I direct a women’s health advocacy organization, so I’m used to people asking me questions about all kinds of issues–Pap tests, mammograms, home birth, hot flashes. But lately, when people find out I that I advocate for better health care for women, they ask about one thing: health reform.
“Will my co-pay for birth control go away?” “How soon?” “Will Obamacare cover midwives?” “If I don’t have insurance now, how will health reform help me get it?”
I have lot of fun answering these questions and more, because almost always I can give the person not just a specific answer: I can usually tell her an exact date when health reform will help her. For example, when the pharmacy tech at CVS asked me how much longer she would have a co-payment for her birth control pills, we figured out that it was going to go away on July 1, when her new health plan year begins. And when a bicycle messenger asked me when he would be able to apply for help paying for an individual policy, I could tell him October 1, when the state health exchanges open for enrollment. When do all plans have to include coverage for maternity care? January 1. When do plans have to stop charging women more than men? January 1.
It’s fun celebrating the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act today, March 23. But it’s even more fun looking forward to the dates when health reform really starts to kick in. The protections and new benefits it’s already given us are great: Many young adults are covered right now because health reform made it possible for them to stay on their parents’ plans; many small children are getting the cancer treatment they need because health reform stopped insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions; and many women are getting their breast pumps and contraceptives covered with no extra fees, also thanks to health reform.
But later this year, millions of uninsured women will be able to check out the coverage options available to them in their state health exchange and sign up for the plan that’s right for them. Enrollment starts October 1 in every state, and coverage begins January 1. That’s a lot to look forward to. I’m counting down to coverage!
P.S.: And the answer is yes, health reform will cover midwives and birth centers.
Cindy Pearson is executive director of the National Women’s Health Network and a co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need