One Thing That Every Smart Woman Should Do Now

Mar 27, 2014 | Updated May 27, 2014
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Ever heard the phrase, "prevention is the best medicine"? It's more than an old cliché. In fact, it makes so much sense that prevention will soon be the standard in medicine, and as we move toward that ideal, women stand to benefit in a major way. As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is implemented nationwide, there are many reasons that underline why there has never been a better time for women to get insured, no matter how healthy.

The insured may pay the same for receiving better care

One study that analyzes the benefits of insurance for women estimates that, for women with no health insurance, the cost of one well-woman doctor's visit, an HIV test, a Pap screening and a year's worth of contraception would run roughly $1,231 in 2014. For a 27-year-old woman with an income of $25,000 who chooses one of the two most popular health insurance plans (bronze or silver -- which comprise 81% of all plans selected thus far) insurance premiums would run between $1,116 and $1,740 for the year, and those standard services would be free.

These services were chosen because a majority of American women already receive them as standard-of-care. Even so, the study predicts that as more women become insured, these services will become even more commonplace.

If you're uninsured, you'll pay a lot more for the unexpected

Ideally, preventive services are all you will need in a given year, but this isn't always the case. Anything can happen, and while you may not expect the worst, it might just be something trivial that costs you. For instance, that routine well-woman visit could result in a new diagnosis that requires medication or unexpected tests.

Additionally, many women will become pregnant or require a trip to the emergency room; the latter is almost always an unforeseen event. The cost of having a baby and emergency care aren't cheap, and paying the bill completely out-of-pocket could make you one of 1.7 million Americans who declare personal bankruptcy due to their inability to pay their medical bills.

For many, medical needs will go above and beyond the standard preventive care amount and will have to come out of your pocket if you're uninsured. Factoring in the risk of the unexpected, therefore, indicates that signing up for health insurance now may save you money in the long run.

Gender discrimination is now banned

Before the ACA, 92% of insurance plans used gender rating to determine premiums, and only 3% of those covered maternity care. This resulted in many healthy women paying higher premiums for the same coverage that men of the same age were getting -- meaning that many were left without any coverage specific to women's needs.

These practices are now universally banned under the ACA. In addition, a long list of free health services for women are now available to anyone with a qualified health plan. For the uninsured, the cost of these services will add up quickly. If you're low-risk and considering taking the no-insurance route, think carefully about which services you will miss out on, as well as your chance of needing more comprehensive care.

Getting an appointment with a new OB/GYN will be easier and cheaper

Before health reform, many insurance plans required a primary care doctor's referral in order to grant coverage for a specialist visit, including an OB/GYN. Under the new law, however, if you're without a regular OB/GYN or would like a new one, you can now select straight from your network of providers and make an appointment directly without having to go through your primary care doctor.

This translates to one less copay if you were planning to see your primary care doctor just for a referral. Still further, the existing primary care shortage means that you could spend a long time waiting for your first visit. With the law's new provision for self-referral to an OB/GYN, you can spend your time on more important things.