It wasn’t long ago that women lacked equal access to essential health care coverage. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare), health insurers regularly charged women higher premiums than men. Or they denied women coverage altogether because of pre-existing conditions. These “conditions” could be overtly discriminatory, such as having a C‑section or being the victim of domestic violence. When a woman did get insurance, there was no guarantee that the plan would provide crucial health services like birth control, maternity care, or breastfeeding supplies.
The ACA is by no means perfect. Political fights over the law have caused significant breakdowns in the affordability and availability of care for far too many Americans. However, with the ACA approaching its tenth anniversary and women’s health under attack from many quarters, it’s helpful to remember what the law has accomplished.
Women’s Health Care Rights Have Advanced Under the ACA
A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine underscores the many benefits of the ACA for women’s health, especially for women with incomes below the federal poverty level. The law has counteracted the barriers to health care described above by assuring women that insurance companies cannot:
- deny coverage or charge more for coverage because of pre-existing conditions
- cancel insurance coverage if the covered person gets sick
- place lifetime dollar limits on policy coverage, or
- charged women more than men for the same coverage.
In addition, purchasing an insurance policy under the Affordable Care Act means that a woman can see an OB-GYN without a referral. She can also get essential preventive services and supplies without paying a deductible or copays. Under the ACA, preventive health care benefits for women include:
- an annual women’s health exam
- regular mammograms
- cervical cancer screening
- birth control (with some exceptions)
- HIV screening and counseling
- sexually transmitted infection counseling
- screening for gestational diabetes
- breastfeeding support and supplies, including breast pumps
- domestic violence screening and counseling
For a full list of preventive benefits available to women, see Understanding Obamacare’s Preventive Health Benefits.
We have a long way to go to make health care truly affordable and secure, but the Affordable Care Act still has our backs.
To learn more about the subjects covered in this article, see:
- Women’s Affordability, Access, and Preventive Care After the Affordable Care Act, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2019
- How the Affordable Care Act Has Helped Women Gain Insurance and Improved Their Ability to Get Health Care, Findings from the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2016
- Women’s Health Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation
For information about finding affordable health insurance in your state, see Legal Consumer’s Obamacare learning center.
To contact your elected representatives and encourage them to support women’s health, see our democracy tools for your state and zip code.