How do you spark a heated debate between basically every faction of the American political spectrum? Mention the Affordable Care Act.
Adjustments to the Affordable Care Act, passed on Aug. 1, require that private health insurance plans must now cover birth control as preventive care for women, with no co-pays. The bill also requires that insurance companies cover breast pumps for nursing mothers, an annual "well-woman" physical, screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer and for diabetes during pregnancy, counseling on domestic violence, and other services.
The Act will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014 and along with other reforms expanding the pool of Americans eligible for Medicaid, it is the biggest revolution in how the United States approaches and views women’s preventative health.
The Act will create savings for taxpayers, especially in disease prevention and planned pregnancies, and will equally offer mother and baby a chance at healthier, more fulfilling lives.
But this revolution has not come without heated debate on all sides. Planned Parenthood Federation of America supports the bill as providing “critical preventive services” that will “improve the health of communities across the world.” But, bishops of the Catholic Church argue that the act will open the door for tax-funded abortions. Meanwhile, Forbes “Right Directions” conservative columnist Dr. Merrill Matthews suggests simply, “Walmart offers two birth control pills for $9.” Well, problem solved then. Looks like everyone else missed the fact that Walmart had all the answers?
While some are claiming the act will raise insurance premiums and others point out “fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed,” as a New York Times letter to the editor put it, the outstanding truth is that many women do not have access to necessary planning tools. Price ranges for the pill are $15-50 a month, according to Planned Parenthood. And as the number of choices increase, so do the prices.
Women who do not have private insurance are hit particularly hard by the political attacks on federal funding for Planned Parenthood. With the total number of operating facilities at a 25-year low, many are left with two options: full price prescriptions or none at all.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “approximately one-half of pregnancies in the United States were unintended in 2001.” That’s roughly two million births, both insured and uninsured. The unintended nature of these births thus leads to less pre-natal care, given the fact that mothers are often unaware of their pregnancy. This, in turn, could contribute to babies born in poor health and more medical bills – hello higher premiums, and much worse.
A study by the Guttmacher Institute, a leading reproductive health group, “estimates that unintended pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $11.1 billion dollars a year,” and adds that nearly two thirds of unintended births, roughly a million, are publicly funded by Medicaid. The remaining expenditures, not attributed to those one million births, come from families that might need to move to Medicaid due to the newest unintended addition to their family – the necessary first year infant care and the cost of pre- and post-natal services.
While there will be premium cost increases under the new act, those will be spread amongst those with insurance, and they will likely be slight. Moreover, the slightly higher premiums will greatly spur taxpayer savings in disease prevention and planned pregnancies, offering a chance for both the mother and baby to have better and healthier lives.
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