The Affordable Care Act-- A Timeline of Progress for Women's Health
This Friday, we will celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act—the single greatest advance for women’s access to health care in a generation. There are many specific benefits for women and women’s health, including covering preventive care with no co-pays and ending discriminatory practices against women, such as charging women higher premiums and denying coverage for “pre-existing conditions.”
When the implementation phase is over in 2014, 94% of Americans will be insured (already more than 86 million Americans have received preventive care, including 20 million women).
Here’s a brief outline of the key benefits that are already a reality and what’s coming down the pike.
Our New Reality
- Free Preventive Care for 20 million and counting—all plans must begin covering preventive services without co-pay. It’s been two years, and more than 27,000 women every single day are receiving coverage for preventive services, for services such as mammograms and pap tests.
- Insurance Companies Can’t Kick you off After you get Sick—In the past, insurance companies could find a mistake on an application and use this as an excuse to stop covering patients when they got sick. This, of course, undermines the entire reason to have health insurance—to cover your costs if and when you need health care. Under the new law, this is now illegal.
- Affordable Care for Lifetime—in the past, there used to be lifetime limits (or annual limits) on how much your insurance company would cover under your health care plan. Now these companies are prohibited from imposing limits on essential benefits.
- Expanding Coverage for Young Adults — Young women (and men) under the age of 26 don’t need to worry about immediately being dropped from their health care plan upon graduating college. In the majority of cases, they will be able to remain on their parents plans no matter if they are married, living with their parents, still in school or looking for a job. And, they will be able to be covered up until the age of 26.
- Spending more on patients, less on overhead—the new law will require that insurance companies spend more money on patients, and less on paperwork and overhead costs. Included in this regulation, a majority of the premiums paid to insurance companies must be spent on benefits and quality improvement.
What’s Coming…by 2014
• Increasing Access to Contraception—We’ve spent the last eight months arguing very publicly over comprehensive access to contraception. The fight evolved based on Health and Human Services decision to include birth control as basic preventive care (as recommended by the scientific and non-partisan Institute of Medicine). Under the ACA, insurance companies and employers (with the exception of Churches and places of worship) must cover contraception without any additional co-pays. It’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular benefits of the health reform law considering the fact that birth control use is nearly universal. It is basic care and can save women up to $600 per year.
• Combating Health Disparities –The new law will encourage further research and development to help understand and fight health disparities. Considering the fact that in 2010, 20.5 percent of African-Americans lacked health insurance compared to 11.7 percent of whites, this is clearly important to improving the health of all Americans.
• Ending Discriminatory Practices Against Women—The ACA protects women from insurance companies charging higher premiums, sometimes up to 150 percent more than men. Insurers will no longer be able to deny health care coverage because of a “pre-existing condition” such as breast cancer, high blood pressure, or diabetes. But the law also works to correct far more insidious abuses by health insurers, some of whom have even claimed that pregnancy or being a survivor of domestic violence is a pre-existing condition. Yesterday, the NYTimes reported on still existing discrimination for women:
In Louisville, Ky., according to eHealthInsurance.com, a 40-year-old nonsmoking woman pays $196 a month for a HumanaOne policy. That is 53 percent more than the $128 premium paid for the same coverage by a nonsmoking man of the same age. In addition, the nonsmoking woman pays 14 percent more than the $172 premium charged to a man of the same age who has used tobacco in the past year.
• Making Care More Affordable—Already more than 86 million people have benefited from the health care law, and under the law, access to affordable health insurance will become newly available for the nearly 13 million women of reproductive age who will become eligible for insurance coverage—along with millions of other Americans. Some will get their care through Medicaid programs, while others will be able to buy private health insurance through an exchange and pick the plan that best works for them. Many will qualify for tax credits to reduce the cost of their insurance plan.
So, while opponents of the Affordable Care Act spend the next two weeks attacking the law, let’s remember exactly what would be taken away from Americans if they were to succeed.