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Major Changes With Health Care Reform

Created: 03/02/2012
Last Updated: 01/23/2015

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as health care reform, will dramatically change health care coverage for women and everyone in the United States.

The new federal law, approved by Congress and signed by the president in 2010, calls for more preventive services to be provided with no co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles. Many insurers will be required to provide prevention and wellness screenings at virtually no cost to the consumer. These services include mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer and osteoporosis, contraception, tobacco use screening and a long list of other screenings and tests, depending on your age and specific risks. This approach is expected to reduce health care costs in the long term because it is less expensive to prevent disease than it is to treat it.

For women, there are 22 tests, screenings and services that are covered at no cost, beginning in August 2012. There also are more covered services for adults in general and children.

Some pregnant women also will benefit under health care reform. The new law requires that insurance companies provide maternity care coverage as part of health policies purchased in the individual market. Currently, maternity coverage is often a "rider," which requires extra payment and may have a long waiting period before coverage is effective. Some plans do not cover maternity care. As a result, many women of childbearing age lack maternity coverage and face average expenses of $10,652 for prenatal care and three months of postpartum care for a delivery without complications.

Another benefit for women and their families allows parents to keep their children on their health policies until their children turn 26 years of age if they do not qualify for their own employer-based health care plan. This age group represents one of the largest uninsured groups in the country. Already 2.5 million young Americans are insured under this provision, which went into effect in 2010.

Perhaps the most controversial part of the new law is the individual mandate, which would require all Americans to have health insurance, either by purchasing it or by qualifying for Medicaid. This provision is to take effect in 2014, but it still faces legal challenges in many states.

To find out more, you may want to read:

More Options for Purchasing Insurance
Insurance Regulation Changes That May Affect You
A Perspective on Women and Health Care
Preventive Services Covered Under the Affordable Care Act
Timeline for Health Care Reform Changes
Health Care Reform: Where to Learn More
Ask the Expert: How does the new health care reform act affect older women?
Ask the Expert: How do the new health reform laws affect low-income women?