Keep ObamaCare’s commonsense sexual healthcare benefits, investors say

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American families, businesses, and the economy will all be negatively impacted should the Trump Administration succeed in weakening the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate that requires companies to provide free contraception to employees. Our perspective as investors leads us to strongly urge companies to continue to provide no-cost contraception in addition to comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare benefits to all employees.

As institutional investors, we see compelling evidence that widespread access to sexual and reproductive healthcare benefits, such as maternity care, paid parental leave, contraception, and family planning services promotes two positive and interrelated outcomes (1) it provides women greater control over their own lives and (2) it facilitates economic growth.

{mosads}Women have more control over their lives when they have access to contraception and sexual and reproductive healthcare as it enables women to effectively plan whether and when to have children. Such benefits have been shown to improve women’s education levels, workforce participation, and average pay, while simultaneously reducing the gender pay gap. Sexual and reproductive healthcare is also positively correlated with children’s mental health, happiness and well-being.

The economic argument is equally compelling. The additional productive power of women entering the workforce from 1970 (when birth control became more widely available) until today accounts for roughly one quarter of current GDP. Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve, recently cited a PwC study that found increasing women’s participation in the workforce to the same level as men’s would increase the nation’s GDP by 5 percent. And “women are projected to account for 51 percent of the growth in total labor force from 2008 to 2018”, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

This should not be a partisan debate. Our government should continue its tradition of establishing policies that will unlock these social and economic benefits. The Title X Family Planning Program, signed into law by President Nixon in 1970, has a long record of helping low-income and underserved individuals obtain high-quality family planning and related preventive healthcare while also providing economic benefit. In fact, the Title X Program has been shown to save taxpayers seven dollars for every dollar invested. The Guttmacher Institute, a sexual health research and policy organization, reports: “In 2014, the contraceptive care delivered by Title X–funded providers helped women avoid 904,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 439,000 unplanned births and 326,000 abortions. Without the contraceptive care provided by these health centers, the U.S. rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion would have been 33 percent higher, and the teen pregnancy rate would have been 30 percent higher.”

Roughly 49 percent of Americans receive health insurance through their employer. Fortunately, many companies see sexual and reproductive healthcare benefits as a no-brainer. Notably, Bank of America, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young now provide 16 weeks of paid parental leave, despite the U.S. being the only one of the OECD’s 35 member nations not to require paid maternity leave. Proactive companies stand to attract and retain talent and have a healthier and more productive workforce.  

The ACA includes contraceptive coverage, pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care among its 10 Essential Health Benefits. Before the ACA however, these benefits were rare. For example, 88 percent of private plans did not provide for maternity care.

Yellen succinctly summarized the imperative to eliminate obstacles to women’s full participation in the economy in a speech given at Brown University: “Further advancement [of women] has been hampered by barriers to equal opportunity and workplace rules and norms that fail to support a reasonable work life balance. If these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy…”

Institutional investors have a vested interest in seeing our economy achieve its full potential. We believe it is essential that legislators and business leaders work to ensure common sense sexual and reproductive health care benefits and family planning services remain firmly embedded in public and corporate policy as it will unlock numerous benefits to companies and society.

Allan Pearce is a Shareholder Advocate at Trillium Asset Management, an employee-owned investment advisor devoted exclusively to sustainable and responsible investing.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill. 

Tags Affordable Care Act Birth control family planning maternity care ObamaCare
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