Why Women Win with Obamacare
One of the more talked about parts of the new health coverage mandates under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare revolves around women’s health.
Topping the list of issues are reproductive health and birth control. ACA, for the first time, gives women guaranteed access to most reproductive health coverage, and it’s most likely free of charge.
All health plans are required to provide these services without a co-pay or deductible when they are provided by a physician or other health provider, such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, who is a part of your network.
So, why do we think women win when it comes to ACA?
The “well-woman visits” guaranteed through the ACA gives you the opportunity to discuss “preconception care” with your physician. This is the first and most important step in understanding and discussing your reproductive health and use of birth control.
Having health insurance will not automatically cure any health issues you have and it cannot keep you from getting a disease, such as HIV/AIDS. However, ACA empowers you to use health insurance as a tool to educate yourself about your health, identify any potential health issues and work with your healthcare provider to come up with a plan to address any identified health problems or to reach health goals.
Birth control and reproductive health are an important part of a healthy life and all women should utilize their right to a yearly “well-woman” visit with their physician. Do make sure that you check to see how often the actual pap smear-screening test for cervical cancer is covered. This may vary depending on plan, but should be at least every three years for women age 30 and over.
Preventive Health Services
There are many new preventive health services provided under ACA. Many of these acknowledge the unique health needs women will face in their lifetime. This uniqueness is especially true for reproductive health issues. The following new preventive services will allow you to stay proactive in caring for your body:
Breast Cancer Genetic Test Counseling (BRCA)
Breast Cancer Mammography screenings
Breast Cancer Chemoprevention counseling
Cervical Cancer screening
Chlamydia Infection screening
Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling
Hepatitis B screening
HIV screening and counseling
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) DNA Test
Sexually Transmitted Infections counseling
Urinary tract or other infection screening (for pregnant women)
As part of preventive services, ACA requires access to contraception, except health plans sponsored by certain exempt “religious employers.” Contraception is defined as “All Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling, as prescribed for women with reproductive capacity.”
So what types of “birth control” are approved by the FDA? Here is a list of those currently approved and covered through your health insurance under the ACA:
Barrier methods (used during intercourse), like diaphragms and sponges
Hormonal methods, like birth control pills and vaginal rings
Implanted devices, like intrauterine devices (IUDs)
Emergency contraception, like Plan B or ella
Patient education and counseling
While there are certain items not covered under the ACA, such as drugs to induce abortions and services related to a man’s reproductive capacity, such as vasectomies, it does provide women with a great opportunity to take control of their health.
Another important facet of ACA is the provision for supporting breastfeeding moms. Physicians have known for years that mom’s milk is best, and now there is policy to back it. The cost of rental supplies for pumping, as well as most lactation support services are also covered at no cost through many existing private insurance plans. Make sure to check exactly what is available through your company and local resources.
The door is now open for you to have honest and serious discussions with your physicians about your reproductive health needs. We hope that everyone will take advantage of this opportunity and work with their physician to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
(Dr. Angela Tucker practices Family Medicine in Columbus, Ohio and Dr. Naeemah Gafur practices Family Medicine in Los Angeles, Calif., both contributed to this article.)
Artemis Medical Society is an organization of nearly 3000 physician women of color in the U.S. and around the world. Artemis Medical Society believes physician women of color are a vital part of an effective physician workforce that is responsive to, and aims to deliver quality healthcare to our increasingly diverse communities. From a social movement to a broader vision, Artemis Medical Society’s mission is to serve, nurture and celebrate a global sisterhood of women through mentoring, networking and advocacy. Learn more about Artemis Medical Society at www.artemismedicalsociety.org. You can also follow us on Twitter @ArtemisMedSoc.