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Why We Should Applaud the Progress in Women’s Health Care Law

November 26, 2013

The Affordable Care Act will give access to comprehensive, quality health care to approximately 19 million women without health insurance

When the Supreme Court decided to uphold the Affordable Care Act last June, women’s groups were among the first to cheer, calling it “a tremendous victory for women and families,” and “the most important advance for women in 40 years.”

Supporters considered the law to be a huge advancement in coverage of preventive and other forms of care often out of reach of women, who make less than men overall throughout their lives, and who, as they enter retirement, are more likely to be poor. Women also suffer disproportionate rates of chronic disease and disability.

Because they need more preventive care than men on average due to reproductive and gender-specific conditions, women face higher out-of-pocket costs, according to the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action.

The Institute of Medicine was contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to  identify  critical gaps in preventive services for women as well as measures that will further ensure women’s health and well-being. As a result of the institute’s recommendations, women are already enjoying the benefits of vital preventive and wellness services — without co-pays or deductibles — including mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, contraception, screening and counseling for domestic violence and screening for gestational diabetes. You can see the full list of 22 Covered Preventive Services for Women, Including Pregnant Womenon healthcare.gov, the official HHS consumer federal government website.

The National Women’s Law Center notes other historical changes to come by 2014 including eliminating gender ratings in insurance prices (so that insurance companies can’t charge women more than men for identical plans) and guaranteeing coverage for prenatal and maternity care (so women cannot be denied health insurance for pregnancy as a “pre-existing condition.”)

In another move considered to be significant, the Affordable Care Act will give access to comprehensive, quality health care to approximately 19 million women without health insurance. The law creates a new health insurance marketplace and a federal health insurance subsidy program as a means of helping women and their family members obtaining private health insurance to cover the services they need. This provision is detailed in “The Past and Future in Women’s Health: A Ten-Year Review and the Promise of the Affordable Care Act and Other Federal Initiatives.”

For more information and good reading I recommend Countdown to Coverage, an educational outreach campaign for women launched last year by the National Women’s Health Network, and its executive director’s article in Ms. Magazine, “We’ve Got You Covered: 10 Things Women Need to Know About Health Reform.”

Investment in women’s health is an investment in our families, workforce, and economic stability. At the opening of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, the International Monetary Fund’s chief, Christine Lagarde said “the evidence is clear, as is the message: when women do better, economies do better.”

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