Monday, August 9, 2010

Health Reform Benefits Women

The good news is that 30 million women who are currently uninsured or underinsured will benefit from the recently passed Affordable Care Act (ACA). These women and their children will enjoy a full range of comprehensive benefits through private insurance, or the Medicare and Medicaid programs. A recently released study by the Commonwealth Fund, “Realizing Health Reform’s Potential: Women and the Affordable Care Act of 2010,” examined the ACA’s provisions to identify their impact on access to health services, as well as future cost implications. Provisions eliminating the pre-existing condition exclusion, requiring coverage for maternity and newborn care, providing insurance purchase subsidies, limiting out-of-pocket expenses and prohibiting higher premiums based on gender, all contribute to a significantly more positive future for women seeking health care.

The report also highlights the new preventive care benefits that will provide increased access to high value recommended services from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) without cost-sharing. However, the report missed the mark by failing to mention tobacco cessation. Tobacco-related disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. causing over 170,000 deaths per year among women. In 2006, 18 percent of adults with private health insurance were current smokers, compared to 35 percent of Medicaid recipients and 34 percent of the uninsured population. All USPSTF recommendations are linked to a letter grade that reflects the level of certainty of the evidence supporting the preventive service. The ACA will make access to the “A” ranked smoking cessation treatments a reality for more women. And, their children will benefit from reduced exposure to secondhand smoke, thereby decreasing incidence of asthma and other related conditions. Under the federal Medicaid program, tobacco cessation services are a mandated benefit for pregnant women. A good start, but all Medicaid enrollees should have access to smoking cessation counseling and medications.

Preventive services not only help keep people healthy, they also save lives. 42,000 lives can be saved each year by helping more smokers quit.

Read the full report - Realizing Health Reform's Potential: Women and the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Diane Canova
Vice President, Policy & Programs
Partnership for Prevention


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