By Myra Guevara, Research Intern
Today marks the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the past year, the ACA has increased coverage, introduced new consumer protections, and made efforts to improve the quality of care while lowering costs. The law will continue to roll out in phases as pieces of it get implemented through 2014. Here is what has gone into effect so far:
The federal government began matching funds for states to expand coverage for Medicaid recipients covering thousands more low-income individuals. As we know from research and personal experience, Latinas are more likely to live in poverty, leaving health insurance often out of reach. It is also difficult for young women who are recently out of school and do not have a guardian’s insurance to fall back on.
To further aid the uninsured a temporary health insurance plan was put into place: the pre-existing condition insurance plan or temporary “high-risk pool,” which is meant to be a catch-all for those that have a pre-existing condition and who have been without insurance for at least the past six months. If you are an uninsured woman with a pre-existing condition and unable to get affordable coverage through any other means then this insurance plan might work for you.
The government also launched www.healthcare.gov/ a website that gives clear information about health care options that are available in any particular area.
Preventive care services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, became free in all new private health plans. This is truly exciting and shows that with perseverance reproductive health can take priority under health care reform. It is still being decided whether contraception will be added to the list of preventive care services, and NLIRH is working hard to make sure the answer is yes. In the same month it became illegal for insurance companies to drop patients undergoing treatment based on ‘technicalities’ or misfiled paperwork.
Insurers were prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on essential benefits. Dependents will be able to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 years old. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage based on a child’s pre-existing medical condition.
The government launched a Spanish version of the new health care website called www.cuidadodesalud.gov/enes/ which will greatly improve Spanish speaker’s ability to gather information about insurance options.
The new websites www.healthcare.gov and www.cuidadodesalud.gov/enes/ began to show price estimates for insurance policies so consumers can compare prices and be better informed about insurance options in their area.
Insurance companies will be required to spend more of the money they make on providing health care to their customers. Depending on the plan, 80-85% of the premiums collected must be spent on health care, or must be returned to customers as a rebate. This limits the unnecessary administrative expenses and focuses on the consumer, us!
There are many benefits for Latina women and their families under the ACA. Health care reform addresses the future of American health care by making sure the focus is on improving health care services for under-served populations.
If you are still unsure about what health care reform can do for you check out this website and NLIRH’s fact sheet. Both have resources in Spanish and English to help compare insurance plans, information on the timeline for the implementation of health care reform, plus recommended preventive care strategies by age.
I still have concerns about our health care system (I myself am still uninsured), but I hope that future generations and my family will benefit from this policy change. That is why I advocate for health care reform. I encourage all Latina women to become educated on the changes and exercise your voices so we don’t get left behind.
By Myra Guevara, Research Intern