Growing up, I always thought my health rested in my mother’s hands and Vicks® Vaporub®. In reality, my family’s health rested in my mother’s dedication—to keeping our doctor’s appointments and eating healthfully. And too often, the demands of a busy working mom’s life got in the way of taking care of her own health. When the choice was a $40 co-pay for her mammogram or $40 for groceries or gas for the car she used to drive us around to our activity, the choice to put the needs of her family first was an obvious one for my mom.
We know that prevention is the key to better health. That’s why the Affordable Care Act made preventive services available to most Americans with health coverage without having to pay any co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance. (The law provides this option for women without insurance in 2014.) Women have access to such services as mammograms, pap smears, well woman visits, domestic violence screenings, contraception, and breastfeeding support and supplies without paying any money out of pocket.
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The health law also prevents insurance companies from treating “being a woman” as a pre-existing condition and charging women more just because we’re women. It will end the practice of locking women out of the market because you’re a breast cancer survivor, gave birth by C-section, or were a victim of domestic violence. The law also strengthens Medicare, a program that covers many of our grandmothers and mothers, and that is especially important to women since we tend to live longer than men. When you put it all together, this is the most important women’s health law in nearly half a century.
But too many women across the country don’t know the important benefits made possible to them by the health care law. The Department of Health and Human Services is working to ensure women are aware of the important changes happening to health insurance and the health care system so that they may lead healthier lives.
Partnering with websites, such as Mamiverse, is one way to reach women, and we want to do more. As part of our observation of National Minority Health Month, we would like to invite you to talk with us about our work thus far and what else we can do by participating online in a Minority Health Townhall on Tuesday, April 24th at 12:30 p.m., streamed live from The White House. You can watch the Townhall live at www.whitehouse.gov/live. You can also submit questions in advance using the hashtag #MinorityHealth or on our Facebook page.
Women are the caretakers of our families’ health. We are the trusted source in circles of friends. I am honored every day to be a part of a department educating women, like my mom, about what the health care law means for them. The opportunity to educate one of us is an opportunity to reach many more and nowhere is this more important than in our health.
I have the pleasure of moderating the Townhall, which will include: Cecilia Munoz, Director of Domestic Policy Council, The White House; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, US Department of Health & Human Services; Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General, US Department of Health & Human Services; Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health & Director of the Office of Minority Health, US Department of Health and Human Services; B. Smith, Iconic Restaurateur, Author, and Lifestyle Expert; Dr. Dirk Schroeder, Executive Vice President, Univision’s HolaDoctor; Dr. Tyeese Gaines, Health Editor of theGrio. I hope you’ll join us for this important conversation.
Mayra Alvarez is the Director of Public Health Policy, Office of Health Reform, Department of Health and Human Services.