Health insurance plans beginning on or after August 1, 2012 will be required to cover women’s preventative services, including birth control, according to new guidelines announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday. The regulations are based on recommendations that the Institute of Medicine issued in July after completing a scientific review of women’s health needs. “Covering birth control without co-pays is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent unintended pregnancy and keep women and children healthy,” said Vanessa Cullins, MD, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Supporters also believe the new guidelines will help the government save money up front. More than half of all publically funded births result from unintended pregnancies, which places a disproportionate burden on programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to a 2006 analysis from the Guttmacher Institute. In addition to contraceptive use, the guidelines will also cover voluntary sterilization, breastfeeding support and screenings for conditions such as gestational diabetes and the human papillomavirus (for the full list click here). Religious institutions that offer health insurance to their employees will be given the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services. For more information on the HHS guidelines for expanding women’s preventive services, visit healthcare.gov.
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