| Every time a new part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) kicks in, it becomes harder to deny its positive impacts or to continue to pretend it's part of a tyrannical socialist take-over. And the slate of August 1 benefits is no exception.
You're probably well aware that insurers are now required to cover contraception. But seven other preventative services for women are also now available with no co-pay, effective August 1:
- Well-woman visits
- Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases
- Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling
- Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
- HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older
- Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women
- HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women
Forty-seven million women are set to benefit from these changes. But it's not just about saving money - it's about gaining more control over health care decisions. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes, "Women's health decisions shouldn't be made by politicians or insurance companies. Rather than wasting time refighting old political battles, this Administration is moving forward and putting women in control of their own health care."
The full list of services covered for women under the ACA can be found here. And stay tuned for the ACA making other changes affecting women, like ending gender discrimination in health insurance premiums starting in 2014.
We should certainly take a moment to enjoy our newfound access to healthcare. But we should also take our now non-existent co-pays and pay them forward: there's more work to be done.
And part of our work is informing other women about what's now available to them. Sandra Fluke (the woman Rush Limbaugh called a slut for speaking about the importance of birth contol coverage) explains: "Unless American women actively take advantage of these benefits, our efforts will have been in vain. And polls suggest that too many American women don't know about them. That's why we need to spread the word."
It's also important to learn when you actually become eligible for the benefits. Insurance companies are required to begin covering these services at the beginning of their next plan year, which could be any time over the next year.
And then, of course, the Republicans are doing everything they can to undermine the ACA, including the contraception provision in particular. In July, Rep. James Sensenbrenner introduced legislation to allow employers to deny coverage for birth control based on their personal beliefs. Though a bill of this nature is highly unlikely to become a law, you can do your part to make your voice heard by contacting your member of Congress and signing NARAL's petition to show a united front against anti-contraception legislation.
But the hard work of getting fourty-seven million of us access to these basic preventative services is done. And going into this election season, we'll remember who got us there.