As a trusted health care provider to one in five women, Planned Parenthood knows firsthand how important the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to women and families across the country. It will improve access to affordable, quality health care and it has a multitude of benefits that will help women lead healthier lives. We know that women are often the primary health-care decision maker in the household. Whether it’s the mom taking care of her family, or the young woman who worries about how to pay for her annual well-woman exam, we know that health care is a constant concern. That’s why we need to protect women’s health and protect ACA.
This week marks the 2nd anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and it’s a good opportunity to highlight the long list of new and specific benefits for Minnesotans’ health and for women’s health in particular.
First, it increases access to a wide range of preventive health care by guaranteeing that they are offered without additional co-pays. This means that women will have access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, annual well-woman exams, birth control, and other preventive health care, without having to pay a costly co-pay. For our patients, most of whom are women who live at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level and more than half of whom live in rural Minnesota, this means the difference between getting the preventive care they need to stay healthy – and not.
Second, the new health-care law will provide affordable health insurance to millions more individuals nationwide – including 13 million women of reproductive age. This can’t come soon enough for Minnesota’s families. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recently reported that, despite the fact that we have come two years since the official end of the recession, the overall percentage of Minnesotans without health insurance did not show any improvement. Once we implement the new law here at home, the nearly 500,000 Minnesotans that were uninsured last year (70,000 of them children) will finally have access to the health care they need.
No denial for ‘pre-existing condition’
Third, ACA will end discriminatory practices against women. No longer will women be charged higher rates for health insurance just because they are women. No longer will women be denied health care coverage because of a “pre-existing condition.” In the past, some health insurers have claimed that pregnancy or being a survivor of domestic violence is a pre-existing condition, but ACA puts a stop to that.
Fourth, ACA expands coverage for young adults by allowing them to stay on their parents’ health plan until age 26. That means if you have just graduated college, but haven’t found a job yet, you still have health insurance. This has already translated into tangible benefits for real people here at home. According to MDH, for the first time in years, young adults in Minnesota saw an increase in insurance coverage in 2011. They were the only age group in the state to show any improvement in insurance rates – likely due to this provision, which was one of the first pieces of the new law to be put into place.
Opponents working for repeal
One important point not to be lost this week is that anti-women’s-health politicians are trying to take away these benefits, and repeal the new health-care law. Simply put, they want to take a huge step backward for women’s health. If they had their way, more women would be uninsured, medical discrimination against women would be legal again, and women would once again be forced to pay more for health care and get less for their health care dollars than men.
We need to speak out to protect the many benefits in the new health-care law. We need to stand with President Barack Obama in support of ACA. And most importantly, we need send a message to opponents that health care is too important to play politics with.
Sarah Stoesz is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.
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