Like many of you all, I have spent a great deal of time this last week considering the American Health Care Act (AHCA). In fact, I might have spent a bit too much time up in my head doing some calculations, calculations that went something like this: 24 million Americans are expected to be negatively impacted if the Senate moves forward with this Act as it stands. If we consider that at least half of these millions of folks are women, and that one in five women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, we are looking at a staggering 2.4 million survivors that risk paying higher premiums or losing coverage all together. This number does not even begin to include family members impacted by their abuse. It also does not include the hundreds of thousands of male survivors or those impacted by child sexual abuse. And the impact of the abuse is vast.
The CDC reports that more than 32,000 pregnancies result from rape each year. Other long-term physical consequences include sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, gynecological complications, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic pain, and migraines. Psychological conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, suicidality, substance abuse, and other mental health symptoms. All of these conditions may not be covered by your health insurance if the AHCA passes.
So, when we read that rape or sexual abuse are not pre-existing conditions as per the AHCA, we can nod our heads and agree with caution. Rape and sexual abuse may not be pre-existing conditions; however, survivors of sexual abuse are more likely to suffer physical and psychological symptoms that could result in higher premiums under this Act.
I have the privilege to work as a therapist at the Sexual Assault Center (SAC). On a typical day I see six survivors of sexual assault, most often women, and sometimes men. My colleagues do the same. My clients range in age and come from all backgrounds. At our Center we are fortunate. We can see clients regardless of their ability to pay and are able to do this is in large part because we have generous donors and federal grant funding. We also see many clients who have insurance. We could not continue to do the work that we do without this diversity of funding. This is our reality. It is not a typical reality, as it is difficult for many people to access specialized care without insurance.
If the AHCA continues to gain traction and manages to remain intact once it visits the Senate, it will not be American survivors of sexual abuse who are protected. Survivors should not be re-victimized at the hands of insurance companies who are further legitimized by the Federal Government. All people deserve a just health care system that is truly for all Americans.
The Sexual Assault Center offers a wide array of services surrounding the topic of sexual assault. We have a prevention and education team that trains children and adults to speak up about sexual abuse. We have an advocacy team that offers resources to empower sexual assault survivors and their families, and we have a clinical team that offers therapy and support to survivors and families so the healing can begin. For more information regarding any services at the Sexual Assault Center, visit our website at http://www.sacenter.org or call 615.259.9055.
—Barbara Valdes Hessel