The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted on March 23, 2010. Controversies, complaints, and detractors have and continue to abound. But the ACA’s landmark women’s health gains are unmistakable. Contraceptive coverage, maternity coverage, Medicaid coverage of low-income women, coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions, and gender-neutral premiums are now a part of the fabric of our society. For most.
Many physicians and patients—many lawmakers, too—do not remember the serious problems people had with their insurance companies before the ACA. Maternity coverage was usually a free-standing rider to an insurance policy, making it very expensive. Insurance plans did not have to, and often did not, cover contraceptives, and none did without copays or deductibles. Women were routinely denied coverage if they had ever had a cesarean delivery, had once been the victim of domestic violence, or had any one of many common conditions, like diabetes. The many exclusionary conditions are so common, in fact, that one study estimated that around 52 million adults in the United States (27% of those younger than age 65 years) have preexisting conditions that would potentially make them uninsurable without the ACA’s protections.1
Before the ACA, it also was common for women with insurance policies to find their coverage rescinded, often with no explanation, even though they paid their premiums every month. And women with serious medical conditions often saw their coverage ended midway through their course of treatment. That placed their ObGyns in a terrible situation, too.
The insurance industry as a whole was running rough-shod over its customers, and making a lot of money by creatively and routinely denying coverage and payment for care. People were often insured, but not covered. The ACA halted many of these practices, and required insurers to meet high medical loss ratios, guaranteeing that 80% of the premiums’ for individual and small market insurers (and 85% for large insurers) are returned to patients in care payments or even in checks. In fact, nearly $4 billion in premiums have been rebated to insured individuals over the last 7 years under the ACA.2
The commitment of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to women’s health and to our members’ ability to provide the best care has centered on preserving the critical gains of the ACA for women, improving them when we can, and making sure politicians don’t turn back the clock on women’s health. We have been busy.
In this article, we will look at what has happened to these landmark gains and promises of improved women’s health, specifically preexisting condition protections and contraceptive coverage, under a new Administration. What happens when good health care policy and political enmity collide?
Preexisting coverage protections
The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) defines a preexisting condition exclusionas a “limitation or exclusion of benefits relating to a condition based on the fact that the condition was present before the date of enrollment for the coverage, whether or not any medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received before that date.” HIPPA prohibited employer-sponsored health plans from discriminating against individuals through denying them coverage or charging them more based on their or their family members’ health problems. The ACA expanded protections to prohibit the insurance practice of denying coverage altogether to an individual with a preexisting condition.3
Continue to: Under Congress...