Getting past the WTF screw-ups with the website and the meant-to-be disparaging nickname of Obamacare, America’s new Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land. I thought I’d absorbed as much as my little brain could hold on the issue and I was familiar with its key points. As people for and against it are quick to point out, it’s a mammoth piece of work with impacts that go far beyond the uninsured.
Truth is, reading about insurance, the law, or both can be boring, overwhelming, or hard to translate into ‘English’. I must not have had the comprehension I thought I did, because this sentence in a recent ACA overview surprised me:
“The Affordable Care Act is arguably one of the most women-centric pieces of legislation in U.S. history.”
I knew, for example, that the ACA requires all health insurance plans to provide preventive care services such as mammograms, Pap smears, and screenings for osteoporosis, cervical cancer, HPV and HIV for free, without co-pays or deductibles. I knew that half of the pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unplanned, and now, all insurance plans must totally cover contraceptives (with exceptions for some religious employers). And, I knew that young women can be covered by their parents’ plan until age 26 if they need that assistance.
Well and good, but there’s so much more to the story. Spread the word.
InsuranceQuotes.com lets customers compare local insurance offerings side-by-side. It’s as easy to use as HealthSherpa.com, but broader, also featuring quotes on auto, home, renter’s, life and business insurance coverage. Its hidden gem is a Library of very readable articles written by experts. Their research, and this bulleted summary for women by the National Partnership for Women & Families let me know how much I didn’t know about women and the ACA.
Top of the list: I had no idea that before the ACA launch, simply being female was considered to be a pre-existing condition. Yes. Perfectly good ladyparts clear of disease or injury often earned a rate mark-up just for being there. There’s no such thing as ‘pre-existing’ anymore, and certainly nothing that’s purely gender-based. No woman will be ever again be charged more money or denied coverage because she’s a breast cancer survivor or a victim of sexual assault.
#2: I didn’t realize that people suffering with chronic illness can’t be slapped with annual or lifetime caps on coverage anymore. How’d I miss that one? I’m a diabetic!
#3: Under the ACA, women are able to see an OB/GYN without a referral. Sounds like a little change, but in terms of maneuvering the system and missed work hours, it matters.
#4: It may be foolish to feel detached from the ACA enrollment mess because you already have health insurance. That’s how I felt. But, I’m among the 22% of women who are dependent on a spouse’s plan. Now, I know about estimates showing as many as 115,000 women nationwide lose health insurance yearly through divorce, and then, more than half of them stay uninsured long-term. (I don’t see divorce in my future, but it’s hard to foresee the sudden loss of a job, a change in employer offerings, or the big D.)
I agree with the writers at InsuranceQuotes who advise every woman to know her health insurance options in case a back-up plan is needed. As confusing as things are these days, that warning makes the most sense of all.
The ACA includes breaks for Moms, too, of course, such as breastfeeding support, infant vaccinations and more. The law has lofty, optimistic goals to improve access to comprehensive health care for women. Sadly, the program thus far is being launched through what may be the most scatterbrained roll-out ever. I hope it gets a chance to work.