Starting today, millions of women are going to receive birth control coverage at no upfront cost, a change supporters say gives women greater access and control over their own health care.
Through a provision in the Affordable Care Act, “non-grandfathered” insurance plans must provide eight new, free prevention-related health services for policies renewed or issued on or after September 23, 2012.
The new services, provided with no cost-sharing, include: well-woman exams, screening for gestational diabetes, HPV DNA testing, domestic violence screenings and counseling, HIV screenings, breastfeeding supplies, contraception and family counseling services.
This means insured women can receive these services without worrying about co-pays or a deductible. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration released these preventive guidelines based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.
HHS Secretary Kathleeen Sebelius says the change is a huge step for women. She said in a statement that “this law puts women and their doctors, not insurance companies or the government, in charge of health care decisions.”
While some of the additions haven’t proved as controversial, contraception coverage has created debate. Therefore, all religious-affiliated organizations, from churches to universities, are exempt for another year while searching for a compromise.
As of today, 47 million women will have guaranteed access to these new health services – 3.5 million of them will be in Texas. But even as the new services take effect, there are still several legal battles brewing over the new rules.