In a landmark decision, the Health and Human Services Department announced today that U.S. health insurance companies will have to offer women free birth control along with other preventative health services as part of the Obama administration health care overhaul. Following the recommendations issued last month by the Institute of Medicine that birth control be added to the list of preventative services, an announcement was made this morning that insurers will have to provide free preventative health care services for women in all new plans beginning August 1st 2012.
In what is being considered a huge victory by family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, millions of women will now have access to essential screenings and health services with no out of pocket costs. While many conservative groups have fought against tax payer dollars supporting contraceptive service, including the controversial morning after pill, research conducted by Thomas Reuters/NPR indicates that over 75% of people polled support private insurance plans covering contraceptive services.
Free birth control is only part of the new guidelines issued by the HHS today as part of the preventative services made accessible at no cost to women by the 2010’s Affordable Care Act. The act ensures that women have access to “Preventative services that have strong scientific evidence of their health benefits” free of a copayment or deductable. Following the advice of last month’s IOM report the following services will be made free of co-payment, deductible or co-insurance by the year 2012.
This will be an annual visit for women to obtain all preventative services deemed age and developmentally appropriate. This will include contraceptive and prenatal services as well as the other appropriate services outlined in these new guidelines.
Human Papillomavirus Testing
Women over the age of thirty will be able to get tested for HPV every three years.
Gestational Diabetes Screening
Pregnant women between 24-28 weeks of gestation will have access to screening for gestational diabetes. Women who are deemed at high risk for diabetes will also be screened at the first prenatal visit.
All sexually active women will have annual access to counseling for sexually transmitted diseases.
HIV Screening and Counseling
All sexually active women will have access to annual testing and counseling for HIV.
Counseling and Prescribing of Contraceptive Methods
Women will have access to all FDA approved methods of contraception including birth control pills, the morning after pill, and sterilization procedures as well and education and counseling.
Breastfeeding support and supplies
Women will receive breastfeeding support both during and after the pregnancy and costs will be covered for breastfeeding equipment.
Domestic Violence Counseling and Screening
Annual screening and counseling will be made available to protect women from domestic and interpersonal abuse.