Access to health care has greatly improved since the roll out of Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act or ACA. This is a set of laws and regulations that requires all Americans to maintain health insurance for at least 10 months out of the year, otherwise, a penalty will be imposed during tax refund season. This same set of laws also regulates how health insurance companies operate. In the past, millions of Americans were left without coverage because of their pre-existing health conditions and low income. But Obamacare has called an end to these practices.
Today, insurers are required to offer coverage to anyone who qualifies under the new laws of the Affordable Care Act, no matter their medical history. And if your income meets the requirements, you can obtain a plan with subsidies. What this means is that you will receive tax credits for the health plans you buy from the federal or state health insurance marketplaces (also known as exchanges).
How Obamacare Improved Health Care for Women
Over 47 million American women have guaranteed access to preventive women’s health services. Before, these services weren’t covered under most plans and those that did offer it required policyholders to pay co-pays and deductibles. Other than preventive services, women also have access to free wellness visits and are safe from discrimination that once plagued female policyholders in the past.
It seems that the Affordable Care Act is looking to drive down health care costs in America by promoting preventive care for women.
Before Obamacare, there was also an issue with women getting coverage while pregnant. Only about 12 percent of health plans in the individual market offered maternity coverage back then. Now, maternity coverage is required in all new insurance plans, and having been pregnant in the past is no longer considered a ‘preexisting condition’ and subject to higher rates.
Let’s review some of the health insurance options women have.
There are various venues women can obtain health coverage from. Most women enroll into employee-sponsored plans – around 57 million between 19 and 64, to be exact. This includes women who enrolled into their spouse’s employee-sponsored plan. Data shows that men are more likely to obtain coverage through an employer while most women are covered as dependents.
Group Health Plans
Group health plans are very common in the workplace. These normally come with a host of benefits and easy application processes, since most group plans don’t question you about your health.
Individual Health Plans
Another option for health coverage is non-group insurance, also known as individual coverage. This can be purchased through your state or federal health insurance exchange. This is more affordable for women today since the Affordable Care Act extends tax credits for premiums on individual health insurance plans. This was also made possible by the ACA reforms removing the barriers that once disproportionately affected women seeking individual plans.
It was common for insurers to implement policies that specifically put women in an unfair position, such as being forced to pay higher premiums than men obtaining the same coverage. Pregnancy was even considered a pre-existing medical condition, which was grounds for disqualification from coverage.
Individual plans today offer additional coverage that wasn’t available before, such as maternity care, prescription drugs, preventive care, newborn care and mental health treatment, since these are all considered essential health benefits. Under Obamacare, all health plans must offer essential health benefits to policyholders.
Medicaid is a joint state-federal program that is available to women who meet certain income requirements. In 2014, 16 percent of non-elderly women were enrolled in the Medicaid program. In the past, you were only able to qualify for Medicaid if your income was extremely low. There were other eligibility categories that could qualify you for Medicaid as well, such as being pregnant, having children under 18 years old, being over 65 years old or living with a disability.
If you didn’t fall under any of these categories, then you were denied Medicaid assistance. Obamacare eased this issue, allowing states to stop using these categories and instead offer Medicaid to any Americans that earned less than 138 percent the Federal Poverty Level. It doesn’t matter how old you are, your physical disabilities or family status.
Not all states have expanded their Medicaid program, however, so be sure to check if this is an option available to you. Twenty-eight states have already created programs that would allow family planning services to be covered for women with low incomes. Some states also offer limited scope benefits for cervical and breast cancer treatment.
Benefits Women Can Obtain Today
Whatever type of coverage you decide to get, you will now be able to reap the many benefits sowed by the Affordable Care Act. For one, you won’t have to worry about any ridiculous deductibles, co-insurance or co-pays for preventive care services. This was the main reason why half of women delayed obtaining medical attention in the past. You also don’t have to worry about being charged unfair rates just because you’re a woman.
The new health care reform law has given you more control over your health care. For instance, now, you don’t have to get a referral just to see your OB/GYN. You are also able to choose which primary care physician you want for yourself and the pediatrician you want for your children. You just have to choose physicians that are within the network of your plan.
More good news is that there aren’t any limits on how much money that will be covered for your medical expenses. Since women are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses, they tend to rapidly reach their coverage caps compared to men. Once the gap was reached, the policyholder had to endure the remaining expenses. After Obamacare, these caps have been eliminated, and so were annual limits.
The Affordable Care Act has granted women the peace of mind in knowing they can take care of themselves and their families as needed without worries. Nearly 40 million women in the U.S. have already benefited from Obamacare’s elimination of lifetime caps. Women of all ages, races and income brackets are able to buy and maintain coverage for the first time in history.