Access to women's health services expanded on Wednesday, Aug. 1, due to the federal Affordable Care Act. The guaranteed services are part of a package of preventative services in the act designed to help underserved populations avoid or reduce the impact of serious chronic diseases.
Previous to the enactment of the health care law, many insurance plans did not cover basic women's preventive care. Co-payments for important women's services prevented some people from seeking services, U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) said in a statement about the new law on Wednesday. More than half of American women are thought to have delayed or forgone necessary care due to cost.
The health care law requires all new private insurance plans to cover the preventive services without co-payments or other cost-sharing requirements. Those services include domestic-violence screening, FDA-approved contraception, breastfeeding support and supplies, gestational diabetes screening, human papilloma virus testing, sexually transmitted disease counseling, HIV screening and "well woman" visits.
New health-insurance plans must also cover without cost-sharing: mammograms every 1 to 2 years for women older than 40; cervical-cancer screening; smoking- and alcohol-cessation programs for adults; prenatal screenings and tests; diabetes and blood-pressure screening and counseling; and depression screening for adolescents and adults.
Although the law takes effect Aug. 1, most plan changes start at the beginning of a new plan year, according to the nonprofit National Women's Law Center, which supports and promotes women's rights.
The requirements will be in effect for most plans on Jan. 1, 2013. School health plans, which often begin their health-plan years around the beginning of the school year, benefit from the Aug. 1 start date, the law center noted.
Eshoo lauded the new provisions.
"Forty-seven million women across the country, including 5 million women in California, will now receive important preventive services without co-pay because of the new health care law. With these new provisions, women will no longer need to forgo preventive services to stay healthy, catch potentially life-threatening illnesses earlier, and protect against prohibitive medical costs," she stated.
A fact sheet on the new women's benefits is available through the law center.