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No-Cost Preventative Services Recommended for Women

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should require that new health insurance plans cover a larger percentage of women's preventative health services under the federal health reform law without requiring consumers to pay additional out-of-pocket costs, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel said in guidelines released July 19, 2011.

The panel also made a number of other recommendations for comprehensive guidelines that “are important to women’s health and well-being,” according to the non-profit health policy group. If accepted, women stand to substantially benefit from added preventative health services.

Last year, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked the independent panel to examine what constitutes a "preventive service" for women as part of a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 that requires health plans to cover such services without co-payments or deductibles.

Sebelius said the department is examining the panel's recommendations "closely" and will make a final decision "very soon," reported Politico.

Sebelius could issue the final regulations by August 1, 2011. The New York Times reported that the Obama administration has said it is inclined to adopt the panel's recommendations, which could take effect for many plans in early 2013.

The IOM defined preventive health services as measures—including medications, procedures, devices, tests, education and counseling—shown to improve well-being, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of a targeted disease or condition.

The IOM recommends the women’s preventive services covered by private health care insurance with no out-of-pocket cost to the patient covered should include:

  • improved screening for cervical cancer, counseling for sexually transmitted infections, and counseling and screening for HIV;
  • a fuller range of contraceptive education, counseling, methods, and services so that women can better avoid unwanted pregnancies and space their pregnancies to promote optimal birth outcomes;
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