Kathleen Sebelius: Giving Women Control Over Their Health Care

Women deserve to have control over their health care. Aug. 1, 2012, ushers in a new day for women’s health when, for the first time ever, women will have access to eight new services at no out-of-pocket cost to keep them healthier and to catch potentially serious conditions at an earlier, more treatable stage. This benefit will take effect for millions of adult and adolescent women over the course of the next year—and it’s just one of many benefits of the health care law that let women and their doctors, not insurance companies, make decisions about a woman’s care.

When it comes to health, women are often the primary decision-maker for their families and the trusted source in circles of friends. Women often take care of their families first and put off their own health care needs. Too often, they have gone without preventive services, worrying about what even a $20 insurance copay would mean to their families’ budgets and choosing to pay for groceries or rent instead.

But now, thanks to the health care law, many women won’t have to make that choice.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, women in private plans and Medicare already have received potentially life-saving services, such as mammograms, cholesterol screenings, and flu shots at no extra cost. Today, the law builds on these benefits, requiring new, non-grandfathered private health plans to offer eight additional screenings and tests for adolescent and adult women at no extra charge. These include:

  • Well-woman visits.
  • Gestational diabetes screenings that help protect the mother and her child from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.
  • Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling.
  • FDA-approved contraceptive products, which have proven health benefits like a reduced risk of cancer and protecting against osteoporosis.
  • Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.
  • HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older.
  • Sexually transmitted infections counseling.
  • HIV screening and counseling.

According to a new report, about 47 million women are eligible for these new additional preventive services that address their unique health care needs. Instead of letting insurance companies decide what care women receive, the health care law requires insurers to cover these preventive services in new plans beginning Aug. 1. Because these changes take effect at the beginning of a new plan year, the requirement may go into effect later in the year. Ask your insurance company when the new benefits will take effect for you.

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. If women are going to take care of their families and friends, they have to take care of themselves. The Affordable Care Act is making it easier for women to do that by making health care more accessible and affordable for millions of American women and families.

To learn more about the health care services you are eligible for at no extra charge under the Affordable Care Act, go to http://www.healthcare.gov/prevention.

To see a video of what people are saying about preventive services go tohttp://youtu.be/lKejT13Jh9g. Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of Health and Human Services

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