Women make the majority of decisions about care and insurance for our families, and we generally consume more healthcare than men. As a result, women have a lot at stake when it comes to the laws that govern American healthcare and insurance.
In 2010, the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — made it illegal for insurers to charge women more than men and mandated that insurance plans cover women’s preventive care, including birth control, with no copay.
Therefore, some now suggest repealing the Affordable Care Act would be detrimental for women’s health. But the opposite is true: Repeal will afford women greater choice and lower costs when it comes to insurance plans, doctors and care.
The supposed benefits of the ACA have been oversold. No copay birth control sounds like a gift, but savvy shoppers know the difference between what’s truly free and what’s simply included in a larger cost.
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Rather than actually making birth control free, this provision forces women to pay for birth control without seeing the price. It’s rolled into the cost of insurance premiums, which have increased dramatically because of the law — even if men and women now both pay equally high rates.
The group that has seen the largest increase in costs under the ACA are women ages 55-64.
Before the ACA, these women — outside their childbearing years — paid lower premiums and didn’t have to buy costly maternity coverage.
But now these women suffer from the flipside of the gender-equity coin; they are averaged with men who are 55 to 64 years old, of whom have high health costs.
Further, some ACA plans provide coverage in name only: Often, the out-of-pocket costs are too high, and the doctor’s networks are too restrictive, meaning women and men in these plans don’t always have access to the services they need.
As important, the ACA took away women’s choice in plans: Not only have the many regulations in the law limited what types of plans can be bought and sold, but overregulation has led to financial losses and insurer exits, leaving few choices for consumers. In one in three U.S. counties, ACA customers have only one option.
Women deserve better. Repeal would entrust women with the choice to determine what coverage they want — or don’t want — for themselves and their families. And removing Obamacare’s regulatory burdens would reduce costs and entice more insurance companies to compete for our business, giving consumers more power.
It should also be noted that support for repeal of the ACA does not equate with a desire of returning to the previous status quo.
We would still need further health reform. For example, we need to move beyond our employer-centric insurance system to allow for greater portability in plans, lower costs, and more choice.
Women, in particular, need a strong market for individually purchased insurance plans as we are less likely than men to get insurance through work.
Many women suffer from expensive health conditions, and some may fear that without the protections in the ACA, they will be harmed. But no one wants a policy where people die for want of care, and no one wants to see compatriots face financial ruin because of health costs.
That’s why the proposed replacement plan includes additional funding and protections to help people with pre-existing conditions. There are better ways to address this issue than the ACA approach.
The fatal flaw in the ACA’s treatment of women, like so many other big-government schemes, is its misguided premise that all women are the same and want the same things. This is wrong.
Women and their families have unique, individual needs and preferences for healthcare and insurance. Repealing the ACA is the best first step to offering women — and men — the freedom to find and afford what they want in a robust, competitive marketplace.
Hadley Heath Manning is director of health policy at the Independent Women’s Forum, a nonpartisan research and educational organization.
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