The Affordable Care Act Protects Women’s Health

As the debate over President Obama’s health-care bill looms, Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett writes that, among others, the Affordable Care Act has greatly benefited women.

Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Almost two years ago, the president signed the Affordable Care Act. Today the new law is giving millions of families the security that comes with knowing their health care will be there for them when they need it. And the law is helping women address many of the challenges they have faced getting the care they need.

Some of these benefits will take effect over the next few years, but many of them are already helping women lead healthier lives. Senior citizens like Norma Byrne of Vineland, N.J., have already seen that the new Affordable Care Act makes prescription drugs more affordable. Norma used to have to dip into her food budget to help pay for her medications because of the so-called donut hole. In 2010, just like other senior citizens with high drug spending, she received a $250 rebate check, which helped defray those costs. In 2011, thanks to the new law, she was one of nearly 2 million women who received a 50 percent discount on their brand-name prescription drugs.

The new health-care law is also helping mothers and daughters like Joyce and Emma Morgan of Charleston, S.C. Thanks to the new law, Joyce can sleep a little easier at night, knowing that 23-year-old Emma can stay on her own plan until she turns 26. Emma is one of 2.5 million young adults who are already receiving health insurance through this provision.

Women who own small businesses, such as Nan Warshaw of Chicago, are taking advantage of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that help them provide coverage for their employees. Nan’s company covers the full cost of her seven employees’ insurance, and she has seen premiums skyrocket in recent years. New small-business tax credits are making it easier for Nan’s business to pay for her workers’ insurance. In 2011 alone, 360,000 small businesses received tax credits to help cover 2 million employees.

Finally, the Affordable Care Act includes new benefits specifically for women, such as requiring health plans to cover recommended preventive services to help protect women’s health without any additional cost sharing. Many preventive services, including mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, and other services, are already covered, and additional preventive-care services for women, such as contraception, must be covered by new plans after Aug. 1, 2012. Already, more than 20.4 million women gained private insurance coverage for preventive services, without paying an extra penny out of pocket.

Over the next few years, women will see even more important benefits of the new law. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, women could be charged more for health insurance simply because of their gender—according to a report from the National Women’s Law Center, this costs women on the individual insurance market around $1 billion each year. Starting in 2014, health insurers will be prohibited from charging you more because you are a woman.

Ending the gender gap in premiums is just one of the ways the Affordable Care Act protects women. Beginning in 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage due to a preexisting condition, such as having survived cancer, or having been pregnant.

The Affordable Care Act is already making a tremendous, positive difference in the lives of women across the country. As we move forward, we will continue to implement this law and make the health-care system stronger for all of us.