Women and the Affordable Care Act

Women and the Affordable Care Act
July 20, 2013 - 12:44 pm, by

Women make about 80% of the health-care decisions for their families, utilize more health care than men, and are the more likely to be the care givers when a family member becomes sick. Females of all ages accounted for 60% of all expenses incurred at doctors’ offices in 2004. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force is becoming older and more female. What does all of this mean? It means that women need adequate knowledge and the tools to satisfy their multiple roles as decision makers and consumers of health care.

The Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as ‘ACA’ or ‘Obamacare’) was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010. The ACA is the most substantial renovation of the country’s healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, and it requires U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance.

Both supporters and adversaries of the ACA have targeted mothers in a surge of advertising, with over $500 million already spent. Most of that $500 million has been directed at women.

For all women, regardless of age, the ACA will provide unprecedented access to free preventative care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, some of the most notable facets of the ACA directed towards women are:

  • Well-woman visits
  • screening for gestational diabetes
  • HIV screening and counseling for sexually transmitted infections
  • Contraception and family planning counseling
  • Domestic violence screening and counseling
  • HPV Testing
  • Breastfeeding supplies

An implication of the ACA is 47 million women will have guaranteed access to the aforementioned women’s preventive services with zero cost-sharing, which should in theory increase the utilization of those services (recall the basic downward sloping demand curve). By 2016, approximately 13.5 million women are expected to gain coverage.

Before the ACA was passed, technically there were no specific federal laws addressing sex discrimination in health care, but the ACA does two notable things affecting women. First, it explicitly bans insurance companies, health care providers, and health programs that receive federal funding from discrimination based on sex (as well as race, national origin, age, or disability). Second, it offers women—the primary health care decision makers in U.S. households– a menu of zero-cost services that they can pick from. This change has the potential to bring more preventative services into U.S. households, and that in turn has the potential to improve U.S. health care, which has already formed a strong basis for being a world leader in cancer preventative care (See related blog).

–Cara Scheibling, Associate Director

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