Starting today, critical women’s preventive health services will be available to women, free of co-pays or deductibles — a hard-fought benefit for women in Nevada and across the country that is long overdue.
Yet on the eve of the implementation of these historic benefits for women, my Republican colleagues were still trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the very law that offers these benefits along with many other crucial protections for women.
Beginning today, for the first time, new insurance plans will be required to cover — without any co-pays — well-woman visits, contraception, breastfeeding support and supplies, screening for gestational diabetes, screening and counseling for domestic violence, as well as testing for HPV and HIV.
An estimated 47 million women nationwide, including nearly 400,000 women in my home state of Nevada, are expected to benefit from this new policy.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new insurance plans are already required to cover preventive care like mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure checks, prenatal exams and childhood immunizations without cost-sharing. Yet Republicans are so intent on blocking women’s preventive services like contraception coverage from taking effect, they are willing to risk national security.
Yesterday, the Republican leader proposed voting to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act , a move that threatened to derail the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 — legislation that is critical to our national security and completely unrelated to health care.
Covering preventive health services for women is long overdue. While women are more likely to need preventive health services, they often have less ability to pay for them than men. On average, women have lower incomes, and a greater share of their salary is consumed by out-of-pocket health costs.
Half the women in this country have delayed preventive care because of price tags, according to the Commonwealth Fund. Millions of American women delay doctor’s visits, yearly, because they can’t cover co-pays, or miss pills to save money.
It is no wonder the U.S. has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancy of industrialized countries.
That is why, fifteen years ago, I began a bipartisan initiative with Senator Olympia Snowe to expand access to contraception for women. As part of this effort, we passed a law that gave federal employees access to contraception. When this policy took effect in 1999, despite the warnings of our critics, premiums did not go up.
Yet what began as a bipartisan, commonsense proposal fifteen years ago has turned into an unfortunate debate in Congress. Many of my Republican colleagues are downplaying the importance of covering preventing health care for women, or trying to repeal health reform altogether.
They’ve blocked efforts to give women who want it, access to contraception, and they’ve shown little interest in protecting the health of victims of sexual assault.
Putting ideology ahead of science is inexplicable.
I will continue doing everything I can to protect a woman’s right to health care. Today’s implementation of new women’s preventive benefits is just the beginning.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, by 2014, almost 19 million uninsured women will be eligible for comprehensive health coverage, women may no longer be charged more for the same policy as men, and women cannot be denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition.
Asking American women to continue denying themselves the care they need is unacceptable. Only by focusing on America’s best interest, rather than our own political interests, will we have a stronger, healthier future together.
Harry Reid is the senior senator from Nevada and the Senate Majority Leader. Follow Senator Reid on Twitter @SenatorReid. This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post, and is cross-posted with permission.