Supreme Court Protects Women’s Health GainsJuly 03, 2012
In a complex 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court last week upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, finding that its requirement that nearly all Americans purchase or carry insurance is permissible under Congress’ taxing authority. This decision allows the Affordable Care Act to stand.
AAUW believes that everyone is entitled to health care that is high-quality, affordable, and easily accessible. Although not perfect by any stretch, the Affordable Care Act includes many reforms that will improve the collective health of the American people. As the law is implemented, it will bring real benefits to American women.
A major benefit will be the coverage of necessary preventive care services. 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 services such as screenings, immunizations, and educational materials. Beginning August 1, 2012, insurance companies must cover — without co-pays or cost-sharing — preventive health care services such as screenings for cancer, domestic abuse, and gestational diabetes as well as all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive services. After controversy over the inclusion of contraceptives, the Obama administration announced an accommodation for religiously affiliated universities and employers that allows insurers instead of employers and schools to pay for this coverage.
Another advance is the end of “gender-rating” practices. Gender rating is the process by which insurance companies charge men and women different premiums for individually purchased health care plans. A 2008 report found that at age 25, women were charged anywhere from 6 percent to 45 percent more than men for individual market plans; at age 45, women’s monthly premiums ranged from 4 percent to 48 percent higher than men’s monthly premiums. Under the Affordable Care Act, gender rating will be banned for plans offered in both the individual and small-group markets for organizations employing 100 people or fewer. Beginning in 2014, women in these plans will be charged the same rates as men.
Americans cannot continue to refuel our economy as productive members of the workforce if they are sick, saddled with health care costs, or — in the case of women — blatantly discriminated against by their insurance providers. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act means that these gains won’t be rolled back, but it’s up to all of us to make our voices heard and keep pushing for a health care system that’s equitable to women.
AAUW is working to make sure that the voices of all women are heard regarding health care and much more. The AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign is making an unprecedented investment in turning out women voters. AAUW is educating, engaging, and registering millennial (ages 18–30) women voters across the country. Together, we’ll ensure that women understand what’s at stake in 2012 and know how to use their voices and their votes to influence the election and protect women’s health care gains!