Women Pay Steep Price for Benefits of Health Care Reform

Article excerpt

Although Republican lawmakers did all they could to derail health care reform (including using the abortion issue as a political football) the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act finally passed after a grueling process of deal making and compromises. Had it not passed, inside- the-beltway pundits were poised to declare President Obama virtually irrelevant; instead, they pronounced the law a major victory for him. But some of the compromises made to ensure passage will have far-reaching, damaging impacts on women. NOW and its allies are already gearing up to "reform the reform" and repeal the Hyde Amendment, which was used to justify the anti-abortion provision.

NOW has advocated for a single-payer health system since the 1 990s. Unfortunately, the new law is based on our flawed and expensive system of private health insurance. Under the 1 aw, everyone must have insurance, with a few limited exceptions and penalties for those who do not purchase coverage. The roughly 70 percent of people who have insurance through their employers will stay in those plans, for the most part. Unfortunately, it's not a universal reform: 23 million people, one-third of whom are undocumented immigrants, won't be covered.

Still, it is an important advancement that 32 million low- and moderate-income people who were previously uninsured or under-insured will have access to affordable insurance. The new law will expandMedicaideligibility; provide government subsidies to moderate-income individuals and families who cannot afford premiums; make tax credits available to small businesses as well as exchanges where they can find affordable policies; and improve Medicare financing and the prescription drug benefit. Equally important is the allocation of $ 1 1 billion more for professional training and doubling the number of community health centers. Soon, high-risk insurance pools will be available to persons with pre-existing health conditions who have been denied coverage, and parents may keep adult children on their family plans until age 26.

Additional good news: insurance companies will no longer be permitted to deny coverage due to preexisting conditions or because of health conditions arising from domestic violence. Maternity coverage may not be excluded, and screenings and preventive wellness measures are guaranteed with no cost sharing. The new law also contains an antidiscrimination clause that prohibits insurance companies from refusing coverage on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, disability and other factors. …