12/20/2013 02:39 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

What Obamacare Means to Women

The raging debate over whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is on the brink of cataclysmic failure because of the website debacle is a very simplistic and misleading way of evaluating what this historic health care reform represents. In fact, this reform law sweeps away decades of gender discrimination and provides a massive expansion in access to health services that are especially critical for women.

Yes -- we are all disappointed by the rough launch nationally. Although here in California where we have our own health purchasing exchange -- Covered California -- online access has been relatively efficient. We are actually demonstrating here with over 30,000 successful enrollments during the first month that given time and proper organization, an online marketplace can be successful.

How many people enroll how quickly is a daunting administrative challenge, but it is not the scorecard that should be used to determine the value of the law.

As providers of reproductive health care services, Planned Parenthood is keenly aware of what this law means to women. The improvements in access and quality of care will literally be life-saving for many of California's most vulnerable women, a population we are dedicated to serving at our more than 115 Planned Parenthood health centers statewide.

The sweeping improvements in health care for women go well beyond the access to exchange coverage or Med-Cal expansion, as important as they are. The law specifically targets a number of factors that directly impact the ability of women to receive quality health care.

First, the ACA ends the ability of insurance companies to impose higher premiums on women. In the system that existed prior to Obamacare, insurance companies were free to use gender as a basis for increasing the cost of coverage. Women were often charged as much as 150 percent of what men would be billed for the same coverage. Under the ACA, this practice is now illegal.

The ACA also guaranteed women in managed care plans direct access to the primary care provider with the best expertise to address their reproductive health care needs, including, when requested, an OB-GYN. Before this law was enacted, women in managed care plans had to work through gatekeepers who often denied them this critical access.

Maternity coverage and newborn care, often not included in polices offered in the current insurance market, will now be considered "essential benefits" and included in all policies sold.

Preventive care, including life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, STI/STD testing and annual well-women exams provided every day at Planned Parenthood health centers must also be covered and provided without co-payments. By eliminating the financial disincentives co-pays for these services represent, women will receive much greater value from their insurance policies

Additionally, the provision in the law that allows young adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their parent's policy will mean that millions of young women fresh out of school, and at an especially important point in their lives in terms of reproductive health, will be spared the threat of being dropped from family coverage the moment they complete their education, a harsh fact of life in the world that existed before this law was passed.

Yes, the law is unquestionably complex; however, its many benefits for women are rarely referenced in the frenzied coverage of the ACA roll-out. Instead, the national debate is being driven by crashing websites and monthly enrollment scores that are far easier concepts to explain and track.

Let's not fall into the trap of evaluating this reform exclusively by how smoothly the early enrollment goes. When the law is finally in place and operational and its benefits fully understood, the misfired launch will soon be forgotten. Generations of women will live healthier and longer lives and that will be the lasting legacy of Obamacare.

And Planned Parenthood will be here for them, providing women with the information and care they need to stay healthy and happy. We're here for close to 1 million women and men we serve in California every year, regardless of their insurance, their status or ability to pay.

You can count on Planned Parenthood.