Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hey ladies: How the ACA covers — and fails — women

Who’s falling into the coverage gap of the Affordable Care Act? That's the murky area where you make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford the cheapest coverage through state exchanges.

The folks most at risk: Women. People of color. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks. Southerners. People who have been incarcerated. People who are undocumented.

“The Supreme Court messed with us,” admits Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, referring to the court’s decision to uphold the ACA but allow states to opt out of Medicaid expansion. And that was just the start of a lively late Tuesday session from the APHA Women’s Caucus, “Who Is Left out of the Affordable Care Act and How Do We Change That?”

Though millions more people now have health insurance thanks to the health reform law, even those who have it can feel overwhelmed by information, surprising fees and increasing costs. Coverage through the ACA for care such as contraceptives and abortion can be murky as well, with an insurance provider’s website saying one thing and their representatives saying another, said presenter Kathy Waligora, director of health reform initiatives at EverThrive Illinois, which was also the beneficiary of this year's APHA Help Us Help Them campaign. That’s why the Women’s Caucus session highlighted efforts that help patients understand their rights and access to care.

A highlight of the session included the outlining of “My Health, My Voice: A Woman’s Step-by-Step Guide to Using Health Insurance,” published by Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need.

Resources like “My Health, My Voice,” and organizations led by women of color are crucial in reaching the at-risk and uncovered populations who need health care reform most, said Cecilia Sáenz Becerra, field organizer for Raising Women’s Voices.

“These are really tough barriers for people to overcome,” Becerra said. “It’s important to really center…(and) facilitate relationships and increase organizational capacity.”

To learn more and pick up a copy of “My Health, My Voice,” visit the Women’s Caucus booth, #1909, in the Public Health Expo.

— L.W.

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