I attended a health policy conference last week where the buzz was women. The question on everyone’s mind was: Why aren’t American women angrier that every last one of the Republican candidates for president has threatened to repeal a law that has brought the greatest advance for women in a generation? The experts had an answer: because most women don’t know about their new rights and protections. Many have no idea what’s in this health care law for us. I’m here to tell you that it’s a LOT, an astounding, tell-your-granddaughters-you-were-there LOT.
The President may have buried the lead on Tuesday night, but we don’t have to. Women know how to share good news.
Here’s the thing: family health care is one area where men readily cede decision-making and control to women—and most will even admit it. As CEOs of a family’s health care management, women are responsible for their own health care, their children’s care, their spouse’s care, and in ever growing numbers, the care of their aging parents. This means that in addition to the economic burdens and job insecurity facing American women today, there is also the terrible weight of anxiety surrounding access to reliable, affordable health care. Not to mention the overwhelming emotional burden and immediate practical demands that a family member’s illness presents to women in particular. Women are still the country’s front-line caretakers and now the law is on our side.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama promised the country that he, “will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage or charge women differently from men.”
Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would do just that. Take us backwards. The ACA has moved the nation toward fairness: fairness for women, fairness for those with pre-existing medical conditions, and fairness between the health insurance choices available to members of congress and those available to millions of Americans.
Beyond the list of new benefits—such as annual wellness visits, cancer screenings, and birth control all at no additional cost—the ACA changes the very horizon for women in this country. We are no longer on our own against the insurance companies, struggling to manage family health in a system that ignores the desperate need for care coordination, preventive services, affordability, access, and security. The law now guarantees protection in each of these realms. It begins to measure the quality of our health care by the actual health and well being of our people. These are gains that we as women must actively defend.
Pass the word on to your friends, so that we may pass the power on to our granddaughters.