Institute Of Medicine: Insurers Should Offer Birth Control, Other Reproductive Health Services Without Additional Cost Sharing

In a major win for women’s health advocates, the National Journal is reporting that the Institute of Medicine will recommend that “health insurers should pay for a range of services for women at no cost, including birth control, counseling on sexually transmitted diseases, and AIDS screening.” In accordance with the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services commissioned the report to determine a “coverage floor” or services insurers should provide without additional cost-sharing. The groups was expected to release its official report tomorrow.

Some of the recommendations include:

— screening for gestational diabetes

— HPV testing as part of cervical cancer screening for women over 30

— counseling on sexually transmitted infections

— counseling and screening for HIV

— contraceptive methods and counseling to prevent unintended pregnancies

— lactation counseling and equipment to promote breast-feeding

— screening and counseling to detect and prevent interpersonal and domestic violence

— yearly well-woman preventive care visits to obtain recommended preventive services

HHS is not required to adopt the group’s recommendations and can expect a rush of lobbying from anti-abortion groups that also oppose contraception. Organizations like the Family Research Council maintain that “requiring insurers to cover contraceptives violates the conscience rights of people who belong to religions that don’t believe in artificial contraception” and that some forms of contraception “can cause very early abortions.”

A recent national poll found that 78 percent of Americans believe the government “should subsidize birth control and other family planning services, excluding abortion, at government-funded clinics for low-income women.” Contraception improves women’s health and can help reduce the need for abortions. According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, 54 percent of women who have abortions “had used a contraceptive method,” but 76 percent of birth control pill users and 49 percent of condom users “report having used their method inconsistently.” Forty-six percent of women “who have abortions had not used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant.”


Dana Goldstein points out that the “American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the National Business Group on Health already support co-pay-free birth control as among the most cost-effective preventive medical interventions available; 15.3 million American women use hormonal birth control, which is one of the most frequently-prescribed medications in America.”

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