President-elect Donald Trump has promised), it's estimated that at least 22 million of those who rely on Obamacare could be left in the lurch. We talked to Shana Alex Charles, PhD, an assistant professor at UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, to learn more about what these changes may mean for your health, and especially your reproductive health, since many women rely on the free birth control and preventive care (including gynecological visits and screenings) that the ACA guarantees. Fair warning: It's not looking too pretty.
What should women who rely on the ACA for reproductive care know about their coverage moving forward?
"When president-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20, 2017, there is a strong likelihood that the Congress will enact either an entire or a partial recall of the ACA. "It's highly likely that one provision sure to be targeted is the inclusion of no-cost contraception and access to Ob/Gyns for women in all health insurance plans nationwide, since this has been a key issue for the conservative right (it spurred the Hobby Lobby case in the Supreme Court). "Therefore, women who rely on free care or contraception should be sure to pay close attention as to whether these provisions are included in their plan renewal. Any [changes to] the ACA will likely take effect as of December 31, 2017 (the end of most plan years)."

Is there anything people who rely on the ACA right now should do to prepare for the potentially huge changes next year?
"Beyond making sure to get all needed health care as soon as possible, there's not much that people can do with the immense amount of uncertainty. I'm positive that, at the least, all health plan contracts established through the marketplaces (such as healthcare.gov) before January will be honored. But they are only annual contracts. "If the American people want more certainty in their system beyond annual enrollment (for example, a lifetime guarantee of minimum health care from the government, similar to people who have Medicare), now is the time to make their voices heard on that issue to their Congressional representatives. This will absolutely come up in next year's session."

Do you have any other healthcare advice for young women during this transition?
"The most important thing is to pay attention and get involved. Call [your] Congressional representatives, send e-mails, and make sure that [your] needs and wishes are known and taken into account. And don't wait to use your healthcare if you do have coverage. Because, after this election, anyone on the individual market or in a Medicaid expansion program has reason to worry that those will disappear after next year."

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