Empowering Women Through Affordable Health Coverage

Ed. note: This blog post is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Blog. The original post date was October 17, 2014. Read the original post.

Betsy Furler, a Houston mom and small business ownerWomen are often the health care decision-makers in their families and communities. They stretch and re-work their family budgets to pay doctors' bills. Before the Affordable Care Act, some women put their dream careers on hold to take jobs just for the health benefits. Others struggled to pay for basic preventive care.

But now the Affordable Care Act is working to empower women to take control of their health and budgets by making quality health insurance more affordable and accessible through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The ability to get affordable, quality coverage is changing the lives of women across the United States. Women like Betsy Furler, a health care professional and a mom in Houston, whose family couldn't find affordable health insurance. Sometimes her family couldn't get any insurance at all because of family members who had pre-existing conditions. Betsy used to take jobs just for the health benefits, while working to establish her own speech therapy business.

With the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies couldn't turn them down because of pre-existing conditions. And they all got covered by a plan with a premium that is half what they were paying before. Betsy says she was shocked to learn that her prescriptions, which used to cost $280 a month, are now only $5!

"I've launched my small business and can focus on expanding it because I now can afford health coverage for my entire family," Betsy said. "And we no longer live in fear of the next hospital bill."

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, young women like Andrea Jahen of Austin are also empowered to take control of their health. She works as a restaurant hostess to support herself while going to college so she could teach physics or math in high school. Health insurance always seemed too expensive.

But when she heard about the Marketplace, she learned that she really could afford quality coverage. Her plan carried a reduced premium of only $32 a month, which she could afford on her waitress earnings.

Before the Affordable Care Act, Lynn Gardner Hinkle, like so many other Americans, kept seeing her insurance costs going up every year. Lynn, a Kansas City, Missouri, entrepreneur and single mom of four boys, thought that because she was healthy, she didn't need the expense of a $600 monthly premium. So she dropped her coverage.

And then like too many other Americans, Lynn was hit by unexpected medical needs. She was diagnosed with melanoma. Lynn was forced to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for two rounds of surgery. She sold her house so she could free up savings in case she needed more medical care.

But then she logged onto the Marketplace and found a "lifesaver." With the financial assistance available through the Marketplace, her coverage costs her less than $200 a month and has a deductible of only $600. Her previous deductible was $3,800.

She has since had further surgery. But as she said, "For the first time since my skin cancer diagnosis several years ago, I did not go alone to the doctor. I had an insurance card I was proud to present."

Being covered means everything to me.Yvonne Jones also works full-time, first for a nonprofit and later as a freelance writer and media archivist, but couldn't afford health insurance. While on a street corner in Philadelphia, she passed out in pain when her leg suddenly swelled to twice its normal size.

Yvonne racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills, but she was determined to get control of her health. During open enrollment in the Marketplace earlier this year, she found a plan that she liked and could afford. Since she qualified for assistance, the plan costs about $120 a month.

Yvonne's coverage went into effect May 1, just six days before her doctor decided she couldn't delay surgery any longer to remove an eight-pound tumor that had led to her leg swelling. She can't begin to think what her medical bills might have been without insurance.

"Being covered means everything to me," Yvonne says.

The Affordable Care Act is already working to help millions of women access affordable, quality health care. Open enrollment through the Marketplace begins again on November 15. If you previously signed up for coverage through the Marketplace, you should return to HealthCare.gov on November 15, update your application, and compare your options to enroll in the plan that best meets your needs for 2015 coverage. You can review the 5 Steps to Staying Covered here.

Like Yvonne, Betsy, Lynn, and Andrea, take control of your health and check out your options for affordable, quality health insurance online through the Marketplace or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325), any time, any day.