Administration Requires Insurers To Offer Contraception Without Cost Sharing, Exempts Religious Institutions

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that health insurers will be required to cover contraception and other reproductive health care services without additional cost sharing, accepting most of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations. The administration did add an additional caveat that would allow “religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.” “This regulation is modeled on the most common accommodation for churches available in the majority of the 28 states that already require insurance companies to cover contraception,” the agency notes. The services will include:

— well-woman visits;

— screening for gestational diabetes;

— human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;

— sexually-transmitted infection counseling;

— human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;

— FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;

— breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and

— domestic violence screening and counseling.

HHS guidelines are based on a scientific review conducted by the IOM. Their recommendations, which were released on July 19, received a generally positive reception, but were met with strong criticism from conservatives opposed to contraception use.

More than 15 million women use hormonal birth control, which is one of the most frequently prescribed medications in America. Contraception improves women’s health and reduces the need for abortions, but the cost is often prohibitive for low-income women. A recent survey found that 78 percent of Americans “believe the federal government should subsidize birth control and other family planning services, excluding abortion, at government-funded clinics for low-income women.”