As a mom, I know itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy to put the health of your family before your own. But as we observe National Women's Health Week, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great time to remember you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take care of your loved ones unless you take care of yourself. That means taking the time to exercise and eat right, but also means knowing how the health care law helps you and your loved ones get the care needed to stay healthy and active.
For all Americans, but women especially, the Affordable Care Act is ushering in a new day in health care by providing new benefits and options for health insurance coverage. The great thing is that the majority of Americans with insurance are already benefiting from the strongest consumer protections in history, with women now able to take better control of their health with greater confidence.
The law requires most insurers to provide preventive services that address womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unique health needs, such as mammograms, pap smears, and birth control, as well as well-woman visits, domestic violence screening and counseling, and other vital health services. Now, thanks to the law, millions of women with private insuranceÃ¢â‚¬”and seniors and women with disabilities with MedicareÃ¢â‚¬”can get many preventive services for free without any additional out-of-pocket cost.
Starting in January, you can no longer be charged more for health insurance simply because youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a woman, nor can you be denied coverage because youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re fighting breast cancer or because you just delivered a child. As I like to say, being a woman will no longer be considered a pre-existing condition.
The law brings an end to insurance companies putting a lifetime cap on the care your family receives. By 2014, annual caps will be gone too, providing the security and peace of mind of knowing that health insurance will be there when you need it mostÃ¢â‚¬”and your familyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s savings wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be wiped out because of an unexpected illness or injury.
And if you just graduated from college or are looking for a job (or are starting out in a job that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t offer health insurance), you can now stay on your parentsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ health plan until you turn 26. This gives you the flexibility to make choices about your future without worrying about where you can get health insurance.
And because of the law, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re one of the tens of millions of women who donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get health insurance through your job, better options are on the way.
Starting October 1, 2013, open enrollment will begin on a new online Health Insurance MarketplaceÃ‚Â where you can compare plans in one place and choose the one that best fits your needs and budget. When coverage begins on January 1, 2014, none of these plans can refuse coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and all of them must cover a package of essential health benefits, including maternity and newborn care.
But just because new health insurance coverage options are available doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean people will automatically be aware of them or enroll. So one of the most important things you can do for your health and your familyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s health is to learn the facts and spread the word about the Health Insurance Marketplace and the health insurance benefits that are available nowÃ¢â‚¬”plus those that will become available in January 2014.
One way you can do that is by visiting HealthCare.gov, where you can sign up for important updates and share them with your family. You can also talk with your friends and neighbors through book clubs and carpools or online on Facebook and Twitter, where you can follow me @sebeliusÃ‚Â to take part in the national conversation thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s empowering American women to take more control over their health care.
But most importantly, sit down with your doctor or other health care provider and discuss what you can do to stay healthy and active. And remember that because of the health care law, you have more options than ever before to take care of your familyÃ¢â‚¬”and yourself.
Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in as the 21st Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on April 28, 2009. Since taking office, Secretary Sebelius has led ambitious efforts to improve AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s health and enhance the delivery of human services to some of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most vulnerable populations, including young children, those with disabilities, and the elderly.
As part of the historic Affordable Care Act, Secretary Sebelius is implementing reforms that end many of the insurance industryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worst abuses and will help 34 million uninsured Americans get health coverage. Under the law, she is also carrying out policies that put a new focus on wellness and prevention, support the adoption of electronic medical records, and help recruit and train more primary care health providers.