Women's health was a hot issue in this year's presidential election, and now that we know that President Obama will be in the White House for a second term, you should understand what this means for your health.
With a Republican-controlled House and a majority-Democrat Senate, it's unclear what the next four years will bring, but one thing's for sure: President Obama's healthcare plan, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is back in the spotlight.
While the Republicans have most likely lost their chance to repeal the law entirely, certain provisions and rules that have been left up to the states or haven't rolled out yet will be under scrutiny, which means the law could be subject to change. Here's what we know about it right now:
1. Birth control will be covered completely under insurance. Starting January 1, you will no longer have to fork over a co-pay when you pick up your birth control. This falls under the law's requirement that all women's preventive care, including yearly wellness visits to your GYN; screening for gestational diabetes, domestic abuse, and HPV; and breastfeeding counseling and equipment, are covered under private insurance. It technically began in August, but employers have a few more months to comply. However, this applies only to new healthcare plans. Any plans in effect before March 23, 2010, are "grandfathered in" and are exempt from this mandate.
2. Insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. While this aspect of the law won't take full effect until 2014 (currently, it only requires that insurance covers children with pre-existing conditions), it should ensure that millions of people who would be otherwise unable to get insurance will now be covered.
3. "Gender rating" will be prohibited. Research has shown over and over that women pay more than men for the same healthcare costs and that the "gender gap" varies all over the country. For example, one plan in Arkansas might charge a 25-year-old woman 81 percent more than it would a man of the same age, while another plan might only charge a woman 10 percent more than it would for a man of the same age wanting the same plan. Starting in 2014, the ACA prohibits that. However, it's unclear whether insurers will willingly take steps to correct the disparity; so far, evidence suggests most haven't, which worries some proponents of the law that they won't.
4. Ninety percent of all healthcare plans could lose "grandfathered" status by 2014. Ultimately, most plans will either choose to or have to comply with new regulations, and distinctions between the two types of plans will disappear.
5. Medicaid will be allowed to opt out of some services under the new law. When the Supreme Court upheld the ACA in June, it also allowed states to opt out of the state-operated, federally funded Medicaid expansion program. Under the new expansion, anyone who makes 133 percent of the poverty level (estimated to be about 17 million people) could be eligible for Medicaid coverage. That said, it's unclear how many people will actually gain coverage if states start opting out of the program.