Coverage for Women's Preventive Services Expanded
The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced Aug. 1 new guidelines that will ensure women receive the preventive health services they need to stay healthy. Previously, preventive services for women had always been recommended individually or as part of guidelines targeting men as well. For the first time, at the request of HHS, the independent Institute of Medicine has developed new guidelines requiring health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services without charging a co-payment, co-insurance, or a deductible. These services include:
- Well-woman visits
- Screening for gestational diabetes
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older
- Sexually-transmitted infection counseling
- HIV screening and counseling
- Contraception methods and contraceptive counseling approved by the Food and Drug Administration
- Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
- Domestic violence screening and counseling
“The Affordable Care Act helps stop health problems before they start,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.”
Last summer, under the Affordable Care Act, a host of other women’s preventive health care services—including mammograms and screenings for cervical cancer—became covered with no cost sharing for new health plans. The health law also made recommended preventive services free for people on Medicare. New health plans will need to include these services without cost sharing for insurance policies with plan years beginning on or after Aug. 1, 2012.
An amendment to the prevention regulation was also released, allowing religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees to decide whether to cover contraception services. This regulation is modeled after the most common accommodation for churches available in the majority of the 28 states that already require insurance companies to cover contraception. HHS is currently accepting comments on this policy.
Visit the HHS website for complete information on federal guidelines for expanding women’s preventive services. The guidelines can be found on the HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration website.