In March 2010, Congress passed landmark health-reform legislation known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Affordable Care Act). The law represents an historic step forward for America’s health-care system, which was woefully inadequate from a reproductive-health perspective.
The Affordable Care Act brought more than 30 million Americans into a better health-care system than existed previously. The law includes specific provisions that improved women’s access to reproductive-health care; it ensures, for example, that health plans cover maternity care as an essential health benefit and requires coverage of family-planning services, including contraception, at no cost to the consumer. Additionally, the law’s expansion of Medicaid family-planning programs improved low-income women’s access to contraceptive services by allowing states to expand their state Medicaid family-planning programs more easily. The Affordable Care Act also made important and long-overdue progress toward ending insurance companies’ discriminatory coverage policies, which had profound consequences for women’s reproductive-health care.