This week, we’re celebrating the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, a historic advancement for the health care of women and their families. Without this historic piece of legislation, insurance companies could continue to deny coverage to women due to pre-existing conditions, such as cancer and pregnancy. Women could continue to be charged more than men for insurance, simply because of their gender. And, too many women and families could continue to go without the affordable, quality care they deserved. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that’s all changing.
Under the law, insurance companies are already banned from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. In 2014, it will be illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
As a single mom of a twenty-five year old daughter, I understand the uncertainty that many families face as their children try to enter the workforce during these tough economic times. Before the Affordable Care Act, children could be left uninsured, as soon as they graduated from college, while searching for work. Under the Act’s new provisions, children can stay on their parents’ heath care plans until they turn twenty-six. This rule applies in almost all cases, regardless of whether your child is living at home, enrolled in school, or a married college graduate.
The Affordable Care Act’s Patient’s Bill of Rights gives you greater freedom and control over your health care choices. Families with insurance are free from worrying about losing their insurance due to a mistake on an application. Insurance companies are prohibited from capping coverage unexpectedly, if someone is in an accident or becomes sick. And, by making coverage more affordable and accessible for women across the country, the Affordable Care Act is helping to keep women healthier and addresses their health needs.
Earlier this month, the White House Council on Women and Girls released the “Women in America” report. In addition to highlighting the status of women in education and employment, the report provides vital data on women’s health. The data demonstrates that women’s health has fundamentally changed over the last 50 years. We are living longer, continue to have a lower incidence of heart disease than men, and are less likely to get diabetes. But despite medical advancements, unfortunately, there is still a great disparity between men and women’s likelihood of having certain chronic conditions such as asthma, arthritis, obesity, and depression.
The report also reveals that the number of uninsured women has increased over the decades, and one out of every seven women does not have frequent access to health care. Many women who are faced with tough economic choices sacrifice vital care, such as dental care; preventive care like mammograms; and prescription medication, all because of high costs.
As we celebrate the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act this week, we can be proud that this new law is helping to attack these problems and improve women’s health. By expanding health care and making it more affordable and giving you more freedom and control over your health care choices, the Affordable Care Act is improving our health, strengthening America’s families, and winning a healthier future.
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls