This week, the ghouls that run our country’s government have revealed a complete lack of understanding of how maternity care works. (Serious question: Do they know where babies come from?) The conservative Freedom Caucus has pushed to eliminate Obamacare’s requirement that insurance plans offered to individuals and small businesses cover “essential health benefits” (EHBs), a list of ten categories that includes preventative care and pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.
When asked about cutting EHBs, Senator Pat Roberts reminded the world that he, as a man, does not need mammograms:
Then Sean Spicer told reporters that old men don’t need maternity care (despite the fact that his boss had Barron at the ripe old age of 59).
None of these comments are surprising. They are the same lines these man-children pulled when Democrats were trying to cover maternity care in the Affordable Care Act. They don’t seem to understand that a) pooling risks is how insurance works and b) we shouldn’t put the financial burden of having a child entirely on the mother.
But these statements, however sexist and dumb, also reveal a fundamental weakness of Obamacare. Our current health care system has to stretch individual plans in convoluted ways (such as EHBs) so that they can function as adequate coverage for a variety of conditions. This allows Republicans to continue to spew the rhetoric of “why do I have to pay for x, y, z if I don’t need it,” which is a logical way to think about commodities, but not about health care. The problem is that, as opposed to a single-payer system, health care under Obamacare is more easily cast as a product, instead of a right. It makes it easier for conservatives to undermine the societal goal of pooling risk.
Obamacare pulled us out of the wilderness when it came to women’s health and maternity care. Today, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, said that pregnant women who want maternity care under their plan could just move to a state that mandates maternity coverage. But before the ACA, only nine states mandated maternity benefits. It’s clear that the GOP’s plan would be a disaster for women and that Republican simply don’t care. But their comments point to the way health care in this country could be strengthened.