The Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine are elated that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act–the most important advance for women in nearly 40 years. Feminists are determined to protect the gains of the Affordable Care Act, which will protect the lives and health of millions of women and their families each year and make our nation stronger and healthier.

This is what women will gain from the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act:

Some 32 million people (a majority of them women) will gain access to health care insurance coverage, including 16 million people (also a majority women) who will gain access through Medicaid.

–About 3/4 of those who purchase health insurance through insurance exchanges (those with incomes between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level) will receive a federal subsidy to help pay for coverage.

–By 2014 at the latest, insurers will be banned from “gender rating,” or charging women higher premiums than men for the same coverage (both for individual policies and for employer group plans with fewer than 100 employees). In most states, women with individual plans pay on average some 48 percent higher premiums than men do for the same health insurance coverage.

–Every new insurance policy is required to include a basic preventive health care package without any copays or deductibles. As recommended by the Institutes of Medicine, this includes pap smears, mammograms, birth control, STI/STD testing, well-woman checkups, immunizations and other preventive care.

Exclusions for pre-existing conditions were eliminated for children in 2010, and will be eliminated in 2014 for adults. This will prevent the exclusion of coverage for women who have “pre-existing conditions” such as pregnancy, prior injuries caused by domestic violence, second or subsequent Caesarian deliveries, recurrence of breast and other cancers, etc. A temporary high-risk insurance pool program is available to cover eligible adults with pre-existing conditions until 2014.

–Beginning January 1, 2014, individual and small employer plans must cover at a minimum a comprehensive package of “essential health benefits” including prenatal and maternity care, prescription drug coverage, mental health care and pediatric care (including oral and vision care). Currently, 87 percent of individual health insurance plans exclude maternity coverage.

Medicare guaranteed benefits will not be reduced. Since 2011, Medicare has covered the full cost of preventive care, including cancer screenings, annual physical examinations and immunizations. The Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” will be gradually eliminated, starting with a $250 payment to beneficiaries in 2010 and a 50 percent discount on Medicare Part D prescription drug costs. By 2020, payments by beneficiaries will be reduced to 25 percent of drug costs in the gap.

Employers will not be allowed to provide inferior plans with less coverage to their lower-paid workers, who are more likely to be women and people of color.

–The law increases the numbers of nursing education slots, providing loan repayments and retention grants and offering grants for employment and training of family nurse practitioners. It provides scholarships, loan programs and bonus payments to private care physicians and general surgeons. It also expands health accessibility by doubling the capacity of community health centers. New programs will increase support for school-based and nurse-managed health centers.

Photo from Thursday’s Supreme Court rally from the Feminist Majority Foundation.

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Eleanor Smeal

As Co-Founder and President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Eleanor Smeal has led efforts for the economic, political, and social equality and empowerment of women worldwide for over three decades.