A few months ago the Obama administration announced new rules as part of its health care reform plan requiring U.S. insurers to cover a wide swath of preventative health services for women at no extra cost to women, including contraceptives, breast-feeding supplies and gestational diabetes screening for pregnant women, prenatal care, routine breast and pelvic examps and pap tests. Starting today, all of those things will be covered in new plans as well as renewed plans.
The UPI cites an estimate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that those services will benefit 47 million women, some of whom might not have sought care otherwise due to the upfront costs or co-pays.
Other services covered as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act include testing for human papillomavirus, screening and counseling for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and screening and counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence.
So what does this all mean? For most insurance plans, the effects will kick in when your plan is renewed or you get a new one. Don’t expect to just show up at the pharmacy with a prescription on your current plan and get free birth control pills — ask your employer if you’re unsure. There are a few insurance plans that have “grandfathered” status and might be exempt from offering new benefits, as well, so ask if yours is one of those as well.
President Obama tweaked the rules in February, after religious and charitable institutions protested that they wouldn’t want to pay for women to use contraception. At that time, he said that insurers would then be responsible for reaching out to women to provide them with those services, at no charge to any employer with religious objections.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters today of the measure:
“Before the healthcare law, many insurers didn’t even cover basic women’s healthcare. Other care plans charged such high copayments that they discouraged many women from getting basic preventive service. So as a result, surveys show that more than half of the women in this country delayed or avoided preventive care because of its cost. That’s simply not right.”