U.S. Tells Insurers To Cover No Co-Pay Birth Control For Woman

New guidelines for women's health coverage were announced today by by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
New guidelines for women's health coverage were announced today by by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

That's the way NPR's Julie Rovner opens her piece today about the federal governments new guidelines that insurers cover a range of preventive health services for women, including contraceptives.

"Since birth control is the most common drug prescribed to women ages 18-44, insurance plans should cover it," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press briefing. "Not doing it would be like not covering flu shots, or any of the other basic preventive services that millions of other Americans count on every day."

The upshot: Starting a year from now, most new health insurance policies, and eventually almost every policy, will have to offer a comprehensive list of women's preventive health services with no copay or deductible, including all forms of prescription contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Here's a quick rundown of some of the services:

Screening for gestational diabetes;
Counseling about sexually-transmitted infections;
Support for breast-feeding, including supplies and counseling; and
Domestic violence screening and counseling.

Still, in an attempt to calm religious conservatives, the order allows an opt-out provision for religious organizations providing health insurance who don't want to offer contraceptive coverage.

The Huffington Post reports on the controversy surrounding the religious exemption but notes:

Birth control is widely used, even among religious women in America. According to a 2011 Guttmacher study, 98 percent of Catholic women who have had sex have used some form of contraception, despite the Catholic clergy's strong opposition to it. Moreover, 68 percent of Catholic women and 74 percent of evangelical Christians said they had used a "highly effective method" of contraception, such as birth control pills or intra-uterine devices.

The new health insurance guidelines, which the Health Department issued at the strong recommendation of a non-partisan panel of experts at the Institute of Medicine, will force insurers to pay for a number of women's preventative health services, including HIV screenings, breast pumps and counseling on domestic violence, as soon as January 2013.

This program aired on August 1, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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