With all the talk abuzz on the debt ceiling and crisis, many may fail to realize there were historic new health guidelines announced today by the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) which will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost. Announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and developed by the independent Institute of Medicine, the new guidelines require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services such as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible. According to 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.”
Today’s announcement builds on progress already made by making sure women have access to a full range of recommended preventive services without cost
- · well-woman visits;
- · screening for gestational diabetes;
- · human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
- · sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
- · human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
- · FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
- · breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
- · domestic violence screening and counseling.
The coverage of these preventive services gives Americans access to many of the services already offered to Members of Congress.
The Affordable Care Act – the health insurance reform legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010 – helps make prevention affordable and accessible for all Americans by requiring health plans to cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing. Under the Affordable Care Act, women’s preventive health care – such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, and other services – is already covered with no cost sharing for new health plans. Removing cost sharing requirements improves women’s access to important preventive services. In fact, one study found that the rate of women getting a mammogram went up as much as 9 percent when cost sharing was removed.
Not all Americans have equal access to health care. Low-income and racial and ethnic minorities often have higher rates of disease, fewer treatment options, and reduced access to care. By eliminating cost-sharing requirements, these guidelines help improve access to comprehensive quality health care for all women.
New health plans must include these services without cost sharing for insurance policies with plans for years beginning on or after August 1, 2012. For more information on the HHS guidelines for expanding women’s preventive services, go to: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/womensprevention08012011a.html.
The guidelines can be found at: www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/.
To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, please visit www.healthcare.gov.