Amy Pitlik, Director of Government Affairs, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
The U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have a profound and concrete impact on women. It is one of the greatest advances in women’s health in a generation, providing access to birth control and cancer screenings without co-pays, guaranteed direct access to OB/GYN providers without referrals, and an end to discriminatory practices against women, such as charging women higher premiums and denying coverage for “pre-existing conditions.”
At our 23 health centers throughout Colorado, Planned Parenthood sees the need for affordable health care every day. Women who come to us often struggle to balance paying for birth control and health services with paying for textbooks, groceries, or gas for the car. The new health care reform law will make those decisions easier for women across the country and validate what we know, reproductive health care is basic preventive health care. In 5 days, women enrolled in new insurance plans, will have access to a variety of preventive services without having to pay a copay.
One of these preventive services that is not to be overlooked are screenings and counseling for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). One in five women have turned to a Planned Parenthood at some time in their lives for professional, non-judgmental care. We know increasing access to HIV, STI, and HPV screening and counseling by removing the barrier of copays will have an immediate and positive impact on their lives. Counseling sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior in patients, yet, according to the Institute of Medicine, only 28 percent of women aged 18 to 44 years reported that they had discussed STIs with a doctor or nurse.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new analysis showing that the U.S. has stalled in reducing HIV-related sexual risk behavior among all U.S. high school students over the past decade. People under the age of 30 represent approximately 4 of every 10 new HIV infections each year. These findings reflect a clear need for young women to have better access to health care services, including HIV testing.
Testing is such an important part of prevention because many STIs show no sypmtoms and go undiagnosed. Without treatment, these infections can lead to major adverse reproductive health outcomes, including higher risk for ectopic pregnancies and infertility.
Thanks to the ACA, quality preventive health care will now be more accessible to millions of women who no longer have to worry about whether they can afford a copay to see their doctor and get the care they need, when they need it. Today, we are closer than ever to realizing the promise of health care for all.