Making Change Happen in Florida
Leah Barber-Heinz is the CEO of Florida CHAIN
Lost in all of the political wrangling over the Affordable Care Act is the fact that Florida’s women, an astounding 1.4 million of whom are uninsured, will see a huge positive impact thanks to these reforms.
The new law creates significant cost savings by eliminating annual and lifetime limits on how much insurance companies cover if women get sick, as well as prohibiting insurers from dropping women from coverage when they fall ill. Moreover, plans in the new health exchanges place a cap on how much insurance companies can force women to pay in co-pays and deductibles. Starting in 2014 women who cannot afford quality health insurance will be provided tax credits, and the Act will completely close the donut hole for prescription drugs by 2020.
The law also provides more and better health care options and ensures coverage of basic health services including maternity benefits. Maternity benefits are often not provided in health plans offered through the individual insurance market.
Also of particular relevance to women is the fact that the new law already prohibits insurance companies from denying children coverage based on preexisting conditions. Moving forward, it will prohibit insurance companies from denying any woman coverage because of a pre-existing condition, excluding coverage of that condition, or charging more because of health status or gender. Right now, a healthy 22-year-old woman can be charged premiums 150 percent higher than a 22-year-old man.
The Affordable Care Act also aims to crack down on excessive insurance overhead by limiting how much insurance companies spend on nonmedical costs such as executive salaries and marketing. And insurance carriers must justify their premium increases in order to remain eligible for the health exchanges.
The positive impact these reforms will have on Florida’s women and their families cannot be overstated. A recent report by Families USA found that more than 70 percent of consumers in the individual market will be eligible for financial assistance through the Marketplaces, because they either qualify for tax credits that will make their coverage more affordable or for Medicaid.
As a result of these and other important reforms included in the Affordable Care Act, fewer Florida women will delay needed care or be forced to give up basic necessities in order to get the health care they need.