Today marks an important milestone for women throughout the country. Beginning Aug. 1, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, making preventive care more accessible and affordable for 47 million women. From this point forward, women enrolled in new or renewed insurance plans will be able to access a wide range of preventive health services without co-pays or additional out-of-pocket costs. No longer will women be compelled to forego or delay needed preventive care due to economic hard times.
The new package of health benefits for women includes access to contraceptive services. Contraception is a basic part of women’s health care, and nearly all women use a form of birth control at some point in their lives. On average, a woman uses birth control for 30 years of her life at an average cost of $50 per month. As reported by the Guttmacher Institute, women who use contraceptives consistently and correctly account for only five percent of all unintended pregnancies each year. The bottom line is that contraception makes for healthier women, healthier mothers and healthier babies, and it reduces health care costs overall.
These guidelines also require insurers to cover mammograms, pap tests and other critical preventive services. Breast and cervical cancer are leading causes of death among women, and early detection is key. According to the National Cancer Institute, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and when it is detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. That’s why it’s so important that the Affordable Care Act gives women access to an annual health exam without any co-pays.
Other preventive services include screening for gestational diabetes; domestic violence screening and counseling; breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; HPV testing; screening for sexually transmitted infections and counseling for sexually-active women; and HIV screening and counseling. And beginning in 2014, women can no longer be charged more than men for the same health plans and can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
As we celebrate today, we know there is much work to do. Extremists in Congress are bent on repealing the Affordable Care Act, and Mitt Romney has pledged to do just that if he is elected president. NOW will work to defeat these politicians and to ensure that all the women of this country have access to affordable health care.