Sebelius: federal healthcare law gives options to women
More than 17 million American women are uninsured, but the health care law signed by President Barack Obama could drastically reduce that number. Many provisions in the law make preventative care more accessible and affordable for women of all ages.
Tanya Showers said sheâ€™s been without basic health insurance for at least 4 years.
â€œItâ€™s been very hard. I go to the hospital sometimes, to the emergency room just to get help."
â€œAnd what happens when you get that giant bill in the mail?â€
â€œI still owe bills. Iâ€™m upset and I still â€“ I donâ€™t have the money to pay them.â€
Showers is a 44-year-old Tampa resident, a mom and a grandma. She taking classes at Erwin Technical School to better her situation, but for now, health care is something she just canâ€™t afford. According to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, women like her arenâ€™t uncommon.
â€œIt was not unusual because of the jobs that women have that women are more likely to be uninsured and more likely to be under insured; have some coverage, but not cover the benefits.â€
Sebelius was in Tampa last month for a panel discussion. She said those women who are considered under insured often are no better off than women who have no insurance at all. According to a panel member, Dr. Catherine Lynch, who is an OB/GYN in Tampa, co-pays for preventative care are an expense many women chose to forego.
â€œEven that little $20 co-pay may, at times, be prohibitive for them coming in for their annual examination and annual assessment. The question of whether or not their mammography is going to be covered often will limit their ability to come in for care and delay treatment.â€
President Obamaâ€™s Affordable Care Act changes that. The law requires insurance policies to include preventative care like screenings for breast and cervical cancer and other treatable conditions. Lynch said before the law women could find health care covering a pregnancy.
â€œBut wonâ€™t cover for care before or after pregnancy. So, that a woman who perhaps was a gestational diabetic in pregnancy, whoâ€™s at increased risk of developing diabetes outside of pregnancy, canâ€™t continue to get her care taken care of until she becomes pregnant again. At which point, if she hasnâ€™t been controlling her diabetes and her hemoglobin A1c is significantly elevated or her sugars are significantly elevated at the critical time of the development of the baby, well now weâ€™re going to be dealing with a baby thatâ€™s going to have congenital issues.â€
Lynch encourages expectant mothers to nurse their babies after delivery. But she said many women turn to formula feeding because it can be purchased using WIC.
â€œThatâ€™s not really the best thing for baby. Yet, if thatâ€™s the only thing you can afford because itâ€™s being covered by our government yet youâ€™re working, you might like to breast feed which would certainly be the most healthy thing, but you canâ€™t afford it. You canâ€™t afford the pump rental; you canâ€™t afford the storage equipment. There are costs with breast feeding. And yet what the Affordable Care Act provides is actually coverage for those costs so that women have a choice between either formula or breast feeding.â€
The health care law also changes how insurance companies are allowed to treat patients with pre-existing conditions. They canâ€™t deny coverage to children now and in 2014 they wonâ€™t be able to deny adults either. Secretary Sebelius said before Obamaâ€™s health care reform, being a woman WAS considered a pre-existing condition.
â€œIt has been legal in every state in this country to charge women up to 50% more for their health coverage â€“ exactly the same coverage that a man would have â€“ because of different kinds of health conditions. And health care plans often did not cover services needed and wanted by women and thatâ€™s beginning to change. And in 2014 that will change entirely.â€
Other benefits of the Affordable Care Act include tax incentives to small businesses who provide health coverage for employees and insurance exchanges that allow people to shop for the best and cheapest coverage. Supporters compare that program to travel websites that find the lowest rates on air fare or hotels. Despite those benefits, there is still widespread opposition to the law. Sebelius said it is important to inform the public to gain support.
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