Eight new health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act, including no cost birth control and better preventative care coverage, go into effect for America's women on Wednesday.
The new benefits include low or no cost contraceptives, breast-feeding supplies, screenings for sexually transmitted infections, counseling for domestic violence, breast and pelvic exam check-ups, pap smear tests and prenatal care.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hailed the coming into force of the new provisions, saying they will benefit 47 million American women.
"Too often, we put our own health last, and that's especially true when it come to preventive care. The regular checkups and screenings that are so important to staying healthy but can be too easy to put off," Sebelius said at a press conference with Democratic senators.
Many of the new female health care provisions under ACA are not controversial. However, one new rule requiring employers to provide no cost contraception to their employees is already drawing legal challenges.
Last Friday, Colorado HVAC company Hercules Industries was granted a reprieve from the contraception coverage by a federal judge after the company's management said the rule conflicted with their personal religious beliefs.
The Obama administration had hoped to avoid such lawsuits, especially from religious institutions and universities, after they changed the original law's language to give such organizations a one-year extension while a compromise could be reached.
Additionally, only new and renewing health plans are required to provide the new health benefits to women. Some other plans that have grandfathered status are not required to conform to any of the new rules.
However, Senate Republicans are still renewing a push for ACA's repeal, a goal that has been denied by the Democrat-controlled chamber multiple times, by attaching a repeal amendment to the Cyber Security Act of 2012.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the move dangerous to national security and a gross show of politics trumping American safety.
"Instead of substantive amendments that deal with our nation's cyber security, [Senate Republicans] are insisting on political show votes," Reid said Wednesday.
"The threat is clear. And protecting the computer networks that control our electric grid, water supply and financial system should be above political wrangling," he added. "So I was doubly disappointed to watch a bipartisan process derailed by ideological attacks on women's right to health care."
Female senators have also gone on the offensive, with Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, saying "If you want to repeal that, then bring it on!" and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., asking incredulously, "What is with this idea of repeal? Do you really want to take away these benefits from women?"
by RTT Staff Writer
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