The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or, as your coworker who won't stop recirculating email forwards has been calling it for two years, "Obamacare." At issue is whether or not George Washington et al would be okay with the idea of the federal government compelling citizens to purchase health insurance, or if it's a freedom-sodomizing Stalinesque abomination like opponents of the law say. Regardless of how the Court rules, this case will have more serious implications for your ladyparts than a reading series called Idris Elba and Ryan Gosling Read Margaret Atwood... Shirtless.
The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, or Obamacare if ya nasty, was signed into law two years ago and contains several meaty, complicated components that kick in over the course of a few years. While most Americans support certain aspects of the law — the provision that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on "pre-existing conditions" or the part of the law that allows people to remain on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26, for example — the law as it currently exists isn't the most popular kid at summer camp. In fact, according to the New York Times, two-thirds of Americans support repealing all or part of the Act as it currently exists. And most people who say they oppose the Affordable Care Act say they've based their opposition on the so-called individual mandate, which would require all Americans to obtain health insurance either through their employers, through government programs, or through individual insurance exchanges.
Proponents of Obamacare claim that without the individual mandate, the entire law goes to pot and have cited states' failed attempts to reform health care sans mandate as examples. Opponents of the mandate claim that allowing Congress to force consumers to buy something would open the door to a dystopian future where Congress requires everyone to do all sorts of things, like get big "I (HEART) John Boehner" tattoos on their necks or buy American-made cars or run 4 miles every morning, rain or shine. Skeptics surmise that the individual mandate isn't necessary to assure access to health care for Americans, that the free market in all its benevolence, will find a way to reform the health care system on its own, sort of like how if you just let all of the animals out of their cages at the zoo, eventually they're figure out a way to live in harmony. And Fox News commentators dusted off their favorite inept "the individual mandate is exactly like rape" analogies for the occasion.
As it stands right now, insurance companies are free charge women more for insurance coverage in more than half of the states. In some places, like Missouri and Colorado, women pay anywhere from 75% to 100% higher premiums than their male counterparts. After the ACA takes effect in 2014, insurance companies will be legally barred from charging women more for insurance coverage. Period. The law also requires that insurance policies cover preventative care for covered individuals without copay— that means women would stand to lose out on the prospect of fully covered contraceptives, mammograms, cervical cancer screening, well child visits, and other women's health needs. Without Obamacare, insurance companies would remain free to cap the lifetime benefits available to the insured, and because women give birth to babies and childbirth is expensive, they cost more to insure over the course of their lifetimes. This means that people who need insurance the most could be denied the care they need.
We won't know what the Court thinks of the Affordable Care Act for a few months, when they issue a ruling. In the meantime, a lot's at stake for women's health.