Starting August 1st*, Wisconsin women have much to celebrate as a new phase of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) now offers additional preventive health care coverage without financial barriers. According to the National Women’s Law Center, just four years ago, before the new heath care law was passed, one in four women reported that they didn’t get needed health care because they felt they couldn’t afford it.. Following passage of the law –in the fall of 2010 – certain preventive health care services, like mammograms, blood pressure screenings and other important preventive services, became available to women, with no extra financial burden, like co-pays or deductibles. In Wisconsin, 413,000 women have already been receiving these services without out-of-pocket barriers. As we celebrate a new set of services available to women, we will be blogging today through, August 1st, highlighting each new preventive health service.
New Tests to Protect our Fertility and Health
Overall, the U.S. health care system spends about $17 billion each year on services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Women in particular can face both immediate and long-term consequences when coming in contact with an STI – like infertility, getting HIV or developing certain cancers. The new health care law is helping to reduce the number of STIs with new services available with no financial barriers. Already, screenings for the most common bacterial STIs – Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – are covered without co-pays.
Additionally, the new health care law does a variety of things to protect women from the most common STI, human papillomavirus (HPV). Particularly, in a recent blog post we highlighted the part of the health care reform law that makes recommended vaccines available with no additional costs – including a vaccine that prevents women from getting some strains of HPV, including strains linked to cervical cancer. This is important for Wisconsin because for every 100,000 women in our state, 5 develop cervical cancer – with the rates for black women much higher, 11 per 100,000.
Starting August 1st, preventing cervical cancer goes a step further. Women over 30 will have access to another important screening – a DNA HPV test that will determine if she has a strain of HPV that increases her risk for developing cervical cancer, again with no co-pays or other additional costs.
The new law also provides no-cost, behavioral counseling for all sexually active teens and adults at high-risk – focusing on preventing STIs in the first place. This new benefit is another huge step in the right direction for Wisconsin women and girls – finally, our health care system will combine the treatment of diseases and infections with prevention of adverse health outcomes before they occur, like STIs – without financial barriers.
You might remember, in the same aforementioned blog post, our disappointment with Wisconsin’s repeal of a comprehensive sex education requirement in schools –an evidence-based policy proven to decrease teen pregnancy and risky behaviors that puts teens and young adults at higher risk of getting an STI. Although it’s still important for Wisconsin give students a good foundation of information about sexual health and human development in the school setting, we are thrilled that the new health law will give women and girls access to STI counseling and important screenings with their medical professionals – with no co-pays or other financial barriers – to protect our fertility and health.
* If you have questions about when these new benefits go into effect for your own private plan, please call the member services number on the back of your insurance card, or contact your employer’s benefits administrator for information about your current coverage.