Because of the Affordable Care Act, so many new and exciting and great things just happened for you. Beginning August 1st, insurance companies are going to be so much nicer about your body and all of the monies you have to spend to keep it healthy and happy and baby-free.
Here’s a list of things that just came into effect and how they’ll benefit you if you have health insurance: free annual well-woman visits, free birth control counseling and supplies, free gestational diabetes screening, free breastfeeding support and supplies, free STI screening and counseling, free cervical cancer testing and free screening and counseling for victims of domestic violence.
Did you notice how many times I just used the word free? Isn’t that fantastic? It’s like vaginas just won the lottery.
But here’s the fine print: all of these things are going to be free eventually, with some exclusions. If you have a new insurance program, or your end-of-year-cycle is August 1st, it may take some time. For example, if you just started paying for insurance for the first time last October, you will have to wait until October to get all of this awesome free stuff. If you are on your parent’s plan, and their end-of-the-cycle starts in November, you’ll have to wait until November. It may be a few months until you see these practical effects, but it is worth the wait. Some older plans will be “grandfathered” in, and you can read more about those stipulations at the healthcare.gov site.
Let’s go over some of the great, free things you’ll be getting and some of the weird monetary, religious or political stipulations that may prevent you from receiving these things. Know your rights!
Birth control. “All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity” will be free. Let us rejoice! However, one minor factor that might affect you is that if there is a suitable generic version of the pill you are taking, your insurance company might try to convince you to take the generic pill, instead. Usually, this isn’t a big deal, but if you need the branded pill, you might have to pay cost sharing.
Religious employers are exempt from paying for your contraception coverage, but if that’s the case, your insurance company will be required to pay for your birth control free of charge.
STI screening. Counseling and screening for STIs (including HIV) will now be covered by your insurance. Also, screening for cervical cancer and HPV will be extended, including DNA tests for HPV in women over 30. Early screening is the best way to keep you healthy, so make sure you cash in on this.
Preventative care. Preventative care can include mammograms, colonoscopies, flu shots and well-baby and well-child visits. The best way to ensure you’ll get free preventative care is to schedule an appointment with a doctor in your network, and make sure that preventative care is the purpose of the appointment.
Well-woman visits. Your annual visits are now covered by your insurance, cost-free to you. The thrill of a good ol’ pap smear can now be enjoyed without worrying whether or not you’ll be able to pay for it. This also covers preconception and prenatal care. These visits can include preventative services, but you’ll want to make sure you know what you’ll be paying for if your doctor orders tests.
Pregnancy and Postpartum. The new policy requires plans to cover pregnancy counseling, screening and vaccines, as well as gestational diabetes screening in “pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation and at the first prenatal visit for pregnant women identified to be at high risk for diabetes.” According to the HRSA Women’s Guidelines, your insurance will cover “comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period, and costs for renting breastfeeding equipment.” Also, companies with 50 or more employees are now required to have time and private spaces for new mothers to pump.
Domestic Violence Support. According to the NCJW factsheet, “one in four women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.” That’s appalling. This new policy includes screening and counseling to help women who have survived abuse by obtaining appropriate care and intervention to increase their safety.
Despite the flaws and confusing exceptions in and around this part of the Affordable Care Act, these all seem like pretty good things, right? In addition, the Affordable Care Act makes it illegal for insurance to charge women more because of these services. So, let’s all put our “Obamacare is Socialism” signs down and celebrate with some free and useful services.