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With New Women's Health Care Provision In Effect, Clinics Free Up Resources

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Dr. Meg Sullivan, pediatrican for Mary's Center, examining her pateint, Marisela Vera.
Armando Trull
Dr. Meg Sullivan, pediatrican for Mary's Center, examining her pateint, Marisela Vera.

A major provision of President Obama's health care reforms went into effect Wednesday, which mandates eight prevention-related services, such as clinical breast exams, pap smears, gestational diabetes screenings, HIV screenings and any other lab test that might detect chronic illness, to be covered by health insurance. Patients will be able to access these services without the need to make a co-payment.

"I feel great about it. I think it's excellent to be able come and not have that pressure," says Valerie Davis, patient at Mary's Center, an organization that provides health care, family literacy and social services in Northwest D.C. "If your child is sick or you're sick or if you just have something you want to get checked out but you know you need an $30 or $15 co-pay, that stops you immediately, because it changes your process and how you think about your health."

Many clinics such as Mary's Center were already providing services for low-income women without co-payments. The ability to bill insurers means that the money can now be used to hire more doctors and nurses and expand services.

"The law will help us be able to charge for visits that women should be getting as best practiced but have not been able to either afford or receive because of choices they've made in their families and what to spend money on," says Gina Pistulka, chief nursing officer of Mary's Center.

Not only is this provision beneficial for women, it will also makes for healthier families.

"If we can prevent chronic conditions like obesity [in] the mother, we'll be able to prevent the same condition [in] the kids," says Dr. Christian Cornejo, pediatrician for Mary's Center.

In addition to screening for chronic diseases, health care facilities will also offer counseling for domestic violence, and provide breast feeding supplies under this mandate.

Now that these resources are available, the estimated 47 million women nationwide and tens of thousands of women in the D.C. area who are eligible for these services, need to hear about it.

"And that is our responsibility ... to provide these services and provide them timely and for us to get the word out to the community,"says Maria Gomez president and CEO of Mary's Center.

The President and CEO of Mary's Center, Maria Gomez, is a member of the WAMU Community Council.

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