By Kathy Horgan
When I returned to the States back in the 1980s after having lived in France for many years, I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock I was about to experience in trying to access healthcare. France has one of the best – if not the best – national healthcare systems in the world. What I found in the United States was a continual reference to the “bottom line” when I asked why certain procedures and services weren’t covered. I wondered how you could equate health with profit? Wasn’t access to affordable health care a human right? Wasn’t the health of a nation’s population beyond the “bottom line”? If you look at it from a practical point of view, how can a Western nation expect to compete in the global market if its workforce is sickly and non-productive?
Thirty years later, I am happy and relieved to report that health care in the United States has drastically changed for the better and for women in particular. May is an important month for women. Not only do we celebrate Mother’s Day, but May 14 marks the 10th annual National Women’s Checkup Day and the following week has been proclaimed National Women’s Health Week. It is a time to encourage women to make their health a top priority and to take control over their own healthcare and family planning decisions. Thanks to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) enacted two years ago, women now have been empowered to do exactly that — which is another reason to celebrate.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, an insurance company can no longer charge a woman more for her premium than a man just because of her gender. Why should women be penalized just because of a biological difference? An insurance company can no longer brand a woman with a “pre-existing condition” simply because of a Caesarean section or because she was a victim of domestic violence. The ACA ensures that a woman’s coverage cannot be dropped because she has become ill. The ACA bans insurance companies from being able to put lifetime caps on health care. It also restricts annual limits and will ban them entirely in 2014. The ACA ensures that women joining a new health plan or Medicare beneficiaries can receive recommended preventative services such as contraception, mammograms, pap smears, new baby care and well-child visits without a co-pay, deductible or any other out-of-pocket expenses. Just look at this statistic: In 2011, over 20 million women between the ages of 18 and 64 took advantage of this new provision of the health-care law!
Under the ACA, insurance must cover contraception free of charge while accommodating religious institutions. And, yet, there are sinister forces working hard to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Republicans voted to allow employers and health insurance companies to refuse to provide coverage for any essential health-care services that they object to on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions. Haven’t Republicans heard of the separation of church and state? It is upon this important tenet that our nation was founded. And why in this day and age would anyone advocate for such draconian and medieval legislation? Clearly, the Republican Party is no friend to women and will do everything in its power to prevent women from having access to affordable and necessary health care that is every woman’s right.
I am proud to live in an America that has elected its first Democratic African-American president who has had the courage and tenacity to do what previous presidents were fearful of doing: enacting a national health-care program to benefit all of our citizens, and especially women. Unlike Republicans, President Obama has manifestly shown his respect and concern for all women in this country.
So, this Mother’s Day, take a cue from President Obama and encourage your Mom to take good care of her health. Let your Mom know just how much she means to you. Happy Mother’s Day, Mr. President!
Kathy Horgan is a Red Bank councilwoman.