Women's Health Policy Process

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The Affordable Care Act and Women’s Health
Broad Protections against Sex Discrimination across the Health SystemPrior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there was no federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in health care nor did the states provide broad protections against such discrimination. The ACA prohibits insurance companies, health care providers, and health programs that receive federal funding—as well as federally-administered health programs—from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, age, disability, or sex. This protection applies immediately, broadly, and nationwide. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is charged with issuing regulations to provide guidance on the interaction of this overarching provision with other aspects of the health reform law.| In March 2010, President Obama signed historic health care legislation—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act8 (hereafter called the “Affordable Care Act” or “the ACA”) and its companion Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.9 This comprehensive legislation has significant implications for women’s health. Although the most sweeping expansions in health care coverage and improvements in preventive care and other services begin in 2014, women and their families have already started to benefit from several provisions in the ACA that are taking effect this year. Because the Women’s Health Report Card evaluates a broad set of public policies affecting women’s health, it is a valuable tool for assessing the expected benefits of the ACA for women. The legislation addresses, in some way, approximately two-thirds of the policy indicators examined in the 2010 Report Card (see Chart 1). While the following analysis is not exhaustive, it highlights a number of areas where women stand to gain from health care reform if properly implemented: protection from sex discrimination, improvements in Medicaid coverage, and expansions in private health insurance...
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