Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said that starting today, all new insurance policies will be required to cover essential women's health services at no out-of-pocket cost to patients. The new coverage, required by the health care reform law, will benefit an estimated 213,000 women in Maine.
"Women often have less ability to pay for basic health care," Pingree said. "They tend to make less and a greater share of what they do make goes to out-of-pocket health care costs. According to one study, more than half the women in the U.S. have delayed getting preventive health care because of the cost. The health care reform law is going to change that, starting today."
Pingree said many health care plans haven't covered important services, or charged such high co-payments that women would just go without.
"Women often are the ones in families who make the decisions about health care, and unfortunately at the end of the day they are the ones who decide to go without the preventive services that help keep them healthy," Pingree said.
The new provisions are part of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2009. Pingree was a strong supporter and vocal advocate for the law.
Some of the services that will be covered with no out-of-pocket expenses include:
* well-woman checkups
* contraceptive coverage and counseling
* domestic violence screening and counseling
* breastfeeding support and supplies
* gestational diabetes screening
Soon, there will also be additional improvements for women under the Affordable Care Act. In the past, insurers could deny women coverage because of anything from being a breast cancer survivor to being pregnant. Insurers could also charge women up to 50 percent more than men for the same coverage. But, under the health care law, beginning in 2014, it will be illegal to deny coverage to someone due to a pre-existing condition. And it will also be illegal to charge women more than men just because they're women.
"The Affordable Care Act is making a real difference in women's lives," Pingree said. "Thanks to the provisions taking effect today, women will no longer have to put off prevention. And soon, when discrimination against women in the insurance market is fully banned, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition."