You probably have lots of questions about President Obama's ambitious goal to provide quality health care coverage for all Americans. But like anything that promises such sweeping reforms, it's complex. So I reached out to a few experts to help break down what this may mean for women (there are bills in the works in the Senate and the House). Should they pass, here's what you can likely expect:
- You'll have health insurance-no matter what. One of the hallmark promises of this plan is that all Americans will have quality health insurance. So if you're among the 21 million women/girls who goes without insurance, or among the 14 million who has to buy it on the individual market, you'll have affordable options.
This is especially important for women, who are less likely to obtain employer-based insurance (which often provides better, cheaper coverage than plans on the individual market). That's because we're less likely to be employed full-time, making us less likely to be eligible. Among this group, 41% get insurance from a spouse, 5% buy it from the individual market, 10% get public assistance, and 38% go without any coverage.
One of the big controversies right now is whether these new insurance options will include a public, government-sponsored plan open to all (like Medicare for the middle class) in addition to expanded health care coverage from private insurers, says Marjorie Baldwin, PhD, director of the School of Health Management and Policy at Arizona State University.
- We can get better care for our lady parts. Preventive care and public health initiatives are another major component of the health care reform-so underinsurance would likely become less of an issue, says Kerry Anne McGeary PhD, assistant professor of economics at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business. If your plan doesn't cover an annual mammogram, for example, that can cost $50 to $200 in out-of-pocket expenses. A colonoscopy can ring up anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 without coverage.
And when we're tightening our belts, preventive care is often one of the first things that gets cut from the budget. Fifty-two percent of women recently reported they delayed or avoided care because of cost, compared with 39% of men.
- Your kid will be encouraged to have a healthier lifestyle. While all children are likely to be eligible for health insurance now at the state level, the new plan calls for more attention to wellness measures, such as community programs to combat childhood obesity or wider access to vaccines.
- It'll be easier and safer to switch doctors or be admitted to the hospital. That's one of the touted benefits of having a national electronic health records system, another key part of this plan. Although the details are still vague, in an ideal world, everyone's health data-from the results of your last Pap test to the Accutane your dermatologist just prescribed-would be documented in one universal system, says McGeary. This would allow doctors to avoid making medical errors, and simplify the process to switch docs or get care in a different state.
- You'll spend less at the pharmacy. Prescription drug expenses are the second-fastest-growing health expense for families, after health insurance premiums. This plan calls for new ways to bring down prescription drug costs, including more access to generics. This can save hundreds to thousands of dollars a year for families with common chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes.
- Changes are already under way. Legislation passed earlier this year has already made important better-health strides. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act offers a 65% COBRA subsidy for people who lose their jobs, making insurance more affordable for longer during the recession. The same act also put billions of dollars toward research, health care training and the start of computerizing medical records.
- Nothing's definite until it gets passed. "All of this is still vulnerable," says Prevention advisor David Katz, MD, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale. "The first issue is for everyone to rally around the concept of health care as a right, not a privilege, which will ensure that reform, in some form, will happen." If we fail to all get on board with the concept of change, nothing will happen-and we'll all lose out.
More Ways to Stay Healthy:
The 14 Worst Health Mistakes Even Smart Women Make
5 Nutrients You Need-And Aren't Getting Enough Of
The Lazy Girls' Guide to Staying Healthy
Afraid to face that swimsuit? Lose that winter weight with Liz and 2-Week Turnaround!
Having trouble slimming down? Sugar could be your problem. Find a new approach with The DTOUR Diet book -- Free for 21 days!