HHS: 47 million women to gain greater access to preventive services beginning Aug. 1


WASHINGTON — As many as 47 million women will be gaining greater control over their health care and access to eight new prevention-related healthcare services without paying more out of their own pocket beginning Aug. 1, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Tuesday.

“This law puts women and their doctors, not insurance companies or the government, in charge of healthcare decisions," Sebelius stated, citing regulations going into effect under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

According to HHS, prior to this, insurance companies were not required to cover these preventive services for women at all under their health plans, while some women had to pay deductibles or copays for the care they needed to stay healthy. The new rules in the healthcare law requiring coverage of these services take effect at the next renewal date — on or after Aug. 1 — for most health insurance plans.

The eight new prevention-related services are:

  • Well-woman visits;

  • Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases;

  • Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling;

  • FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling;

  • Breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling;

  • HPV DNA testing, for women 30 years and older;

  • Sexually transmitted infections counseling; and

  • HIV screening and counseling.

Group health plans and issuers that have maintained grandfathered status are not required to cover these services. In addition, certain nonprofit religious organizations, such as churches and schools, are not required to cover these services.

Health services already provided under the healthcare law include folic acid supplements for women who may become pregnant, hepatitis B screening for pregnant women and anemia screening for pregnant women.

Approximately 24.7 million women with Medicare used at least one free preventive service in 2011, HHS reported, including the new annual wellness visit.

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