Health Care Reform Law Turns 1March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23 marked the one-year anniversary of when President Barack Obama signed the health care reform law, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although it’s been a year since the law was formally adopted, it still faces challenges from different corners: The House of Representatives voted to bar federal funds for the law’s implementation, several court cases challenge ACA’s constitutionality, and some states have expressed their opposition to key parts of the reform, such as the individual mandate. Yet repealing or dramatically changing the law would have a significant effect on major parts of the law that have already kicked in and are improving the lives of people across the country.
Already, ACA does the following:
- Ends most gender rating practices
“Gender rating” is the process by which insurance companies charge men and women different premiums for individually purchased health care plans. Women of various ages are often charged more than men, even when purchasing identical health care plans. Under ACA, gender rating will be banned in plans offered in both the individual and the small-group markets (defined as organizations employing 100 or fewer persons). You can learn more about gender rating in the Winter 2011 issue of AAUW Outlook magazine.
- Requires coverage of women’s reproductive health services
AAUW played a key role in a coalition effort opposing House and Senate amendments that would have prohibited women receiving federal insurance subsidies from purchasing an insurance plan that includes abortion services — even though under the current system the majority of plans have covered abortion for years. Although ACA allows plans to cover abortion services, the new law unfortunately requires insurance companies that provide abortion coverage to collect two separate payments from women: one for the premium covering abortion care and one for the remainder of the coverage. Further, individual states may decide to exclude abortion coverage in their health insurance exchanges, and indeed many states have already done so. AAUW continues to work to protect women’s reproductive freedom and to oppose attempts to limit those rights.
- Ensures access to and coverage of preventative services and care
The two leading causes of death for women in America by far are heart disease and cancer — afflictions that can often be prevented if women have access to preventative care services. Fortunately, the new law contains a specific women’s health provision under which insurance companies will be required to cover additional preventative health care and screenings for women — such as mammograms and pap smears — at no additional premium or co-payment cost.
- Provides reasonable break time for nursing mothers
A little-noticed provision in ACA requires employers to provide “reasonable break time” for nursing mothers for up to a year after a child’s birth, creating a flexible environment in which new mothers can care for their children.
AAUW believes that everyone is entitled to health care that is high quality, affordable, and easily accessible, and we will continue to work for just that.