On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Together with a separate Reconciliation Act, these laws will expand Medicaid and create a national system of oversight for state health insurance “exchanges,” which will provide more access, choice, and protection for most Americans in their health care coverage.
Impact of National Health Care Reform on New Mexico Women
Positive effects of health care reform for women and their families:
- By requiring most U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance (if they don’t have it already) by 2014, the bill will help provide insurance for about 32 million people who are currently uninsured.
- The federal income limits for Medicaid will increase, allowing more people to qualify. Those whose income is too high for Medicaid but can’t afford health insurance may be eligible for federal subsidies to help them buy insurance.
- The bill guarantees that health insurance coverage will be fairly comprehensive, and will ban denials for pre-existing conditions and annual and lifetime limits to coverage.
- Insurance companies will no longer be able to charge women more for the same policy – a practice called “gender rating.”
- Other significant coverage provisions of the bill include allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, and improving prescription drug benefits for Medicare.
Positive effects of health care reform for public and women’s health:
- There will be no co-payments or deductibles for preventive care under new private insurance plans or Medicare.
- Funding for community health centers and the training of primary care medical professionals will increase.
- States will be able to easily expand eligibility for their Medicaid Family Planning programs.
- The bill also funds school-based health centers, community health workers, and education and jobs for public health officials.
Impact on New Mexicans:
- New Mexico is currently the state with the second highest rate of uninsured residents. (During the 2007-2008 period, 28% of women in New Mexico were uninsured.)
- The national health care reform package will provide coverage for approximately 315,000 New Mexico residents who do not currently have health insurance.
- In addition, it will improve the coverage of almost a million New Mexicans who do have health care coverage through an employer or have individual policies.
Financial impact of health care reform:
- Implementing the bill will cost an estimated $940 billion over the first 10 years, but will actually reduce the federal deficit by about $138 billion over the same time period. This is because of increased taxes (such as a higher Medicare payroll tax for high income individuals) and lower Medicare reimbursement rates to medical providers.
Impact of health care reform on reproductive health coverage and services:
- The bill requires women participating in the exchanges who want abortion coverage to write two separate checks for their policy premiums – one for abortion care coverage and one for all other coverage. This may have the effect of discouraging insurance companies from offering abortion coverage at all.
- Health care reform provides new funding for comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents, but also restores funding for abstinence-only education.
Who is left out of health care reform:
- Approximately 22 million people will remain uninsured, including undocumented immigrants (who are not allowed to buy insurance through the exchanges) and some of the poorest American citizens, who won’t be required to buy insurance.
- The reform bill does not remove the five-year bar on legal immigrants’ access to Medicaid.
The Southwest Women’s Law Center is dedicated to ensuring that health care reform implementation in New Mexico:
- Maximizes the ability of adolescents and adult women to obtain comprehensive reproductive health services and information;
- Provides adequate and sufficient patient education and consumer protections that address women’s unique healthcare needs; and
- Promotes and protects programs and funding (such as Title X family planning funding and other primary care funding for community health centers) that will provide a critical safety net for immigrant women who are not eligible for Medicaid or the insurance exchange and for any women who, for a variety of reasons, will remain uninsured.