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By Sylvia Mathews Burwell, HHS Secretary, and Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Erin McDonald works for a nonprofit foundation that funds health initiatives in Indianapolis. She helps women address the health issues they face. She describes her job as “trying to help other people get healthier.” Not too long ago, our health care system made it nearly impossible for Erin to improve her own health.

The reason why is that Erin is one of an estimated 65 million in this country with a pre-existing condition. She had sought treatment for migraines and depression, and when insurers learned that, she was denied coverage. Before the Affordable Care Act there were no federal protections for people looking for health coverage. Insurance companies could refuse to sell coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, or with family histories of pre-existing conditions. They could even charge women higher premiums for health coverage or deny them coverage altogether — just because of their gender.

Malala Yousafzai once reminded us all, “we cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” Our health care system before the Affordable Care Act held much more than half of us back. So we spoke up, we knocked on doors, we organized and mobilized and we made our voices heard. And in 2010, our nation took a major step forward for women’s health when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law.

Open Enrollment is Now

  • Open enrollment continues through January 31, with coverage beginning on January 1 if you enroll by December 15. 

If you do not have health insurance, now is the time to go to HealthCare.Gov to see if you may be eligible for coverage and enroll in a plan.

Even if you have a plan through HealthCare.Gov or your state’s Marketplace already, you should go back to your Marketplace and update your information so that you can make sure you get the right amount of financial assistance and enroll in a plan that best meets your needs.

If you are nervous about how the election impacts birth control (and other health care things) — it is important to remember that the ACA is still in effect, just like it has been for over six years.

The ACA won’t disappear on January 21 — it will stay in effect unless there is a change in law. Find out more about the law and questions women should consider when selecting a health plan, go to Planned Parenthood Health Insurance Facts.

When the Health Insurance Marketplace opened for business, Erin could finally sign up for a health insurance plan that covered her prescriptions. She did so at a premium that she could afford, thanks to financial assistance.

Between 2010 and 2015, millions of women have signed up for affordable health care and, as a result, the uninsured rate for women between the ages of 18 and 64 dropped by nearly half. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 20 million Americans have gained coverage — including about 9.5 million adult women. They’re mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins — all finally able to get the coverage they need to live healthy and productive lives.

While millions benefited from having access to coverage, women (and men) also benefited from improvements in the quality of the coverage they were purchasing. The law eliminated lifetime or annual dollar limits on their coverage. Young women were able stay on their parents’ plan until they turned 26. An estimated 8.7 million American women with individual insurance coverage gained maternity services, and more than 55 million women with private insurance now have access to preventive services like mammograms, flu shots, and contraception without a copay or a deductible — care they absolutely need to pursue education, build careers, and raise families.

Today, millions more women can take control of their own health thanks to the protections and progress of the Affordable Care Act. That is a real step forward. It strengthens families in towns and cities across this country. It helps women chart their own futures.

There has been a lot of talk about the future of women’s health in America. The progress that the Affordable Care Act has made for women’s health couldn’t be clearer, and we shouldn’t go backward on any of these improvements.

In order to preserve this important progress, share a story about how the law has helped you. If you know of a story like Erin’s — whether you or someone you know has benefited from the Affordable Care Act — share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #CoverageMatters.

Maybe you found coverage under Medicaid thanks to the law. Maybe you have parents who have saved money on their prescription drugs thanks to the law’s efforts to start closing the Medicare Part D “donut hole.” Or maybe, like Erin, you had the chance to shop for quality, affordable coverage on the Marketplace and can finally get your birth control or a breast exam at no out-of-pocket cost.

If you don’t have health care coverage, you can visit HealthCare.gov and explore your options today — most people can find a plan for $75 or less a month in premiums after financial assistance. If you want coverage starting on January 1, sign up by December 15. 

Let’s follow Erin’s lead and help other women get healthier. Let’s remind our fellow Americans why health care is so fundamental and why #CoverageMatters.

By HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards

Tags: Obamacare, HHS, birth control

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