The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) rolled out new guidelines to expand the Affordable Care Act (signed into law by President Obama in March 2010) to include women's preventative services. The DHHS has adopted the full recommendations suggested by the Institute of Medicine. These new services will now allow women to receive a comprehensive set of preventive services without having to pay a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.
Effective for all new private health plans written on or after August 1, 2012, plans must now cover, without out-of-pocket costs, all FDA-approved birth control options (to include the pill, Ortho Evra Patch, NuvaRing, IUDs, Implanon and Depo Provera) as well as sterilization procedures (vasectomies, tubal ligation, Essure, and Adiana). Plans will also allow for patient education and contraceptive counseling for all women of reproduction age.
Additionally, these new guidelines include:
- Coverage for an annual well-woman preventive care visit
- Gestational diabetes screening for pregnant women
- Breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling
- Counseling and screening for HIV and domestic violence
- Screening for human papillomavirus (HPV) and other STIs
As of now, existing plans will be grandfathered in (they are exempt from these requirements), but this is likely to change within a few years. One of the greatest benefits of these new guidelines is the inclusion of long-acting reversible contraceptives (Mirena, ParaGard and Implanon). These methods tend to have high up-front costs, so now they will be more affordable - thus removing a huge barrier to effective contraceptive use. Women will now have easier access to the most effective birth control methods.
Research shows that consistent use of birth control helps women to avoid unintended pregnancies and improve birth spacing. This results in substantial benefits for the health and well-being of women, infants, families and society.
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