Being a woman is a preexisting condition? Here's what is at stake for health care
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We’ve set our clocks back an hour. But in the next few weeks, we might be setting our country back by many years.

I’m talking about our health care, which is under attack right now. We are grappling with a pandemic that has claimed 238,000 American lives and infected 10 million. But as you read this, the Trump administration is working to overturn the Affordable Care Act and argued their case before the Supreme Court today.

No, this isn’t a fever dream.


Call it the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare, the ACA has provided lifesaving health care for families across Southern California. We have expanded Medi-Cal to more Californians, reduced the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, helped young adults stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26, required insurance companies to provide essential benefits like preventive and maternity care, and stopped insurers from denying coverage and charging more because of pre-existing conditions.

Overturning the ACA would gut all of this. It would be detrimental for all, especially the 135 million with a preexisting condition. In my district alone, that’s more than 300,000 people under age 65. Preexisting conditions aren’t obscure diagnoses, but conditions like diabetes, cancer, mental illness, pregnancy and delivery by C-section.

In 2009, I introduced the bipartisan Gender Equity in Health Premiums Act which was included in the ACA. This prohibited health insurance companies from engaging in “gender rating” or charging women more for health insurance premiums than men. At the time, I said: “Never again will a woman be denied insurance or charged one and a half times the amount of a man, simply because she is a woman.”

Well, crap.

Overturning the ACA would be especially devasting to women, particularly women of color.

According to Republicans, just being a woman is a preexisting condition.


In 2018, I stood up for women during the GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, but my GOP colleagues voted against protecting women. Two years later, we are facing the same battle at the Supreme Court. According to the Center for American Progress, efforts to strike down or overturn the ACA could leave millions of women and girls at risk of being charged more or denied coverage. More than half of U.S women have preexisting conditions, including an estimated 8.4 million in California.

The numbers are sobering, but what’s really at stake?

It would mean that a new mom could have her maternity care not covered.

A grandmother might put off critical preventive screenings — like a mammogram — because it’s no longer a covered health benefit.

A middle-aged woman who survived COVID-19 might find that she now has a preexisting condition, and insurance companies refuse to pay for her care.

Bottom line: Women will find they’re paying more for health care than men simply because they’re women.

When Republicans say “Make America Great Again,” I assume they mean for white men. Because, for women, especially women of color, there is nothing great about fearing for the loss of health coverage during the middle of a pandemic. Instead of being protected by our government, we are falling backwards to the policies of the past, where women paid more for their health care and received far less.

Charging women higher health care premiums is just plain wrong. We must do everything in our power to protect women and safeguard our health care coverage, while we work to improve the ACA and make health care more affordable for all. Simply gutting these critical programs helps no one — in fact, it makes me sick.

Sanchez represents the 38th District of California.