How Women Can Take Advantage of the New ACA Provisions

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010, but is being implemented bit by bit over time. This month, several new provisions have gone into effect that specifically benefit women’s health. Many of the new provisions make basic preventative care much more accessible to women, especially low-income women who may have been unable to afford basic medical services even with insurance. The new provisions also address contraception and pregnancy.

Here’s a look at what is now available to you with no out-of-pocket costs, as well as a reminder of what other benefits are already in effect:

Comprehensive Preventative Care for Women

No longer can insurance companies charge copays for certain important preventative health check-ups and tests—with the new provisions, annual well-woman visits are provided free of charge. This is an important step in disease prevention, especially for women who have had to choose between spending $20 on medical care for themselves and feeding their children. Now you can have a physical, including a pap smear and breast cancer screening, with no out-of-pocket costs. If you’re overdue for a check-up, now’s the time to make those appointments.

Other things now completely covered include HIV testing and counseling, DNA testing for the human papilloma virus (HPV), screenings for gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support and supplies, counseling for STDs, screening and counseling for domestic violence, and FDA-approved contraception. The caveat with contraception, which was highly controversial, is that houses of worship are exempt from having to provide it to their employees, and other employers with religious associations have a one-year reprieve from the requirement. It is still possible for women who work for religious institutions to receive free contraception, however, because insurance companies are required to offer it directly

Insurance Rebates

Also in effect beginning August 1 is a rule that ensures insurance companies spend a minimum of 80 to 85% of customer premiums on actual medical costs. Insurance companies who have overcharged customers are now required to rebate the excess, which means that most insured Americans will or have received a check this month.

Family Preventative Care

It’s not just women who are entitled to preventative care—the entire family is also eligible in most cases, which is great news for moms. Children with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied insurance, either. Covered preventative care does vary—some insurance plans are “grandfathered,” which means they don’t have to provide these services, and some preventative care options are dependent on your age. However, most people now have access to basic health tests (blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol); many cancer screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies; counseling for weight loss, smoking cessation, nutrition, depression, and alcohol abuse; well-baby and well-child visits to age 21; routine vaccinations, including flu shots; and counseling, screening, and vaccines during pregnancy.

Senior Women’s Care

Medicare has covered senior women’s preventative medicine since January 1, 2011, which consists of many of the same services younger women now receive from private insurance companies. Qualifying preventative services for senior women include annual wellness visits, smoking cessation counseling, bone mass screenings, cervical cancer screening, cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings, colorectal cancer screening, diabetes tests, vaccines, HIV screening, mammograms, and medical nutrition therapy.

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