Thursday, August 16, 2012

Preventative Care - Welcome to the 21st Century

By Melissa Sandgren, WAPPP summer intern
Posted August 1, 2012

Today I joined a call with the White House and HHS officials to discuss the incredible things that are taking place -- for women -- as part of the ACA. Guess when these great new services start? Oh, that's right. Today.

Here was the line-up to discuss Women's Preventative Health Services:
  • Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor & Chair of the White House Council on Women & Girls
  • Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
  • Dr. Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General
  • Dr. Nadine Gracia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for MINORITY Health (acting)
  • Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Health Policy, Office of Health Reform

Most of what they discussed centred around the new services available to women, the disproportionate impact of health disparities on minority communities, and the importance of preventative care across race, creed and class. The main point -- these things start today. That's right, as of August 1st, all new insurance policies are required to cover preventative care to women without absurd co-pays. As someone who represents one of the 1 in 4 women in the United States who have used Planned Parenthood for a preventative screening either because of expense, lack of insurance or convenience -- it's pretty incredible. The need is so strong.

I also want to share just a few excerpts from the op-ed in USA Today from Congresswoman Pelosi and HHS Secretary Sebelius: A new day for women's preventive care
  • Starting Wednesday, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all new insurance policies will be required to cover the vital care women need to stay healthy without charging a fee to the patient. ... before Wednesday, many plans didn't even cover basic women's preventive care....In total, more than half of women delayed or avoided necessary care because of its cost. 
  • Beginning Wednesday, all new insurance plans will be required to cover additional services and screenings for women without cost to the patient. .. [including] FDA-approved contraception, breastfeeding support and supplies, gestational diabetes screening, HPV testing, sexually transmitted infection counseling, and HIV screening.
  • In the past, insurance companies could deny women coverage ... [or] charge women up to 50% more than men just for being women, even though the plans often didn't cover basic women's health care such as maternity care. One study found that this discrimination cost women $1 billion a year. 
  • In 2014, it will be illegal to charge women more than men just because they're women. In other words, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition. 
The downside? Well, there are plenty. These guidelines above only currently apply to insurance companies, not Medicaid or Medicare. It also means it doesn't apply to those who are uninsured. Or to those whose insurance seem to have some type of temporary grandfather policy (this, of course, was very grey). Regardless, even with all of this, it is a step forward, and the US seems to slowly, albeit almost reluctantly, actually be entering the 21st century in terms of health care.

Get the full list of 
22 covered preventive services for women (also includes children and all adults).

....And just for fun, the photo on the right was courtesy of a fantastic WAPPP gathering earlier this year where Ms. Jarrett was the guest of honor. Man I love WAPPP. 

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