Health Insurance Reform to Help 30 Million Women
The Commonwealth Fund has issued a report in which it claims that over the next 10 years, 30 million women in the United States will benefit from the changes in health insurance laws, making insurance more affordable. Health reform reportedly will both stabilize and reverse the disadvantages regarding health insurance that women have faced over the decades.
Women have health care needs that often leave them more susceptible to high medical costs related to a lack of health insurance. This includes the fact that women of reproductive age are considered a higher risk than men of a comparable age because of pregnancy and related health issues. Thus women not only have had more difficulty getting individual health insurance and are charged higher premiums if they do get coverage, but most individual policies do not even cover pregnancy.
Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund, noted that historically, women have also had much difficulty covering their medical bills because of lower incomes. The new study believes millions of women will now benefit because health reform will subsidize health insurance for up to 15 million women who are now uninsured and boost existing coverage for 14.5 million who now have inadequate insurance.
“This report provides good news to all women, who will be more likely to get the care they need, with reduced risk of incurring the unaffordable medical bills that have affected so many Americans,” said Davis. The report, entitled “Realizing Health Reform’s Potential: Women and the Affordable Care Act of 2010,” is just one of a series of reports planned by The Commonwealth Fund that will provide information on how health reform is expected to affect different populations.
Under the new law, women who live in states that have higher than average uninsured rates will benefit the most. These include Texas and New Mexico (29% uninsured in 2008), Florida and Louisiana (24%), and Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, and West Virginia (at least 20%).
The bad news? Women will have to wait until 2014 before they can appreciate most of the benefits from the health reform package. Only a few items begin in 2010, such as bans on rescissions of insurance policies, bans on lifetime limits on benefits, and being eligible for a new health insurance plan if you have a pre-existing condition.
Beginning in 2014, uninsured women who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid will be able to buy an insurance policy through a state-run exchange. Women who earn less than 400 percent of poverty, or $88,000 for a family of four, will be eligible for government subsidies to help offset their premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. An estimated 7 million uninsured women may be eligible for subsidized coverage through insurance exchanges.
Also beginning in 2014, health insurers must accept everyone who applies for insurance, and they cannot charge higher premiums based on a person’s health status or gender. All health plans sold through the new state insurance exchanges in both individual and small group markets will be required to cover maternity and newborn care as well.
The Commonwealth Fund report assures millions of women that better days are coming: that their health insurance options will not only be more plentiful, but that they will also provide a wider range of health care. The fruits of this promise of benefitsare still four years away, and for many women, that’s four years too long.
The Commonwealth Fund