Mikulski Speaks on Senate Floor to Announce New Preventive Health Coverage for Women

New Women’s Preventive Health Benefits to Begin Taking Effect August 1 Thanks to Affordable Care Act

July 31, 2012

U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Dean of the Senate women, this morning spoke on the Senate floor to announce new women's health care coverage to begin taking effect August 1 for new insurance plans. These new health benefits are the result of the Mikulski Women's Preventive Health Amendment to the Affordable Care Act. The Mikulski Amendment guarantees that women will receive, at no cost, an annual women's health exam to screen for the leading causes of death among women. It also requires all health plans to cover comprehensive women's preventive care and screenings with no copayments.

"For more than 47 million American women, tomorrow will be a new day," Senator Mikulski said. "I was proud to suit up and fight for a preventive health care amendment that not only passed, but starts to go into effect tomorrow on August 1. Starting tomorrow, health insurance companies will be required to cover preventive health care for women at no additional cost – no co-pays, no deductibles, and no discrimination where we're charged more but get less. My amendment, and this law, was always about people, about access, about preventing deadly diseases, and about keeping the doors of doctors' offices open to the women of America. Tomorrow, we make good on these promises."

Senator Mikulski was joined in making remarks on the Senate floor by Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

The new benefits build on health reforms that have already gone into effect that provide access to preventive care for women, including mammograms at no cost. In addition, thanks to health care reform, women will no longer be charged more than men for the same coverage, and C-sections and domestic violence will no longer be considered pre-existing conditions.

New preventive health benefits to begin taking effect August 1 include:

· Annual preventive care check-up including breast exams, pre-conception & prenatal care, pap testing and pelvic exam;

· Screening for gestational diabetes;

· HPV testing;

· HIV & STI screening and support;

· FDA-approved contraception & contraceptive counseling;

· Breastfeeding support, supplies & counseling;

· Domestic violence screening & counseling.

Senator Mikulski's full remarks, as delivered, follow:

"Every Senator has to decide what they are going to do that day when they wake up in the morning. And for some in this Chamber, they wake up every day thinking about how they're going to stop President Obama, how they're going to stop his agenda, and how they're going to do everything they can to stop him from having a second term.

"Well, you can wake up every day thinking about how you want to stop America from moving forward. That's not how I spend my day. I try to look at two things every day: the needs of my people, their day-to-day needs for a job, for an opportunity, for health care, and how that translates into national policy. And then I try to look at the long-range needs of our country.

"That's why I'm excited about being on the Intelligence Committee where I'm working on protecting America from the cyber-attacks that are happening every day to our country -- the stealing of identity and the stealing of trade secrets. And I want to move America forward. And I work very hard to do that.

"One of the areas that I'm most proud of that I've worked with the men and women in this Chamber, many across both sides of the aisle, was on the whole area of women's health care. Many want to talk about repealing Obamacare. Well, I don't want to repeal it. They talk about replacing it. They never have an idea. So let me tell you one of the areas that we fought for. One of the things that we knew as we embarked upon the health care debate is that we wanted to save lives and we wanted to save money.

"And one of the areas that we wanted to do both was to look at how utilizing the new scientific breakthroughs in prevention, particularly early detection and screening, we could identify those diseases when early intervention will save that life and also save the money fighting against escalating disease that ultimately costs more and can even cost a life. And nowhere was it more glaring than in the issue of women's health care.

"My hearings revealed that women were charged more for their health care and got less than men of equal age and health care status. We found that we had barriers to health care because everything about being a woman was treated as a preexisting condition. If you had a C-section for the delivery of your baby, that was counted. In eight states they even counted domestic violence as a preexisting condition. And then what we saw during this debate was the fact that they even wanted to take our mammograms away from us. Well, that was just a bridge too far.

"So during the health care debate, while everybody was being a bean counter, I wanted American women to know they could count on the women and men of the Senate to stand up for them. So we came to the Floor. We suited up, and we fought for a preventive health care amendment that not only passed, but goes into effect tomorrow on August 1. And it will be a new day for women of all ages who will be able to get health care coverage for preventive health care at no additional cost, no co-pays, no deductibles and no discrimination where they're charged more and get less. That's what Obamacare is.

"If you want to repeal that, then bring it on, we're ready to fight. We want to fight for that annual health care checkup that will involve mammograms, pap testing, pelvic exams. We want to be able to do that screening for that dreaded 'C' word around colon cancer. If a doctor suspects domestic violence, we can screen and counsel. We want women to be able to have access, to be able to know early on what are those illnesses that they are facing.

"August 1 means that our long-fought battle will actually go into effect. And where does it go into effect? Well, it's already in effect on the Federal law books. Now it will go into effect in doctors' offices. Women will have access to the health care that their doctor says they need, not what an insurance company says they need or what some right-winger wants to take away from them. I'm pretty mad about this. We were mad 10 years ago when they wanted to take our mammograms away from us, and we're going to be pretty mad if they try to take our health care away from us.

"But what we're happy about, what we're happy about, is that for more than 47 million American women tomorrow, it'll be a new day. They'll be able to walk into their doctors' offices and they'll say, 'good morning, can I help you? When was the last time you had a mammogram?' And they said, 'well, I never had one because I couldn't afford' it. They say, 'oh, we can sign you right up for that. Tell me about your family history. Is it true that your father had colon cancer?'

"Well, listen, we worry about that with you. You could be in a high risk. We're going to take a look at that and make sure you're okay. And for young women, we're going to make sure you have other kinds of counseling and services you need in order to have a productive family life.

"This is what the Affordable Care Act is all about. It's about people. It's about access. It's about preventing dreaded diseases. People will come to this Floor and they'll pound their chest and complain about the President. We want to pound the table and make sure that women have gotten the health care they need, and tomorrow we're going to be very excited when we keep the doors of doctors' offices open to the women of America."

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