Just five years ago, only 12 percent of insurance plans on the individual market offered obstetrical coverage and those that did had deductibles as high as the cost of delivery. In fact, women paid $1 billion more on health care than men.
Since then, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law and a number of new regulations have made it easier, and more affordable, for women to take care of their health and the health of their children. However, I meet women every day who still do not know about all of the benefits available to them through this act. Here are a few of them:
Preventive services without co-pay: As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Thanks to new regulations in the Affordable Care Act, preventative services are available without co-pay – not only saving you from potentially devastating diseases but also saving you money from expensive treatments. Pap smears, annual exams, mammograms, colonoscopies, gestational diabetes screenings, and other preventative services are all covered without co-pay. I cannot stress enough the importance of regular preventative screenings. Now that they are included with all insurance, cost is no longer a reason to skip these appointments. So be sure to get them scheduled.
Birth control: If you do not want to get pregnant, you now have access to dependable, FDA-approved birth control through the ACA. Since pregnancy, labor and child-rearing are all significantly more expensive health services, offering birth control actually reduces costs for insurers, and more importantly, makes it affordable for women. In addition to birth control, counseling to discuss birth control options and screening for sexually transmitted infections are also now available without co-pay. There are many different types of birth control available now, so talk to your medical provider to find the one that works best for your personal situation. (Note that certain religious employers are exempt from offering this service, so check with your insurance company if you are unsure.)
Mother and child care: If you are ready to have a child, the Affordable Care Act provides additional benefits for you and your baby. As many women know, breastfeeding a baby while going back to work is an extremely challenging balancing act that involves teaching your baby to drink from a bottle, talking to your employer about necessary breaks for pumping, and purchasing a breast pump and materials – which can cost around $400. At least now, thanks to the ACA, insurance covers the cost of the breast pump and supplies, as well as breast feeding support.
In addition, in alignment with the priority on prevention, well-baby visits and vaccines are covered without co-pay through insurance.
As your children grow, you can continue to support their health thanks to one of the first provisions enacted in the ACA – allowing children to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26. This additional time gives them a chance to find a decent job in the adult world before they need to start worrying about health insurance. It also reduces the number of excuses they may use to skip those preventative screenings that keep them healthy.
Addressing domestic violence: Another important part of the ACA is its understanding of the impact of domestic and interpersonal violence on a woman’s life. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third of women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Women’s doctors are now encouraged to screen for violence, address needs, and provide support when needed.
In addition, as hard as it is to believe, being a victim of domestic violence used to be treated as a pre-existing condition for some insurance companies. Now, thanks to the ACA, insurance companies cannot use this to deny insurance.
The bottom line is, with the changes brought forth through the Affordable Care Act, you now have access to more tools to keep yourself and your children healthy.