How does the Affordable Care Act affect women?

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    Got questions about the Affordable Care Act? WHYY/NewsWorks Health and Science Desk provides “The Short Answer.”

    Question: How does the Affordable Care Act affect women?

    Got questions about the Affordable Care Act? In a regular feature, the WHYY/NewsWorks Health and Science Desk is providing “The Short Answer.”

    Today’s question

    How does the Affordable Care Act affect women?

    The short answer

    The Affordable Care Act includes some sweeping changes aimed directly at women’s health care. These changes are becoming a big focus in attempts to sell the law. It requires that health plans cover an array of women’s services, including pregnancy, and also bars gender rating starting in 2014.

    More details: Gender rating banned

    Companies selling private, individual insurance plans will no longer be able to charge women more than men for coverage, beginning next year. This is often referred to as “gender rating.” Insurance companies have argued women tend to use more health care than men.

    Most plans do this, though some states, including New Jersey, prohibit the practice.

    To get a sense of what the practice looks like in this region, an area women’s health group surveyed insurance plans in Philadelphia last year and found that a 40-year-old woman paid on average a third more in premium costs, compared with a 40-year-old man for the same plan. Beyond gender rating, however, insurance companies also will no longer be able to deny or charge anyone, male or female, more for coverage due to an underlying health issue in 2014.

    More details: Additional services covered

    The law requires plans to cover more women’s health services, ranging from breastfeeding support to well-woman checkups. The law also requires most insurance plans cover no-cost contraceptives. That’s been a more controversial measure.

    Find a full list here.

    The Affordable Care Act also requires plans sold on the individual and small-group market to cover pregnancy services. Many don’t include this coverage at the moment, often making such care very pricey and hard to predict for women. What’s not clear is what types of maternity services insurers will include as part of the required pregnancy benefits, beyond labor and delivery care. More information will come out on that this fall.

    The 2010 health law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014. How will it affect you, your wallet and your health? Email your questions to healthandscience@whyy.org or tweet us at @NewsWorksWHYY.

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