New health care benefits for women kick in Wednesday - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

New health care benefits for women kick in Wednesday

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Health insurance plans will provide some benefits, including birth control, to women for free starting Wednesday.

It's another provision of Pres. Barack Obama's health care law that is going into effect.

It is expected to impact an estimated 47 million women nationwide, including nearly 970-thousand in Wisconsin.

"Health care is a big, big issue," says Mary Ridgely.

She says her daughter turned 27 this year, meaning she's on her own when it comes to health insurance.

"She is right now paying a huge COBRA premium so she may not be able to afford to that very long."

Meanwhile, she's trying to get a job.

"Everybody is having a tough time finding employment but good employment that offers good benefits is even harder to find."

She says it will make a big difference when her daughter can start a plan with women's preventive health benefits in place under the Affordable Care Act.

Starting Wednesday, all new plans will provide basic services without co-pays—services like birth control, breastfeeding counseling and equipment, annual screening for HIV and well-woman preventive care visits.

Sara Eskrich is with the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health and the Council on Children and Families.

"Those of us who are currently insured are likely to not see the benefits until January 1st, or whenever your plan year changes. So, the best way for women to find out if they are covered now is to call their insurance company," Eskrich says.

Some plans that existed before health care reform passed may have "grandfathered" status, which means they're exempt from offering the benefits unless their coverage changes.

"Though we may think our plan is the same from year to year, likely it's changed just enough to lose grandfathered status. But it really depends on your carrier, on your employer policy."

She expects most plans to include the free services by 2014.

 

Here is a list of services offered for women without co-pays provided by the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health:

- Comprehensive contraceptive care. The full range of FDA approved contraceptive methods, including birth control pills, IUDs, as well as sterilization procedures, patient education and counseling.
- Screening and counseling for intimate partner violence. Screening and counseling about current and past violence and abuse so that providers can address health concerns about safety and other health problems that may be associated with interpersonal and domestic violence.
- Screening for gestational diabetes. Screening pregnant women for gestational diabetes, a form of the disease which develops during pregnancy and occurs more often among women of color.
- Breastfeeding counseling and equipment. Making trained breastfeeding counselors available to all women during pregnancy and after they give birth and making breastfeeding equipment available to those who want it.
- Screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Counseling on STIs annually; screening for HIV infection annually; and adding a test for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) to conventional cervical cancer screening for women starting at age 30 and continuing every three years.
- Well-woman preventive care visits. Conducting at least one well-woman preventive care visit for adult women each year so that women can get the recommended preventive services.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WKOW) -- Starting Wednesday, all new health insurance plans have to provide eight preventative health benefits to women for free. Women who already have plans with copays or deductibles for those services, will also get them for free starting with their plan's next renewal date.

The Department of Health and Human services says this will help about 47 million American women. Those are the ones in health plans that have to offer the new benefits. It's a requirement under the Affordable Care Act Congress passed in 2010. The Supreme Court upheld most of the law this past June.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius celebrated the milestone a day early. "We're here to mark a new day for women's health in America. Starting tomorrow, thanks to the new health care law, all insurance policies will be required to cover new vital care that women need to stay healthy and they'll have to cover the care without charging women anything out of pocket."

The benefits include contraceptives, breast-feeding supplies, screenings for sexual transmitted infections and counseling for domestic violence. They also include routine check-ups for breast and pelvic exams, pap tests and prenatal care. Sebelius says, "Too often, we put our own health last. And that's especially true when it comes to preventive care. The regular check-ups and screenings that are so important to staying health but can be too easy to put off."

Fourteen free preventative service benefits for women have already taken effect under the Affordable Care Act, including mammograms to screen for breast cancer in women over 40.

Not all women with insurance will have access to the new services. Certain insurance plans that existed before the health care reform passed may have "grandfathered" status and may be exempt from offering the benefits. Women can call their employers to ask whether they are in "grandfathered" health insurance plans.

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