ACA provision expands women's access to free preventive services starting today

Aug. 1, 2012, 2:04 p.m.

Under the new Affordable Care Act provision which goes into effect August 1, most insurance plans are now required to cover the cost of FDA-approved contraception, in addition to contraceptive education and counseling. (Shimrit Abraham/Flickr Creative Commons)

A new provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) takes effect today, one that will give millions of women access to eight new prevention-related health services – all free of charge.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says approximately 47 million women will gain access to these new preventive services starting on August 1. Some insurance companies required copays or deductibles for these services, while others didn't cover them at all.

Under the ACA provision, though, most health insurance plans are required to cover these eight services by their next renewal date that falls on or after August 1, 2012:

1. Well-woman visits
2. Gestational diabetes screening
3. Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling
4. FDA-approved contraception, as well as contraceptive education and counseling
5. Breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling
6. HPV DNA testing for women 30 and older
7. Sexually-transmitted infections counseling
8. HIV screening and counseling

This comes in addition to 14 other preventive services for women that the ACA mandates insurance companies to cover, which include screenings for cervical cancer, chlamydia, gonorrhea and osteoporosis.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says more than five million California women will be eligible for the expanded coverage, according to KPCC. She also said more than 50 percent of American women delayed or avoided preventive care outright because of cost.

While 47 million women are under plans that will eventually provide them with these preventive services for free, some won't renew until later in the year.

Additionally, women who are uninsured and taking birth control will still have out-of-pocket costs – for now. Once the ACA is fully implemented, more women will gain access to these services, but for now, the expansion only applies to women who newly enroll or are currently enrolled in health insurance plans.

Also, according to the National Council of Jewish Women, "grandfathered plans" – those which existed prior to March 23, 2010 "and have not substantially changed their benefits or cost sharing requirements" – are exempt from the requirement to cover these eight new preventive services. The Council adds, though, that most of these grandfathered plans will be considered new under the ACA, which means they will be required to cover the services.

Finally, for now, religious employers who provide health insurance and who object to providing contraception in their health plans are exempt; in that case, the insurance company is required to directly offer a woman free contraceptive care.

Photo by Shimrit Abraham via Flickr Creative Commons.

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