Recently, I attended a great program on women’s healthcare. The discussion included how the Affordable Care Act would affect our healthcare and the decisions we made. So please read this article and share it with all the women you know. Thank you, Affinity Community Services for hosting, Kathy Waligora of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, the Chicago Women’s Health Center (CWHC), and Dr. Theresa Jones for sharing such valuable information. Resources to the topics are at the end of this article.
Because estate planning and financial planning are closely related, health insurance is a key component to successful estate planning. Without appropriate health insurance, everything you own is at risk of loss … to a hospital bill or to long-term care. So no estate planning involving asset distribution will matter because the hospital bill or caregiving expenses will have created a gaping doughnut of an estate for you. The exponential increase of healthcare costs over the last couple of decades is one reason why fewer and fewer individuals and families considered estate planning: with little or no insurance, planning for the transfer of assets would be an exercise in futility. However, that risk for millions has been and is being mitigated by the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or “Obamacare”).
Before the ACA, 40 million Americans had no health insurance and millions of children would never be able to obtain it because of pre-existing conditions. In 2010, when the ACA passed, the number of uninsured Americans were reduced by 10%. And though the ACA has come under intense fire, by 2014, millions more of Americans and small businesses will receive 50% of credits to help offset the cost of coverage. Additionally, the cost of coverage for women will be fair.
Until the ACA was passed, women were made to pay more for healthcare insurance than men and, unlike what most individuals thought, it was not because most women could become pregnant. So why were women paying more for health insurance? That’s a good question that insurance companies have yet to provide an answer for. But they won’t have to because on January 1, 2014, gender will be eliminated as a criteria for determining health insurance costs.
Moreover, preventive and wellness services, especially for women, that were not available in many insurance plans will be available to women at no cost through the ACA. The critical need for these services is highlighted by the recent news about celebrity Angelina Jolie’s healthcare decisions. Included in the free preventive and wellness services mandated by the ACA are:
- BRCA counseling about genetic testing for women who at high risk,
- Anemia screening for pregnant women,
- Cervical cancer screening,
- Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counselling,
- Folic acid supplements for women who could become pregnant,
- Osteoporosis screening for women over 60, and
- Well-woman visits.
The ACA mandates these services included in 22 preventive services because legislators and the current administration recognizes that preventive maintenance and reformed and regulated healthcare for all Americans ultimately reduces healthcare costs across the board for our country, community, and loved ones.
Another important feature of the ACA is Medicaid reform. However, states must agree to take advantage of the new Medicaid rules. If Illinois agreed to embrace the rules, it could man billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. However, the 3.8% surtax on families with household incomes of $200,000 or more has fueled the uproar mentioned earlier. This could result in these households being taxed at a marginal rate of near 45-50% and nobody likes to pay taxes. Still, Illinois Senate Bill 26 (SB 26) is pending with regard to this question. As of 5/21 the bill was passed, after several notes, to the House Committee.
As I said at the top, information about our healthcare and how to use that information is too important – not just to us but also to our families – not to share, so please pay this forward and let women (and men) know that “affordable healthcare is available to you.”
Illinois Congressional Representatives, http://www.ilga.gov/house/
Health Insurance 101, http://101.communitycatalyst.org/aca_provisions/
Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, http://www.ilmaternal.org/