NOW Cheers Preventive Care Services, Including Contraception, Under Affordable Care Act
President Terry O'Neill (with NOW round) joined with allies outside the Supreme Court as justices heard arguments in the Affordable Care Act case. NOW activists and hundreds more stood up for Obamacare that cold March morning. The law was upheld (mostly) in a 5-4 decision issued in June.
A major step forward in providing better health care for women was achieved this year. As of Aug. 1, key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare") went into effect, making preventive care more accessible and affordable for 47 million women, who are now guaranteed insurance coverage for crucial preventive health care services without co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles.
Studies show that even moderate co-pays discourage women from getting mammograms and pap smears. 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 for women to have access to an annual health exam without co-pays. Thanks to Obamacare, tens of millions of women will no longer be compelled to forgo or delay needed preventive care due to economic hard times.
The new package of preventive benefits also includes coverage for 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.
According to 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.
Unfortunately, ACA regulations allow some religious organizations to strip contraceptive coverage from their employees' health policies. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lobbied hard to allow an even broader range of religious employers to restrict their employees' access to contraceptive coverage, but their effort failed. NOW considers the special provision for religious organizations to be a violation of women's constitutional rights to religious liberty, privacy, and equal protection of the laws and is continuing to advocate for repeal of this misguided loophole. All employers should be required to follow the law, period.
Prior to the adoption of the ACA, an estimated 45,000 people died each year due to a lack of health insurance, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. House Republicans have repeatedly voted to repeal the ACA -- even after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality -- and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to do the same if elected.
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