Today, on the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions of women and families across our country finally have affordable health coverage and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your health and the health of your family is secure. The ACA has made comprehensive health insurance accessible to families that previously couldn’t afford it, and has enhanced the quality of plans for all of us.
The enormous progress the ACA has made with respect to improving access to coverage and care is clear:
- Approximately 16.4 million previously uninsured individuals have gained coverage since provisions of the ACA began taking effect.
- During the 2015 Open Enrollment period, nearly 11.7 million consumers chose or were automatically re-enrolled in a marketplace plan, and 54 percent of these marketplace enrollees were women.
The law truly is the greatest advance for women’s health in a generation. Thanks to the ACA, millions of women now have access to more affordable health coverage due to key insurance market reforms, the financial assistance offered through the health insurance marketplace and Medicaid expansion. Moreover, women can no longer be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition or chronic illness and cannot be charged more than men for their health insurance simply because of gender.
Under the ACA, coverage has not just become more affordable, it has also become more comprehensive. Women enrolling in coverage through the marketplace are guaranteed that maternity care services, amongst other key health services, will be covered as an essential health benefit. Most private insurance plans — including most employer-sponsored plans — are required to cover a wide range of preventive health services without cost-sharing, including well women visits; all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods; screenings for gestational diabetes, breast cancer and cervical cancer; pap smears and pelvic exams; sexually transmitted infection and HIV screenings and counseling; breastfeeding support, counseling, and supplies; and screenings and counseling related to interpersonal violence. Eligible pregnant women and new mothers can also access additional support services, such as a home visiting program that pairs new and expectant families with trained professionals who provide parenting information, resources and support.
The benefits of the ACA for women are clear. Only five years after the law was enacted, access to health care coverage has increased, coverage of preventive services and essential women’s health services is guaranteed, and women now enjoy protection against sex discrimination when accessing health care.
The ACA has already helped millions of people and will continue to improve the health and lives of women and families across the country. We must continue to turn back every attack on this essential law and instead stay the course and build on its success. Doing so will move us closer to the day when all women and families have health insurance, prevention is a priority, and care is coordinated, so that each person has access to the quality, affordable health care she or he deserves.
- 1 Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. (March 2015). Health Insurance Coverage and the Affordable Care Act. Retrieved from http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2015/uninsured_change/ib_uninsured_change.pdf
- 2 Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. (March 2015). Health Insurance Marketplaces 2015 Open Enrollment Period: March Enrollment Report. Retrieved from http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2015/MarketPlaceEnrollment/Mar2015/ib_2015mar_enrollment.pdf
- 3 On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that certain closely held for-profit corporations with a religious objection to contraceptive coverage may opt out of the contraceptive coverage requirement. In August 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services promulgated a proposed rule intended to guarantee that employees of these corporations receive contraceptive coverage directly from their insurer or third party issuer.