Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced news she called “historic”: Beginning August 12, 2012, new guidelines under the Affordable Care Act requires new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services such as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment or a deductible.
The complete list of benefits now covered as a part of these new guidelines include: well-woman visits; screening for gestational diabetes; human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older; sexually-transmitted infection counseling (STI screening for high-risk populations are already covered under the Act); human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling; FDA-approved contraception methods (yes, condoms are included, but your doc would have to give you a “prescription” for them!) and contraceptive counseling; breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and domestic violence screening and counseling.
This is big news for women’s health, and Secretary Sebelius emphasized that the new guidelines were a major step forward for health care equality, saying that the news means that “no woman in America has to choose between a grocery bill and [contraception].”
Experts estimate that eliminating co-pays for preventive health care will help reduce unintended pregnancies in the United States. According to Planned Parenthood, the unintended pregnancy rate in the United States ranks among the highest in the developed world. In the U.S., nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended. This is mind-boggling, to me. And, currently, the average woman in the U.S. pays somewhere between $15-$50/month for birth control co-pays.