Christensen Highlights That, Starting August 1, New Insurance Policies Must Provide Free Coverage of Key Women’s Preventive Services

Aug 2, 2012 Issues: Health

(Washington, DC – August 2, 2012) –V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen announced that, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, effective August 1, all new health care plans will be required at the start of their plan year to provide free coverage of key women’s preventive services. 

“August 1 was an important day for America’s women,” Congresswoman Christensen said.  “Up until now, many health insurance policies didn’t even cover basic women’s preventive care.  Others charged such high co-payments for key preventive services that women went without them altogether.  Studies have shown that more than half of women have delayed or avoided preventive care because of its cost.  Now, because of the Affordable Care Act, women in new plans will have coverage of key women’s preventive services, with no co-pays.”

Under the provisions, new health care plans are required to begin providing this coverage at the start of their plan years.   For many women in employer plans, they will begin seeing this new coverage on January 1, 2013 (when the new plan year often begins). Christensen encouraged women to contact their employer to determine whether their employer plan is considered “new” or “grandfathered” under the Affordable Care Act.  Health plans that existed before the health care law are generally considered “grandfathered” and don’t have to comply with the preventive services coverage rules.  However, plans lose their “grandfathered” status when they change their plan significantly.  Hence, more and more “grandfathered” plans are becoming “un-grandfathered” or “new” plans each year – meaning more and more women will receive this coverage each year.

“However, in the Virgin Islands, we are experiencing a big challenge with the absence of insurance carriers who are willing to provide coverage to the individual market,” Congresswoman Christensen pointed out.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new health plans have already been required to provide free coverage of a package of certain key preventive services, including such services as colonoscopies, mammograms, cholesterol screenings, and flu shots. 

All new insurance plans will be required to covered additional services and screenings for women with no out-of-pocket charges.  These include services that are essential to helping women stay healthy, including, domestic violence screening, FDA-approved contraception, breastfeeding support and supplies, gestational diabetes screening, HPV testing, sexually transmitted infection counseling, HIV screening, and well-woman visits.

Soon, there will also be additional improvements for women under the Affordable Care Act.  In the past, insurers could deny women coverage because of anything from being a breast cancer survivor to being pregnant. Insurers could also charge women up to 50 percent more than men for the same coverage.   But, under the health care law, beginning in 2014, it will be illegal to deny coverage to someone due to a pre-existing condition.  And it will also be illegal to charge women more than men just because they’re women.

Christensen said while this is great news for women, she remains cautious because opponents of the new law have vowed to continue to do everything they can think of to dismantle health care reform. “There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that women get the health care they deserve,” Congresswoman Christensen concluded.