GOP Health Care Bill Will Harm Rape And Child Abuse Victims, Advocates Say

"We ask you not to turn your back on victims."

In addition to the deep cuts to Medicaid and the possibility of lifetime caps, which could negatively impact millions of Americans, more than 300 of the nation's leading domestic and sexual violence advocacy groups are now saying the GOP's proposed health care bill will greatly harm sexual assault survivors and victims of child abuse.

On June 26, just days after the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) was finally made public, advocacy groups blasted the bill in a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a chief architect of the legislation — and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has been an outspoken critic of the bill.

The missive, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News, is said to have contributed to the lack of support in the Senate that pressured McConnell to delay a vote until after the July 4 holiday. It argues that substantially reducing Medicaid coverage, as the BCRA does, disproportionately impacts women and children "who have experienced violence or trauma."

Though the Senate bill won't deny people coverage based on, say, being a victim of rape or childhood abuse, most of the states do not have laws protecting rape victims from being charged more by insurance companies as a result of their assault. Additionally, victims of sexual assault and domestic violence could easily face higher premiums "as a consequence of their abuse." In other words, though health care will be accessible to victims, it may not be affordable.

"Domestic violence and sexual assault are unplanned crises with long-term consequences. It is unreasonable to assume someone will know to choose a health plan based on the expectation she or he will become a victim of crime or violence," the letter states. "The BCRA will allow insurers to sell plans that cover very little — potentially leaving a victim with a huge medical bill after an attack — or make comprehensive health insurance so expensive that it's unaffordable."



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And the problems don't end there. According to RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, 94 percent of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms during the two weeks following the rape, and 33 percent of women who are raped contemplate suicide. The organization also notes victims are at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

As the letter puts it, the "chronic pain and other chronic health conditions" as well as the "mental, emotional, and behavioral health consequences of abuse" may now no longer be covered as a result of the deep cuts to Medicaid.

Additionally, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. As the letter intimates, domestic violence victims who leave an abusive partner and therefore experience a break in coverage could be penalized by the GOP's bill because it prevents people from purchasing health insurance for six months if they go 63 days without it.

"It'd be deeply disappointing to see Congress put policies in place that would directly harm so many survivors," Liz Roberts, deputy CEO of Safe Horizon, one of the country's largest victims assistance organizations, tells BuzzFeed. Safe Horizon was one of the hundreds of signatories of Monday's letter.

"We ask you not to turn your back on victims," the letter concludes. "Protect their access to health care to make sure that they have a pathway to healing, safety and well-being."

Cover image via Unsplash 

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