Today, under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare, new and critical benefits for women take effect, according to a press release from the secretary of health and human services. For starters, under most current insurance plans and for new ones, contraception and family planning counseling will be free. Domestic violence victims will be covered. Incredibly, prior to Obama’s health care act, women who suffered from domestic violance were often refused coverage calling such violance against them a “pre-existing condition.” Co-pays will disappear for screenings for gestational diabetes, HPV and HIV; for pap smears; mammograms and other female cancer screenings. Additionally there will be expanded benefits for new mothers, such as breastfeeding counseling. And most importantly, women can no longer be charged more for coverage than men. Being a woman, in other words, will no longer be a “pre-existing condition.” Women are being advised to contact their insurance companies in order to make sure their carriers know the law and will now provide the services the ACA mandates them to do.
This part of the law covers women with private insurance. Coverage for poor women under Medicaid in states like Texas where Republican governor Rick Perry and his cohorts in the legislature have decided to refuse federal dollars for its Medicaid and Women’s Health Program, throwing up to 200,000 women off the rolls with no more reproductive health coverage, the fight continues in the courts to get these women covered once again. The target of the gov’s ire has been Planned Parenthood, which is the primary source for reproductive health care for most of these women and which his action will defund. The reason is an illogical attack on PP because it also provides abortions – which have been legal since the early 1970s — at a few of its clinics. However, none of those clinics get any federal or state funding for abortions. What is being denied is contraceptive care, which would prevent more abortions than Perry’s misguided attack on PP. In the Texas legislature, state senator Wendy Davis has led the fight for these women. She’s in a tight race for her senate seat with conservative Republican Mark Shelton to be decided in November. This is an early reminder what the stakes are for women in Texas – especially the poor and underinsured.