Today, Congressman Edolphus "Ed" Towns (NY-10) commended the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for adopting new women's health guidelines requiring health insurance plans to cover the cost of essential women's preventative services, including well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.
"The adoption of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel's recommendations regarding women's preventative health marks historic progress towards ensuring equity in women's healthcare. When the IOM's recommendations were released, I signed onto a letter led by my colleague Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23), urging HHS to adopt the recommendations in full," stated Rep. Towns. "I am pleased to see that HHS has done just that."
The IOM report, released last month, recommended that HHS require eight preventive services for women to be covered by all new insurance plans without any copayments, co-insurance or deductibles. Besides contraception, the list includes free screenings for conditions such as gestational diabetes and the human papillomavirus (HPV) for women over 30 years of age, as well as domestic violence screening and counseling services, and at least one annual gynecological health exam. Though the IOM report did not include an exemption for religious organizations, HHS included a carve-out exempting religious institutions that provide health coverage to their employees from the requirement of coverage for contraceptive services.
"These guidelines will help millions of women who struggle with prescription birth control costs. Covering birth control, and other preventive health services, at no cost is one very important step towards reducing the nation's rate of unplanned pregnancies," Rep. Towns stated.
The new guidelines will apply to all new health insurance policies that go into effect on or after August 1, 2012.