The election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence has many Americans wondering how the new administration will affect their health care options.
During his campaign, Trump promised to repeal Obamacare. Although it’s impossible to predict whether or not he’ll make good on that promise, dismantling the Affordable Care Act would have a wide-reaching impact: According to the Congressional Budget Office, it could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million.
And that may be just one of many moves the future president could make that would change the current state of healthcare in the U.S. Worried you’ll be affected? Here’s how to prepare for the next four years:
Have Obamacare? Speak up and don’t stop paying your premiums
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have health insurance through the ACA, keep paying your premiums. Even if the ACA is repealed, it’s not clear how quickly health insurance would actually change. And if changes are announced, speak up. Contract your legislative representatives and tell them how changes to the law will affect you.
“If enough people show their elected representatives how this change would adversely affect them, there is a possibility that some aspects of the law will be protected,” Miriam Laugesen, an associate professor at Columbia University and the author of a book on medical pricing, told The Huffington Post.
While it’s always a good idea to take preventative measures to address your and your family’s health needs, Laugesen doesn’t think Americans should panic just yet.
“Changes to benefits may be difficult due to the fact that 2017 contracts are already defined in terms of the benefits covered,” she said. “Benefits are not so easy to change overnight.”
Uninsured? Sign up for Obamacare (yes, seriously)
Even though Trump says he’ll repeal the ACA, Laugesen recommended signing up for ACA coverage if you’re uninsured and don’t have coverage through your employer.
“There’s always the possibility of grandfathering people already signed up but closing the enrollment after January 20,” she explained.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, an associate professor and chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health Systems, struck a similar note.
“There is so much uncertainty,” he said. “I’m guessing that if there are any changes to the ACA, they probably won’t go into effect for a year or so.”
Make a birth control plan with your doctor
Pence was known for his pro-life policies during his one-term governorship in Indiana, including an omnibus bill he signed requiring doctors to offer women fetal remains after an abortion.
Faced with the reality of a Trump-Pence presidency, women on social media urged their friends to consider getting long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as intrauterine devices, which last between three and 10 years and are currently free for women under the ACA. (An IUD can cost upward of $1,000 without insurance, according to Planned Parenthood.)
Both Planned Parenthood and pharmaceutical companies that make popular IUDs told The Huffington Post that it’s too soon to tell whether the election is driving more women to request IUDs. As it stands, about 10 percent of women in the United Sates rely on the IUD for contraception.
“We’ve had a couple of patients who have come in recently checking up on birth control,” Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an instructor at Boston University School of Medicine whose specialties include contraception and abortion care, told HuffPost. “All of our birth control slots in the clinic have been filled.”
“We’ve also had people who have IUDs coming in to get theirs replaced early. They’re concerned that they might not be able to get that covered at the time of the next administration.”
Still, the advice Brandi is giving women this week isn’t much different than the recommendation she typically gives patients: “If it’s something you think is important to get for your health, I would encourage you to seek care as soon as possible,” she said.
Things that fall into the do-now category: Talk to your primary care doctor about contraception and preventive services like pap smears. Discuss how you’re going to prepare for your next pregnancy with your health care provider.
Due for a screening? Get it now
Women who are past their childbearing years should discuss age-appropriate screenings with their doctors, especially costly ones, such as mammograms and bone density scans, in case they’re not covered in the future. Getting age-appropriate vaccines and addressing conditions like urinary or sexual incontinence are other things patients can consider.
Take the above preventative health measures, especially if you’ll be affected by a possible ACA rollback
Health services are already unequally distributed in the United States, and cutting back services even further would likely only worsen the problem.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than half of U.S. counties don’t have a single OB/GYN provider.
“When there is limited access to reproductive health care, it typically targets women who are low-income, women of color, young women and immigrant women, who face a lot of economic barriers already,” Brandi said. “More barriers will make it even harder for them to access care.”
Laugesen thinks people aren’t giving the ACA enough credit for expanding access to care. “Obamacare has received a lot of negative press, but it has provided critical coverage for millions of Americans, and increased the benefits and lowered costs for people who don’t even realize they are positively impacted,” Laugesen said.
Whatever 2017 brings, Brandi is hopeful. “The important thing is to let people know that regardless of what happens, we’re going to be there for them.”