Women have been a focus of Obamacare since its inception. Free contraception, guaranteed maternity care and the promise that insurers can’t charge them more than men in similar health were parts of the law that resonated with women.
But now the law’s supporters are even more actively courting women as they seek to get millions of Americans to buy insurance through online marketplaces opening in October.
“Reaching out to women is an essential ingredient to make this law work,” said Neera Tanden, counselor to the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Roughly 1.4 million women in Florida – about a quarter of the state’s female population – have no health insurance. Rates are higher among women of color. Nearly 41 percent of Latino women have no insurance and 31 percent of black women are uninsured.
It’s not the just the many reforms aimed at women that make them a key demographic. As any advertiser can attest, women tend to make many of the buying decisions at home. And health care is no different.
“Women are active; women are vocal,” said Jackie Lee, Florida consultant for Protect You Care, an organization devoted to championing the health care law. “When women are engaged, we’re better for that.”
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are staging events across the country to remind women what they could lose if the law does not succeed. The events will also encourage those without insurance to sign up for care and to make sure they spread the word to other they know without insurance.
Protect Your Care will have an event in Palm Beach County later this month.
The idea of aiming for women has come from the top. Last month, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, attended the BlogHer conference in Chicago and urged women to write about the law.
“Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition,” Sebelius told them.
Under the health care law, the practice of gender-rating, charging women more simply because they are women, is outlawed.
In Florida in 2010, every plan on the individual market included some kind of gender rating according to the National Women’s Law Center. In 30 percent of cases, non-smoking women were charged more than men who smoked.
And not one of the plans included maternity coverage.
Plans that go into effect in January must include maternity coverage, including prenatal care and screening for such illnesses as gestation diabetes. The law covers 22 preventive services for women, Sebelius told reporters during a conference call earlier this week.
Getting women on board will likely mean more men and perhaps the most imperative demographic – young people — will sign up too, advocates are betting.
Market research shows that healthy young adults, who are important to the financial sustainability of the new insurance marketplace, listen to their mothers when it comes to health decisions.
“One of the most trusted voices is mothers,” Sebelius told an audience at a Chicago health center. “We’re trying to get a lot of information into women’s hands because women often purchase the health care for their family …. With adult children they can be a very powerful and compelling voice.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
The Palm Beach Post’s online Guide to Health Reform is at http://www.palmbeachpost.com/s/news/healthcarereform/guide/