Judging by all the reported glitches following the launch of of Obamacare's online insurance market on October 1st, the new system's milkshake definitely brought all the clicks to the yard. Millions of Americans across the country, in blue and red states alike, flooded the online insurance exchanges with requests for information. N'Sync told you to sign up, and a host of celebrities took to their Sharpies to spread information about why Americans should #GetCovered. The Affordable Care Act (hint: that means Obamacare) has set a historic precedent when it comes to women's health care in America.
Why? Because it rectifies inequalities that have plagued our health care system for too long.
Make sure to check out the list below, and listen to what I had to say about the importance of health care reform on The Cycle.
Before Obamacare, women were denied coverage because they faced "conditions" such as having had a C-section, being a breast cancer survivor, or having received medical care for being a victim of rape or domestic violence. These are realities which almost exclusively affect women and which often disqualified them from coverage.
The old individual market's dirty little secret was that women were charged higher premiums just for being women. I know what you're thinking: "But wait, don’t women require more services because they can get pregnant?"
Well, even when maternity services weren’t included, the National Women’s Law Center found that 92% of the best-selling insurance plans charged women more than men. This is what we call "gender rating," or being discriminated against because you have, well … lady parts. This is why 68% of women have paid more than men in out-of-pocket costs when it came to receiving the health care they needed.
Under Obamacare, American women are no longer taxed for being women.
Preventative care has been routinely excluded from the individual insurance market, but it can be life-saving for women. Preventative care includes everything from pap smears, to HPV screenings, to domestic violence counseling, to birth control (you know, that thing that the GOP hates), to well-woman visits. Under Obamacare, all of those services are now free without co-pay. More than half of women have reported delaying health services because they couldn't afford it. This meant many let their situation worsen before they would actually seek care. That will no longer be the case. Women will be able to get the care they need and prevent their health from deteriorating.
Although you would think maternity care would be required coverage for insurance companies, before Obamacare that wasn't the case. Astoundingly, only 3% of plans in the individual market included maternal health services. Obamacare rectifies this discriminatory policy.
Every plan must include maternal health coverage, which is absolutely crucial to solving the maternal mortality crisis in America right now. Amnesty reports that although the U.S. "spends more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care, women in the USA have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 49 other countries, including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea." The situation is worse for African-American women, because they are four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications.
There’s a crisis in maternal health in the U.S., and Obamacare could help resolve it.
Young women (and men) are now allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. If the Republicans got their way, they would eliminate health care for 1.1 million young women between the ages of 19 and 25 who now have access to health care under their parents' health insurance coverage. Most of these women are just entering the work force and, well, you do the math: a healthy workforce is a productive one.
Women of color, low-income mothers and members of the LGBTQ community tend to be disproportionately uninsured and are often subjected to higher premiums. They also have their own set of vulnerabilities. For instance, low-income women are five times more likely to have unplanned pregnancies than wealthier women. For uninsured women, the cost of birth control can add up to more than $1000 per year. Obamacare is making sure that these more at-risk populations finally get the quality health care they deserve. Access to essential services will become not only more accessible, but much more affordable too. This will reduce long held discrimination in the health insurance market. Hence, Obamacare isn't just good for some women, it's good for all women!