President Obama signed a law last year that requires new health plans to cover a basic set of preventive health services without co-pays or deductibles for patients.  Many experts believe this will encourage more Americans to get recommended immunizations, cancer screenings and other preventative services. The law directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to seek input from clinicians about which additional services should be covered for women.  


TheInstituteofMedicinesuggests that free birth control should be mandatory for all insurance companies. The nonprofit medical advisory group also recommends that there should be no co-pay for these preventative measures either.  That includes all FDA-approved contraceptives.  The report noted that contraceptive coverage is “standard practice” for most private insurance plans and federally funded insurance programs.  


According to Planned Parenthood, about half of all pregnancies inAmericaare unintended even though almost 80 percent of sexually active females have a prescription for birth control pills.  Preventative measures for unwanted pregnancies would be cheaper than pre- and postnatal care bills.  This new coverage could be cost effective for insurance companies if the rate of unintended pregnancies drops.  Instead of expensive hospital bills, insurance companies could look forward to covering the costs of birth control. 

Additionally, IOM suggests that insurance companies have required coverage for other preventative health services-including medications, procedures, tests, devices, education and counseling shown to improve well-being, or decrease the likelihood of a targeted disease or condition. The IOM recommends that women’s preventive services 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;
  • services for pregnant women including screening for gestational diabetes and lactation counseling and equipment to help women who choose to breastfeed do so successfully;
  • at least one well-woman preventive care visit annually for women to receive comprehensive services; and
  • Screening and counseling for all women and adolescent girls for interpersonal and domestic violence in a culturally sensitive and supportive manner.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be expected to announce her decisions concerning these recommendations as early as August 1st.