Birth Control Now Considered Preventive Health Care, Will Be Available for Free

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has decided that FDA-approved contraceptive methods will be available for free, without co-pays or cost sharing, to women covered by new insurance plans in the U.S. "Not doing it would be like not covering flu shots," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Along with contraception (including emergency contraception like Plan B), seven other services have been deemed women's preventive health care and will also be free -- well-woman visits, cervical cancer/HPV screenings, HIV screening and counseling, and counseling for other STDs, as well as screening and counseling for domestic violence, screening for gestational diabetes, and breastfeeding support.

Insurance plans must offer these services without additional expenses from patients out of pocket (that means no more co-pays, which, for birth control pills, usually run $15 to $50 monthly). This will start as early as next August and, unfortunately, is only for people with new plans or with regard to new products existing insurers offer. However, existing plans may face pressure from members to include this new coverage. Meanwhile, some are concerned that this will raise insurance premiums -- and others are just concerned about contraception being free. (Certain religious institutions currently get an exemption.)

[MSNBC, Detroit Free Press]

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