10/17/2012 11:27 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

52 Reasons to Vote for Obama: #12, Protected Women's Health

Whether you're PRObama, NObama, or still undecided, 52 Reasons to Vote for Obama gives you all the information you need to share with friends, debate with relatives and decide for yourself as we head toward one of the most important elections of our lifetime. I'll post a new reason in random order every Monday through Friday from now 'til the election.

For some strange reason, the Republicans have decided that a path to victory includes an unbridled assault on women's health. Just look at the uproar when the administration announced plans to require insurance companies to cover contraception. The Republican response? Hold a congressional hearing about birth control and invite five middle-aged men. No Women Allowed!

President Obama is determined to end that attack.

Before health care reform, women were much more vulnerable than men to high health care costs. Before health care reform, simply being a woman was considered a preexisting condition. Insurance companies would regularly charge women nearly double for coverage, even when maternity care was not included. Since women tend to use the health care system more, they should be charged more, right? Wrong! This discrimination extended to the workplace, where businesses were charged more for covering women. Small businesses were especially vulnerable, and opportunities for women across the country may have been restricted.

Starting last summer, most insurance plans were required to fully cover birth control without co-pays or deductibles as part of women's preventive care. This step will help more women make health care decisions based on what's best for them -- not their insurance company -- and could save them hundreds of dollars every year.

Under the new provisions in the Affordable Care Act, women will have access to the care and family planning services they need, saving some women up to $600 annually, or about $18,000 during the course of a lifetime. More than 50 percent of women eighteen to thirty-four say they've struggled to afford birth control.

Providing contraception coverage will also save employers money. The National Business Group on Health estimated that employers would pay 15 to 17 percent more not to provide coverage than they would to provide it, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of potentially unintended and unhealthy pregnancy and indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity.

A majority of women have delayed seeking medical care due to cost, and one-third of women report forgoing basic necessities to pay for health care. But under the health care law, insurance companies must provide free preventive services such as mammograms, Pap smears and well-baby care. More than 45 million women have already taken advantage of these services. Current planning is for the addition in August 2012 of more services, including gestational diabetes screening and breastfeeding support, to the list of preventive care that must be covered without charge. By 2014, all new insurance plans will be required to cover maternity care.

Women now no longer need a referral to see their obstetrician gynecologist, and they get to choose their primary care physician and their child's pediatrician from their plan's list of participating providers. The law also bans the outrageous practice of denying coverage to women who have had a Cesarean section or have been victims of domestic violence.

Thanks to health care reform, women have more control over their health care decisions, their lives, and their future. It's about time.

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