All of us here at CAHC are spending today celebrating Women’s Equality Day. We’re struck by a simple recognition: it was just a few short years ago that being a woman could be considered a “pre-existing condition” as far as insurance coverage was concerned, and insurers were free to charge women more for the same coverage as men.It’s always surprising how quickly we grow accustomed to a new status quo, and thankfully, the Affordable Care Act gave us a lot to adapt to.This year, we’ve also been celebrating the 5th anniversary of the ACA. In those five years, a lot of time and attention has been focused on the “public face” of the ACA – the health insurance exchanges, Healthcare.gov itself, or the millions of people across America who can now afford coverage for themselves and their families, many for the first time.
Today, we want to remind ourselves what the ACA has done for women. That means looking at some of the vital rights and protections for consumers, especially women, that guarantee their access to the coverage they need when they need it.
Thanks to the ACA, as mentioned, being a woman no longer means having your gender defined as a “pre-existing condition” that insurers are allowed to “rate” you on – that is, charge women more for the same coverage. Having a C-section or surviving domestic violence no longer qualify as “pre-existing conditions” for which an insurance company can deny you coverage. We’ve had these protections here in Maine for a while, but for many women across the country, these were not guarantees before the ACA.
Thanks to the ACA, every insurance plan is required to cover an annual “well-woman visit” with your doctor, as well as important preventive services and screenings for breast and cervical cancer, all at no cost. Insurance plans are now required to cover access to birth control and contraceptives – also for free.
Thanks to the ACA, women with kids enjoy powerful new benefits and protections for themselves and their families. Insurance plans must provide coverage for pregnancy related services, pre- and post-natal care, well-child visits, and childhood immunizations. Plans are required to cover breast pumps and other breastfeeding supplies.
In short, thanks to the ACA, women have more avenues to affordable coverage, more rights and protections, and – once they have coverage – access to more services at low or no cost than they did before.
We still have work to do. Too many working families are impacted by the “family glitch,” which prevents access to tax credits and subsidies if somebody in the family could get coverage through work, no matter how expensive it may be to add their family. We need to continue to monitor access to the required services, such as birth control, to make sure that insurers are complying with the law. According to our colleagues at the Kaiser Family Foundation, women are much less likely than men to have access to health insurance coverage through a job. And here in Maine, too many women are still stuck in the coverage gap because we haven’t expanded Medicaid. That needs to change.
We are committed to working on these and other issues to ensure the ongoing success of the ACA for women, families, and everybody who needs coverage. Today, though, we’ll take a moment to recognize how far we have come.