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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition

Colleen Haller

Staff Writer

Now that health reform has become law (ah, that feels good), long-awaited benefits will start kicking in! From subsidies to exchanges and insurance regulations to cost-containment measures, it's sometimes hard to keep it all straight. But the main thing to remember is that we all have a lot to gain from the passage of health reform, especially us ladies.

The newly passed law has a number of provisions that will make a huge difference for women. For starters, insurance companies will no longer be able to charge women more just because they're women. Before health reform, a woman's premium could be up to 48 percent more than a man's purely because of her gender! That blatant discrimination ends here.

Health reform also requires that insurance companies provide coverage to everyone who applies, even people with pre-existing conditions. That means that women who have ever had a C section will no longer be denied coverage. And, insurance policies will be required to cover treatment for those pre-existing conditions. That's huge! Ending denials for pre-existing conditions has been an uphill battle for decades and we finally made it. Women will no longer be penalized for getting sick or having a baby - we'll all be able to get coverage.

Now that women don't have to worry about not getting coverage because of pre-existing conditions, we can move on to worrying about cost. Lucky for us, health reform also provides some help for keeping coverage affordable for everyone. Many low- and moderate-income women will be able to get subsidies to help pay for health coverage for themselves and their families. The new law also eliminates annual and lifetime caps on coverage and creates limits on out-of-pocket costs. Small business tax credits will also help make coverage affordable by helping small businesses (many of which are owned by women) provide coverage for their employees. All of these measures help keep insurance costs reasonable for working families.

Insurance plans must also cover preventive care. That means no copayments for check-ups, immunizations, and screenings such as mammograms and pap smears. For once the health care system will focus on keeping people healthy, not solely on treating sickness. Policies will also have to include maternity care as a standard benefit, ensuring that women have access to all the care they need, when they need it.

A staggering 45 percent of women were reportedly uninsured or underinsured in 2007. Health reform seeks to bring this epidemic to an end. Subsidies to help purchase insurance will go a long way to help expand health coverage. Also, some low-income women will qualify for coverage through their state's Medicaid program, where eligibility will be expanded to cover all low-income people who make up to 133 percent of federal poverty ($24,352 for a family of 3). Young women-and men-will also be able to stay on their parent or guardian's insurance policy until they are 26, helping them make the transition from school to the workplace without losing their health coverage.

These are only some of the ways that the new law will improve health care for women. Despite the ups and downs of the debate, this is a huge victory for women's health. The work is never done, but we have an incredible foundation to continue improving the health of all Americans.

Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition | Families USA


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