The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was voted into law in March 2010. The law contains a number of provisions that benefit women by improving access to health care, extending coverage, and requiring providers to cover preventative care.
Effective August 2012, the ACA requires coverage of preventative care for all women. This means that women will not incur a copay for annual well-women exams, contraceptive counseling and prescriptions, folic acid supplements, HPV DNA testing, breast cancer screening, STI and HIV screening and counseling, and domestic violence screening and counseling.
Required preventative coverage for pregnant women includes maternity care, alcohol misuse screening and counseling, tobacco counseling and cessation intervention, Rh incompatibility screening, iron deficiency anemia screening, gestational diabetes screening, infection screening, and breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling.
Additionally, the ACA requires coverage for preexisting conditions, therefore, prohibiting providers from denying coverage to women because of their medical history. It also puts an end to lifetime and annual limits that have been historically set forth by providers to cap the amount an individual can claim on their health insurance. Women who experience medical hardships no longer have to worry about exhausting their health coverage.
The ACA improves access to OB GYNs through a policy that enables women to see an OB GYN without a doctor’s referral. This is an important gain for women since pregnancy and childbirth-related issues are common causes for hospitalizations, and direct access can lead to quicker treatment and better outcomes.
When a benefit is required, such as those mentioned above, it means that insurance providers must offer them to women; it doesn’t mean that every woman must utilize the benefit. The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that all women have access to benefits of equal quality.
Employee offered health insurance plans that were in effect as of March 23, 2010 and that have not changed substantially are “grandfathered” in and for the time being are exempt from meeting some of the aforementioned requirements. However, new plans that have come or will come into effect after the implementation of ACA are required to comply with the new rules. Furthermore, all employers of 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees are required to offer health insurance that complies with ACA, or face a penalty starting in 2015.
For more information about how the Affordable Care Act will affect you as an individual or as an employer, visit www.healthcare.gov.
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