U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stopped by a community health center in Miami today to tout the progress made by the health care reform law, which was signed two years ago this week, in the realm of women’s health.
HHS launched a campaign this week to highlight what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has done to improve public health since it was first signed into law. Sebelius’ appearance earlier today focused specifically on how the law has improved health care for women. As Sebelius told an audience today, the law has expanded coverage without co-payments for mammograms– and soon contraception– for women all over the country.
Sebelius explained that women are paying more for the same services men receive, and that many of the services on which women rely are simply not being covered by all plans. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, she said, “women had the worst deal ever in health insurance plans.”
According to a press release today from HHS:
Under the Affordable Care Act, 45.1 million women – including 20.4 million women with private health insurance and 24.7 million women with Medicare – can receive recommended preventive services with no cost-sharing, new data released today by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius show.
The data highlighted in an issue brief by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation show that Affordable Care Act provisions are already improving women’s health by making recommended preventive care services more accessible and increasing access to health insurance coverage.
“From increased health coverage to free preventive services and lower prescription drug costs, our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, friends and neighbors are already benefiting from this law and will continue to in the months and years to come,” said Secretary Sebelius.
Most women with private insurance do not have to pay for such important preventive health services under health reform; mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, prenatal care, flu shots and regular well-baby and well-child visits will be covered at no cost. Beginning in August of this year, many health plans must also cover, with no cost-sharing, recommended preventive services, such as well-woman visits, domestic violence screening, and breastfeeding supplies.
An estimated 8.7 million more women who buy coverage in the individual market will gain maternity benefits, beginning 2014, as a result of the health care law’s requirement for health insurance plans in that market to cover essential health benefits.
“Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition,” Sebelius told an audience in Miami today.
Also featured at this morning’s event was a community health patient advocate, a doctor that provides services to underserved communities and a current law student who gained health insurance under ACA. Donna Shalala, the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history, was also on the panel. She is currently the Dean of the University of Miami and has been an advocate for health care reform.
Sebelius’ appearance in Florida during the anniversary of the health care reform law comes at an interesting time. In less than a week, a legal challenge to ACA will be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court. That challenge is being led by the state of Florida, one of the most ardent opponents of the law.
As Sebelius and other federal lawmakers tour the country to tout the success of the law, the Republican National Committee has announced it will release television ads criticizing the law.