MamaCare: Women’s Influence on Family Health and the Promise of ObamaCare

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Valerie Jarrett is Senior Adviser to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

It has been said, if you want to get something done – give it to a busy person. And who is busier than today’s moms? From managing pickup and drop-off schedules that could make a Pony Express rider’s head spin, to finding creative ways to make our little ones eat their vegetables and put down their video games long enough to finish their homework and play outside.

Valerie Jarrett quote

Even under the best of circumstances, our work as parents is never done. But for many families, the challenges they face are much deeper and more complex than the ordinary hustle and bustle of American life. For the nearly 50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, each day can feel like a high-wire act without a net. And when you have children to care for – the anxiety can be overwhelming.

As President Obama said during a recent visit to Prince George’s Community College in Maryland: “Affordable healthcare is not a privilege for the fortunate few -- it is a right.” No one in a country as wealthy as ours should be forced to go without care, or driven into financial ruin, just because they get sick or have an accident.

President Obama talks with Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett
President Barack Obama talks with Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett between meetings in the Oval Office May 6, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

That’s why the Affordable Care Act, lovingly known by many as ObamaCare, was put in place. To give all Americans the peace of mind they deserve, and the right to face their medical challenges with confidence and dignity; and not the fear and uncertainty of life without health coverage.

Today, The Affordable Care Act kicks into high gear as Open Enrollment begins, and brand new health insurance Marketplaces opened for business, granting access to affordable healthcare coverage for millions of uninsured Americans for the first time. Thanks to these Marketplaces, 95% of uninsured Americans will see lower than expected health care premiums in 2014. Statistics show working families making $50,000 can secure health insurance for less than $100 per month, and a 27-year-old making $25,000 can receive coverage for an average of $93 a month.

Open Enrollment represents a major milestone for ObamaCare and a huge step forward in ensuring the health and wellbeing of all Americans, but for the 85% of Americans who have health insurance, the law has already improved their protections and access to benefits.

More than 47 million women have received access to critical preventive care, including mammograms, contraceptive care, domestic violence screenings, and counseling with absolutely no copays. Families across America are breathing a sigh of relief as young adults now have the option to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26, contributing to 3 million additional young adults receiving coverage since ObamaCare became law.

Also - as of right now, insurance companies are restricted from placing lifetime limits on how much they pay out to cover medical costs for an individual – and beginning next year, the law will extend to restrict annual caps. This is a transformative new reality for some, especially families struggling with chronic or catastrophic illnesses, and very sick children. Insurance companies are now prohibited from discriminating against children with preexisting conditions. And in the past year, 8.5 million families received an average of $100 back from insurance companies that had previously spent too much on administrative costs and overhead, and not enough on actual healthcare. Very soon, thanks to ObamaCare, everyone will be protected from discrimination because of a preexisting condition, including women – who are often charged higher rates and premiums, simply for being women.

Still, the full promise of this law will only be realized when our families and communities are fully informed about the benefits of health insurance, and how to sign up. This will take moms and grandmas, aunts everywhere, embracing their often intuitive roles as family-financial-strategists, in-house-nurses, and crisis managers to educate their loved ones, to urge the uninsured, including their young adult children, to enroll and get covered, and to encourage their families to take full advantage of preventative care options that will keep them healthier in the first place.

Running a household under any conditions is no easy feat. It can require the organization skills and hustle of a small business owner, the stamina of a farmer, the budget instincts of a corporate CPA, and the flexibility of a circus contortionist! So much is asked of parents today that any relief from the worry and uncertainty of raising a family should be welcomed. And that is exactly what the Affordable Care Act provides – relief for hard-working families, and solutions for all Americans who desperately need care.

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