Last week, the Republican-backed American Health Care Act passed in the House of Representatives. But before it lands on the president’s desk to be signed into a law, the AHCA has to make it through the Senate. Since the AHCA was so controversial, though, the Senate decided to rewrite the bill. At first, GOP leaders put together a team of 13 white men, but after some backlash the Senate added one woman to the health care group that will draft the new version. Even if they did so just because of the “optics,” it’s a very good thing that they allowed women (eh, a woman) in the room.
On Tuesday, after fielding criticism about the absence of women, the men invited West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito to join the special working group on Tuesday’s session, but it’s still not clear if she will join them permanently. “I don’t know,” she told reporters when asked if she would be a full-time member.
Hopefully, she will be asked to join the group, put together by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to write the new bill. However, GOP leaders like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and even Maine Sen. Susan Collins (who originally appeared to take issue with the all-male group) have downplayed the importance of diversity when it comes to getting input for the new version of the bill. But no matter what they say, it matters.
Facing pressure from Senate Democrats, the GOP was sort of forced to rewrite the AHCA if they want it to pass. That women and moderate Republicans were left out is no coincidence — Republicans don’t want the bill to change too much, and they definitely want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
But any version of the AHCA will affect millions of women and lower-income Americans, so the more voices that go into the bill, the better.
The current version of the AHCA that passed the House would mean that insurers could charge higher premiums from patients with pre-existing conditions, include having had a C-section or having been pregnant. Anxiety and depression, which often affect women more than men, would also be subject to higher costs. Not allowing women or moderates — or extending an offer across the aisle to a Democrat — shows that there won’t be a lot of compromise from Senate Republicans when it comes to this new health care bill. Even worse, women’s health care concerns might not be addressed at all.