Last night, Maternity Care Coalition in conjunction with Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) held a House Party for Women’s Health with Mayra Alvarez, HHS’s Director of Public Health Policy in the Office of Health Care Reform. In an intimate setting, Ms. Alvarez talked about the strides the Affordable Care Act has made for women and their families and what’s currently at stake for women’s health under the new law.
“When I was a graduate student, I struggled for months to find insurance that would cover my pregnancy,” said Stephanie Perez, a local mom and now social worker at Congreso in North Philadelphia. “Everywhere I called and applied, they told me the same thing: I had a pre-existing condition, that being my pregnancy.”
Stephanie Perez is one of three women who shared personal health care stories about how the ACA benefited, or could have, benefited them. Other speakers addressed key parts of the ACA, such as the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26 or grants breastfeeding mothers a break time at work.
“The health care law takes groundbreaking steps to help women, including making it illegal to treat being a woman as a preexisting condition and doing away with co-pays that can get in the way of accessing important preventive services,” said Mayra Alvarez. “It is these gatherings where we hear from real people who have been affected by the law and where the words on paper come to life. It’s obvious from these discussions that when women are healthy, their families are more likely to be healthy and so are our communities, and we look forward to hearing from more women who will benefit as the law continues to be implemented.”
Since 2010, passage of this historic legislation has ushered in significant gains for women and families by guaranteeing coverage for prenatal and maternity care, eliminating co-pays for preventative services such as mammograms and cancer screenings, and ending unfair insurance practices that deny coverage to children for pre-existing conditions. Additionally, come 2014 when the ACA takes full effect, the discriminatory practice of charging women higher rates for insurance than men merely based on sex – or gender rating – will no longer be allowed.
Two important dates loom in the horizon for the implementation of health care reform in Pennsylvania: the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA and the passage of State Exchange legislation, both due by June 30. The House Party for Women’s Health is set against the backdrop of these important milestones, and serves as a reminder of the hard won gains and positive health benefits for which women and families are fighting.