Commentary

Assessing the ACA and its impact on women at age five

Health careHard numbers and real life stories documented the impact of the Affordable Care Act today at an event in Durham commemorating the law’s fifth anniversary. “The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Women” was a roundtable discussion that featured knowledgeable women from throughout Triangle region.

Women experts and advocates from Duke Regional Hospital, Enroll America North Carolina, the Durham County Commission, and Wake and Franklin Health Services were among those attending the event sponsored by the office of Congressman G.K. Butterfield and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the Community Health Coalition in Durham. Congressman Butterfield joined the discussion via telephone and issued a call to action to continue the effort to reduce the number of uninsured in North Carolina. According to Butterfield, “Like the Civil Rights Act, the ACA is critical to ending discrimination, especially for women.”

Millions of women, of course, benefited directly from the ACA’s bar on being denied insurance because of “preexisting conditions” as well as the provision of subsidies to make health care more affordable. Women are more likely to experience social conditions such as poverty that act as barriers to accessing and utilizing health care.

Region Four of administrator, Dr. Pamela Roshell and senior advisor Stephanie Owens from HHS also participated in the panel and shared that, despite the numerous misconceptions about and attacks on the ACA, data show that 14.1 adults and 2.3 million children have gained health insurance and can now access primary and wellness care as a result of its implementation. In North Carolina, 560,000 residents are now insured as a result of the ACA – 70,000 of these individuals in the Raleigh-Durham area. Dr. Roshell congratulated our state on its enrollment and how the numbers are sending the message the ACA is needed and is working.

The roundtable discussion proceeded with panelists sharing stories from their time in the field conducting outreach, advocacy and even helping with the implementation of the ACA. As the women shared their experiences over the last five years, two themes quickly became apparent.

The first was the critical importance of education. In addition to educational materials focusing on how to enroll for health insurance, women need to be informed on which preventative services – such as breast and cervical cancer screening – are available and free, how to utilize their health care options, and how to become advocates that promote health equity for women and their communities.

The second theme was Medicaid expansion. While the ACA has been liberating for millions, there is much work to be done to extend access to all women. Members of the panel noted that health care is a right and that all women deserve access to coordinated care.

Let’s hope the event is a harbinger of more good news to come.

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