This week marks the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act – a law that ensures all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care and significantly reduces long-term health care costs. This act makes it possible for millions of Black Americans to have access to health insurance and health care. Under the new health law, Black women now have access to no-cost preventative services, such as breast and cervical cancer screening, diabetes testing, vaccinations, and cholesterol screenings.
Specifically for Women:
- Banning insurance companies from dropping women when they get sick or become pregnant, as of 2010.
- For women in new plans, providing free coverage of important, life-saving preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, as of 2010.
- Improving the care of millions of older women with chronic conditions, by providing incentives under Medicare for more coordinated care.
- Banning insurance companies from requiring women to obtain a pre-authorization or referral for access to OB/GYN care, as of 2010.
- Ending the common practice of “gender rating,” charging women substantially higher premiums than men for the same coverage, beginning in 2014. According to a recent study, the women on the individual market pay up to 48% more in premium costs than men.
For Young Adults:
- Most young adults can stay on their parent’s family plan until they turn 26. It doesn’t matter whether you’re married, living with your parents, in school, or financially independent.
- Most health plans cannot deny coverage to children under age 19 because of pre-existing conditions.
- Providing access to quality coverage to the millions of young adults without access to affordable job-based plans, with the establishment of new Health Insurance Exchanges, beginning in 2014.
- If you have been uninsured because of a pre-existing condition, like cancer or having been pregnant, you may be eligible to join the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan.
- If you are in a new insurance plan, insurance companies cannot charge you a deductible or co-pays for recommended preventive services, like mammograms and flu shots.
- Insurance companies are prohibited from capping the dollar amount of care you can receive in a lifetime, or dropping your coverage due to a mistake on your application when you get sick.
- Seniors who are in the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole will receive a 50% discount on covered brand name prescription drugs and lower co-pays for generic drugs. You don’t need to take any action to receive this benefit.
- Starting as early as September 2010, new health plans must cover certain preventive services without cost sharing.
- Starting in 2014, if you’re unemployed with limited income up to about $15,000 per year for a single person (higher income for couples/families with children), you may be eligible for health coverage through Medicaid.
- Starting in 2014, if your employer doesn’t offer insurance, you will be able to buy insurance directly in an Exchange. An Exchange is a new transparent and competitive insurance marketplace where individuals and small businesses can buy affordable and qualified health benefit plans. Exchanges will offer you a choice of health plans that meet certain benefits and cost standards. Starting in 2014, Members of Congress will be getting their health care insurance through Exchanges, and you will be able buy your insurance through Exchanges, too.
- Starting in 2014, if your income is less than the equivalent of about $43,000 for a single individual and your job doesn’t offer affordable coverage, you may get tax credits to help pay for insurance.
The Affordable Act focuses on treating sickness to promoting wellness, with such provisions as strengthening community-based wellness services, and rewarding primary care. There is not a single section of the Affordable Care Act that does not have a significant and positive impact for African Americans and all minority communities. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, preventive services like mammograms, colonoscopies, cervical screenings and treatment for high blood pressure are available in new plans without any out of pocket costs. These kinds of preventive services will go a long way in preventing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and high-blood pressure, which affect the lives of millions of Americans.
Anyone can visit HealthCare.gov and access a personalized list of private insurance plans, public programs and community services that are available to you.