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Consultants Talk about the Way forward for Girls’s Well being After a Historic Election

“Today’s conversation is more timely than ever, and it’s important to understand how it can affect women’s health,” said Beth Battaglino, CEO of HealthyWomen, as she hosted the webinar on Tuesday, “Presidency, Congress and Supreme Court: 2020 Election & Women “imagined health.”

The webinar was moderated by Arika Pierce, Founder of the Millennial Boardroom, with panelists Cate Gormely, Vice President of Lake Research Partners. Rachel Stauffer, Director at McDermott + Consulting; Raissa Downs, founding partner of Tarplin, Downs & Young; and Dorianne Mason, director of health justice at the National Women’s Law Center.

The conversation, which is anchored in Women’s Health, touched on COVID-19, the pending Supreme Court ruling on Affordable Care Act, and what the next four years shared among President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and one Congress could bring.

Comparing 2020 to 2016, Gormely stated that in the last presidential election, white college and white voters, who are a large part of Donald Trump’s support, were overrated.

Biden, she said, attracted voters and called for unity during the coronavirus pandemic because of his steadfast leadership. She also highlighted a gender gap among voters – overall, more women voted for Biden, while Trump voters were more likely to be older, white men or white men with college degrees. While college white women have become a key constituency for Democrats, straight white married couples in America tend to vote Republicans, Gormely said. Black and Latinx support for Biden crossed genders.

Pulling data from a nationwide poll her company conducted on election day, Gormely stated that the main problem for women voting for Trump was the economy and jobs, while COVID-19 was the main problem for Biden’s female voters, followed of health care and racial justice issues.

Stauffer and Downs, who worked with Congress on health legislation, discussed what will come in Congress. In both chambers, leadership remains largely the same, but committee chairs will change when tenure restrictions and retirements occur. Regarding the priorities in the house, Stauffer said they are divided into pre- and post-COVID-19.

In terms of health care, Stauffer said the focus in 2019 was mostly on prescription drug costs and surprise billing, as well as a CURES Act 2.0. “Obviously everything has changed; there is no normalcy for Congress,” Stauffer said, noting that the only laws passed recently were aid packages, and even talks about another aid package slowed down as the chambers over Details haggled. From their point of view, parts of what would be included in CURES could in the future be fitted into bills related to pandemics.

Downs, who glanced at the Senate, agreed with Stauffer. “The pandemic is really dehydrating Washington to the existing agenda. I think it will stay that way for the next year,” she said. Downs predicts that surprise reckoning will be the focus again as it is a potential problem for those looking for COVID-19 testing and treatment. She also said the problem has bipartisan support.

Stauffer and Downs believe that Congress can and should help allay public fears about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. (According to a recent Gallup poll, only 58% of Americans say they are ready to receive the vaccine, up from 66% in June.) Downs said communication and verbal reinforcement from Congress are important, but it really is about making sure the vaccine has public access to the data. According to Stauffer, Congress is working on reporting the vaccine, which will be free, as mandated in a previous aid package.

For her part, Mason said there was a need to talk about the history of medical warfare against black and brown bodies in America and to ensure that people from these communities are part of the process from start to finish. She predicted this will help the most severely affected people feel more comfortable about the vaccination.

Mason offered a glimpse into the future of the Affordable Care Act following the California v Texas arguments on November 10 in the Supreme Court. Mason stated, “The case depends on whether the requirement that individuals have health insurance or pay a tax is constitutional and if that particular provision falls, the entire ACA should fall.”

The questions the judges asked during the hearing led Mason to believe that the court may decide that the ACA is constitutional even if the individual responsibility provision is found to be unconstitutional.

“A decision to essentially invalidate the entire ACA would have devastating consequences,” concluded Mason, “especially for women.” Without the ACA, the 68 million women with pre-existing medical conditions – and those who tested positive for COVID-19 – might not be able to get insurance, she said. Without the ACA, Mason continued, health insurers could charge women higher premiums again. She was concerned about non-maternity plans, loss of Medicaid eligibility and increased costs for preventive care, including birth control.

“These are really important things that are on the chopping block with the ACA,” said Mason. The Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled House add to Mason’s concern. Mason said the question would be what would replace the ACA and whether Congress would pass it.

“Hopefully by spring we will make a decision and know if millions of people will continue to receive medical care during one of the most terrible pandemics we have had in this century,” concluded Mason.

Harris’ victory as the first woman (and woman of color) elected Vice President was a ray of hope for panelists who believe Harris understands the intersections that play a role in health care and in the lives of women. Gormely said, “This is real life for you; this is not a theory for you and your family.”

This resource was created with support from Astellas and The Pfizer Foundation.

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