Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

Health Care Reform

Emergency! Emergency! But does the Oregon Medicaid study really tell us much about emergency department use under Obamacare?

Critics have pointed to this week’s study of emergency department use in the Oregon Medicaid program as the latest evidence of the ultimate – if not imminent – failure of health reform. In this examination of Oregonians who won the state’s 2008 health insurance lottery, and were thus able to enroll in Medicaid coverage, researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research determined that newly-insured individuals used emergency departments 40 percent more often than similar, but uninsured, state residents. This conclusion, Obamacare critics allege, undermines a key argument for health reform, particularly for states that have not yet implemented expanded coverage under Medicaid – namely, that improving health coverage will reduce emergency department visits and, in turn, save money.

But not so fast. Leaving aside the absurdity of needing to participate in a lottery to get health coverage – a dehumanizing process that health reform will hopefully banish forever – the Oregon experience represents only one look at emergency department use after a Medicaid eligibility expansion. And this study only looks at the first 18 months after the lottery, which translates to an average of 13 months of coverage. In Massachusetts, which implemented health reform in 2006, emergency department use first grew (or continued to grow consistent with previous trends, depending on which study you look at) and then declined between 5 to 8 percent – with a significant drop in ED visits for problems that could be treated in a doctor’s office. Researchers attribute this decline to the reform’s expansion of coverage. Read more »

Five Reasons Women are Getting a Better Deal Because the Health Care Law

As the rollout of health care law – also known as Obamacare – continues, recent news reports have focused on rate increases and the potential that health insurance premiums will be more expensive for some consumers. It’s true – some consumers may start paying more for health coverage purchased on the individual market (although, some who think they will pay more may be pleasantly surprised when subsidies and the details of the new plan are analyzed). But it’s also true that across the country women, in particular, will actually get a better deal because of the health care law. As our recent report Making Insurance Work highlights, the law ensures millions of individuals and families will have access to insurance that works for their budget and that premium dollars go towards high quality, affordable, and reliable health insurance.

Here are five reasons why women are getting a better deal:

  1. Care when you need it: Before the health care law, women could be denied for pre-existing conditions like cancer, asthma, an old knee injury, or even pregnancy. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, up to 129 million non-elderly Americans have preexisting conditions, and 1 out of 5 are uninsured. Beginning in January, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, so these millions of American who need care can get it.

Open Enrollment Begins Today: What You Need To Know

Today marks the start of the open enrollment period for new health insurance options that are part of the health care law, also known as Obamacare. We’ve waited a long time for this day. The law passed three years ago and the National Women’s Law Center worked hard for the passage so we’re celebrating today as major step forward towards high-quality, affordable health insurance for all.

There’s a lot of confusing information out there, so we wanted to share some key information about what today really means and encourage you to join us in celebration. Read more »

Why Does Elisabeth Hasselbeck Think Ending Discrimination Against Women Means “Sticking It” to Men?

Tuesday on Fox News, Elisabeth Hasselbeck did a segment in which she claimed that Obamacare “sticks it” to men because it has good benefits for women and children.

Particularly, she thought it was unfair that men would have to buy a benefit package that will include services they’ll “never” use:

  • Pediatric Dental and Vision: I think Hasselbeck has a point here. Why should any adult have to get a plan with this service? Let those pesky kids pay for their own darn insurance… oh, wait. This is for adults to use who have dependent children. Well, then Hasselbeck’s point must be that men do not have kids? No, that can’t be right…

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

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. Read more »

Why Today’s House Vote Could Mean Higher Insurance Premiums

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives is voting to delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual responsibility provision. Coincidentally, this is happening on the same day that the New York Times is reporting that New York’s insurance rates for 2014 are AT LEAST 50% lower than current rates. An individual living in New York City who currently pays $1000 a month for health insurance will see their rate decrease to just $308 a month. And that’s even BEFORE factoring in new federal subsidies that will help individuals cover a portion of their premium costs.

It’s pretty obvious that lower rates are good news for all New Yorkers, particularly women who have a harder time affording health care and are more likely than men to avoid needed health care services because of cost, but this news should also convince the House to vote down the effort to delay the individual responsibility provision. Read more »

The FY 2014 Ryan Budget: One Terrible Idea After Another

Today House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his vision for the next ten years. Despite having a section entitled "Fairness Restored," Ryan’s budget does anything but put forward a fair and equitable plan.

Chairman Ryan’s plan balances the budget on the backs of vulnerable women and their families. It would:

  • Cut the funding available for programs like Head Start, child care, K-12 education, job training, and domestic violence prevention.
  • Cut Medicaid and turn it into a block grant, allowing states to restrict eligibility and eliminate benefits. About two-thirds of adult Medicaid beneficiaries are women.
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act, eliminating the Medicaid expansions critical for low-income families, tax credits to help moderate-income families purchase health insurance, help with the cost of prescription drugs in Medicare and preventive health care services (including contraceptive services), and protections against discriminatory insurance company practices.

The ACA Contraceptive Coverage Lawsuits: The Employee’s Right to Comprehensive Insurance Coverage

Last week at a lunch with African advocates for women’s rights, we discussed pregnancy rates in Africa and the United States. Across the continents one thing remained constant—women have better outcomes when they are able to control their fertility. They enjoy greater freedom to pursue academic studies or careers, and to plan their lives as they see fit.

The ACA’s contraceptive coverage rule affords 47 million women this freedom by ensuring that they will be able to access birth control and related information through private insurance without having to worry about the cost. While many celebrate the anticipated improvements to women and children’s health, others are infuriated by the rule.

Opponents to birth control have made speeches decrying the rule, hosted conferences and brought lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit... Since the lawsuits have proved to be a publicity-gaining tool, we can anticipate many more. Read more »

Comparing Health Plans Just Got Easier

Have you ever tried to compare health plans? It isn’t easy. Insurance companies design brochures to sell their plans. They have pictures of people holding hands, pushing a child on a swing, smiling in the doctor’s office and just being happy. They highlight everything that is great about the plan and, by the time you get to the chart summarizing the benefits, you would think this is the best insurance plan ever.

Then you look at another plan’s brochure that also makes the plan seem like the best insurance plan ever. But you try to compare the benefits and you aren’t really sure what you are comparing. The brochures use different terms and different formats. You can’t find a description of maternity coverage. You are trying to figure out how all the dollars and percentages add up to actual costs.

Starting today, things are different. That is because plans now have to provide all applicants and enrollees a standard Summary of Benefits and Coverage (called the SBC for short) and a uniform glossary. The Summary is simple to read, short, and provides a standard chart of benefits and coverage examples that every plan must use. The Glossary provides standard definitions of important health insurance terms that impact your coverage. Read more »

Tears of Relief for the Affordable Care Act

I cried a few times yesterday. Not bawling tears, but a few drops of relief. A few drops for those who have been standing up to fight for our health care. A few drops for my friends’ children who will grow up in a country that provides them with the resources they need to thrive. A few drops for the women whose lives will be saved by learning about a condition from a simple preventive service. A few drops for the uninsured who will finally have affordable coverage in 2014. And a few drops for myself.

The promises of the Affordable Care Act are safe for one more day. There are so many promises of the law. These are a just a few promises the law makes to me:

  • I will not be denied coverage for a preexisting condition.
  • I will have access to preventive services without copays or deductibles.
  • When I become eligible for Medicare (in many, many, many years), I will not have to worry about a gap in my prescription drug coverage.
  • My friends don’t need to worry that their young children will hit an annual or lifetime dollar limit on their insurance.