In a landmark move this past Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) mandated that insurance companies provide full coverage for a broad range of women’s preventative health services, including birth control.
These services will be available to women without co-pay beginning January 1, 2013. The preventative health label was expanded to also include domestic violence counseling, checkups for gestational diabetes, breast feeding support, and HIV and STD counseling.
The inclusion of birth control in the package, however, has provoked some protest from socially conservative and religious groups. But under the new rules, religious institutions would be able to opt out of the free contraception provision. DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that because birth control was the most commonly prescribed drug for women, not providing full coverage “would be like not covering flu shots.”
DHHS’s announcement came shortly after a panel at the Institute of Medicine issued a recommendation that reproductive health services for women should be made available at no extra cost to patients. The Associated Press describes how the move will impact health care costs overall:
Although the new women’s preventive services will be free of any additional charge to patients, somebody will have to pay. The cost will be spread among other people with health insurance, resulting in slightly higher premiums. That may be offset to some degree with savings from diseases prevented, or pregnancies that are planned to minimize any potential ill effects to the mother and baby.