A recent study on the impact of Massachusetts health care reform on women’s health reveals how important access to convenient and affordable health care can be for women and their families. On August 26, Kelly Blanchard and Amanda Dennis summarized the study’s findings for the Ms. Magazine blog. They wrote that not only did health care reform improve the physical health of Massachusetts citizens, but their emotional and psychological health as well. Blanchard and Dennis reported that “Women in the focus groups in our study explained that access to health insurance was about more than having an insurance card. They said that after reform they felt empowered because they could seek out both preventive care and general reproductive health care.”
For those who already received insurance through their employer, Massachusetts health care reform did not change their plan. However, reform made it so the previously uninsured Massachusetts residents are now covered through either the expansion of the existing subsidized state health care programs or through new programs which were created. Additionally, the state now enforces an insurance mandate by requiring taxpayers to file proof of health insurance with their annual tax forms. These reforms have had numerous benefits for Massachusetts women.
Increased access to contraception is one significant way that health reform in Massachusetts improved the lives of women and their families. After health reform, most women in the focus groups “reported that they had ‘wicked easy’ access to their preferred method.” Some women said that they only began using the contraceptive pill for the first time after health care reform “because they ‘could afford it.’ One woman said, ‘I know a big factor for a lot of my friends—like the pill is just too expensive so they forego and they rely on other questionable methods and I think health care reform will help bring unplanned pregnancies and stuff like that down.’” We have written before about the importance of access to affordable family planning services which improves the health of women and their families while lowering health care costs associated with unintended pregnancy.
The study also revealed pitfalls that states should avoid when implementing the Affordable Health Care Act. Blanchard and Dennis emphasize that
Findings from the study… highlight the critical need to pay attention to the architecture of reform. For example, providers struggled with new billing rules and practices with the new subsidized health plans, and women experienced challenges enrolling in and maintaining coverage through these plans and understanding the benefits of insurance and how to fill prescriptions. Additionally, some women, including minors and some immigrant women, are largely not eligible for benefits under reform, and had trouble getting needed care.
To read more about the study on Massachusetts health care reform and its positive effects for women and their families, click here.