Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Health care reform bill and how it affects women

Okay, so I'm a little late on this (and by the way "being late on this" is becoming too common on this blog; my apologies!), but the information is too important not to pass along. Parts of the health care reform bill (the Affordable Care Act) that was passed in March went into effect on Sept. 23, and a number of provisions are important to women's health. The National Women's Law Center has a great list of some of these:
It will be easier for children and young adults to get and keep health insurance.
  • Young women—who are more likely to be uninsured than women in any other age group—will benefit from a new rule that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance policy as a dependent until age 26.
  • Health plans are prohibited from denying coverage to children ages 0-19 with “pre-existing conditions” such as asthma and diabetes. This protection applies to most health plans.
Women will have improved access to affordable preventive care.
  • All new health plans are required to cover certain recommended preventive health services for women, with no co-payments or deductibles. These services include mammograms, smoking cessation treatment, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, and pap smears.
Women will have new protections against harmful insurance practices.
  • Coverage rescissions are banned, meaning that insurance companies are prohibited from cancelling a woman’s health insurance policy unless there has been fraud or an intentional misrepresentation of fact. In the past, insurance companies often searched for reasons to rescind or cancel the policies of women who become sick, as a way to avoid paying for medical treatments. This new protection applies to every health plan.
  • Women will have “direct access” to obstetrical and gynecological care. The health care law prohibits new health plans from requiring referrals when women seek this care.
  • Health plans are prohibited from imposing lifetime limits, meaning they can no longer limit the amount of money they will pay for benefits over a woman’s lifetime. This protection applies to every health plan. It is especially important for women with high health care expenses, such as those with chronic conditions, disabilities, or serious illnesses.
  • Similarly, health plans face new restrictions on annual limits (the amount of money they will pay for benefits during one year).These limits cannot be lower than $750,000/year starting on September 23rd, with minimum limits increased annually until they are completely prohibited by 2014.  This protection applies to most health plans.
  • Patients in all new health plans will have the right to appeal medical coverage decisions made by their health plan to an external, independent party.
And the law provides even more relief to women like making it illegal to charge women more than men for insurance.*
The NWLC has a lot more information here about the bill, including things like "I'm a woman and I buy my own health insurance, what does the new law mean for me?" You can also sign their "Sharing is Caring" pledge, if you're interested.

Also, according to this article, the bill "has a provision that directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to initiate education campaigns to raise the level of awareness on breast cancer among women 44 years old and younger. The directive calls for encouraging healthy habits and promoting prevention and early detection of breast cancer." In addition, the bill "provides grants to organizations that support young women suffering from the disease."

You can read more about the general health reform changes at Talking Points Memo.

*My understanding is that part of the bill becomes official in 2014.

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