One of the most controversial parts of the House GOP bill repealing Obamacare is its provision allowing states to waive the requirement that insurers cover “essential health benefits.” Insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace must cover basic services like prescription drugs, mental health and maternity care.
But under the American Health Care Act, which the House passed on May 4 with zero Democratic votes, states would be allowed to opt out of this requirement. Health insurance companies, in turn, would be freed up to sell policies that cover very little.
Before Obamacare, women often had to pay more than men for the same coverage. Only 12 percent of individual market plans covered maternity care. And it was completely legal for insurance companies to refuse coverage to women who were pregnant or might become pregnant in the future.
Going back to this time, when it was harder to obtain coverage for services like maternity care, has been one of the biggest criticisms of the AHCA. But some men don’t see why they should have to pay for a benefit they don’t think they’ll use.
On May 5, a debate played out between Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and members of the local Indivisible group who met with the congressman.
Watch the exchange in the video above.
“I don’t want maternity care. I have two children, and we’re not having anymore. I don’t want to pay for maternity care,” said Perry, who voted for the AHCA.
An Indivisible activist pointed out that people who don’t have children or whose children are older still have to pay property taxes, which fund schools, adding that there’s a “social contract” in American society for public goods.
“Without a doubt,” Perry replied. “But there’s also personal responsibility. Some people never want to start a family. ... Some people don’t want to own a Cadillac. But should we want to make everybody pay for a Cadillac?”
Owning a Cadillac is very different than receiving basic maternity care. First of all, not everyone benefits when someone gets a Cadillac. But everyone comes from a woman, therefore everyone benefits from strong maternity care at some point ― even older men who don’t have children.
Perry isn’t the only GOP lawmaker who has questioned whether maternity care should be mandatory.
“A 54-year-old doesn’t need certain things. They don’t need maternity care,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in May. “They don’t need certain medical services that are being provided to them by this government product that is being forced on them right now.”
The way insurance works is that everyone pays into a system so that those who need the money get it in their time of need. You may never have cancer, but your insurance payments are helping to fund others who will. Women don’t have prostates, but their insurance premiums go to men’s prostate cancer screenings and treatments.
This issue was also a point of debate when Congress first discussed passing Obamacare. Many Republican men then were also baffled as to why women shouldn’t have sole responsibility for paying for plans that cover maternity care. One of the most memorable moments from the congressional debate was during a hearing in 2009 when Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) reminded a male GOP senator why services such as maternal care benefit everyone.
“I don’t need maternity care, and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive,” then-Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) argued during a hearing in September 2009.
“I think your mom probably did,” Stabenow shot back.
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