Washington, DC -- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) applauds the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for recommending private insurance coverage of key women's preventive health care services. "ACOG is pleased that the IOM's recommendations mirror many of our recommendations on best preventive care practices for women's health," said ACOG Executive Vice President Hal C. Lawrence III, MD.
ACOG's clinical practice recommendations have long been the leading guidelines for women's health care. In January of 2011, Dr. Lawrence testified before the IOM urging that a number of core preventive health measures for women, based on ACOG guidelines, be included under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). "Today's IOM recommendations are instrumental in ensuring that women receive comprehensive, timely, and clinically effective preventive care," said Dr. Lawrence.
In its report, Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps, the IOM Committee on Preventive Services for Women identified comprehensive, evidence-based recommendations for women's preventive health services that should be covered by health insurance plans with no cost-sharing for patients. Included in the IOM recommendations that all insurance plans should cover are:
- The full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods, to help women control the timing, number, and spacing of births. Planned pregnancies—which for most women require contraception—benefit women by allowing them to optimize their own health before pregnancy and childbirth. An unintended pregnancy may have significant implications for a woman's health, sometimes worsening a preexisting health condition such as diabetes, hypertension, or coronary artery disease. Planned pregnancies improve the health of children as well, as adequate birth spacing lowers the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and small-for-gestational age;
- At least one well-woman preventive visit, including preconception care, annually for adult women to obtain recommended preventive services, allowing for additional visits, depending on the women's health status, needs, and other risk factors;
- Screening and counseling for intimate partner violence, which affects an estimated five million women a year;
- Testing for HPV as part of cervical cancer screening;
- Screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women;
- Annual counseling for sexually transmitted infections and counseling and screening for HIV in sexually active women; and
- Comprehensive lactation support and counseling and costs of renting breastfeeding equipment.
ACOG fully supported Senator Barbara Mikulski's amendment to the ACA to guarantee women access to a full range of preventive health services without cost-sharing or deductibles. Preventive care, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, saves lives. A 2009 Commonwealth Foundation report found that more than half of women delayed or avoided preventive care because of its cost. This provision in the ACA and the IOM Committee's recommendations will go a long way in addressing this problem.
ACOG looks forward to working with the US Department of Health & Human Services towards the timely and meaningful adoption and implementation of the IOM's recommendations.