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Wednesday, May 28,2014

Opinion

Affordable Care Act helps women and mothers get the health care they need

by Pamela Kreiner
Photo: Jose Goulao/Flickr CC.

Pamela Kreiner is Chair of the Ingham County Women’s Commission.


WEDNESDAY, May 28 — Moms across the state work hard to provide safe, healthy and financially stable futures for children and families. That’s why reliable access to quality health care at a price that doesn’t break the bank is so important.


Although the first open enrollment period ended on March 31, women and families who experience life-changing situations, such as having a baby or becoming married, can still purchase coverage before the next open enrollment period begins on Nov. 15. Better still, if you already enrolled through the Marketplace, you may have the option to change your coverage if life takes a turn.


Thanks to the Affordable Care Act — ACA — women have equal access to affordable, quality care for the first time in history. In fact, enrollment figures show that women are seizing this opportunity. Among the more than 272,500 Michiganders who enrolled in Marketplace plans through the end of March, 54 percent are women.


Before the ACA, being female was treated as a liability by health insurance companies. Women could actually be refused coverage simply because they were pregnant, and when women did get coverage, we were often charged more simply for being female.


Today, women no longer have to fear that they will be denied coverage or pay more just for being a woman. In the past, uninsured women with pre-existing conditions were often denied health coverage benefits, especially if they were diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses like breast cancer. Under the ACA, no one can be denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition nor can families lose coverage if a child becomes sick or injured.


For mothers and women who are expecting, the ACA contains especially important protections. Before the ACA, most individual health plans did not cover maternity care at all, and women without complications faced average expenses of more than $10,000. Now, all health insurance plans must cover maternity care, doctor visits, prescriptions, hospitalizations, emergency room visits and preventive services such as gestational diabetes screenings, breastfeeding support and supplies, well-baby visits and vaccines for children.


Financial assistance is also available to help women and growing families cover the cost of their insurance. As of the end of the first open enrollment period, 87 percent of Marketplace enrollees received financial help paying for their plans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that six in 10 Americans can get coverage for $100 per month or less.  


Remember, you don’t have to be an expert on how you still may be able to enroll or change your plan if life changes. Free, in-person help from a trained expert is available in communities across the Michigan to assist you through the special enrollment process. You can also visit Healthcare.gov or call the hotline if questions arise about your health coverage. So, if life circumstances change, report any life-changing events within 60 days in order to take advantage of the new Marketplace options through this special enrollment period.


To find out more about what’s available and the resources in your community to help you, visit GetCoveredAmerica.org. Michigan women and mothers have the opportunity to take advantage of these historic improvements to health care and get covered. Join me in talking to our sons, daughters, partners, husbands and friends to let them know about the financial security and peace of mind that comes with quality, affordable health care coverage.


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