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6 Important benefits women miss without health insurance

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

If you don't have health insurance, you're missing these life-changing benefits

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make 80 percent of the health care decisions in their household. Most of us don't think twice about getting proper medical attention for our children, but it's a different story when it comes to our own health care.

The cost — or perceived potential cost — of both preventative and routine health care is often a barrier, especially for those of us without proper insurance. Not anymore: The Affordable Care Act now requires coverage of many important services and tests that keep us healthy and potentially save lives.

"Unfortunately, there's been a lot of politics around the Affordable Care Act," says Anne Filipic, president with Enroll America, a non-partisan organization focused on educating Americans on their rights surrounding the ACA. "There's a lot of confusion and many women aren't sure how to sift through the misinformation."

Here are the critical services you're missing without insurance and why it might be worth the costs for you.

1. Annual well-woman visits

Annual physicals aren't only for school-age children. Yearly check-ups are now provided without additional co-pays for all women under age 65 to help identify potential health issues before they become bigger problems. The well-woman visits also include pap smears to help women protect reproductive health.

2. Maternity care

Speaking of reproductive health: The ACA now requires that all insurance plans cover maternity care.

"Before the ACA many individual health insurance policies didn't cover maternity care," says Filipic. "Even so, some women even with coverage were paying upwards of $10,000 after having a baby. This gives women meaningful financial protection."

3. Breastfeeding supplies and support

Under the ACA, insurance plans must cover the cost of breast pumps. The Act also provides more expert services and support for women learning to breastfeed their newborns.

4. Breast cancer mammography screenings

Like with well-woman visits, the ACA now requires insurance plans to cover mammograms for women over 40 every one to two years. These screenings are essential to spotting breast cancer-causing tumors early.

5. Contraceptive methods and counseling

Doctor-prescribed contraception methods and sterilization are covered by the ACA, though some religious employers are exempt from providing that coverage. It's important to note that abortifacient drugs are not covered, though.

6. HPV and STD testing

HIV and STD testing must be covered for all sexually active women under the ACA. Additionally, testing for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is required to be covered for women over age 30 with normal cytology results

How to learn more and get help

This just scratches the surface of what women are entitled to receive under the Affordable Care Act. However, you must take action soon: The deadline to enroll for health coverage through the ACA is Feb. 15.

The application process can seem a bit daunting, but there are plenty of resources to help. Healthcare.gov is full of important information on what's covered and how to apply, but there are plenty of other resources available if you still have questions. Enroll America's website offers plenty of details to help you make your health care decisions, including financial calculators and guidance on how to get in-person assistance.

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