Post submitted by Sarah Coombs, senior health policy analyst at the National Partnership for Women & Families
This week marks Affordable Care Act Women’s Week of Action, and we are calling on all women to get the coverage they need.
Health insurance coverage is essential to making health care more affordable and accessible for women. Not only is access to health care vital to women’s physical, emotional and mental well-being, but also to their economic security and ability to participate fully in society.
Women are often health care decision-makers, paid and unpaid caregivers and advocates for themselves and their loved ones. Women also spend a disproportionate amount of their economic resources on health care.
Since the passage of the ACA in 2010, the rate of uninsured women has reduced by almost half, but there are still nearly 11 million women who remain uninsured — a disparate number of whom are women of color, immigrants, LGBTQ and/or women with low incomes. LGBTQ people experience high uninsured rates and barriers to health coverage and care, such as discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. This makes access to health insurance coverage critical to reducing health disparities for women of color and LGBTQ people of color, who fare worse than their counterparts in nearly every major health indicator. Women rely on health coverage to access preventive care, family planning and treatment for chronic conditions. Studies show that women with health insurance are more likely to have a regular source of care and receive preventive services.
Thanks to changes made to the health care system by the ACA, women now have guaranteed access to comprehensive health coverage through the health insurance marketplace. This means insurers can no longer deny women coverage because they have a pre-existing condition, such as a diagnosis of HIV, cancer or pregnancy — something that’s critical for transgender women of color who face higher rates of HIV and many other conditions, for the 68 million women and girls with a pre-existing condition and for the nearly 6 million pregnancies each year. This also means women no longer have to pay more than men for the same insurance policies.
The ACA has greatly expanded transition-related health care coverage even to people who are not in ACA marketplace plans. For example, insurers cannot limit or deny coverage for services used for gender transition when those services would normally be covered when treating a non-transition related health condition. Finally, individuals are guaranteed coverage for essential health benefits, including maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health and substance use disorder services.
One of the ACA’s most important advancements for women’s health is the guarantee of no-cost-sharing coverage of preventive services, which include access to the types of services that combat pervasive health disparities, such as: wellness visits; cervical and breast cancer screenings; contraception and contraceptive counseling; counseling for sexually transmitted infections; HIV testing; interpersonal and domestic violence screening; gestational diabetes screening during pregnancy; and breastfeeding support, services and equipment. Furthermore, under the ACA a plan can’t limit a preventative service based on an individual’s sex assigned at birth, gender identity or their recorded gender.
Although Section 1557’s non-discrimination protections are under attack by the courts and by the Trump administration, it is important to know that these protections still remain in place.
The ACA provides guaranteed access to quality, comprehensive health coverage to millions, but only one in 20 uninsured consumers know about the December 15 deadline to enroll for 2020 coverage in most states.
Without health insurance coverage, a women’s health and economic security are at risk, so use this Women’s Week of Action to encourage everyone within your circle to sign up for coverage at HealthCare.gov.