We've spent so much time recently fighting over taxpayer funded abortions, excepting abortion from health care exchanges, removing it from health insurance, and even losing access to low income family planning and health screenings, that in some ways it feels like the entirety of health care reform turned into a birthing (or not birthing) battle. So it's a good time to remember that there really was more to health care reform than just the abortion part of things, and that women really did get some key benefits out of the changes being implemented.
Luckily, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a message on Mother's Day to remind us of everything else.
From the Florida Sun-Sentinel:
First, pre-existing conditions will no longer keep you from getting affordable private insurance. Because of the work we do, women are less likely to have jobs with health coverage than are men. That meant we often had to look for a plan on the individual market where insurers were free to deny us coverage because of a breast cancer diagnosis or even because you had been a victim of domestic violence. If your daughter had diabetes, they could deny her coverage, too.
But that's changing. Today, insurers are prohibited from denying coverage to children because of their pre-existing health conditions. And in 2014, this protection will extend to all Americans. The days of being denied health insurance because of your health status will be over.
The second thing women should know is that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition in the insurance market. We all know women have different health needs than men. Before the health care law, insurers could charge women up to 50 percent more for exactly the same health insurance. Even worse, 80 percent of health plans that women bought on their own didn't even cover maternity care.
But that's changing, too. Starting in 2014, if you buy your own insurance, there will be a new, competitive marketplace where you can see all the available plans in one place and pick the coverage that best suits your needs and budget. And there will be a few basic rules for these plans, so they cover the likely health needs of women. It will be illegal for insurers to charge women more than men. And they'll be required to cover newborn and maternity care. In other words, women will see lower costs and better coverage.
A third key change is that it's easier to get preventive care. Over the years, too many women have gone without potentially lifesaving cancer screenings like mammograms due to expensive co-pays. That's bad for women, and it's bad for our health care system, too, since treating health problems you catch early is usually more successful and more cost-effective than treating those you catch too late.
The health care law is giving women some relief. Now, anyone who joins a new health plan will be able to get key preventive care, from Pap smears to mammograms, without paying a co-pay or deductible. And that also applies to preventive care like vaccinations for your children.
Finally, the fourth thing women should know is that Medicare is getting stronger. Every day, tens of millions of seniors count on Medicare benefits and most of them are women. Starting this year, more than 9,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. But there have been two problems. First, there have been some critical gaps in coverage, especially for prescription drugs. Second, costs have been rising too fast, threatening our ability to preserve Medicare for our children and grandchildren.
The health care law addresses both of these problems. First, it's gradually closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole. This year, seniors in the donut hole will get a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name drugs. By 2020, the donut hole will disappear. And under the law, seniors can get an annual wellness exam and key preventive screenings without co-pays beginning this year..
It's almost like the abortion fight has become such a huge focus, sometimes we forget about everything else we could actually lose. Now, to try to keep what has been accomplished intact while we work to get even more gains for women's health.