The Other War On Women’s Health


On Monday, the Supreme Court narrowed women’s access to contraceptive devices, ruling that closely held for-profit corporations could refuse to provide birth control that violates their religious convictions.

As a result, at least 14,000 individuals who work at Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood — the companies who represented the two plaintiffs in the case — could be denied coverage for IUDs and the morning-after pill. Thousands more employed by the 70 companies that have filed similar challenges may also see their access restricted to any forms of contraception their employers find objectionable.

But the Supreme Court isn’t the only government body limiting insurance coverage to women. A new White House report released Wednesday argues that the 24 state government that have failed to expand their Medicaid programs to individuals and families earning 138 percent above the federal poverty line could also be undermining women’s health.

That’s because women make up nearly 70 percent of adults on Medicaid and the report finds that limiting their access to coverage significantly restricts their access to health care. Relying on past health research, the analysis concludes that “having health insurance increases the probability that individuals report receiving ‘all needed care’ over the prior year.” “If the 24 States that have not yet expanded Medicaid did so, an additional 651,000 people would receive ‘all needed care’ over a given year once expanded coverage was fully in effect,” it says.

An additional “214,000 women between the ages of 50 and 64 would receive mammograms” and “345,000 women would receive pap smears once expanded coverage was fully in effect.”

If all the states expanded their Medicaid programs, “7 million women will be able to get preventive health screenings, birth control, checkups, and the care they need to manage chronic conditions,” Planned Parenthood estimates, 4.6 million of whom will be of reproductive age.

But for now, low-income women residing in these 24 states will have to pay out-of-pocket for preventive tests and could face additional financial hardships if they work for companies with moral objections to providing contraceptive services.