While the debate on the federal Affordable Care Act continues, key provisions of the act are becoming effective. Last week preventive care provisions for women took effect. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), approximately 47 million women are in health plans that must cover these new preventative services at no charge. The HHS asserts that “women, not insurance companies, can now make health decisions that will keep them healthy, catch potentially serious conditions at an earlier state, and protect them and their families from crushing medical bills.”
Contrary to the arguments put forth by the opponents of any federal involvement in health care, the federal government is not making medical decisions for individuals. Rather, people are being empowered with information that will help them make more informed decisions about their health. Previously some insurance companies did not cover these preventive services for women under their health plans while some women had to pay deductibles or co-pays for the services. Under the new rules, coverage of these services becomes effective at the next renewal date, on or after Aug. 1, 2012, for most health plans. Certain nonprofits and religious organizations are not required to provide the coverage.
All the services effective under these provisions empower women to make better decisions about their own health—not the federal or state governments or the insurance companies. There are eight new services that include well-woman visits, gestational diabetes screening, contraception education and counseling, breast feeding support and counseling, and sexually transmitted diseases counseling and screening. Under sections of the law that had already become effective, women had gained access to mammograms, cholesterol screenings, and flu shots. Men and children are also able to take advantage of preventative services at no extra charge under the health care law. These services include flu shots and other immunizations, screening for cancers, high blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, and evaluations for depression. Visit the website at www.healthcare.gov/prevention to learn about health care services you may be eligible to receive.
Fortunately, Virginians will be put in charge of their health care decisions without interference from state government. Under other provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the establishment of health insurance exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid where state government is required to act, Virginia is dragging its feet. Under these preventative care provisions which just became effective, government is set aside and individuals make their own health care decisions based on medical information. That is a major step forward for women’s health care.