Starting today, about 47 million American women will have access to free preventive health services as part of a new provision in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Comprehensive preventive care coverage will now be provided for insured women enrolling in new health care plans or renewing their existing policies on or after Aug. 1, 2012.
Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, of the eight services women are now eligible to receive under the new provision without a copay or any cost sharing:
- Well-woman visits: This includes an annual well-woman preventive care visit for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services, plus additional visits if women and their doctors determine they’re necessary.
- Gestational diabetes screening: This screening is for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women who have gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future, and their children are at a significantly increased risk of being overweight and insulin-resistant throughout childhood.
- HPV DNA testing: Women who are 30 or older will now have access to high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years, regardless of Pap smear results. Early screening, detection and treatment have been shown to help reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer.
- STI counseling: Sexually active women may receive annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior in patients, but only 28% of women aged 18 to 44 discuss STIs with a doctor or nurse.
- HIV screening and counseling: Sexually active women can receive annual counseling on HIV. Women are at increased risk of becoming infected with HIV: from 1999 to 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 15% increase in AIDS cases among women, and a 1% increase among men.
- Contraception and contraceptive counseling: Women will have free access to all government-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling. This does not include abortion drugs. Most workers in employer-sponsored plans are currently covered for contraceptives; however, employers with religious affiliations will not be required to pay for birth control. Rather, insurance companies providing health plans to such employers will cover the cost.
- Breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling: Pregnant and postpartum women now have access to comprehensive lactation support and counseling from trained providers, as well as breastfeeding equipment.
- Interpersonal and domestic violence screening and counseling: Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence is provided free for all adolescent and adult women. An estimated 25% of women in the U.S. report being targets of intimate partner violence during their lifetimes.
These services are in addition to the existing preventive care that the ACA makes available without copay to those with private health insurance and Medicare, including annual wellness visits, cholesterol screening, other cardiovascular screenings and cancer screenings, including mammograms, colonoscopy and cervical cancer tests.