Wednesday, August 27, 2014

SEBELIUS: Affordable Care Act improves women’s lives

By KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, Health and Human Services Secretary | 10/25/2013

Today, I join my White House colleagues in celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Almost four weeks into the launch of the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, I’m reminded of the tremendous impact the Affordable Care Act has on the lives of American women.

As President Obama said, the law is much more than just a website — it’s affordable, quality health insurance made available to everyone. Through the marketplace, 18.6 million uninsured women have new opportunities for affordable, accessible coverage. And if you’re one of the 85 percent of Americans who already have insurance, today you have stronger coverage and more choices than ever before.

Today, I join my White House colleagues in celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Almost four weeks into the launch of the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, I’m reminded of the tremendous impact the Affordable Care Act has on the lives of American women.

As President Obama said, the law is much more than just a website — it’s affordable, quality health insurance made available to everyone. Through the marketplace, 18.6 million uninsured women have new opportunities for affordable, accessible coverage. And if you’re one of the 85 percent of Americans who already have insurance, today you have stronger coverage and more choices than ever before.

Important preventive services now are available to women at no additional cost. These include an annual well woman visit; screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer; certain contraceptive methods; smoking-cessation treatment and services; breastfeeding support and equipment; screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence; immunizations; and many more. Thanks to the health care law, more than 47 million women have guaranteed access to preventive services without cost-sharing.

These preventive services are critical to keeping women healthy. For example, breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women and the second leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, after lung cancer. But when breast cancer is caught early and treated, survival rates can be near 100 percent.

The Affordable Care Act also protects women’s access to quality health care. No one can be denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing health condition, such as breast cancer, pregnancy, depression or being a victim of domestic violence. And there are no more annual and lifetime dollar limits on coverage.

Today, health plans in the marketplace offer a comprehensive package of 10 essential health benefits, including maternity care. An estimated 8.7 million American women currently purchasing individual insurance will gain coverage for maternity services, and most women will no longer need a referral from a primary care provider to obtain obstetrical or gynecological services.

Cost also has been a significant barrier to care for many women. According to one study, in 2010, one-third of women spent 10 percent or more of their income on premiums and out-of-pocket costs. For low income women, that situation is much worse — more than half of women who make $11,490 per year or less spend at least $1,149 a year on care. But through the marketplace, six out of 10 uninsured individuals can get coverage for $100 or less.

This year, as in every year, women will make important decisions for themselves and their families about health care. They can apply for coverage through the marketplace — online at Healthcare.gov; over the phone by calling the 24/7 customer service center (800) 318-2596 or (855) 889-4325; working with a trained person in their local community; or by submitting a paper application my mail.

The six-month enrollment period has just begun. And unlike a sale on Black Friday, coverage will not run out; it will not get more expensive. Sign up by Dec. 15, 2013, for coverage starting as early as Jan. 1, 2014. Open enrollment continues until March 31, 2014.

To read more about the how the Affordable Care Act addresses the unique needs of women, visit http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/blog/2013/08/womens-health-needs.html

Kathleen Sebelius is Health and Human Services secretary and former Kansas governor.

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