Testimony of Jodi Kwarciany at the Public Hearing on B22-106, “Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services Act of 2017″ March 20, 2017

by Jodi Kwarciany | June 6th, 2017 |

Chairman Gray and other members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Jodi Kwarciany and I am a Policy Analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. DCFPI engages in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia, with a particular emphasis on policies that affect low- and moderate-income residents. I also work closely with the Health Benefit Exchange Authority, as part of a broad coalition of stakeholders, to analyze what is happening at the federal level with respect to Affordable Care Act repeal and replacement, and contribute recommendations for District policymakers as we learn more.

I am here today to speak in favor of B22-106, the “Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services Amendment Act of 2017,” and also to encourage the Health Committee to explore other opportunities to maintain the District’s strong health coverage standards and consumer protections in the face of harmful federal health policy changes.

Women’s Health Care Services: This bill would ensure that all health insurance provided in the District includes a strong set of women’s preventive health services. Whether they’re starting school, starting a career, or starting a family, having access to the critical services within this legislation like contraception or cancer screenings will help women thrive. The bill requires these benefits to be provided without cost-sharing, which means women will have less barriers to needed care. For all these reasons, we believe that this legislation is a strong step in the right direction. 

Coverage Standards and Consumer Protections: We also encourage Mayor Bowser and this committee to maintain the full range of coverage standards and consumer protections the District has adopted under the Affordable Care Act, even if federal requirements and standards weaken as a result of federal efforts to “repeal and replace” the ACA. As you know, the federal policy changes being considered could greatly weaken ACA federal benefit and consumer protection requirements.

    Essential Health Benefits: For example, the ACA requires all non-grandfathered health plans in the individual and small group markets to cover Essential Health Benefits, which comprise 10 ten benefit categories like inpatient and outpatient hospital care, prescription drug coverage, and mental health services. Prior to the ACA, most states didn’t require comprehensive benefit standards, and plans in both the individual and small-group markets often excluded or severely restricted coverage of certain health care services. This in turn could cause benefit gaps that consumers weren’t aware of until they sought specific types of medical care. Through ACA standardization of health insurance products, consumers have the security of knowing that regardless of the plan they choose, they know exactly what they’re getting. Additionally, when individuals are given access to a standard set of benefits, it helps to spread the cost of services among a larger group of people.

    Consumer Protections: In addition to the 10 categories of Essential Health Benefits, many consumer protections were created under the ACA that if removed, would be harmful for District residents. Thanks to this law, consumers currently don’t have to worry about being charged more for health insurance–or turned down for coverage entirely– because of their health conditions, the riskiness of their job, or their gender. They don’t have to worry about high deductibles or costly co-insurance or copayments for needed health services that could put them into bankruptcy, because they’re protected by an out-of-pocket maximum. They’re also protected from annual or lifetime limits, which could previously hit individuals hardest when they needed health care the most, like for cancer treatments.

Overall, the ACA worked to create federal minimum requirements with respect to access to coverage, benefits, premiums, and consumer protections. When District residents buy or use these insurance products, they have the peace of mind knowing that they have quality health benefits.

In closing, we support the legislation before us today, believing it’s an important step in the right direction for District women and their health. We urge you to also preserve the ACA’s Essential Health Benefits structure and consumer protections through local legislation if these federal requirements are eliminated, and welcome opportunities to work with you further on this important topic.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and I am happy to take any questions.

 

To print a copy of this testimony, click here.