As the rollout of health care law – also known as Obamacare – continues, recent news reports have focused on rate increases and the potential that health insurance premiums will be more expensive for some consumers. It’s true – some consumers may start paying more for health coverage purchased on the individual market (although, some who think they will pay more may be pleasantly surprised when subsidies and the details of the new plan are analyzed). But it’s also true that across the country women, in particular, will actually get a better deal because of the health care law. As our recent report Making Insurance Work highlights, the law ensures millions of individuals and families will have access to insurance that works for their budget and that premium dollars go towards high quality, affordable, and reliable health insurance.
Here are five reasons why women are getting a better deal:
- Care when you need it: Before the health care law, women could be denied for pre-existing conditions like cancer, asthma, an old knee injury, or even pregnancy. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, up to 129 million non-elderly Americans have preexisting conditions, and 1 out of 5 are uninsured. Beginning in January, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, so these millions of American who need care can get it.
- Coverage for basic services, including maternity care: Health insurance plans purchased on the individual market often do not cover all the services women need. Plans frequently excluded maternity care, mental health services, and prescription drugs. Maternity care, for example, was only available in twelve percent of health plans offered on the individual market. New health plans are required to cover maternity care as well as other essential health benefits ensuring that women have access to the services they need.
- Increased accountability for health insurance companies: Health insurance companies used to be able to spend an unrestricted amount of premium dollars towards overhead costs and company profits. Today, the health care law requires that health insurance companies use 80% of premium dollars towards health care, rather than channeling these dollars to their profits. And, insurance companies that fail to meet that standard must refund consumers the difference.
- Insurance that works for your budget: The cost of insurance continues to be a significant barrier when seeking health coverage. Because of the law, health insurance will now be more affordable for millions of Americans who will qualify for financial help in the form of tax subsidies or expanded Medicaid coverage.
- An end to gender rating: Women in particular had a hard time affording health insurance because insurance companies charged women more than men, a practice known as gender rating. According to our analysis, 92 percent of individual market plans practice gender rating, costing women collectively an approximate $1 billion each year. The health care law ends this practice so that women can no longer be charged more than men for the same coverage.
It’s clear that women will get a better deal because of the health care law. Making Insurance Work compiles stories from a few of the millions who will benefit from health insurance reforms in the law. Opponents of the law are likely to continue profiling consumers who face higher costs, but will willfully ignore the positive changes all consumers will see beginning in 2014.