Wednesday starts health care changes for women as part of Affordable Care Act

CLEVELAND - Wednesday was day one of co-pay-free and deductible-free contraceptives, which was one of the provisions provided in President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act and supporters are calling it a victory.

"Women have a right," said Charles Clark. Novella Hutcherson said, "There's a lot of people that now got a lot of children and then can't afford heath insurance costs." Hutcherson was specifically talking about many of her friends.

The services insurance companies must now provide without the extra costs include: well women visits, domestic violence screenings and contraceptives, a provision the Catholic community continues to protest.

"A Constitutional and rights issue is what we're really dealing with," said the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland's Bob Tayek . The act required all employers, including religious institutions, to provide contraceptives such as birth control.

The Obama administration added exemptions to the Affordable Care Act to excuse churches, houses of worship and similar organizations from having to provide contraceptives, but Tayek said the exemptions will take a year to go into affect. He went on to describe, if a religious organization "fits the bill" under the act and does not provide the service there could be a fine.

"It becomes difficult on the decision of whether you have to obey the law and go against your teachings of faith and morals," said Tayek.

On the act as a whole, Celeste Ribbons with the Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland called the it, "the best advance for women's health care in a generation."

In Ohio, Ribbons said 96 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides are preventative and because of the new provision, Ribbons said those who couldn't afford things like birth control or even pre-cancer screenings will now be able to receive help.

"If people don't have access to cancer screenings, then there could be the potential for some other long-term affects-disease that could've been caught had they had preventative care," Ribbons said.

"In Ohio, we know there will be more than 300,000 woman in the state that will have access to heath care that did not otherwise because they did not have insurance. There will be more than 2.1 million in Ohio that will now have access to preventive health care without having to pay a co-pay that would not have been able to do that before," Ribbons said.

Now, there are important things to note with the Affordable Care Act. According to HealthCare.gov, this preventive service provision applies to people specifically enrolled in individual policies and job-related health care plans created after March of 2010.

If this applies to you, the provision is said to affect you as soon as your plan beings its new "plan year" or "policy year" come around Sept. 23.

Of course, the money to pay for the Act will have to come from somewhere and many opponents, including members of the Republican party, said they're concerned Americans will have to pay higher tax rates to provide these health care services.

Tayek said with regards to the Catholic community's stance, there were several appeals filed against the Affordable Care Act in 43 different courts. Tayek also made clear that Catholic bishops are not aligning themselves with Republican opponents and are strictly arguing their case of freedom of religion.

For more information on how the newest provision in the Affordable Care Act affects you, visit HealthCare.gov .

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