By Elizabeth Vlock
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius and Senate Democrats held a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday to trumpet a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) scheduled to go into effect tomorrow that will provide preventative care to 47 million women with no out of pocket costs.
Under the provision all new insurance policies will be required to cover domestic violence screening, FDA approved contraception, breast feeding counseling and supplies and a “well woman” visit where women can speak directly to their healthcare providers.
“No woman should have to choose between seeing her doctor and putting food on the table for her family,” Sebelius said, noting that due to high costs more than half of women in America delay or avoid taking preventative care measures.
Led by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the driving force behind the ACA’s Women’s Preventative Care Amendment, said that after Wednesday “the top killers of women will no longer go undetected” due to higher premiums that women must pay simply due to their sex.
Mikulski attacked Republicans who seek to repeal the ACA by calling into question the character of elected officials who would remove protective measures for women. She described Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a champion of the ACA, as an example of her belief that “men of quality are never shy of equality for women.”
Sen. Harkin made particularly emotional remarks regarding his loss of two of his sisters to breast cancer, each of whom had little access to preventative care that could have been potentially life-saving.
“When my older sister Maryanne died, and we went to her funeral, her younger sister Sylvia was there, and had no idea that she also had breast cancer. Within two years she was dead also,” Harkin said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) called the past discrimination against women in the health care system, a “male-garchy,” that opposes preventative care and wasted no time in slamming Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s pledge to repeal the ACA on his first day in office.
Lautenberg referenced the fact he has five daughters and six grand daughters and asked those who opposed the amendment to “keep their mitts off my kids and off my grandchildren,” a likely nod to the Republican nominee.
In 2014 additional provisions of the ACA will be implemented that will make it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to breast cancer survivors, victims of domestic violence, pregnant women, or to charge women more because of their sex.