Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued much-anticipated guidelines for women’s preventive health services, and they include no co-pays for birth control, an important preventive service many women cannot afford to use consistently. The guidelines also require that new health insurance plans cover such services as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, and more without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or deductible.
“With this announcement, women’s health care nationwide has taken a giant leap forward,” said FPA President and CEO M. Tracey Brooks. “When we keep women healthy and enable them to time their pregnancies, the result is early disease detection and treatment, healthier women and healthier pregnancies and babies.”
These guidelines for no cost-sharing services are based on recommendations recently made by the independent Institute of Medicine:
- the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods to prevent unintended pregnancies, as well as patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity
- screening for gestational diabetes
- human papillomavirus (HPV) testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30
- counseling on sexually transmitted infections annually
- counseling and screening for HIV annually
- lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding
- screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence
- yearly well-woman preventive care visits to obtain recommended preventive service
Brooks noted that new health plans will need to include these services without co-pays for insurance policies with plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012.
The new HHS guideline on birth control, specifically, will meet a tremendous need given that more than 98 percent of U.S. women have used contraception at some point in their lives. Yet, according to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. every year are unplanned, making the case for broader access to birth control, Brooks stressed.
“Eliminating co-pays for birth control and these other crucial preventive health care services in new health insurance policies will make a difference in the lives of millions of women who have wrestled with the cost of contraception and other essential health care services such as cervical cancer and HIV screening.
“While this announcement is a victory for women’s health, FPA is disappointed that HHS is considering proposals that would limit this protection for some women,” said Brooks. Specifically, religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees may be exempt from the guidelines, having the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.
Family Planning Advocates of New York State is a non-profit, statewide organization dedicated to protecting and expanding access to a full range of reproductive health care services. It represents New York’s Planned Parenthood affiliates and other family planning centers, as well as hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual members.