There’s good news on the horizon for American women. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced historic new guidelines that will ensure that women can have access to preventive health services at no additional cost to them. These guidelines, which are part of the Affordable Care Act, require new health insurance plans to cover a variety of services for women without charging a deductible, co-insurance, or even a co-payment.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius believes that the Affordable Care Act helps stop health problems before they start and will help make sure that women get the preventive health benefits they need. New health plans must include these services without cost sharing for insurance policies with plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012. Plans will still have the ability to control costs by, for example, continuing to charge cost-sharing for branded prescription drugs if generic versions are available to the patient and are just as effective and safe for the patient to use.
Under these guidelines, the services that women will have access to at no additional cost are as follows:
- Well-woman visits
- DNA testing for HPV for women 30 years of age and older
- Counseling on sexually transmitted infections
- HIV screening and counseling
- Domestic violence screening and counseling
- Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
- FDA-approved contraceptive methods and contraceptive counseling (although the administration released an amendment to these regulations allowing religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees to have the choice of whether or not they cover contraceptive services)
These guidelines are another facet of the Obama Administration’s package of initiatives–which include the President’s Obesity Task Force, the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign, the National Prevention Strategy, and the National Quality Strategy–to address the health and well-being of Americans. It’s estimated that Americans used preventive care at approximately half the recommended rate due to the costs of these services; because of these new guidelines, the hope is that people will use these preventive care measures since they no longer have to worry about paying for them.