NARAL Rally Celebrates Implementation of Preventive Women's Healthcare

Sections of Affordable Care Act that allow more women to access contraception and screening without copayments kicked in August 1

August 3, 2012 -- A crowd of about 100 activists gathered at the base of the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland Wednesday afternoon to rally and to march – not to protest, but to celebrate a much-debated provision of the Affordable Care Act that had just kicked in. Starting August 1, preventive women's health care will be covered without any copayments, including contraception, well-woman exams, cancer screenings and domestic violence coverage.

“This date marks a change, a big huge change, for women all across the country and right here in Oregon,” said Michele Stranger Hunter, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, which sponsored the rally, adding that women have been underserved by the healthcare system for decades – partly because they have not advocated for themselves. “The Accountable Care Act did not put us last. They put us first.”

Several speakers at the rally – which included Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith, Rep. Lew Frederick, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Rep. Mary Nolan, and Metro Councilor Carl Hosticka – told stories about the need for expanded coverage for women's healthcare.

Smith talked about his mother's struggle to access healthcare after being diagnosed with breast cancer. While in remission, he said, her doctor “made a pass” at her and because the doctor was her designated provider through a HMO, she was unable to change physicians and instead dropped her insurance. She died two and a half years later, Smith said.

Before enrolling in a new insurance plan, she cracked a rib and discovered her cancer had returned – and because she had a pre-existing condition, had difficulty accessing insurance or treatment.

Portland mayoral candidate Charlie Hales talked about his daughter, Caitlin, who at 25 is able to remain on her parents' health insurance plan because of the Affordable Care Act. Now she’s happy to access preventive services without any cost sharing and also had access to a safe, legal abortion should she need one.

“I'm proud of Caitlin, and I'm proud that if she makes those choices, she gets to make them,” Hales said.

“When women's health is better, everyone's health is better,” said Rep. Lew Frederick, who acknowledged he was “preaching to the choir,” but added, “The choir needs to smile, say, yes, we got something done, and to move on.”

Rachel Adams, outreach Coordinator for NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, said she was diagnosed with a heart condition when she was 18, and struggled to pay for health insurance and medication after a job loss when she was younger. Had the Affordable Care Act been in effect then, she would have been able to stay on her parents' insurance without having to worry.

“It's not just about what happens below the belt," Adams said.

Holding up an Oregon Nurses Association sign that she used to keep in her car – so she was prepared to show solidarity at strikes – Amanda Fritz said she was proud to call the Affordable Care Act's reforms “Obamacare,” but added the battle had not yet been won. “In 2012, we would hope the battle would be won, but it's not,” Fritz said.

The National Women's Law Center has compiled a fact sheet for women to determine whether they are eligible for women's health coverage without cost-sharing. To view it, click here.

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