National Women’s Law Center Gets the Facts Out On Women and Health Care

By Kate Meyer and Nkiru Uzodi*

In less than 48 hours, NCRW staff and interns have participated in not one but two conference calls from the National Women’s Law Center, each chock full of information we couldn’t wait to share! Yesterday, NWLC highlighted facts on women, insurance, and health reform. While the Affordable Care Act might not be a game changer, it is a big step forward. Judy Waxman, Vice President of Health and Reproductive Rights at NWLC, presented data on how women get health insurance now, what options to obtain health insurance have been created by the new legislation, and what those new health care plans are required to cover.

Waxman stated that 60% of women get their insurance through their own employer or as a dependent on their spouse’s employer-based insurance, approximately 7% of women get coverage from the individual market, and 17% get public coverage (Medicaid, TRICARE Military Health Plan, etc.), leaving about 20% of American women uninsured. And according to a 2009 NWLC report women are also subject to higher health care costs.  Although most of the changes enacted by the Affordable Care Act will not go into effect until 2010, the following important changes are already happening:

  • Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children because of a preexisting condition
  • Young adults up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance
  • No lifetime caps on coverage
  • Preventive services and vaccinations must be included in all new health plans
  • Women have direct access to their OB/GYN
  • Women’s employers must provide them with adequate time to nurse in a place other than the bathroom

For more details on how health care reform is affecting women’s access to contraceptives, read NWLC’s Fact Sheet which lays out the essentials.

This afternoon, the NWLC held a webinar to share key findings on the 2010 edition of Making the Grade on Women’s Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card . This report is basically a national and state-by-state report card on women’s health status. It presents a comprehensive and integrated list of women’s health care concerns; grades and ranks the nation and states on 26 health status indicators; and evaluates the strength of 68 policy indicators related to women’s health.

The report finds the national state of women’s health is unsatisfactory in spite of some positive changes over the years. Key findings showed that health status varies by state and that most states missed important health status benchmarks. Some of the policy goals met by all the states include Medicaid coverage for breast and cervical cancer treatment, and nutrition education for food stamp recipients. However, only one state has currently banned gender rating in insurance coverage (although that will change when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented).

The speakers emphasized the potential benefits of the newly enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 initiative, which is described as the nation’s 10-year goals and objectives for health promotion. The Act is particularly important because of its implications for women’s health as well as its enormous potential for expanding coverage and women’s access to health services. The Act contains health insurance reforms, coverage for specific health services, and improves access to reproductive health services. It was mentioned that the Act already addresses two thirds of the Report Card’s 68 health policies. The speakers all agreed that more women will benefit when the law goes fully into effect. 

*Kate Meyer and Nkiru Uzodi are Research and Programs interns with the National Council for Research on Women

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