AT ACOG 2017

SAN DIEGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Just days after the House passage of the GOP-backed American Health Care Act and signals that the Trump administration will revisit mandated coverage of contraception, leaders of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists promised to continue fighting for coverage of women’s health services.

“We are never going to abdicate our responsibility for advocacy for women’s health, contraception, women’s reproductive rights,” Haywood Brown, MD , the incoming ACOG president and a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Durham, N.C., said at the group’s annual meeting. “Those things are key.”

ACOG leaders said they have been working on advocacy in the Senate for months already, recognizing that a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act could pass the House this year. The House-passed legislation, which still must pass the Senate, could be particularly detrimental to women’s health care, they said, because it includes a provision that would allow states to seek waivers for coverage of the essential health benefits package, which includes coverage of maternity care and contraceptives.

Before the ACA was enacted, only about 12% of insurance companies offered maternity care coverage and only three of four states required it, according to Thomas M. Gellhaus, MD , the outgoing ACOG president and an ob.gyn. in Iowa City. Because of the ACA requirements, all women now have that coverage. Additionally, the contraception coverage is what reduces maternal mortality, he said. “The fight will go on,” Dr. Gellhaus said. “We will not give up on this.”

ACOG has already been coordinating meetings between ob.gyns. and members of Congress and telephone calls before votes to reinforce the concerns with pending legislation and the impact it would have on women’s health care, Dr. Gellhaus said.

But this advocacy effort is not a partisan endeavor, said Mark DeFrancesco, MD , an ACOG past president and an ob.gyn. in Cheshire, Conn. “We’re going to stay out of politics,” he said. “You do that by making the only litmus test, ‘Is this good for women or not?’ ”

He added, “If you get out there with the ‘real facts’ … it shouldn’t matter what your politics are or what your party is. It’s on us to explain things in such a way that we avoid rhetoric and we avoid the ideology.”

Dr. Brown, who encouraged ob.gyns. and their patients to reach out to their members of Congress in person in their home districts, said the message is simple: “This is what it means for your mother, this what it means for your sister, this is what it means for your wife, this is what it means for your daughters.”

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