BlogHer Participates in White House Roundtable on the Affordable Care Act

BlogHer Original Post

Editor's Note, 3/27/12: Melissa finished this post on her trip to the White House Affordable Care Act roundtable last week with a call for you to weigh in and share your story. As the Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of various aspects of the act this week, we want to keep the BlogHer roundtable going. What's your insurance situation? How do you feel about the legislation? Share your story in the comments below. -- Julie

Today, I attended a small roundtable discussion with 11 other women in the Roosevelt room at the White House. We talked about the Affordable Care Act and how it is playing out in the actual lives of women. Leading the discussion were Deputy Chief of Staff, Nancy-Ann DeParle, and Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy, Jeanne Lambrew.

Before I left, I studied up on the ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act -- as well as the many different ways people see this legislation. If you don't know a lot about it, you can learn more at Healthcare.gov -- including the full law, key features, and the timeline for when different aspects of the law will be rolled out.

It's a broad law that will be rolled out in small increments over 10 years, so I focused on the parts that apply to women or families:

  • Certain, common preventative care must be covered without cost sharing (in other words, no co-pay for preventative care visits that fall under the parameters -- including mammograms and wellness visits).
  • Insurance plans that are job-based or individual can no longer refuse to cover treatment or charge more due to pre-existing conditions.
  • You can no longer be dropped from an insurance plan due to a condition.
  • If your job does not provide insurance, starting in 2014, you'll be able to purchase insurance at a rate that matches those of job-based insurance plans.
  • You will no longer need a referral for primary care physicians, pediatricians, or OB/GYN practitioners. You may choose any doctor who participates in your plan.
  • Women cannot be charged differently from men for the same insurance. According to the Healthcare.gov site: "Before the law, women could be charged more for individual insurance policies simply because of their gender. A 22-year-old woman could be charged 150% the premium that a 22-year-old man paid. In 2014, insurers will not be able to charge women higher premiums than they charge men."
  • In most cases, a child can remain on their parents' insurance plan until the age of 26.

I went into the meeting with both an open mind and a critical ear. Personally, I firmly support measures to ensure that all women receive adequate health care, which I believe includes everything from Pap smears to birth control. But I also researched the arguments against the Affordable Care Act while I looked at the benefits that are accessible two years into the new law.

Arguments against the plan include those from religious institutions, such as the United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops, who protest the inclusion of contraceptive coverage even after the Obama administration compromised to ensure that there is no direct involvement of religious organizations. Others find fault with the idea of a penalty against those who are uninsured, which will go in effect in 2014.

Those in favor of the new plan believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Lambrew stated today that 45 million American women had access to free preventative care last year. How much could that have saved taxpayers overall by finding medical issues at an early stage, when the treatment is less expensive and invasive than down the road? One million women who didn't have health insurance at all prior to this point now have health insurance, which brings the ability to get a yearly wellness visit.

I asked DeParle and Lambrew what criticisms of the Affordable Care Act they thought were the most important to address. DeParle said,

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