On Monday, President Barack Obama addressed the cascade of technological issues healthcare.gov has been facing since the site launched on October. But let's not forget that the website is actually only a small part of the Affordable Care Act. Sure, it's tempting to focus on the fact that it's been hard to file applications on the healthcare exchange website, but it's important to avoid being swept up in the frenzy and instead keep in mind all the ways in which Obamacare will actually affect American lives. Especially women's lives. Let's start with the good news.THE GOOD:Free Birth Control and Maternity Coverage
Here's a scary statistic for you: Before the Affordable Care Act, only 12 percent of individual market plans covered maternity care. Thanks to the new health law, now all individual health plans will have to include essential health benefits, including maternity coverage. Considering that babies born to women who don't have prenatal care are five times more likely to die than those born to mothers do get maternity care, that's a pretty important difference.
And if you're someone who doesn't want babies right now? The Affordable Care Act requires health plans to cover all FDA-approved birth control methods, including the pill (which, according to the Center For American Progress could cost American women without insurance as much as $1,210 a year). So, hello free birth control.
You Won't Be Denied Insurance for Having "Preexisting Conditions" Like Being a Rape Victim
Before Obamacare, women have, in some cases, been denied insurance (or had prices jacked up) because of "preexisting conditions." Those "conditions" often included receiving treatment for sexual or domestic violence, having had a C-section or breast cancer, or being pregnant. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, your health premiums will now be based on just how old you are, where you live, and whether you're a smoker. Factors which affect men and women equally.
You Won't Be Charged More for Being a Woman
And you thought rape being a preexisting conditions was bad enough. Did you know that before Obamacare, it was totally legal for insurers to charge women more than men? And charged more they were— for example, 30 percent of non-smoking women were charged more than guys who smoke, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Ninety-two percent of the best-selling insurance plans made 40-year-old women pay more than men of the same age (and that includes plans that didn't cover maternity services). Under the Affordable Care Act, this practice of gender discrimination is now, thankfully (and let's face it, belatedly) illegal.
You Might Lose Your Favorite Doc
This isn't necessarily a big deal, but it could be upsetting for some women. Fuss has been made over the fact that some insurance companies are excluding various medical centers and doctors from their plans to bring down the cost of their premiums — but as the L.A. Times recently pointed out, "that process has been happening anyway because insurers are under enormous pressure from big customers to cut costs."
Yes, there's a chance that if you enroll in a certain plan, and you're super attached to Dr. X, you'll potentially be forced into a tearful goodbye. But that might happen regardless of the Affordable Care Act, if you can't afford to pay them.
You Might Lose Hours at Work
This issue doesn't specifically target women and is inherently a flaw in the legislation, but it is a side-effect of employers trying to scam their way out the ACA's new requirements. As it stands, the Affordable Care Act makes it so that employers with over 50 employees either provide expensive health insurance to full-time workers, or pay a big fine. So of course, the way employers are avoiding helping their workers gain health-care access? Cutting down their full-time employees to part-time employment — or just cutting down the number of employees, period.