Coalition hails women's health benefits that go into effect Aug. 1 under Affordable Care Act
- on July 31, 2012
Starting Aug. 1, health insurance plans must cover a new set of preventive services for women with no additional co-payments or deductibles.
These benefits include an annual wellness examination, screenings and counseling for domestic violence, contraception, and gestational diabetes screenings, and they fall under the Affordable Care Act.
Representatives from a coalition of more than 50 women’s organizations called HERvotes lauded the legislation today during a conference call. The coalition is dedicated to mobilizing women voters around health and economic issues.
“It’s the first time in our history that insurers will have to cover our preventive services at no additional costs,” said Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network. She said the network has been advocating for such health care benefits since it was founded in 1975. “Finally, our laws and health policy recognize that these preventive services are essential to women’s health.”
Previously, some plans did not cover these preventive services, or if they did, women often had to pay out-of-pocket costs. Now, plans are required to cover the services at no charge.
The new services are:
• annual wellness examination.
• gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and at the first prenatal visit for women who are at a higher risk for diabetes.
• high-risk human papillomavirus, or HPV, testing every three years regardless of Pap smear results for women who are 30 or older.
• annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections.
• screening and counseling on HIV/AIDS.
• access to contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, sterilization procedures and education.
• breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling for pregnant and postpartum women.
• screening and counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence.
According to a U.S. Health and Human Services report, about 47 million women are in health plans that must cover these new preventive services. These are in addition to other benefits that already have kicked in, such as screenings for high blood pressure, cervical cancer and breast cancer.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, described the new benefits as a huge step forward in women's rights.
“What we have here is the single biggest legislative event for women since Title 9 in that it opens the door to health care, so women are not the other any longer. That standard care is not measured for a man and then everything for a woman is considered extra,” she said.
According to a report released this year by the National Women’s Law Center, 92 percent of health plans charge women more than men. Even with maternity coverage excluded, it found nearly a third of plans charged 25- and 40-year-old women at least 30 percent more than men for the same coverage and in some cases, the difference was far greater.
Smeal said there is a movement to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but she said her group and many others will continue to fight for women’s health care rights.
“We are determined that this stays on the books and that women have the benefits of the 21st century,” she said.
For more details on the new preventive measures and the Affordable Care Act, visit healthcare.gov.