Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act begins October 1, a date that seems far away now that we're in the sweaty dregs of August but will be here before you figure out how to set up your air conditioning. Obamacare should ensure that no woman goes without preventative care, including contraception and well-woman visits, because she doesn't have the means to pay, but what does that actually mean when you're at the doctor's office, waiting in line at the pharmacy, or dealing with bloviating bishops and bigoted bosses who are overly concerned about how your newly insured vagina affects their close and personal relationship with Jesus?
Insured women's health care is one of the biggest advancements in women’s health in a generation. Here are answers to some of our questions about this exciting — but often extremely fucking confusing — time in history.
When/How do I get my free birth control?
An estimated 26,947,000 U.S. women already benefit from the women’s preventive health care provision, which went into effect on August 1, 2012. When the benefit goes into full effect, approximately 47 million women nationally stand to benefit.
If you already have health insurance: your birth control might already be covered without a co-pay. (If you've been to the pharmacy to pick up your birth control and were shocked by a $0 receipt, that’s the new benefit in effect. Planned Parenthood has some of those receipts featured on their Pinterest page here, if you're into that sort of thing!)
If you’re not sure whether your plan already covers birth control without a co-pay, all you have to do is call your insurance company (that number on your insurance card) — unfortunately, not all plans have to cover the benefit just yet. Your plan might not kick in for a year or more.
If you need tips on what to say when you call, click here.
If you don’t have health insurance: you can enroll in an affordable health insurance plans starting on October 1 (plans and prices aren't available until then). These new insurance plans will have to cover preventive care, including well woman exams and a range of birth control methods without a co-pay. That means you won’t have to pay anything out of pocket for these services. Yay!
As of October 1, nearly 12 million uninsured women between the ages of 19 and 44 will become newly eligible to apply for Medicaid or qualify for premium tax credits to help purchase health insurance coverage through state marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act via the Health Insurance Marketplace. Coverage will begin on January 1, 2014. Enrollment is open through March 31, so coverage will begin later depending on when you enroll. Here's an extensive timeline that's pretty easy to follow.
If you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), your coverage can begin immediately. You can also apply for either of these programs right now, before open enrollment begins.
What is and isn't covered? Exactly what birth control must be covered without a co-pay?
All Marketplace health plans and many other plans must cover this list of preventive services for women without charging a copayment or coinsurance, even if you haven’t met your yearly deductible (applies only when these services are delivered by an in-network provider):
Anemia screening on a routine basis for pregnant women