It’s no secret that President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t exactly been a fan of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). On his website — and all throughout his campaign — Trump calls for an immediate roll back, writing, “On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.”
And according to ABC News, Trump had this to say about the federal statute on November 1:
“I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace, and it will be such an honor for me, for you and for everybody in this country because ‘Obamacare’ has to be replaced. It’s a catastrophe.”
Naturally, this sort of talk has filled many citizens who’ve benefitted from Obamacare — like the 20 million Americans who have gained healthcare coverage as a result — a little concerned. For parents of childbearing age, they may worry if they’ll see spikes to their health insurance premiums. Others may question if certain prescriptions and procedures will no longer be covered.
And for many women, their concerns may also lie with how any drastic changes to healthcare will affect our access to quality, affordable birth control and family planning resources — and just how quickly these changes would take effect. Currently, FDA-approved contraceptives prescribed by a doctor are free under Obamacare. That includes birth control pills, diaphragms, emergency contraception, sponges, sterilization, and even intrauterine devices (aka IUDs). But would they still be fully covered should Trump repeal Obamacare?
To be honest, it isn’t quite clear yet.
The topic has sent Twitter users buzzing ever since Election Day, with many recommending that all women invest in their preferred birth control method right away, before benefits are slashed or rights to affordable reproductive health care becomes a thing of the past.
If you are one of the 62% of sexually active women who currently use a contraception method, you may feel just as stressed and worried as many of these women are. You may be wondering how all of this might affect you should the Trump administration deliver what they’ve promised for the last 18 months.
Should you stock up on birth control pills, Plan B, or have an IUD inserted immediately?
After freaking out (and talking myself down well enough to take a couple of deep breaths), I did a bit of research and reached out to some public health experts for thoughts and advice.
The grand conclusion I came to? Don’t panic — at least not right now.
1. Less can be done to hinder your reproductive healthcare access than you’d think.
First of all, let’s start with some (slightly) reassuring thoughts from the President-elect himself. Although Trump has made it clear that he wants to do everything in his power to halt abortion and slash funds to women’s health groups like Planned Parenthood, he doesn’t want to go as far as making it completely impossible for women to have access to birth control. Trump has hinted that he is not against birth control, noting that he would not push us back to a time when birth control was only available by prescription.
Reassuring? Sort of? A little?
Here’s another piece of information that you should keep in mind:
2. Even if the Trump administration immediately tries to slash Obamacare, it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll be able to abolish it completely.
Doing so would require 60 Senate votes, which Trump is not currently predicted to get. As The New York Times points out, repealing portions of the law is much more likely:
“[W]ithout a Senate supermajority, the replacement part may be politically impossible,” writes Margot Sanger-Katz for The New York Times. “Making the kind of legislative changes to stabilize disrupted markets — or to enact the kind of broader health care reform Mr. Trump has spoken about on the campaign trail — will require 60 votes in the Senate. Without those votes, the new Republican government will have the power to repeal substantial parts of the health law, but it may not be able to replace them.”
Babble caught up with Gerald F. Kominski, Ph.D., Professor at the Department of Health Policy and Management at UCLA, and Director of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. Dr. Kominski echoes Sanger-Katz’s sentiments, but warns that because the Trump administration has already taken a stand against women’s reproductive rights, they are likely to zero in on dismantling that aspect of Obamacare.
“The Trump administration doesn’t have the votes in the Senate to repeal Obamacare on Day 1,” Dr. Kominski tells Babble. “However, Congress can disable and begin a process of dismantling most of the funding for Obamacare on Day 1. Because President-elect Trump actively campaigned against reproductive rights, I think every woman should be concerned regardless of whether she has health insurance through Obamacare or not.”
OK, now you’re panicking again, right? Totally understandable. It’s definitely not a future that many of us women predicted for ourselves, especially since Obamacare did revolutionary things like making birth control more readily available for all, and available without a copayment — all of which symbolized a step in the direction of recognizing a woman’s right to ownership over her own reproductive choices.
3. Remember: Changing laws takes time — and anything can happen in the next four years.
So what to do at this point? Well, since we don’t know exactly how any of this will pan out, it probably doesn’t make sense to assume the absolute worst, especially considering the fact that it’s pretty difficult for anyone to change laws with too much haste (just think about how long it took for President Obama to move any of this legislation through in the first place!).
There’s also this to consider: In a televised interview on Sunday with 60 Minutes, Trump seemed to soften a bit on certain aspects of Obamacare, noting that there are actually some provisions he likes — like making sure that people with pre-existing conditions are still covered and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance for longer.
4. Speak with your doctor about options and stay informed.
If you’re concerned about the future of your reproductive healthcare coverage and your own personal birth control options, your doctor is the best person to answer all of your questions. Make an appointment sooner rather than later, to make sure you’re prepared for any changes come 2017.
Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood, also has some sound recommendations for women everywhere. In a statement to CNN last week, Dr. McDonald-Mosley advised:
“You have to talk to somebody to figure out what’s the best birth control plan for you based on your circumstances.[A]nd if you want to get a method that is long-lasting, like IUDs, those do have a big upfront cost, so get it while it’s covered.”
So yeah, maybe it is a good time to get yourself fitted for an IUD, if that’s your preferred method of birth control and you don’t see yourself being able to afford it in the future. But definitely keep in mind that it’s unlikely IUDs and other forms of contraceptives won’t become entirely unavailable in the future, even if their access becomes more limited.
5. Most of all: Don’t forget to breathe.
The transition to a completely different presidential administration is going to be stressful for all involved, but one of the best things we can do right now is to find ways to center ourselves, reach out for extra hugs, and remember that we all have each other’s backs in what feels like a very difficult and worrisome time for many.