Policy Resource

The ACA Toddles Toward Mothers

Mar 18, 2012

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) turns two today, and throughout the week organizations, media outlets, and individuals have been reflecting on the law’s life so far.

In newspapers, blogs, and on websites, individuals have shared the ways in which the law has affected their lives: because of the ACA’s elimination of lifetime limits, children with chronic conditions who would have previously exhausted their coverage by age three or four now have access to lifelong care; because the law makes it illegal to deny coverage due to preexisting conditions, survivors of childhood cancer will continue to receive the care that they need; and because of the law’s coverage of preventive care, mothers and their babies will receive the services that they need to grow up healthy.

Today, let’s take a moment to reflect on this last piece: provisions for maternal and newborn care and for preventive health care services for women. Section 1302 of the ACA includes maternity and newborn care in its list of Essential Health Benefits – services to be covered by Medicaid and other plans by 2014. In addition, Section 2713 requires that all non-grandfathered health plans cover preventive health care services – including preconception care, well woman visits, and perinatal care – with no cost-sharing. That means that, as the law is implemented, millions of women will gain access to these preventive health care services for themselves and their babies.

We know that babies’ development begins before birth and depends in large part on the health of their mother. Mothers’ physical and mental health – as well as their lifestyle choices and environmental exposures – are central to babies’ pre- and postnatal development. Under the ACA, millions more mothers and mothers-to-be will have access to the care necessary to establishing and maintaining good physical health, identifying and correcting unhealthy lifestyle choices, bringing to term healthy babies, and caring for their newborns.

We know that babies experience the world through their primary caregivers, and their health is no different. In order to raise healthy children, we must cultivate health in women and mothers. In its toddlerhood, the ACA is taking its first big steps in that direction.

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