- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

D.C. officials are hedging bets that the Republican-controlled Congress will repeal Obamacare by enshrining parts of the health care act in city law.

Mayor Muriel Bowser signed legislation Wednesday requiring all insurance companies in the District to cover a list of women’s health care procedures without asking patients to pay additional out-of-pocket costs.

The Defending Access to Women’s Health Care Services Amendment Act requires insurers to cover preventative care like breast cancer screenings, HIV and HPV screenings, as well as contraceptive counseling and breastfeeding support and prevents insurers from “cost-sharing” or passing on fees to patients.

D.C. Council member Charles Allen, the legislation’s author, said the law’s language will be familiar because it’s the same as that in the Affordable Care Act. The Ward 6 Democrat said he wanted to keep Obamacare protections for D.C. women in case Republicans repeal the federal health care law.

“I have two kids our oldest was born in a time before the ACA and our youngest was born after the ACA,” Mr. Allen said during Wednesday’s bill-signing ceremony at Planned Parenthood-Carol Whitehill Moses Center in Northeast. “It hit the way my wife was able to receive care, the way that my family was able to receive care, it hit our pocketbook, and our ability make sure as a family we could take care of our kids and that’s why it’s incredibly important.”

Mr. Allen told The Washington Times that the Obamacare provision saved his family hundreds of dollars on the breast pump his wife needed for their second child. Without these protections, low income mothers and those looking to return to the workforce would be hit hard, he said.

“Imagine that you’re a working family. You’re a mom who tries to balance work and a new child,” he said. “A couple hundred bucks? That is a big dent. That’s just one example of what this legislation will help protect.

The D.C. Council unanimously passed Mr. Allen’s bill earlier this month. After Wednesday’s signing, the mayor will send it to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees D.C. legislation. Under home rule, Congress has 30 days to review and to approve or overturn the bill.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, said she doesn’t expect the committee to kill the legislation.

“What we struggle against are [committee] chairs who overturn D.C. law but [the chairman] has not done that,” Mrs. Norton, a Democrat, told The Times, referring to Rep. Trey Gowdy.

Mr. Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election; if he decides to depart Congress within the legislation’s 30-day review window, another member of the committee will review and decide on the bill’s fate.

The Archdiocese of Washington expressed no opinion about the legislation, noting that, like Obamacare, it allows employers and religious groups to opt-out over religious objections.

“The bill acknowledges our religious exemption,” an archdiocese spokesperson told The Times.

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