By Lindsey Yancich, NOW Government Relations Intern
March is National Women’s History Month as well as the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Women everywhere and of all ages are coming forward to talk about how the Affordable Care Act has improved their lives both medically and financially. I, myself, can attest to how important having health care is to sustaining a healthy lifestyle. I graduated from college at the age of 20 in 2007. Since graduation, I have struggled to find a full-time job that would provide health benefits, and I also struggled to find a private insurance plan with a premium that I could afford to pay.
My experiences with private health insurance have been negative for two major reasons. Not only did I feel the disparities that come with being a young adult new to the workforce, but I also experienced the disparities of being a woman in my reproductive years. Finding a plan that would provide similar benefits and at a comparable cost of what many of my male friends were paying, proved to be impossible. During the time I purchased private insurance, I was working full time at a small art gallery with less than 10 employees. The owner could not afford to provide an employer-based insurance package. The best individual coverage I could afford was catastrophic insurance, which did protect me in case of major medical expenses and hospital visits but did not provide access to preventive services, basic primary care visits, prescriptions, mental health care or maternity care.
Currently, insurance companies are permitted to charge higher premiums based on age, gender and health status in 32 states and the District of Columbia. I researched two automatic quotes provided by ehealthinsurance.com, one for a 25-year-old female (non-smoker) living in Washington, D.C., and the other for a 25-year-old male (non-smoker) in D.C. The cheaper plan required a woman to pay $14 more per month than a man ($79 vs. $65 per month).
Effective Jan. 1, 2014, women and persons with pre-existing conditions will be protected against discrimination under new ACA law that will ban insurance companies from charging higher rates based on gender or health status.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, as of Sep. 23, 2010, I was permitted to join my parents’ employer health plan, allowing me to reallocate the money I was spending on my private insurance policy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one million young adults ages 19-25 gained health insurance during the first three months of 2011, and many millions more will be able to stay on their parents’ health plans. Since I have had coverage under the Affordable Care Act, I have gone to regular check ups, and have been able to receive the preventative services I believe are important for me to be able to live a healthy life.
Soon I will be 26, and I will have to find my own insurance again; however, the Affordable Care Act is making it easier for companies, especially small businesses, to provide health insurance to all of their employees. The ACA will also establish affordable insurance exchanges as well as place a cap on the amount private insurers can charge people for out-of-pocket fees. The Affordable Care Act will help women of all ages and from all walks of life access vital health care for themselves and their families. I am thankful for that.