Women’s Healthcare: How Current Laws Affect You

Missouri’s New Law: An affront to women’s rights and health care reform

On Wednesday, September 12, 2012, the Missouri legislature overruled a veto by Governor Jay Nixon on a bill which allows employers to deny access to birth control, enacting the bill into law.

According to St. Louis public radio, “The legislation lets individuals, employers and insurers cite religious or moral exemptions from mandatory insurance coverage for abortion, contraception and sterilization. It’s intended as a rebuff of an Obama administration policy that requires insurers to cover birth control at no additional cost to women, including those employed by religious nonprofits such as hospitals, colleges or charities.”

The Obama policy mentioned above is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010.  Before I can even discuss the issue of Missouri’s politicians allowing employers to take control of women’s health choices, I have some questions.  How many of us know what the ACA put in place, where the guidelines for the act came from, or what it all mean to us?  I tend to read headlines only and then maybe half the article.  Today’s different.  Today I am researching.  Not only am I reading the articles, but I am looking up the citations.  Did you know that with your local library card, you can access many scientific publications and journals online?   I am going to share some of what I have found with you – focusing solely on women’s health.

ACA Affects 47 Million American Women

Beginning August 1, 2012, new rules in the health care law give women more control over their own healthcare, including access to eight free preventative care services.  Effective immediately for new policies and at renewal date for others, insurance companies must cover the cost of the below listed preventative care services.  Women will have no out-of-pocket cost or co-payments or deductibles to meet.  Yip-yee!!  Straight from the U.S. Department of Human Health Services’ website:

The eight new prevention-related services are:

  • Well-woman visits.
  • Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.
  • Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling.
  • FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling.
  • Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.
  • HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older.
  • Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women.
  • HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women.

 

 

Where Did the ACA Guidelines Come From?

The guidelines relating to preventative care for women’s health included in the ACA, came from the non-partisan, independent Institute of Medicine (IOM).  [side note – I totally smiled as I typed that sentence.  It’s not very often you see the words non-partisan or independent when discussing political policy.]  The IOM’s process for developing guidelines was to understand and assess current guidelines, research scientific evidence and recommendations by other health bodies and consider public comments.  The goal was to formulate a list of recommendations for women’s preventative care measures that would improve well-being and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of a disease.   You can download or view the report online for free.

What Does This Mean to You and Me?

The guidelines in the act are not just about women’s right to health care.  They’re also about economics.  These guidelines mean that all women in the United States can afford preventative care and have better control over their current and future health.  It’s that simple.

The Controversy: No-Cost Birth Control

Despite the passage of this act, it is far from being followed and put in place across the U.S.  Politicians have made the no-cost birth control service the epicenter of their counter bills in state and federal legislation.  Most likely from early political pressures, the HHS news release referenced above, informs us that grandfathered-in insurance companies and some religious organizations are already exempt from the rules.  Let’s add “do you provide free women’s preventative health care coverage,” to your list of job interview questions.  (Should we have to think about this issue when we need the job to live?)

Access to birth control was not just thrown into the act.  It was researched and analyzed like all the other guidelines.  The main reason the IOM recommends contraception methods in their report as part of women’s preventative care is that numerous studies have shown it is affective at reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies.   Research time for me again – why is it important to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies?

Have you heard about the Healthy People initiative?  It is managed by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (part of the HHS).   Its purpose is to provide “science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans” and has been doing so for over 30 years.  Healthy People 2020’s initiative states several reasons why preventing unplanned pregnancy is at the top of their family planning initiative:

“Unintended pregnancies are associated with many negative health and economic consequences. Unintended pregnancies include pregnancies that are reported by women as being mistimed or unwanted. Almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. The public costs of births resulting from unintended pregnancies were $11 billion in 2006. (This figure includes costs for prenatal care, labor and delivery, post-partum care, and 1 year of infant care).”

I highly encourage each of you to visit the webpage and read the additional health and economic implications of unplanned pregnancy, including some crucial statistics.

A women’s access to no-cost preventative care is a national health and economic issue and we must ensure that state and federal laws do not infringe on this extremely vital part of our healthcare!

What Can We Do?

1)      Sign petitions like this one at Planned Parenthood: (easy, immediate action, no time on your part)

2)      Find out which candidates are pro free preventative care for women and VOTE them into office (more on political candidates tomorrow)

3)      Educate others and spread the word.  This takes more time, but the rewards will last for generations.  Use Facebook, Twitter, Email, Postcards.  Knock on a neighbor’s door and start a conversation.

Please tell me what you’ve done or doing or planning on doing.  I want to hear from you!

 

Erin Hill is an American who lives in the United Kingdom with her husband, dog, and two cats.  She grew up in New England, went to school in Virginia, and worked in the Washington, DC area during her 20s.  Her interests include reading, hiking, hanging out with friends, and laughing.  Check out her blog,   http://findingmyvoicebyerin.wordpress.com/.

This Post is originally published on Erin Hill’s blog and is cross-posted with permission.

 

Image credit brains the head via the Creative Commons License.

 

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