HHS: Insurers Must Pay for Birth Control for
MONDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Beginning Aug. 1, 2012, women
in the United States will have their birth control covered by
insurance companies, free of co-pays, the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services announced Monday.
"Most private health care plans, including the private health care plan available to members of Congress, already include most of these services, including contraception. Family planning is something that keeps women healthy, and it was an important piece of today's announcement," Stephanie Cutter, a White House advisor, told ABC News Monday.
The move to make contraception free to women is one of eight new
measures aimed at providing "preventive health services" to women,
the HHS said. They follow on recommendations from a report issued
July 19 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which advises the
The new initiatives are based on those recommendations and seek
to expand women's access to preventive services under the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"The Affordable Care Act helps stop health problems before they start," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an agency statement released Monday. "These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature, and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need."
The IOM report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services to identify "gaps in preventive services for
women as well as measures that will further ensure women's health
and well-being," the agency said.
In addition to insurance coverage for birth control, the HHS is
also mandating free coverage of the following:
- Well-woman visits.
- Screening for gestational diabetes.
- Testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV) as part of cervical
cancer screening for women age 30 and older.
- Counseling about sexually transmitted infections.
- Counseling and screening for HIV.
- Counseling on breast-feeding, including breast-feeding
- Counseling on interpersonal and domestic violence.
"New health plans will need to include these services without cost sharing for insurance policies with plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012," the HHS said. The agency added that, "plans will retain the flexibility to control costs and promote efficient delivery of care by, for example, continuing to charge cost-sharing for branded drugs if a generic version is available and is just as effective and safe for the patient to use."
In a statement issued at the time the IOM panel released its
report, committee chair Linda Rosenstock, dean of the School of
Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles said
that "the eight services we identified are necessary to support
women's optimal health and well-being. Each recommendation stands
on a foundation of evidence supporting its effectiveness."
By adding birth control to the list of recommendations, the
committee said it hopes to reduce the rate of unintended
pregnancies, which make up almost half of all pregnancies in the
The HHS noted that not every health insurance plan must comply
with the new directive, however. "The administration also released
an amendment to the prevention regulation that allows religious
institutions that offer insurance to their employees the choice of
whether or not to cover contraception services," the agency
Reaction to the HHS's announcement on birth control varied.
"Today is a historic victory for women's health and women across the country," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "The decision by HHS is monumental for millions of women who have struggled with the cost of birth control and other essential health-care services such as cervical cancer and HIV screening," she said.
However, Jeanne Monahan, director of Family Research Council's
Center for Human Dignity, said at the time of the IOM report that
"several drugs have been approved by the FDA to be legally
categorized as 'emergency contraceptives,' despite functioning in
ways that can destroy a preborn baby before or after implanting in
the mother's womb. A federal mandate to all insurance plans to
include drugs such as ella essentially would mandate coverage for
Besides insurance coverage for contraception, the committee also
recommends patient education and counseling for all women of
The IOM report said many women with unintended pregnancies
aren't likely to receive prenatal care, are more likely to smoke,
more likely to be depressed and more likely to be victims of
domestic violence during pregnancy.
Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk for a preterm
delivery or a low birth-weight infant. Both these conditions
increase the risk for health and developmental problems for a
child, the report said.
Women need more preventive care due to pregnancy and other
conditions, which can leave them with more out-of-pocket costs than
men. So, adding these services to preventive care can help level
the field with men when it comes to costs, the committee said.
For more on preventive care, visit
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