We’re pleased at the recent announcement that women’s health care classified as preventive — including birth control — will now be free of charge to American women who have health insurance, no longer requiring a co-pay or a deductible. The new rules, which are part of the Affordable Care Act, mandate that insurers further expand their coverage on preventive services for insured women, who already have been entitled to get mammograms, colonoscopies, Pap tests and prenatal care without co-pays since last year. The rules begin to take effect immediately and should be fully enforced by August 2012, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The list of services was developed by the Institute of Medicine, an independent organization that reviews medical evidence and makes periodic recommendations and guidelines for preventive care. Covered services include:
- Annual well-woman visits (for general preventive care according to your age, such as blood pressure screening, cancer screening, and preconception counseling and prenatal care as needed)
- Screening for diabetes during pregnancy
- Screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV), some forms of which are known to cause cervical cancer (screening is recommended starting at age 30)
- Counseling about the risks of sexually transmitted infections for women who are sexually active
- Rental or purchase of breastfeeding pumps, bottles, sterilizing equipment and other lactation-related supplies, along with counseling and support for nursing mothers
- Screening and counseling about domestic violence issues
All forms of FDA-approved birth control will be covered: the pill, the morning-after methods Ella and Plan B, the intrauterine devices Mirena and ParaGard, NuvaRing, the Ortho Evra patch, the injectable Depo-Provera, and the implantable rod called Implanon, plus sterilization procedures.
“At last! My patients’ health insurance policies will cover one of their most basic health needs: contraception,” says Nancy Stanwood, M.D., M.P.H., of the group Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health. “Birth control will no longer be pushed to the side as a frivolous extra.”
While classifying birth control as preventive medicine may seem long overdue to many, just 20 years ago, contraceptives weren’t covered at all by many insurance plans. Women had to pay for them themselves, often forcing them to use less-costly and less-effective methods such as condoms and diaphragms. Now, nary a co-pay, deductible or co-insurance will stand in the way of improving health and preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Many use prescription birth control for health benefits beyond preventing pregnancy. For example, Hormonal methods can treat menstrual problems including irregular periods, PMS, acne and menstrual migraines, and possibly help prevent ovarian and uterine cancer.
What do you think of the latest Affordable Care Act announcement? Do you think more services, such as menopause treatments, should be covered?
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