“In efforts to reduce the 70% of Americans who die from preventable chronic diseases, women will finally receive preventative care with no cost sharing in their health plans.”
The Affordable Care Act: How It Will Affect Women
On March 23rd, 2010 the Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama making healthcare affordable and easy-to-access for all Americans. The new law requires health plans to cover recommended preventative services without cost sharing. Eliminating cost sharing such as co-payments, co-insurance, deductibles, etc., for preventative services is significant as they will create more access to services that can help prevent chronic diseases, especially for women.
Studies show that women do not receive many preventative services due to copays and 7 out of 10 deaths due to chronic diseases affecting Americans are often preventable. The new law will also make recommended preventative services FREE for people on Medicare. Furthermore, many private plans must also cover regular well-baby and well-child visits with NO COST SHARING. Staring on or after August 1, 2012 new private health plans must cover these services with no cost sharing.
- Well-woman visits: This would include an annual well-woman preventive care visit for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services, and additional visits if women and their providers determine they are necessary. These visits will help women and their doctors determine what preventive services are appropriate, and set up a plan to help women get the care they need to be healthy.
- Gestational diabetes screening: This screening is for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes. It will help improve the health of mothers and babies because women who have gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. In addition, the children of women with gestational diabetes are at significantly increased risk of being overweight and insulin-resistant throughout childhood.
- HPV DNA testing: Women who are 30 or older will have access to high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years, regardless of pap smear results. Early screening, detection, and treatment have been shown to help reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer.
- STI counseling, and HIV screening and counseling: Sexually-active women will have access to annual counseling on HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior in patients, yet only 28% of women aged 18 to 44 years reported that they had discussed STIs with a doctor or nurse. In addition, women are at increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. From 1999 to 2003, the CDC reported a 15% increase in AIDS cases among women, and a 1% increase among men.
- Contraception and contraceptive counseling: Women will have access to all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling. These recommendations do not include abortifacient drugs. Most workers in employer-sponsored plans are currently covered for contraceptives. Family planning services are an essential preventive service for women and critical to appropriately spacing and ensuring intended pregnancies, which results in improved maternal health and better birth outcomes.
- Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling: Pregnant and postpartum women will have access to comprehensive lactation support and counseling from trained providers, as well as breastfeeding equipment. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect their children’s and their own health. One of the barriers for breastfeeding is the cost of purchasing or renting breast pumps and nursing related supplies.
- Domestic violence screening: Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence should be provided for all women. An estimated 25% of women in the U.S. report being targets of intimate partner violence during their lifetimes. Screening is effective in the early detection and effectiveness of interventions to increase the safety of abused women.
The coverage of these preventive services gives Americans access to many of the services already offered to Members of Congress. In addition, not only are these services similar to a list of preventive services recommended by the National Business Group on Health, but many private employers already cover these services.
*For more information about the Affordable Health Care Act, the recommended preventative services, or any other questions/concerns you may have please visit the two websites below: