Well This Is Just A Swell Time For Trump To Cut Healthcare Funds To California Over Abortion
Hey! I don't know if you've noticed or not, but there's like a whole pandemic happening. It's been going on for practically a year now. One of the things people definitely need, in the middle of a pandemic, is healthcare. Not only do individuals need healthcare for themselves, they also need other people to have healthcare. Because there's a virus and we don't want the virus to spread. We want people to get treated for the virus and also to get the vaccine, so we can all go back to sorta normal.
Now, sure, that could be said for healthcare in general — that we actually all benefit from everyone having it, even when there isn't a pandemic, because we live in a society — but let's not start a riot here.
California is having a difficult time. It's had more cases of COVID-19 than any other state in the country, and trails only New York and Texas in total deaths. In fact, just two days ago, the state confirmed more than 61,000 cases in a single day.
It's really, really bad!
So if you were a normal, compassionate human being, you would probably be like, "Yeah, California definitely needs healthcare. We should definitely not cut off their healthcare funding at this time, particularly for a really stupid reason." But Donald Trump is not a normal, compassionate human being. Obviously.
That is why, we can assume, he is cutting $200 million in Medicaid funding to California because the state requires employers to provide health care insurance that covers abortion. On Wednesday, Trump's Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar explained in a press release that this violates the Weldon Amendment, which "prohibits federal agencies and programs and state and local governments that receive money under the bill from 'discriminating' against individuals, health care facilities, insurance plans, and other entities because they refuse to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions."
Nothing like the “pro-life” party eliminating healthcare during a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. California will survive without… https://t.co/0L0py1zUs4— Gavin Newsom (@Gavin Newsom)1608168853.0
Not only that, but Azar says he will continue to deprive California of Medicaid funding every quarter until he gets his way. This will, of course, be difficult for him to do once he is out in a month.
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) makes two announcements regarding enforcement of federal conscience laws. First, HHS will disallow $200 million in federal Medicaid funds going to California in the upcoming quarter due to the state illegally mandating that all health care plans subject to regulation by the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) cover abortion without exclusion or limitation. If the State does not come into compliance, additional disallowances will be imposed at a rate of $200 million per quarter. As a result of California's mandate, health plan issuers were compelled to remove coverage exclusions and limitations regarding abortion coverage, which forced employer groups associated with over 28,000 individuals out of plans that until that time had chosen to not cover elective abortions. California's mandate violates a federal antidiscrimination law known as the Weldon Amendment, which protects entities from being forced to provide, pay for, or provide coverage for abortions. California has refused to come into compliance with the Weldon Amendment, despite several demands from OCR as well as offers from OCR to assist it in coming into compliance.
Just to be clear, it's not an employer's right to tell their employees what they can spend their own money on. Which is what insurance is. It is part of their compensation package — which is why the Weldon Amendment itself is the thing that should be illegal. Once your employer gives you your paycheck or provides you with health insurance, it's not their money any more. Like if I were to buy a dress Rebecca didn't like, she could say "I hate that dress!" but she couldn't say "You can't buy that dress with my money!" Because she paid me, and now it's my money and I can buy any dress I want with it.
The HHS press release also included a quote from Alex Azar, about how this is meant to protect Americans' "religious freedom and conscience rights."
"Under President Trump, HHS has worked like never before to enforce laws Congress has passed to protect Americans' religious freedom and conscience rights," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. "California and the University of Vermont Medical Center have violated federal conscience laws and refused to work with us to take corrective action, so we are now taking action to hold them to account."
The idea that this has anything to do with violating someone's conscience is beyond absurd. Because unless you are having the abortion, it is not your conscience's business. And just to be clear, as far as employers go — perhaps they should consider that if their employees don't use their health insurance to get an abortion, they will very likely be paying for it with the money they got in their paycheck from their abortion-hating employer. By their logic, this would mean that the employer was "paying for" an abortion.
There is another conundrum here, which I alluded to in the beginning of the post: A loss of Medicaid funding that severe could actually kill people, particularly at a time when so many are relying on it because they're out of work due to the pandemic. It also very likely means that emergency rooms will be overrun, because emergency rooms have to treat people whether or not they have insurance or can pay. Right now, we obviously need as much space in emergency rooms as possible.
Now, I know this won't bother "pro-lifers" and their precious, precious consciences all that much, because who cares if born people survive, amirite? They had their chance to get baptized! But perhaps they should consider that some of those people might be pregnant. Or they might get pregnant. And it costs a whole lot to be pregnant and to give birth. Far more expensive than it is to have an abortion, even if they have to pay out of pocket for it. Thus, depriving the state of these funds will very likely lead to more abortions than there would have been otherwise.
To do this at any time is gross, but this should be a time when we are saying, "You need healthcare? Here! Have all the healthcare you want!" to every state across the damn country. We should be banding together and taking care of one another. What kind of person would say "Yes, definitely take health care away from poor people, during a pandemic, over abortions that other people might have"? What the hell kind of "conscience" is that?
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse