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Anna Benyo, Senior Health Policy Analyst

Anna is a Senior Health Policy Analyst for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women's Law Center where she works to implement health care reform at the state level — with a particular focus on ensuring equitable, affordable access to care. Prior to joining the Center, Anna served as a Policy Analyst at Harbor Health Services, a large network of community health centers headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts and home to the first health center in the country. For several years Anna worked to advance evidence-based practices that reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C in New York City and successfully lobbied for increased resources and policy reform. She is a graduate of New York University and later received an interdisciplinary Master's Degree from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study.

My Take

News Reports Miss the Real Story on the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Enrollment

Posted by Anna Benyo, Senior Health Policy Analyst | Posted on: October 31, 2013 at 03:06 pm

CBS and other news outlets have reported on the fact that many Americans are signing up for Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Some of these reports suggest that this is somehow a crisis or a major problem with the law, but in fact, this is how Congress designed the ACA. The ACA extends health coverage to up to 30 million currently uninsured Americans through tax credits to purchase private insurance on the newly launched Health Insurance Marketplaces and through a major expansion of Medicaid eligibility. The Medicaid eligibility expansion is a crucial part of the health care law—and is a main component of the ACA’s strategy for achieving near-universal health coverage. States may accept federal funding to expand coverage through Medicaid to all qualified individuals under age 65 who have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL), or about $32,500 for a family of four. Approximately 15 million uninsured Americans, including 7 million women, will be newly eligible for health coverage through Medicaid.

Here are a few facts that put these reports into context:

  •  This is how the ACA is supposed to work. According to estimates by the Urban Institute and the Kaiser Family Foundation almost half (47%) of the uninsured population could be eligible for coverage through the ACA’s opportunity to expand Medicaid eligibility. This Medicaid eligibility expansion was always going to be a big part of the ACA’s coverage goals.

Misleading CBS Reporting of Maternity Benefits in the Affordable Care Act

Posted by Anna Benyo, Senior Health Policy Analyst | Posted on: October 30, 2013 at 03:21 pm

CBS recently aired a segment about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and new requirements that insurance plans must cover maternity care. But instead of focusing on women who will benefit, CBS interviewed a man who does not want his family’s insurance to include maternity coverage because they no longer need these services.


Let’s set the record straight. Health insurance does not work like an a la carte menu. You don’t get to decide that you don’t want to cover diabetes care because you aren’t at risk for diabetes, but do feel like covering cancer treatment given that your mom had breast cancer. Instead, health coverage pools your premium payments and your health care risks with everyone else’s premiums and health care risks—and therefore protects you against the health costs you can predict and also the health costs you can’t predict. As for maternity care, the individual market is substantially improved by the Affordable Care Act. State and federal anti-discrimination protections insure that most women with employer-based health insurance receive maternity benefits. However, prior to the ACA, there were no federal requirements to provide maternity coverage in the individual insurance market.

Before the Affordable Care Act:

  • Women face unfair and discriminatory insurance practices, such as being denied coverage or paying more for health insurance than men. At the same time, individual market health plans often exclude coverage for services that only women need like maternity care. In most states, women are routinely denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions such as being pregnant or having had a C-section, breast or cervical cancer, or receiving medical treatment for domestic or sexual violence.

New Benefits for Moms in the Affordable Care Act: How to Get Breast-feeding Support and Supplies

Posted by Anna Benyo, Senior Health Policy Analyst | Posted on: October 07, 2013 at 01:23 pm

A recent New York Times blog, Breast-Feeding Services Lag the Law, describes the challenges women face trying to obtain this new benefit. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, requires “new” health plans to cover certain preventive services without cost-sharing, which means enrollees should not face out-of-pocket costs such as co-payments, deductibles or co-insurance. (If you want more information about which plans are considered “new” see our helpful fact sheet.)

These new plans are required to cover breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling. The counseling component is critical, because some mothers find initiating and maintaining breast-feeding challenging. The law recognizes this difficulty and requires plans to cover “comprehensive prenatal and postnatal lactation support [and] counseling.” This means that breastfeeding mothers now have health insurance coverage for lactation counseling without cost-sharing for as long as they are breastfeeding.

But, as the article describes, some insurance companies may be slow to fully cover this benefit by failing to provide a list of in-network providers, or referring women to other providers like pediatricians who may not be trained in lactation counseling.


“Most New Moms Could Use Help… And Thanks to Obamacare, Help is Available”

Posted by Anna Benyo, Senior Health Policy Analyst | Posted on: September 25, 2013 at 09:00 am

A recent NPR blog To Succeed at Breast-feeding, Most Moms Could Use Some Help details problems many new mothers have when initiating breast-feeding. But blog does not mention some exciting news—a new health care benefit that is already helping mothers start and continue breast-feeding. Breast-feeding is good for moms and good for babies, and new moms can get the help they need getting started, thanks to the health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

The law requires all “new” health plans to cover breast-feeding support and supplies without cost sharing, which means not paying for a co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible.


Dear Fox News, Women Should NOT Pay More for Health Insurance

Posted by Anna Benyo, Senior Health Policy Analyst | Posted on: August 27, 2013 at 02:31 pm

Some of the commentators in this news clip make the argument that women should pay more than men for the same health insurance. The argument goes something like this: women need things like mammograms, and pap tests, and their bodies are different, so they should pay more for health insurance.



Does that seem fair?

We did the research and the fact is that women are charged more for health coverage simply because they are women. In states that have not prohibited the practice of “gender rating” the vast majority of plans in the individual market charge women more. In fact, 92%, of best-selling plans in the individual market gender rate—for example, charging 40-year-old women more than 40-year-old men for coverage.