So far in 20 DAYS of ACA, we have discussed some of the preventive health care services that have or will be offered in new health insurance plans without co-pays.
We discussed pregnancy-related care, and cervical cancer prevention. And there is so much more – in future posts we will explore other preventive services specific to women’s health that will be covered: contraception, and inter-partner violence screening and counseling.
Today, we’re talking about no co-pays under private health insurance plans for transmitted infections (STIs)/ HIV testing and counseling.
Starting on September 23, 2010 health insurance plans had to begin offering health insurance that covered a wide range of preventive health care services at no additional cost (or co-pay) to patients.
These services include screenings for:
- STIs – Risk assessment for adolescents
And under the Women’s Health Amendment, starting August 1, 2012 women receive counseling for STIs and HIV at no additional cost under their private health insurance plans. Again, as with all of the preventive-services provisions, these do not impact “grandfathered” health plans. However, over time these plans will lose this status and will comply with the new laws.
Why is this coverage important for Latinas, their families and their communities?
Latinos have higher rates of sexually transmitted infection than their non-Latino white counterparts:
- Latinos contract chlamydia at a rate 2.7 times higher than whites and Latinos’ rate of infection increased 4.4% from 2009.
- The prevalence of gonorrhea in the Latino community is over twice that for non-Latin@ whites. And of Latinos aged 15-24, Latinas suffer more then their male counterparts. Additionally, in the years 2009-2010 the rates of gonorrhea infection rose 11.9% for Latinos.
- The rate of primary-and-syphilis infection rose 9.5% from 2009-2010 among Latinos and the 2010 rate of infection for Latinos was 2.2 times the rate for whites.
- In 2010, the rate of congenital syphilis (syphilis passed to child at birth) was 3.1 times higher among Latinos than whites.
- Latinas are also disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. While Latinas make up 13% of the US population, they represent 16% of HIV/AIDS cases.[i] The AIDS case rate for Latinas is five times higher than the rate for white women, and even higher for trans Latinas.
Sexually transmitted infections, if left untreated, can cause a number of health complications. For instance, chlamydia, if left untreated can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, a condition that can hinder your ability to have children and cause complications in pregnancy. And untreated syphilis in pregnant women causes death to the fetus and recent newborns in 40% of cases.
The reasons for the disparities in STIs mirror other health disparities we discuss. Economic inequality, lack of access to linguistically- and culturally- appropriate health care and information about STIs, fear associated with immigration status, stigmas surrounding STIs, and social discrimination and provider bias are some factors that account for these disparities.
But we also know that the costs of co-payments for health services can pose an insurmountable barrier for far too many Latinas. The health reform law recognizes this and hope to increase access to preventive care for all people, including Latinas.