Ed. note: This is cross-posted from hhs.gov. See the original post here.
As a mother and grandmother, I know how a mom’s voice is critical to maintaining the health of her family—and that’s true even after her kids have grown up into young adults. And as a trusted voice in the lives of their children, moms can play a vital role in getting the word out about the exciting new options for affordable, quality health coverage becoming available this fall for their children and other families in their communities.
Starting October 1, people who either do not have insurance or who buy their own but are looking for new options will be able to sign up for the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov. There, they will be able to compare easy-to-understand plans and choose the one that best suits their needs and budget for coverage that will start January 1st, 2014. Many families, including young adults, will also be eligible for tax credits that can help lower the cost of their premiums.
All of the plans must cover a set of essential benefits, such as maternity and newborn care, doctor visits, emergency care, prescription drugs, and mental health services. Insurers will be barred from discriminating against anyone because of their gender or a pre-existing condition, like breast cancer, asthma, or diabetes. That also means it will be illegal to deny women coverage or charge them more simply because of their sex—being a woman will finally no longer be a pre-existing condition.
But just because people have the opportunity to get new coverage doesn’t mean they know about it. And for too many Americans, quality, affordable health insurance has been out of reach for so long that they don’t believe it’s a possibility for them.
We need women to help get the word out to their families and friends about the new options, and educate them about enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Let them know that it’s a one-stop shop for affordable coverage. By signing up, they will also find out about tax credits or other assistance to help lower the cost of their premiums. If they need help to navigate the Marketplace, there will be people specially trained to help them, as well as a 24/7 customer call center (1-800-318-2596) where they can get the answers they need in 150 languages. Women can visit HealthCare.gov right now to start getting themselves and their loved ones ready for open enrollment.
Mothers can speak to their adult children about the importance of getting coverage now—even if their children think they don’t need it because they’re healthy now. Many young adults don’t always make health insurance a priority. As a mother of adult sons, I can relate. However, we mothers know that, unfortunately, one car accident or unexpected illness can lead to crushing medical bills for a young adult who goes without health insurance.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to a group of fabulous women at the BlogHer conference in Chicago about the new options ahead, as well as the historic difference that the Affordable Care Act is already making in the lives of millions of women and men across the country. For instance:
- 26.9 million women with private health insurance gained expanded preventive services with no cost-sharing in 2011 and 2012, including mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, prenatal care, flu and pneumonia shots, and regular well-baby and well-child visits.
- Nearly 25 million women enrolled in Medicare are now receiving preventive services without cost-sharing, such as an annual wellness visit and bone mass measurements for those at risk of osteoporosis.
Now that the BlogHer conference is over, I want this conversation to continue—among us, each day, in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities. We need your voices to help get the job done—and to help improve the health of all Americans.
The promise of the Affordable Care Act is within our grasp, but it’s up to all of us to see it through. I thank you for your help in spreading the word.
And as always, you can find me on Twitter at @Sebelius