This is the first installment of a month-long series on how the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, benefits women and what you need to know if you do not have your insurance or lose your insurance to get coverage through it. Check back each Wednesday in June for a new post – and let us know in the comments if you have questions or have already benefitted from Obamacare.
I went to the gynecologist for my annual checkup last week, and I didn’t have to pay a penny.
Then I went to the pharmacy to pick up my birth control pills. No charge.
My doctor suggested I get my first-ever mammogram, and when I finally get around to it, there won’t be a co-payment or deductible for that either.
Thank you, Obamacare!
Women throughout the nation have already benefited tremendously from the provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare. Services like Pap smears and mammograms now carry no out-of-pocket costs. This is important for women because studies show “even moderate copays for preventive services such as mammograms or Pap smears result in fewer women obtaining this care.”
So with no co-pay or deductible, more women will go to the doctor for these regular checks. While there’s debate about how often women need Pap smears and mammograms, there’s no question that these tests save lives. And that’s the whole idea behind the ACA’s coverage of preventive screenings – save lives and money by catching cancers early.
Other healthcare services that will no longer cost you:
- Well-woman visits – including a physical exam, necessary shots (like vaccination boosters), and education about your health and well-being.
- Contraception and contraceptive counseling – including all FDA-approved contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures.
- HPV DNA testing – Certain types of HPV (human papillomavirus) can cause cervical cancer.
- HIV screening and counseling and STI (sexually transmitted infection) counseling
- Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling – including breast pumps.
- Interpersonal and domestic violence screening and counseling.
Wait! There’s more!
The ACA has already put an end to various discriminatory insurance practices that harm women. Erin Armstrong of the National Health Law Program explains on MomsRising.org:
Several provisions in the ACA work together to prevent harmful insurance practices. No longer will insurers be permitted to deny women coverage based on “preexisting conditions” such as pregnancy, cesarean sections or domestic violence. The ACA requires insurers to sell insurance to any woman no matter her medical history, current condition or health factors.
The ACA has additional benefits for women suffering from that “preexisting condition” of pregnancy. For example, it requires insurance plans to cover maternity care. Shockingly, a report by the National Women’s Law Center found that 87% of individual insurance plans did not provide comprehensive maternity coverage in 2008. Women often had to purchase supplemental insurance “riders” to cover pregnancy and child birth. No longer!
As part of ensuring that women have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, the ACA requires insurance companies to cover gestational diabetes screenings at no cost to the patient. Coverage of this service is especially important for women of color – particularly Asian women, who are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, and African-American women, who are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes later if they have gestational diabetes.
And for women with grown babies, your children can stay on your insurance until they turn 26 years old – even if they don’t live with you or are married – under the dependent coverage provision. If you are covered, they are covered!
Unfortunately, one of the ACA’s biggest benefits for women was blocked by the NC General Assembly and Governor McCrory – the expansion of Medicaid. That expansion would have provided hundreds of thousands of women in the state with health coverage.
In fact, the NC Senate now wants to reduce women’s access to Medicaid by tightening the eligibility rules for pregnant women. Currently, a pregnant woman earning up to 185% of the federal poverty level – that’s $21,256 for a single person—can get Medicaid coverage during her pregnancy and for two months after she gives birth. The Senate’s budget proposes cutting that back to 133% of the poverty level — $15,282 for a single person.
The state’s Baby Love program also provides maternal support services to those Medicaid-eligible mothers, including home visits for newborn care and assessment. Changing the Medicaid eligibility rules would throw thousands of pregnant women off of Medicaid and would hurt the state’s successful three-decades-long effort to reduce infant mortality rates.
The Affordable Care Act has tremendous benefits for the health of women in America. And there are more benefits to come in 2014. But how effective some of those changes to the health care system will be will depend on the actions of our state leaders.