Wednesday, March 23, 2011

One Year Later: Feminists Stand By the Affordable Care Act

On the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act, we see that the fight for quality, affordable care has not yet been achieved.  This essential piece of health care reform legislation in 2010 sought to end abuses by the insurance industry and extend health care coverage for all Americans.  We all remember the right-wing campaigns to spread fear in the year leading up to (still waiting for those death panels…). The House majority continues efforts to undermine the Act by trying to eliminate funding, challenging it in court, and continuing to promote lies to the public in an attempt to push for its repeal in 2013.

It is as important now as it was a year ago for us to stand with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), though many women’s rights advocates strongly disagreed with some of the provisions related to reproductive rights – the Act maintained the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on abortion funding, extending them to newly created health insurance exchanges, making abortion less accessible and affordable in the process.  The ACA has produced the largest gains for women’s health since Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law 45 years ago.

When the Act’s full provisions take effect in 2014, it will make incredible headway in promoting gender equality in healthcare by ensuring that women can not be charged higher premiums, nor will they be denied coverage due to pregnancy or other gender-based discriminations often considered to be pre-existing conditions.

These health reforms are imperative for women, as currently nearly half of all low-income women are uninsured and more than half of all women report delaying needed care because of cost. Women are routinely charged higher premiums than men; according to, a healthy 22-year old woman can be charged premiums 150% higher than a 22-year old man.  The Act also allows young people to stay on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26 and provides steady funding for comprehensive sex education and teen pregnancy prevention.

This year, the Act requires that new insurance plans cover prevention and wellness benefits, as well as preventive services, including mammograms, cancer screenings, and annual physicals.  Because of the Act’s committed support for reproductive health and family planning, an effort by various women’s health organizations is underway to include birth control under preventive services.  We expect to see contraceptives covered and provided under the ACA, despite criticism from the Right.

Today, there is a concerted effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Last month, the House passed a continuing resolution that would defund key parts of the ACA, particularly those affecting women.  Though they claim it is an attempt to reduce the federal deficit, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the ACA will actually reduce the deficit by over $210 billion in just the first decade. Although it does not defeat all of the barriers to comprehensive health care for women, the Affordable Care Act takes us one step closer to making health care for women more accessible and affordable. All women stand to gain from these upcoming changes, and it is imperative that we as feminists not only recognize but celebrate its one year anniversary.  Our bodies, our lives!

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