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When I was a kid, I thought I was a lot tougher than I was. My mother taught me that if you acted like you could handle yourself, then you could. But sometimes that meant enduring unnecessary pain. My family could not afford to see a doctor and had to confront health needs alone.

Several families like mine have endured illnesses simply because they could not afford medical evaluations, making early detection or prevention of them difficult. A report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finds last year's health insurance reform is already changing this.

Preventative care has become much more affordable. For Medicare beneficiaries, the cost burden of services -- such as mammograms, colonoscopies and blood pressure checks -- has been lifted entirely.

This year, more than 17 million seniors have received preventive measures they desperately needed, without copayment, deductibles or coinsurance, according to HHS. And an additional one million seniors have received free wellness visits.

This is particularly great news for women. More women have struggled with chronic illnesses than men. In 2009, the Commonwealth Fund found that more than half of women delayed or avoided preventive care because of cost concerns. Even moderate co-pays for preventive services such as mammograms or pap smears have deterred women from visiting a doctor.

Yet chronic diseases, which account for 75 percent of the nation's health spending, are often preventable. The Affordable Care Act is helping women -- young and old -- avoid the onset of illness and improve their quality of life.

In its report, HHS announced new guidelines that will ensure women of all ages receive preventive health services at no additional cost. HHS's announcement follows a report by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine that concluded fundamental preventive services are a basic health need of all women. Starting in 2012, new health insurance plans will not only put money back in the pockets of women, but they will cover a wider net of preventive care services, such as Human Papilloma Virus DNA testing, HIV screening and counseling, FDA-approved contraception, breastfeeding support and domestic violence screening and counseling.

Too many women like my mother lacked the preventive services they needed to stay healthy because of cost concerns. It's up to us to make sure today's women know about the benefits available to them. is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more. And the Department of Health and Human Services Web site provides great guides, too.

In a country as great as ours, no one should be forced to struggle without medical coverage because of an illness that could have been detected and treated.

This blog is cross posted with permission from the Huffington Post. It comes from and and presents innovative ideas to strengthen 21st Century American families through public policy, business practice, and cultural change.

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