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HHS adopts recommendation on reproductive health services

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 1, 2011 - New health-insurance plans will be required to offer women several preventive services, including contraception and contraceptive counseling, at no additional charge, federal health officials said this morning.

The regulation takes effect Aug. 1, 2012, and it mirrors the Institute of Medicine's recommendations made on July 19. The institute recommended that new health insurance plans cover several services for women, without requiring a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.

The preventive services will include:

  • 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.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the Affordable Care Act would help "stop health problems before they start. These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need."
The scope of the preventive health services rule for women is unprecedented, but the Affordable Care Act already requires new health plans to cover several other preventive services at no extra charge. These include mammograms, colonoscopies, blood pressure checks and childhood immunizations, along with certain preventive services without co-pays for Medicare recipients.

The administration also announced that the regulation would allow religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees the option of not covering contraception services.

Click here for more information about the new guidelines.

Funding for the Beacon's health reporting is provided in part by the Missouri Foundation for Health, a philanthropic organization that aims to improve the health of the people in the communities it serves.

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