The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been controversial for many reasons—but it is hard to deny that the law improves women’s health in many ways.
While millions of women are already benefitting from its implementation, millions more have yet to take advantage of the provisions that have been put into place. Here are a few reasons why the ACA will make 2014 (and coming years) a great time to be a woman.
Preventive Care: Insurance companies are now required to cover preventive care at no cost to the patient. An estimated 27 million women received preventive services without a co-payment in 2011 and 2012, while more than 38 million women with Medicare received preventive service at no cost in 2011, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
Preventive services for women include FDA-approved birth control, mammograms every one to two years for women over 40, anemia screening for pregnant women, cervical cancer screening, breast cancer chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk, domestic violence screening and counseling, sexually transmitted infections counseling, and more.
Pregnancy Coverage: The ACA requires insurance plans to cover pregnancy and childbirth. This includes free prenatal care visits, co-pays for ultrasounds and noninvasive fetal testing, deductibles for hospitalizations that occur during pregnancy, and anesthesia services during labor and delivery.
Pregnancy coverage can literally save you thousands of dollars on medical costs: the average cost of prenatal care without health insurance is about $2,000.
No More Discrimination: Prior to the Affordable Care Act, only 12% of individual market plans covered maternity care. Many women faced discriminatory practices like “gender rating”, under which women were charged more than men for the exact same coverage. 92% of pre-ACA plans are said to have practiced gender rating.
As of 2014, insurance companies are no longer allowed to charge women more than men for the same coverage. Exceptions to this rule include grandfathered health plans (individual plans that were purchased—or group plans that were created—before March 23, 2010) and individual market plans that do not conform to ACA regulations. However, keep in mind that these non-compliant plans—while available—will subject you to the Obamacare penalty, on top of your monthly premiums.
Increased Job Flexibility: If you hate your job, 2014 may be the year to quit. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), more than 2.5 million people in the next decade are likely to reduce the amount of labor they choose to supply—to some degree because of the ACA.
The incentive to work less because of the ACA is two-fold. With higher income come lower subsidies—and therefore more expensive monthly premiums on ACA plans. Therefore, working less can increase subsidies, and hence decrease insurance costs. In the same vein, subsidies will allow some to decrease the percent of their income spent on health insurance. As a result, these individuals and families will be able to maintain the same standard of living while working less.
2014 marks the beginning of an era in which women (or their significant others) can benefit from choosing to work less and spending more time with their families—without having to worry about covering expensive health insurance bills.
SEE ALSO: Will women be healthier starting now?
Napala Pratini writes for NerdWallet Health, a website that empowers consumers to find high quality, affordable health care and insurance.