Today’s the big day! What Women’s Health Coverage Means for Teens

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Today marks one gigantic step forward in teen pregnancy prevention! As of August 1st, the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) requires all new insurance plans to include Preventative Services for Women.

What Changes

The Preventative Services for Women provision of the ACA has been hotly contested and often misrepresented in the media. What most people want to know, though, is what it means for them.

Who Qualifies

If you have private insurance from an employer or as an individual (including student health plans) AND your plan is “non-grandfathered” (meaning it started after March 10, 2010) THEN you start receiving the Preventative Services for Women benefit when your plan renews after August 1st.

Here’s an example: We changed to a new health plan as of June 1, 2011 and renewed it this year on June 1. That means we’re “non-grandfathered”. We will start receiving the new benefits when our plan renews next time, which will be on June 1, 2013.

What’s Covered

 In all, 22 services are covered for women with no co-pay  – from breast cancer screening to STD screening to smoking cessation services. Here are the important ones from a teen health perspective:

  • Contraceptives, including the most effective ones
  • STD screening
  • Screening for interpersonal violence
  • Prenatal care and breastfeeding support

See the full list of covered services.

What It Means

Teen pregnancy has dropped by 53% in North Carolina the last 20 years, primarily because of increased contraceptive use. Unfortunately, teens still identify barriers to accessing sexual health care, including contraceptives. We expect that to gradually change under the new provisions and we should all benefit.

Here are five areas where the new provision will make a big difference for teens:

  1. Teens Can Use Better Contraceptives. Long-acting methods like the IUD are ideal for teens – they basically mean no baby until after high school or college. Unfortunately, they can cost $1,000 to insert, even though they save money in the long run. The new provision means teens can access the most effective contraceptives instead of choosing less effective methods to save money.
  2. Teen Parents Will Get Better Care. For a variety of reasons, teen parents are less likely to receive good prenatal care than their adult counterparts – even if they actively pursue it. The new provision covers prenatal vitamins, prenatal care, and expensive prenatal testing for things like gestational diabetes.  The new provision also allows insured new moms to purchase a breast pump, giving teen moms more choice in how they’re able to balance work, school, and basic infant care.
  3. Teens Can Get Birth Control’s Other Benefits. Most teens who take oral contraceptives do so for reasons unrelated to sexual health, including severe acne, hormone imbalances, and problematic menstrual cycles. Public health experts have theorized that this normalization of using birth control for other issues has been the primary contributor to contraceptive use and the subsequent drop in pregnancy rates.
  4. Teens Will Be More Protected From STDs. The new provision covers (notoriously expensive) screening for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and other STIs. (These services are covered for boys under the Preventative Services for Children provision.) Giving access to testing is the first step in treating and preventing the spread of STIs.
  5. Teens Will Get More Info on Healthy Relationships. The provision covers screening and counseling for interpersonal violence for all women. This is especially important for teens who are just learning how to safely navigate dating relationships. In addition, general increased access to doctors can be a boon for parent-child communications, as doctors can offer great conversation starters to their patients.  


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