Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is no friend to women's rights, so it seemed only a matter of time before he took to sabotaging Obamacare's protections for access to birth control. Now, the worst seems to have happened. Here's a statement released by the Department of Health and Human Services today:
Secretary Price Welcomes Opportunity to Reexamine Contraception Mandate
Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., issued the following statement regarding President Trump’s executive order on religious freedom:
“Religious liberty is our country’s first freedom. Americans of faith play a vital role in caring for our most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly and the poor.
“We welcome today’s executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to reexamine the previous administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services mandate, and commend President Trump for taking a strong stand for religious liberty.
“We will be taking action in short order to follow the President’s instruction to safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who provide health insurance to their employees.”
Reexamining the Obama administration's preventive services mandate is one of the possibilities I wrote about last week. The Trump administration has some leeway in terms of reassessing parts of the law that fall under "guidance," and can do damage to it through small changes like the one Price is hinting at—recategorizing birth control as something outside of the ACA's prescribed essential health benefits. It would mean reversing the rule that makes birth control available without a copay, a change that's made it unprecedentedly accessible, and sensibly defined birth control as the preventive care it is.
Between this and today's passage of the AHCA, which is primed to do serious damage to access to health care for folks with preexisting conditions, we're seeing the Trump administration's true colors. I'm hoping we'll remember this in 2018.