August 2, 2011

Health Plans Must Include Free Contraceptives: HHS

The Obama administration announced sweeping new mandates to health insurance companies on Monday in the area of women's preventative care.

As part of a broad expansion of coverage for women's health services under President Obama's Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services is requiring all health insurance plans to cover birth control, breast pumps, an annual "well-woman" physical, screening for the human papilloma virus and for diabetes during pregnancy, counseling on domestic violence and other services without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.

"These historic guidelines are based on science and existing (medical) literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The new requirements beginning taking effect on or after August 1, 2012, the department said.

The administration also released an amendment to the new regulations that allows religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees the option of whether or not to cover contraception services. 

The HHS said its new rules are meant to ensure women have access to a full range of recommended preventive services without cost sharing, including:

  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papilloma virus (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.

Additional information on the HHS guidelines for women's preventive services can be viewed at http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/.

Additional information about the Affordable Care Act can be viewed at http://www.healthcare.gov.