By Elizabeth Vlock
At a town hall meeting at the White House Thursday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius emphasized the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) impact on women’s issues; particularly the challenges low-income and minority women face . Secretary Sebelius, Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett, Tina Tchen the executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, Mayra Alvarez the director of the public health council at the HHS Office of Health Reform, were among those who spoke and comprised Thursday’s panel on women’s healthcare under the ACA.
One of the goals of the ACA concerns the insurance discrimination women face, Sebelius noted. Secretary Sebelius highlighted that “insurance companies could deny coverage to women for anything from being “a breast cancer survivor… to delivering a baby by c-section… to being a victim of domestic violence.” Sebelius drew attention to the fact that even perfectly healthy young women still today can pay charges up to 50% more than a male colleague. Sebelius explained that such discrimination meant that “just being born a woman was, in insurance parlance, a preexisting condition.”
With African American women more likely to die from breast cancer than other groups and Hispanic women at the highest rate of having cervical cancer, the panel stressed the need for low-income women and minorities to take preventative measures, which the ACA makes more affordable. Sebelius referred to these issues as the reasons she loses sleep at night. Under the ACA Sebelius expressed that with more affordable health coverage preventative measures would ensure minorities would be less likely put off a, “doctor’s visit until something acute happens.”
Addressing the discrimination that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) face Sebelius explained that a step the HHS will be, “for the first time ever… going to add questions on LGBT health issues to the national health survey… [which] has never been done before.”