Today, August 1, 2012, Planned Parenthood and millions of women's health advocates nationwide are celebrating a critical milestone along the path toward improving access to essential preventive health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For the first time, insurance companies are required to cover birth control, cancer screenings, well-woman exams, screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure, and more, without co-pays or other out-of-pocket expenses.
There are some notable caveats in this provision of the law. Religious employers are exempt -- not counting religiously affiliated hospitals and schools, who will have an extra year to comply; you must have private insurance coverage to benefit, and insurance plans that have not changed since March 2010 are exempt as long as they continue without any significant changes to the plan. And finally, the new requirement only applies to plans that begin or are renewed after today.
What that means is that sometime between now and next August, 47 million women will see this benefit take effect in their insurance plan on the date of its renewal. Some plans renew on August 1st. Most renew on January 1st. Others renew on June 1st. If you have private insurance, you can call the number on the back of your insurance card to find out when the co-pay free preventive health care benefits will kick in for you.
Of course, Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, like our sister affiliates throughout the country, have been providing affordable preventive health care to the women in our community for decades, and we remain committed to that service to every patient who walks through our doors, whether they have private insurance or not. But the preventive health care benefits that begin today under the ACA are undoubtedly a tremendous step forward, not only for our patients, but for millions of women nationwide. Copay-free birth control alone will save eligible women an average of $600 a year, or $50 a month, and that is cause to celebrate.