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Politics & Government

Local Foundation Funds Efforts So Women Benefit from PA's Health Exchange

A Pittsburgh area foundation want to make sure women benefit from coverage policies in the state health care exchange as well as from job opportunities that will come from establishing the exchange.

The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania is providing a half million dollars to organizations who will then lobby and work with regulators at the state or federal level on the creation of the exchanges which are part of the Affordable Health Care Act.

“We want to ensure that women have access to comprehensive health care…that we ensure as new jobs are created that we have access to our fair share of those jobs and that we ensure that women business owners have access to the millions and millions of dollars of contracts that will be awarded through the design of the Pennsylvania Health Care Exchange” said Heather Arnet, Director of the Women and Girls Foundation.

Last week, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine said Pennsylvania will not be ready to prepare its state-run health exchange by the scheduled January 2014 start date. The state still has other options, such as running a joint exchange with the federal government or have the federal government run Pennsylvania’s exchange.

The commonwealth has received 33 million dollars from the federal government to set up its exchange, but Consedine has said they have not been given any guidance in how to do so.

Arnet says there are still great opportunities for what could potentially occur in the next year – they can still work to ensure women get jobs in government setting up the exchange.

“We can’t assume that women will get jobs from any kind of new initiative because what we have seen from the green sector from the new energy sector and even from the ‘shovel ready jobs’ that were created in our states from the stimulus investments women didn’t really receive their fair share of those new jobs.

Arnet says there are concerns regarding what health benefits will be covered by the exchange because around there is a lot of flexibility in what the health insurance companies decide to cover regarding women's health issues.

 “Everything from access to contraception to what kind of contraception to fertility treatments to pregnancy termination – all of these things are optional. And its up to each state to decide what they will cover in their exchange. And its up to each insurance company to decide what they will cover,” said Arnet.

The recipients will decide how to spend the money from The Women and Girls Foundation.