How the Affordable Care Act Changed the Way Women Receive Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law in March of 2010, intended to protect patients while  also simplifying the way healthcare is purchased and paying healthcare providers. Now, almost ten years later, the ACA is mostly intact, but there have been attempts to repeal and change the act. Repealing the ACA completely would undoubtedly strip women of better care and access.

Prior to the ACA, there were no programs in place that would cover the majority of U.S. citizens. With the implementation of the ACA, it helped decrease the cost of Medicare, a program created for people who are 65 years or older, certain young people, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease. Before the Affordable Care Act, there were programs put in place like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but there was nothing made to cover nearly everyone, regardless of their history.

(Source: Getty Images)

When looking at the ACA, it is important to recognize the elimination of “one size fits all” healthcare. It established different “levels” of care, based on the needs of the consumer and how often they envisioned needing to use their healthcare. With the addition of these different levels of care came with additional benefits. Under the Obama-era ACA, women were able to gain access to birth control without a copay.

Aside from providing insurance covered access to the birth control, the ACA has improved healthcare for women across different socioeconomic backgrounds. In the ACA, the coverage expanded to Medicare. Prior to the ACA, the coverage for preventative care, such as mammograms, clinical breast exams, bone density tests, and visits for Pap tests and pelvic exams would require 20 percent coinsurance. This coinsurance cost was a barrier for many older, low-income women. But beginning in 2011, Medicare beneficiaries became eligible for wellness checkups without having a copay involved. Along with the ACA, the same beneficiaries and those who purchase private health insurance were granted access to services like mammograms and cervical cancer screenings without a copay.

Study from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing the number of women who would forgo treatment. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

The ACA has been able to help women in numerous ways. The Kaiser Family Foundation found in a study  that prior to the ACA, women were more likely to skip doctor appointments, not fill a prescription, and put off treatment. In addition to the ACA changing how the insurance marketplace works, the implementation created a financial aid like system for the purchasing of insurance.

The original implementation of the ACA did seem promising, but it was legislation President Trump wanted to repeal. The vote that saved the ACA from being repealed was from late senator John McCain. However, there were changes made to fit the current administration’s agenda including removing forced contraceptive care, states gaining more control over the health coverage being provided, and limiting open enrollment. By removing forced coverage on contraceptives, it requires women who relied on insurance provided birth control to figure out a different way to maintain access. In allowing the states to gain control over coverage programs, many citizens could lose their healthcare. Because of this new freedom, there are some states that freeze health coverage if paperwork and payments are not on time.

The Affordable Care Act is necessary to make sure people have access to the coverage that they need. The US is one of the most developed countries in the world, but lacks comprehensive healthcare. By having the ACA implemented, people are able to have access to the care they need.


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