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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

7 Surprising Things About the Affordable Care Act

4. Women get important new benefits, and they won't be charged more than men. continued...

Starting in January, a woman can't be charged more than a man for health insurance. Right now, 36 states allow insurers to charge women more -- and 92% of popular plans in those states charge women between 20% and 40% more than they charged a man of the same age, according to a 2012 report from the National Women's Law Center.

"So now we'll have a new world in which women will not have to pay more than men for the same insurance policies," says Lauren Birchfield Kennedy. She is senior health policy council for the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Also coming in 2014 are big benefits for self-employed women. In the past, most insurance policies available to individuals, rather than through an employer, didn't cover maternity care. With insurance, women pay, on average, about $2,000 to $3,000 out-of-pocket to have a baby, according to a recent report by Childbirth Connection. Without insurance, the costs for a healthy birth can be several times that much, and the costs of a complicated pregnancy can run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In January, all insurance plans sold to individuals will have to cover maternity care. They'll also pick up the costs of breastfeeding supplies, like breast pumps.

"We were pleased and very excited to see these services included in the new law and robustly implemented," Birchfield Kennedy says. "I think it's going to be a game-changer for women to have these available under their health plan."

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