I want to thank Senator Mikulski for inviting me to join you, but more importantly for her tireless leadership -- along with the many terrific Senators and advocates here today who have been such strong voices for women and women's health.
I'm pleased to join all of you here to mark a new day for women's health.
Starting tomorrow, thanks to the health care law--all new insurance policies will be required to cover new vital care that women need to stay healthy. And they'll have to cover this care without charging anything out of pocket.
As women, we're likely to be the health care decision makers in our families -- keeping our children up to date on checkups, helping an elderly parent stay on their medication or finding the extra money in the family budget to pay for health insurance.
Too often, we put our own health last.
That's especially true when it comes to preventive care -- the regular check-ups and screenings that are so important to staying healthy, but can be easy to put off. What made it worse is that, before tomorrow's new rules, many insurers didn't even cover basic women's care. Other health plans charged such high co-payments that they discouraged many women from getting basic preventive services. As a result, more than half of women delayed or avoided preventive care because of its cost.
That's simply not right, and thanks to the health care law, it's changing.
Thanks to the law, new private plans and Medicare have already begun covering potentially life-saving tests and care for men and women such as cholesterol screenings and flu shots with no copay.
And beginning today, all new insurance plans will be required to cover additional services and tests for women with no out of pocket costs, including domestic violence screening, FDA-approved contraception, breastfeeding counseling and supplies, and a well-woman visit where she can sit down and talk with her doctor.
According to a report released today by my Department, approximately 47 million women will soon be able eligible to receive this vital care with no copay.
No woman should have to choose between seeing her doctor and putting food on the table for her family. Now many women will no longer have to make that choice.
And it's important to note that soon, women will see even more protections thanks to the health care law.
Starting in 2014, it will be illegal to deny someone coverage because they're a breast cancer survivor, or pregnant, or a victim of domestic violence. And it will also 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.
For too long insurance companies stacked the deck against women, forcing us to pay more for coverage that didn't meet our needs. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, a new day for women's health has arrived.