More Than Half Of New Health Care Enrollees Are Women (Here’s Why It Matters)

Before the Affordable Care Act, about one in four women reported having to delay or forgo health care due to cost. (Photo: Amanda Chan/Yahoo Health)

Women are showing strong numbers when it comes to enrolling for health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a recent report.

The latest data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that 56 percent of enrollees between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, 2014, were women.

“For women, the Affordable Care Act means more affordable health care and greater peace of mind,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

Even with all its initial glitches, the site seems to be effective when it comes to enrolling — and re-enrolling — in health insurance. Just over 1 million individuals selected a new health care plan through the Marketplace during all of open enrollment in 2013 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 28, 2013), while the first month of 2014’s open enrollment plan saw almost 3.5 million enrollees. In 2013, 55 percent of new enrollees in the online Marketplace were women. (Editor’s Note: Open enrollment continues now through Feb. 15.)

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It’s not exactly surprising that health care is a benefit to women — and research backs the notion up. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently published the results of its investigation on the ACA’s impact on women’s health showing that before the bill’s passage, one in five women between ages 18 and 64 was uninsured. Furthermore, pre-ACA, low-income women and minority women were disproportionately underinsured, with a quarter of low-income women, 22 percent of African-American women, and 36 percent of Hispanic women not having insurance before the bill’s passage.

The study also found that prior to the enactment of ACA, 26 percent of women reported having chosen to “delay or forgo care in the past year due to cost compared to 20 [percent] of men” and that 28 percent of women reported having problems paying medical bills within the past year.

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Insurance status also seems to be associated with health outcomes and services. According to a 2013 report by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “uninsured pregnant women receive fewer prenatal care services than insured women and are more likely to experience adverse maternal outcomes such as pregnancy-related hypertension and placental abruption, … low birth weight and infant mortality.”

The report also points to the risks uninsured women face beyond those associated with pregnancy and childbirth, including a 30 to 50 percent increase in risk of dying from breast cancer and a 60 percent increase in receiving a cervical cancer diagnosis than their insured peers. Prior to the instatement of the Affordable Care Act, 19 million American women were uninsured.

In addition to preventing insurance companies from charging women higher premiums solely on the basis of gender — which was previously not only legal, but the industry standard — the Affordable Healthcare Act also mandates coverage without a co-pay for birth control, annual breast cancer screening for women over the age of 40, cervical cancer screening and HIV screening for all sexually active women, gestational diabetes screening for all pregnant women, and annual well-woman visits for advice on additional screening and testing procedures.

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