Posted by on November 28, 2012 - 11:45am

The re-election of President Obama ensured that the Affordable Care Act  will move forward in 2013. In the coming months and years American’s will see a series of sweeping changes that begin with state-level action for health care reform, impacting millions of American women.

However, with each passing day it seems that more and more states and policymakers are changing their minds about what the respective plans are for the future.

Within the first few weeks of 2013 states must make decisions about whether they will set up a health insurance exchange, what essential health benefits must be covered by insurance plans in their region, and whether the states will expand their Medicaid programs.

Due to the number of health reform changes coming, the complexity of these issues and regulations and the huge impact on women’s health, it is easy for anyone to fall behind. Even health policy experts see changes every day that alter our analysis and projected outcomes. To help sort through the chaos, a few experts have created tables, maps and blogs to help the rest of us out.

* A broad range of policy changes (in an easy to understand chart!) can be found on the new State Reform website. This website is a state-based online network that frequently updates the avowed intentions of each state.

* For visual people, the best new source for information is the ProPublica website which has created “The Outlook of ObamaCare in Two Maps” being widely circulated and the Wright on Health blog where writers (including myself) keep readers updated on changes weekly.

* The Kaiser Family Foundation has also created an entire tab on their website devoted to diagrams and updates on health reform. The search function within this tab further makes it easy to find exactly which issue of change one wants to see in visual form.

* More information on federal government extensions being granted to states and insurance plans can be located on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Posted by on September 13, 2012 - 7:56am

This week a public meeting will be held in Chicago to determine which Essential Health Benefits (EHB) Illinois will cover in future health insurance plans. The Affordable Care Act has tasked each state with creating a set of EHB, which are a comprehensive package of health benefits.

Beginning in 2014, all health plans are required to begin offering the EHB to beneficiaries in the individual and small group markets. These state-based benchmark decisions are due by September 30, 2012, and could eventually affect nearly 70 million Americans, many of whom are women. The law mandates that 10 basic categories must be covered. These inlcude:

1. Ambulatory Patient Services

2. Emergency Services

3. Hospitalization

4. Maternity and Newborn Care

5. Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services

6. Prescription Drugs

7. Rehabilitive and Habilitive Services

8. Laboratory Services

9. Preventative and Wellness Services and Chronic Disease Management

10. Pediatric Services

Governor Pat Quinn will choose a benchmark plan that will then serve as the mandatory minimum for insurance plans in the state. The greatest importance of these EHB decisions will be the amount of coverage required in each category and the costs of insurance due to those new requirements. At first glance, it might seem the package of services related to maternity and new born care will have the most impact on women, however, it is likely that the mental health and substance use disorders services may be most needed given that women are far more likely to suffer from a wide range of anxiety disorders and depression. Despite enthusiasm for more even coverage and plan equality, the minimum categories will require that almost all insurance plans offer more than they do at present, certainly impacting the cost of health insurance.