Affordable Care Act: A Necessity for Women’s Health
2012 is shaping up to be the year of women’s health—and not in a good way. Between HHS regulations, inappropriate name-calling by public personalities, political firestorms between women’s health organizations and the politicization of emergency contraception, the issue has become hyper-politicized and entirely about restricting reproductive rights as opposed to ensuring women’s well-being.
But as the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) nears, followed a week later by oral arguments against the ACA at the Supreme Court and coinciding with Women’s History Month, I am astounded by the numerous ways in which our current health care system fails women and how the ACA could reverse these injustices. I also have to ask: How has the root issue – health care for all – gotten bogged down by conversations about the private, sexual choices of Americans. And, if the ACA is overturned by the Supreme Court, what will it mean for women of all ages, religions and socioeconomic statuses?
I’m thinking, in particular, of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation of eight preventive clinical services for women that should be offered without co-pays. The panel submitted these recommendations to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help facilitate the implementation of the women’s health amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While the fifth recommendation (requesting “the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity”) has received consistent media coverage since the recommendations were announced in July 2011, the other seven recommendations should not be neglected as we consider some of the main fights for women’s health. The panel’s other recommendations include insurance coverage without cost-sharing for:
- Screening for gestational diabetes
- High-risk DNA testing
- Annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections (STI)
- Counseling and screening for HIV on an annual basis
- Comprehensive lactation support
- Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence
- At least one well-woman preventative care visit annually for adult women to obtain the recommended preventative services, including preconception and prenatal care.
But coverage for preventive services isn’t the only way the ACA will improve health care for women. Additionally, the health care law eliminates the practice of gender rating – whereby insurance companies charge women more for the same insurance coverage because of “pre-existing conditions” (including C-sections and abnormal Pap smears). A National Women’s Law Center study found that, for a popular Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in Chicago, a 30-year-old woman pays $375 a month, which is 31 percent more than what a man of the same age pays for the same coverage. In some states like Arkansas, the difference in premiums has risen to over 81 percent.
There’s no denying that our health care system is broken and treats American women unfairly. Before the passage of the health care law more than half (52%) of women reported that they could not access needed health care due to costs, and 45 percent of women accrued medical debt or reported problems with medical bills. As we brace ourselves for the battle that will come over the next few weeks, think of the health care that the women in your lives deserve and take a stand for women’s health by standing up for the ACA.
This post is part of a series dedicated to the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Check back every day this week to learn more about how the Affordable Care Act affects you and your family.