New Guidelines for Women’s Preventive Healthcare Services

Within the next 18 months, paying for things like birth control, yearly check-ups, breastfeeding supplies, etc. will be a thing of the past…as those expenses will totally disappear from most American women’s budgets.

Earlier this month, the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced new guidelines for coverage of women’s preventive healthcare services. Most notably, the mandate—which represents a landmark decision in a decades-long debate on women’s health issues—means that U.S. health insurance companies must now fully cover women’s birth control. 

The requirement applies to all forms of birth control approved by the FDA. That includes the pill, intrauterine devices, the so-called “morning-after” pill, and newer forms of long-acting implantable hormonal contraceptives.

NOTE: In a nod to conservative groups, the agency also released an amendment that would allow religious employers/institutions the choice to opt out of covering contraceptive services. 

The new guidelines also require 100% coverage of these additional preventive health categories:

  • Annual preventive/wellness visits (including prenatal care);
  • Gestational diabetes screening;
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing;
  • Counseling/Screening for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV);
  • Counseling/Screening for sexually transmitted disease (STD) infections;
  • Breastfeeding support/supplies; and
  • Domestic violence counseling.

These new services join a growing list already embedded in the Affordable Care Act, including colonoscopies, mammograms, pediatric services, and vaccinations.

The guidelines, a by-product of last year’s healthcare overhaul, require non-grandfathered health plans to do away with co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles on coverage of the services listed above beginning on August 1, 2012 (or January 1, 2013 for calendar year plans). Plans that are considered “grandfathered” under the law (those that were in place prior to March 23, 2010) are exempt, and will not be affected.

See http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/ for more information.

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