For women, health insurance is a must, and plans on the ACA exchange websites offer many gender-specific benefits.

When it comes to making healthcare decisions, who wears the pants?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, that responsibility falls mainly on women, who are the healthcare decision-makers for American families about 80 percent of the time. That’s why, when it comes to the open enrollment period for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), women are the targets of outreach and advertising campaigns.

Consumers have until Feb. 15 to sign up for health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. In order to have a plan that begins on Jan. 1, consumers should enroll by Dec. 15.

“Last year, we made incredible progress in enrolling Americans in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. But, tens of millions of Americans still stand to benefit from these new options,” said Anne Filipic, President of Enroll America. “Our goal is to reach as many consumers as possible with the information they need to get covered before the enrollment window closes on February 15.”

According to a study by Enroll America, a nonprofit focused on maximizing the number of Americans with health coverage, 71 percent of women said they do not know or are unsure whether in-person help is available for people who want to enroll. Seventy-seven percent of women said they do not know or are unsure about getting financial help to pay for health plans in the marketplace, and 79 percent of women said they don’t know enough or are unsure about the new law in general.

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If the intention of the ACA is access to cost-effective healthcare for the masses, women should be lining up. It turns out that women tend to pay more than their male counterparts for health coverage. A healthy 22-year-old woman could be charged 150 percent more for premiums than her male peer, according to a White House report. And because of the perceived or actual costs, many women report delaying necessary care.

Enroll America is trying to break through those misconceptions and get women covered. The federal government is also behind getting more women enrolled. Healthcare packages through the ACA must cover preventative check-ups, maternity care, and well-child visits for children, the White House says. The law also keeps insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions.

Before the ACA, women were charged higher premiums and could be denied coverage if they had a cesarean section, were diagnosed with breast cancer, or were victims of domestic violence or assault. Now, women no longer have to pay more for health coverage simply because of their gender.

Enroll America conducted a study earlier this year of nearly 700 newly enrolled people. As it turns out, those who enrolled were 30 percent more likely to be informed about the ACA than those who didn’t, and nearly three-quarters of the newly enrolled felt confident that they could afford coverage. The good news for those who still haven’t enrolled — nearly 70 percent said that enrolling was “easy.”

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What are some of the benefits health insurance plans are required to offer under the ACA?

  • Screenings and genetic test counseling for breast cancer risk,
    as well as mammograms every one to two years for women over older than 40.
  • Support and counseling for breastfeeding, as well as increased
    access to supplies.
  • Counseling and screening for domestic violence.
  • Testing for sexually transmitted infections, including HPV and

Cost is often a reason Americans avoid the doctor, but the ACA also offers expanded options through Medicaid for low-income families. However, some U.S. states have opted not to expand their Medicaid enrollment, largely for political reasons.

Enrollment numbers must go up in order for Americans to get the most out of the new law. Some 20 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 64 — about 19 million people — didn’t have health coverage in 2011.

To get women covered, Enroll America is working with the nonprofit Ad Council to target women and help explain the benefits of the ACA. They offer online resources, including:

Learn More: How the ACA Works »