The "RUMP" Healthcare Plan
The Ryan/Trump (“Rump”) “health care” plan will result in no health care at all for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites, with as many as 24 million people losing access to health care. Instead of addressing some of the challenges of the Affordable Care Act, they want to burn it in a dumpster fire and direct health care funds for tax breaks for the most wealthy and giveaways to insurance companies. Millions of Americans will be left in the dust, with no health care access.
Women are the big losers in this scheme, particularly women who depend on Planned Parenthood providers to meet their reproductive health care needs. Planned Parenthood is an easy punching bag for the right, and President Trump has joined in the brawl. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPWI) is one of our state’s safety net providers, and 50,000 out of their 60,000 patients is Medicaid eligible, with 6,000 of these patients residing in Speaker Ryan’s own district. In 2016 alone they provided 122,258 patient visits, conducted 21,705 patient exams and prescribed 204,754 units of birth control.
This all will change under the Rump proposal, which kicks Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program, leaving thousands of women in Wisconsin, and millions of women throughout the country, without a health care provider. The result is that women’s health and lives are being tossed around like a political football with disastrous consequences.
Here in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker and legislative Republicans have waged a dangerous partisan fight over women’s health care needs since their 2011 take-over of state government. Because of their efforts, abortion is barely accessible to Wisconsin women, even in dire circumstances. They tossed Wisconsin’s gold-standard comprehensive sex education law out the window and blocked Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin from receiving millions in state funds for cervical and breast cancer screens and birth control. The result is not just to punish and degrade women as previously advocated by President Trump, but to shut down health centers in communities and for women who need them the most.
Republican assurances that other providers would step in to fill the void are flat-out false, and never materialized in Wisconsin when five PPWI rural health centers were forced to shut down as a result of Republican efforts. Shawano, a county that lost a PPWI center, has since seen increases in gonorrhea and chlamydia. Chippewa County, that housed another now closed health center, has no place for women to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). In Johnson Creek, where a third center closed, has to refer low-income women to another county just to access birth control.
As the Jefferson County Director of Health said in a recent Guardian article, “They’ve never replaced the services of Planned Parenthood. I’m not pro-abortion or anything. But I can tell you nothing has ever replaced those services for uninsured people.” In 73 percent of the counties that PPWI serves, there is no provider who has the capacity to absorb PPWI’s patients.
More barriers to health care decrease a woman’s ability to access the care she needs. In the end, women suffer.
Wisconsin already has acute health care provider shortages in rural areas, thwarting health care access in general, particularly for low-income people, and resulting in higher health care costs. The Rump proposal compounds these problems for rural women. Over 54% of PPWI’s health centers are in health professional shortage areas, which are rural or medically underserved. Without these health centers, women will have to drive hours or wait months to receive basic health services like a breast exam, cervical cancer screen or physical. As one of the few charity health care providers to underserved populations, PPWI loses money on every single Medicaid patient they serve but do so knowing that all too often these men and women, of all ages, races and education levels, have nowhere else to go. How many other providers are going to be willing to lose money on almost every patient they see?
Because the elimination of Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program is the only non-Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision in the Rump health care bill, its fate is uncertain in the scheduled Thursday house vote on the bill.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin recently celebrated its 80th anniversary. It has existed from decade to decade, through political battles and seemingly constant efforts from some to shut it down, because women and men desperately need the services it provides. From the middle-aged, rural white woman whose breast cancer was detected to the African American women in Milwaukee who was a college patient, Planned Parenthood health centers have not just kept women and men healthy, but helped them live their dreams. We must resist efforts by politicians to make our personal, private health care decisions, and to take our dreams away. Our health, and lives, hang in the balance.