Paul Ryan looks to the side making a disappointed face

10 Reasons the ACA Made History for Women’s Health (and Why We Must Fight to Keep it)

The Affordable Care Act (the ACA or “Obamacare”) has helped tens of millions of women access comprehensive health care coverage. Women gained a lot from the ACA—and all of this progress is now on the chopping block.

This law made history for women—and in so doing has helped women make history by allowing us to live healthy lives. Let’s remember the incredible benefits of the ACA—and why we must fight to keep it. This law has changed countless women’s lives for the better, including my own. Unfortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering a terrible bill that puts at risk the protections that gave more women access to health care, including reproductive health services. Some of these new  provisions are more obvious, like gutting funding for Planned Parenthood, but others will have lasting consequences with cuts to funding, eligibility, and programs that allow women access to comprehensive and time-sensitive reproductive health care.

Here are 10 reasons to fight to keep the ACA:

  1. Medicaid Expansion Means Fewer Restrictions on Health Coverage for Low Income People: More women have access to health care through the expansion of the Medicaid program. For almost 50 years since the creation of Medicaid, only individuals with a disability, children, seniors, pregnant women, and caregivers with extremely low incomes could be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Under the ACA, 32 states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid coverage to include more low-income adults, up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. The ACA also allows hospitals in every state to offer presumptive eligibility to individuals who are not enrolled in Medicaid but seem to qualify when they seek services. Hence more people can automatically receive health care coverage, including reproductive health services, while their Medicaid application is under review.
  1. Family Planning Coverage: In addition to Medicaid expansion, the ACA created the Family Planning Medicaid Option so that states could cover family planning services and supplies for those individuals who have low or moderate incomes. This means that if a woman does not qualify for Medicaid or Medicaid expansion because her income is too high, she could still qualify for the Family Planning Only Medicaid in order to access necessary reproductive health care. More than half of the states established this program, recognizing the benefits for women and families across the state.
  1. Helping Women Afford Coverage: And if women still cannot qualify for Medicaid, Medicaid Expansion, or Family Planning Medicaid programs, the ACA created various mechanisms like tax credits and premium subsidies that enable the purchase of insurance plans through the health insurance exchanges (known as the marketplaces). Such important provisions have allowed 6.8 million women and girls to access affordable health care.
  1. High Standards for Reproductive Health Care: The ACA requires strong standards for these new marketplaces’ reproductive health care coverage, ensuring that needed women’s care is covered.
  1. Birth Control Without Copay: Preventive services, such as family planning methods, became accessible without cost-sharing, meaning that women cannot be charged a deductible, copayment, or co-insurance to receive these services. These include: contraception; well-woman visits; breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; gestational diabetes screenings; and sexually transmitted infection, counseling, and testing.  The no cost-sharing provision virtually applies to every plan – whether it is through an employer, the state exchange, or Medicaid Expansion.
  1. Maternity Services are Covered: Before the ACA, only 12 percent of insurance plans covered maternity care services, which meant that paying for pregnancy care became a financial burden for many women. Now every insurance plan must cover maternity services, including those provided at freestanding birth centers.
  1. Being a Woman is No Longer a Pre-existing Condition: Some plans used to consider certain situations that most likely impact women like domestic violence, breast cancer, and caesarean operations as pre-existing conditions. Thanks to the ACA, 65 million women who in the past would have been denied from coverage because of a “pre-existing condition” now have access to health care.
  1. The ACA Stopped Sexist Insurance Practices: Insurance plans also used to charge women more because of their gender, a practice called “gender rating.” The ACA prohibits these gender discrimination policies. Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits the denial of health services, health coverage, or discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. This protection impacts women of reproductive age, especially women of color and immigrants.
  1. Freedom to Choose Your Provider: The ACA mandates that Medicaid enrollees receive coverage of family planning with the freedom to choose any reproductive health care provider without a referral, and in some cases outside of their plan’s network. This means that women can go to their preferred and trusted reproductive health care provider to receive these sensitive services.
  1. More young people are covered: The ACA allows children below the age of 26 to remain insured by their parents’ health plan, a critical gain for millions of youth of reproductive age.

Do you want to stand up and fight back? Please join the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) and others to help save the ACA and Medicaid.  Sign up to our listserve. Contact your senators and share with them why these services are important to you and your loved ones. And if you want, share your story detailing why the ACA and Medicaid are so important to you. You can do so in English or in Español.

So, in commemoration of Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate all those who are now healthier thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and let’s join together and BE the women who save this transformative law which has already saved so many lives.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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