Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, encourages women to put their health first.

Mother's Day Kicked Off National Women's Health Week

May 13, 2013

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, released the following statement in celebration of National Women’s Health Week.

Starting with Mother’s Day, we celebrate National Women’s Health Week. As a nation, we honor the women in our lives—our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and colleagues—by encouraging them to make their health a priority and to take steps to live healthier, happier lives.

Women are frequently the health care decision-makers in their families. We take time off from work to drive a parent to the doctor. We hold our children’s hands while they get their vaccinations. We make the appointments for our spouses’ checkups—and then make sure they actually go. We stretch and re-work our family budgets to pay the doctor’s bills. And too often, we put our own health last.

But the truth is unless we take care of ourselves first, we cannot really take care of our families. That means we have to eat right, exercise, and get the care we need to stay healthy.

Unfortunately, preventive care has not always been easily accessible or affordable for everyone, including young women. But the health care law is helping to usher in a new day for women’s health.

The Affordable Care Act is making it easier for women to take control of their own health. For many women, preventive services like mammograms, Pap smears, birth control, and yearly well-woman visits are now available without cost sharing. The health care law improves women’s access to appropriate preventive health screenings, which can help detect diseases early, when treatment is most effective and least costly. Starting next year, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to refuse us coverage just because we’re battling breast cancer or have another pre-existing condition—and they won’t be allowed to charge us more just because we are women.

If you’re one of the millions of women who are uninsured or who buy insurance on their own, more options are on the way because of the Affordable Care Act. Starting October 1, 2013, you will be able to visit a new Health Insurance Marketplace where you can compare and choose from a range of plans to find one that best fits your needs and budget.

All of these plans must cover a package of essential health benefits, including maternity and newborn care. To get more information about the Marketplace and to sign up for email and text updates to get ready for October, visit HealthCare.gov <http://www.healthcare.gov/>.

Being healthy starts with each of us taking control. So Monday on National Women’s Checkup Day, and during National Women’s Health Week, I encourage you to sit down with your doctor or health care provider and talk about what you can do to take control of your health. There’s no better gift you can give yourself—or your loved ones.