Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) was speaking to a crowd assembled in a Dubuque, Iowa, high school gym last Monday (May 8) when he had this to say about the Obama-era health care act’s policy on pregnancy:
“Get rid of some of these crazy regulations that Obamacare puts in, such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance,” Blum told his constituents, many of whom responded with jeers.
Blum’s comment is typical of many conservatives’ main beef with the ACA, which requires insurers to cover 10 essential benefits as part of any health plan. One of those mandated benefits is pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care, which was included to prevent insurance companies from being able to discriminate against women by labeling pregnancy in new enrollees as a preexisting condition.
One woman in that Iowa gym — Barbara Rank, a grandmother and retired special education teacher — didn’t join in the chorus of boos that night, she later told the Washington Post. But Blum’s statement continued to rankle her, and the next morning she penned a 107-word letter to the editor of her local newspaper, which was published on Friday. That letter ever-so-concisely tore down Blum’s opposition to maternity care and quickly went viral on Reddit and Twitter.
Ranks’ letter reads:
“Congressman Rod Blum in a Dubuque town hall (Monday) night asked, ‘Why should a 62-year-old man have to pay for maternity care?’
I ask, why should I pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read?
Why should I pay for a flower I won’t smell, a park I don’t visit, or art I can’t appreciate? Why should I pay the salaries of politicians I didn’t vote for, a tax cut that doesn’t affect me, or a loophole I can’t take advantage of?
It’s called democracy, a civil society, the greater good. That’s what we pay for.”
The pint-sized letter caused a pretty mighty ripple: It now has more than 8,000 comments on Reddit and has received just as much applause on Twitter. Though a few naysayers factor in among that number as well — including Blum, whose spokesperson told the Washington Post his remark was taken out of context — Ranks doesn’t mind the criticism.
“I got a text from one of my nieces,” she told the Post. “She put it really well: 'Whatever. To 60,000 people, you just said what they think.'”
According to a CNN estimate, the total cost of pregnancy and newborn care runs the gamut, but averages at about $30,000 for vaginal and $50,000 for cesarean section deliveries, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, respectively. Before Obamacare, only 12 percent of health plans on the individual market covered maternity.
If politicians like Blum have their way with the American Health Care Act, the full financial burden of pregnancy will be placed firmly back on women’s shoulders.