The (uncertain) future of reproductive health care in America

Panelists on stage

The Bixby Center recently cosponsored a panel discussion, moderated by Claire Brindis, DrPH, about how looming changes to federal laws and policies may affect reproductive health care. The panelists summarized relevant bills and administrative actions currently under consideration, including cuts to Title X and the ongoing effort to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They also outlined other factors shaping the fate of reproductive health care, including state laws and social issues.

In discussing the current state of bills and actions under consideration, the panelists noted that even if some fail, many have already done damage by creating uncertainty. For example, HHS has cut the length of Title X grants from three years to one. As a result, local agencies, who use the grants to improve family planning services for low-income people, are struggling to plan. Uncertainty about the ACA’s fate has wreaked similar havoc on insurers planning for 2018.

Panelist Jane Garcia, MPH also noted how health care access has been hampered by federal policy changes in other areas, too, such as immigration. At La Clínica, where she is CEO, many patients fearing immigration raids have stopped seeking services, including for prenatal care and family planning.

UC Hastings’ Jennifer Dunn, JD brought a positive spin to the panel by outlining how state laws could help protect Californians from restrictive changes to federal reproductive health policies. At the same time, Kaiser Family Foundation’s Alina Salganicoff, PhD noted that many of California’s liberal laws and programs rely heavily on federal funding, which could be cut. Salganicoff also noted that California’s laws have their limits―for example, they cannot protect benefits for those with self-insured plans, which are controlled by the federal government.

Despite a future for reproductive health care that seems uncertain at best and bleak at worst, the panelists closed by encouraging the audience to stay informed, engaged and energized.

Claire Brindis and Cynthia Harper of BIRCWH mingling post-event

 

Panelist Jennifer Dunn talks with event attendees

A video recording of the event can be found here. Photo credit: Aleka Gurel.