Benefits For Women In The Affordable Care Act

March 24, 2011 9:03 am ET

March 23rd marks the one year-anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, bringing with it many benefits for women and families. For too long, American women have been at the mercy of the private health care industry. Without insurance, many women are unable to access basic preventive care and often rely on their spouse's employer-provided insurance plan. The passage of the Affordable Care Act changed all of that. The new law protects the health of women and their families in a variety of ways: insurance companies can no longer charge a woman more just because of her gender; they cannot discriminate on coverage simply because a woman has had a Caesarean section or because she was a victim of domestic violence; it protects women's health by increasing access to preventive services; and children can longer be denied care because of a pre-existing condition. This means women and their families will be able to get the care they need when they need it most.

The Affordable Care Act Provides Preventive Care To Women And Their Families

Preventive And Wellness Care

The Affordable Care Act Ends Co-Pays And Deductibles For Preventive Screenings Like Mammograms And Well-Child Visits. From the National Partnership for Women and Families: "The ACA guarantees women access to preventative services such as mammograms and cervical cancer screenings, both in private insurance and Medicare with no deductibles or copays. ... Private plans also must cover screenings and vaccinations critical to children's health without out-of-pocket costs." [National Partnership for Women and Families, January 2011]

Increased Screenings Decrease Deaths From Breast And Cervical Cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Deaths from breast and cervical cancers could be avoided if cancer screening rates increased among women at risk." [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 3/18/11]

  • The Uninsured Disproportionately Die From Breast And Cervical Cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Deaths from these diseases occur disproportionately among women who are uninsured or underinsured. Mammography and Pap tests are underused by women who have no source or no regular source of health care, women without health insurance, and women who immigrated to the United States within the past 10 years." [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 3/18/11]

Health Care Reform Provides Free Screening For Sexually Transmitted Infections As Well As Counseling To Prevent Risky Sexual Behavior. The new health care reform law provides screening for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. In addition, patients are eligible for "behavioral counseling to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for all sexually active adolescents and for adults at increased risk for STIs." [U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, August 2010]

The Affordable Care Act Ensures That New Insurance Plans Cover Maternity And Newborn Care. From NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation: "The Affordable Care Act specifically identifies 'maternity and newborn care' as essential health benefits that must be offered by all new insurance plans sold to individuals and small businesses, and by plans participating in state health-insurance exchanges. As an essential health benefit, maternity care must be covered with low cost-sharing for the consumer. While prenatal and newborn care are some of the most common types of medical services that women receive, many women have difficulty finding an insurance plan that covers maternity care." [NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, 1/1/11, footnotes removed for clarity]

Breast Cancer Screenings

Reform Delivers Free Routine Mammograms, Preventive Medication, And Counseling For Women At High Risk. The new health care reform law provides free mammograms every one to two years for women aged forty and above. Patients that are identified as high-risk candidates for breast cancer will receive consultation on chemoprevention and genetic evaluation. [U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, August 2010]

  • Breast Cancer Is The Most Commonly Diagnosed Cancer Among Women. According to the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: "Breast cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States. In 2008, an estimated 182,400 U.S. women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 40,000 women died from the disease." [Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, December 2010]

The Affordable Care Act Established A Federal Advisory Committee On Breast Cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): "The new [health care] law charges CDC with the responsibility of developing initiatives to increase knowledge of breast health and breast cancer among women, particularly among those under the age of 40 and those at heightened risk for developing the disease." As such, the CDC appointed fifteen public health experts to serve on a federal advisory committee that is "subject to prescribed appointment procedures." [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10/15/10]

Cervical And Colon Cancer Screenings

Reform Provides Free Colorectal Exams And Cervical Screenings. The Affordable Care Act provides free screenings for colon and cervical cancer.  [U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, August 2010]

  • Women Who Do Not Get Screened Have A Higher Risk Of Developing Cervical Cancer. According to the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: "Women who have never had a Pap test or who have not had one for several years have a higher than average risk of developing cervical cancer. Many women still do not have regular Pap tests, particularly older women, uninsured women, minorities, poor women, and women living in rural areas. About half of the women with newly diagnosed invasive cervical cancer have not had a Pap test in the previous 5 years." [Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, December 2010]
  • Colorectal Screenings Are Effective In Finding And Treating Colorectal Cancer. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer among women. The CDC says, "Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps-abnormal growths in the colon or rectum-so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancer is found early and treated are still alive five years later." [CDC.gov, accessed 3/18/11]

The Affordable Care Act Provides Insurance Security For Women And Their Families

The Affordable Care Act Will Provide Insurance Security For Women Via Health Exchanges. According to Families USA: "Less than half of women have the option of obtaining health insurance through a job. By creating a health insurance exchange, health reform will guarantee that you will always have choices of quality, affordable health insurance if you lose your job, switch jobs, move or get sick." [Families USA, accessed 10/18/10]

The Affordable Care Act Ends Insurance Practices That Discriminate Against Women. From AARP: "Beginning in 2014, the law ends the common practice of 'gender rating,' so insurers will no longer be able to charge women more than they do men for the same type of coverage. This provision applies to people with individual coverage and to small businesses that have up to 100 employees. Starting in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition such as breast or cervical cancer, pregnancy, or cesarean section." [AARP.org, June 2010]

The Affordable Care Act Gives Women The Freedom to Choose Their Own Doctor. From HealthCare.gov: "The Affordable Care Act helps preserve your choice of doctors by guaranteeing that you can choose the primary care doctor or pediatrician you want from your health plan's provider network and that you can see an OB-GYN doctor without needing a referral from another doctor." [HealthCare.gov, 9/23/10]

The Affordable Care Act Currently Bans Insurers From Denying Coverage To Children With Pre-Existing Conditions And Will Expand That Coverage To Everyone In 2014. According to the Washington Post: "[I]n 2014 ... the law will, for the first time, forbid insurers to charge sick patients more or reject sick applicants. Last year, two smaller changes took effect: a rule that insurers cannot reject sick children, and temporary subsidies until 2014 for a federal high-risk pool and new state ones." [Washington Post, 1/18/11]

  • 129 Million Americans And Up To 17 Million Children Have Pre-Existing Conditions. From CNN: "[HHS Secretary] Sebelius said 129 million people -- nearly half of all Americans under the age of 65 -- have some form of pre-existing condition that could make them ineligible for coverage should they lose or change jobs, get divorced or face other changes that force them to seek new insurance. That number includes 50 million people with more severe conditions that would almost certainly preclude or significantly increase the cost of individual coverage, Sebelius said. ... And the agency said between 4 million and 17 million children have a pre-existing condition, and that 2 million of those are uninsured." [CNN, 1/18/11]

The Affordable Care Act Ends Lifetime Limits On Health Care. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, under the Affordable Care Act insurance companies "no longer are permitted to impose lifetime limits on plans. The law's ban on lifetime limits will ... particularly benefit women with chronic conditions or serious illnesses." [NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, 1/1/11, footnote removed for clarity]

The Affordable Care Act Restricts Annual Limits. According to the National Women's Law Center: "Similarly, health plans face new restrictions on annual limits (the amount of money they will pay for benefits during one year). These limits cannot be lower than $750,000/year starting on September 23rd, with minimum limits increased annually until they are completely prohibited by 2014.  This protection applies to most health plans." [National Women's Law Center, 9/23/10, underline original]

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