Yesterday the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new guidelines, developed by the Institute of Medicine, that will require private insurance plans beginning on or after August 1, 2012 to cover an annual well-woman visit and a variety of specific health screenings and counseling, such as for domestic and interpersonal violence, gestational diabetes, cervical cancer (an HPV DNA screening), HIV and STIs, as well as all FDA-approved contraceptives, breastfeeding support, lactation services, and supplies. Nevertheless, HHS issued an amendment to the guidelines, which permits religious institutions that offer insurance to employees to choose whether or not to cover contraceptive services.
These guidelines will increase vitally needed and often lifesaving preventive services for women. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius stated, “These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.”
Birth control and other women’s health services will not be free but will be fully covered for all women who have health insurance, without any additional charges or co-pays. This rule will apply to new insurance policies that are issued after the expiration of a one year waiting period, which starts after HHS adoption of the recommendations, and to all plans by 2018.
Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) stated, “Today marks an incredible step forward for women’s health. By adopting each of the IOM’s recommendations for preventive women health care services, the Obama Administration is ensuring that all womenregardless of how they get their health care will have increased access to the services they need to be healthy. For too long, women have faced financial and access barriers that have kept them from the services that they need. These new rules change that.