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ACA provides new benefits for West Virginia women, report says

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For every infant who breastfeeds, $400 in health-care costs are saved, according to the president of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.

Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, said breastfeeding not only improves the health of young children but also has an "extraordinary economic benefit," he said at a news conference at the state Capitol Thursday.

The physician and state senator joined other members of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care to release the group's new report, "The Affordable Care Act: What Health Reform Means for Women and Families."

Under the federal health care act, women can get breastfeeding support and counseling from trained providers, as well as breastfeeding supplies for pregnant and nursing women, according to the report.

Women were told for decades that bottle-feeding a child is better than breastfeeding, said Nancy Tolliver, director of the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership. But now they know the benefits of breastfeeding and have support from the ACA, she said.

"Breastfeeding offers many benefits for babies and the ACA calls for promotion of breastfeeding," Tolliver said Thursday. "West Virginia women and babies will have advantages they didn't have before."

 

 

Other advantages of the health-care act for most women, as outlined in the report, are preventive measures that must be provided with no deductible, co-payment or coinsurance when a new plan year begins after Aug. 1 (for most women that will be Jan. 1, 2013):

 

  • Domestic violence screening and counseling
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  • All Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling (including 250,000 West Virginia women)
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  • HIV screening and counseling for sexually active women
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  • Mammography every one to two years for women over 40
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  • Visits to obtain recommended preventive services for women under 65
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  • Folic acid supplements for women who may become pregnant
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  • Special pregnancy-tailored counseling that will help pregnant women quit smoking and avoid alcohol
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    An estimated 63,000 West Virginia women -- 55 percent of the estimated 115,000 uninsured women in the state -- will receive health coverage if the state fully implements the Affordable Care Act's option to expand Medicaid, the report states.

    In addition to having access to all clinically appropriate preventive measures - some listed above - Medicare members are also eligible for an annual wellness benefit without a deductible or co-payment, the report states.

    In 2011, more than 236,000 West Virginians with Medicare coverage received free preventive services such as mammograms, pap smears and colorectal cancer screens due to the ACA.

    Beginning January 1, 2014, "gender rating" -- or insurance companies' practice of charging women a higher premium than men for the exact same policy -- will end.

    "This is a fundamental change for women," said Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. "It is truly a new day. We're going to take the ship of the healthcare system forward from treating illnesses to treating prevention."

    The report touts other benefits of the ACA for West Virginians:

     

  • Health insurance policies cannot deny a child a policy because the child has a pre-existing condition. This provision is extended to adults beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
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  • Young adults can stay on their parents' health insurance policy until their 26th birthday. 16,000 young adults in the state were able to stay on their parents' policy in 2011.
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  • Depression screening for adolescents
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  • Alcohol and drug use assessments for adolescents
  • While the benefits take effect Aug. 1, women should check with their insurance providers to see when new benefits take effect under their insurance plans, Bryant said. Most will begin in January 2013, but for Public Employees Insurance Agency customers, the new benefits will start in July 2013. Some plans are grandfathered - plans that were in existence on March 23, 2010, when the ACA was signed into law - and exempt from the changes.

    "As this law unfolds, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition," Foster said.

    For more from West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, visit www.wvahc.org

    Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113


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