As the Obama Administration’s time draws to an end, it’s a good time to reflect on how far we’ve come – in terms of women’s access to health care and health insurance in this country.
To do that, we have to remember what it was like before the health care law, the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
Before the Affordable Care Act, the individual insurance market failed women.
Insurance companies got to write their own rules, and those rules discriminated against women.
Women couldn’t even get coverage in the first place, because insurance companies refused to cover them if they had “pre-existing conditions.” For women, that meant pregnancy, having had a cesarean delivery, or receiving medical treatment related to domestic violence or rape. Those are actual examples of why an insurance company would refuse to offer women coverage. They made being a woman a preexisting condition.
If a woman was able to get an offer for coverage, she would then be charged up to 50% more than a man for the same coverage. That’s because plans practiced something called gender rating. We surveyed plans before the health care law took effect, and found that 92% of plans practiced gender rating. And that practice cost women approximately $1 billion a year.
If a woman was able to afford the coverage, she would then find out it probably didn’t meet her needs. Before the health care law, only 12% of individual market plans covered maternity care.
All of this contributed to the high uninsurance rate among women. Before the health care law, approximately 19 million women were uninsured, and the numbers were even higher for women of color.
Then the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – was passed.
It got rid of the bad insurance practices that harmed women.
It said plans could no longer deny coverage because of a preexisting condition.
It said plans can’t charge women more than men.
It said that the services women need, like maternity services, have to be covered. And some of them, like mammograms and birth control, and the well woman visit, have to be covered without additional cost.
It includes the first ever federal ban on sex discrimination in health care and health insurance!
In other words, this law was a game changer for women. Now, 9 out of every 10 women and girls have health insurance that meets their needs.
So thank you, President Obama, for your legacy on health insurance for women and girls in this country. And to those who want to mess with that legacy, who want to repeal the law that has done so much for women, and send us back to the days when plans brazenly discriminated against women: we are not going to let that happen without a fight!
Let’s get ready to rumble in 2017!!